healing with breath and sound

healing with breath and sound CCPEThis past weekend I attended the healing with breath and sound three day experiential workshop,  a mandatory requirement for my postgraduate diploma in counselling and psychotherapy at the CCPE.  This seminar explored  the use of breath and sound in order to try and restore harmony in our bodies and our psyches.

The weekend covered rhythms of breath, balancing the breath, breathing and concentration and fundamental sounds. You do not need to be a student at the CCPE in order to attend a weekend course like this.  If you wanted to attend you could come as a member of the public and sit with diploma students.

Everything in life is vibration. We are like notes in a symphony.  We often say “that one is highly strung” or “that one is in tune with …”. Some in counselling and psychotherapy training don’t believe that bodywork is a worthy area of exploration either for their own personal and professional development or as a legitimate field of investigation between therapist and client.  Ordinarily, I would be content to chat and debate psychotherapeutic theory all weekend, rather than explore and examine what my own body is trying to convey through sound. This reluctance on my part can often manifest as an intellectual defence against felt sense counter transference.  My ongoing challenge is to embrace that territory that is beyond the rational. To not embrace the territory would mean doing what I always do, sticking to old ideas and remaining in my own comfort zone. Perhaps one way of being free is to break out of the comfort zone by taking chances, turning right instead of left, sitting in a different chair in the lecture theatre, mixing with different people, finding my voice when I need to or staying quiet when there is a need to contain.

 remember that  touch can evoke issues of intimacy

Good therapeutic bonding is a requirement for this kind of work and is not appropriate for clients with insufficient ego strength, who are psychotic, or who suffer from heart conditions, epilepsy , strokes or who are pregnant.  You don’t have to use touch with this work. You can allow the client to indicate areas of stress in their body with their own hands. However, if you are planning to use your own hands, remember that  touch can evoke issues of intimacy so it is advisable to proceed with great caution. Always seek permission first if you are intending to use touch with a client.

The key to this work would appear to be non analytical, rather we allow the body to reveal itself through sound.

the perennial philosophy recognises four levels or dimensions

Transpersonal Integrative Psychotherapy views the human psyche as having a central core Self or Soul as the centre of identity in addition to a personal ego. Psychological structures emerge from a spiritual source.  There is a multi-layered view of consciousness that ranges from the wild, to the subtle and very subtle states. Huston Smith stated that at the simplest level, the perennial philosophy recognises four levels or dimensions: Body, Mind, Soul and Spirit. Like in Existential Psychotherapy, a transpersonal therapist may seek to address lack of meaning in life directly with clients, and accompany their client on their journey to finding meaning in their lives.

Where transpersonal psychotherapy is different to Existential Psychotherapy is in the set of assumptions about the soul journey. The transpersonal paradigm is that we are all connected and the way of working with visualisations can involve mirroring the soul or essence of the client.

The transpersonal  journey is heartfelt and thereby transcends rational thought and embraces many creative tools and techniques such as creative imagination, meditation, visualisations and bodywork. Many different models and maps of consciousness have been created from ancient times to the present day. These include the Vedantic and Yoga systems of PatanjaliBuddhist, Kabalah and Sufi. More recently, Maslow, Assagioli and Wilber have produced systems for differentiating levels of consciousness. (Wilber, 1996.).

flicking through someone’s personal  record collection is like seeing a reflection of their soul.

The voice can be an instrument of profound healing. The Sufi tradition says to discover the breath is to discover God. When I hear soul music I am touched by the intimacy and warmth of the sound.  Flicking through someone’s personal record collection is like seeing a reflection of their soul.  Being witness to a client narrative is similar.  Can greater intimacy in the one to one relationship be created by sound?  I would contend that to let go and go deeper is surely to be embraced. As a therapist, I need to practice meditation and breathing to ensure that I am not at risk of overload in my psychic capacity. This is of more importance in-between seeing clients.  Have I recharged in the gap between each client? Alternate nostril breathing exercises are one way of seeking to remain fresh and revitalised.

somewhere to think, take stock or simply relax

Brian Eno NHSIt is interesting to see the developments with sound in the NHS. The legendary Brian Eno (pictured) has opened up an ambient sound room in the Montefiore Hospital in Hove, East Sussex. Eno uses technology to create music which is non-repetitive and ever changing. The project has been called  ’77 Million Paintings For Montefiore’, and is designed to actively assist in patients recuperation. The “Quiet Room for Montefiore” is a room for patients, visitors and staff as a place to “escape” – somewhere to think, take stock or simply relax.  “77 Million Paintings for Montefiore” is an installation of light and generative music in the reception area of the hospital. See here for an interview with Brian Eno about the project. What I really like about his project is the exploration of the viewer/listener having a different and unique experience to the artist. This is not a defined finished product like a record we can purchase in the shop which can be a controlled experience.

So often we have little control over the sounds we are exposed to in the course of our day. Focusing on passing sounds and bringing awareness to breathing to these sounds can be transformative. Sounds as a stress reliever is an exciting concept to me.

crystalline structures will be well formed from soothing classical music and malformed if exposed to aggressive heavy metal music

Masaru Emoto is a Japanese author, best known for his claims that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water.  Emoto undertook many experiments with water crystals.  This involved exposing water contained in glasses to different words, pictures, or music.  He would then freeze and examine the aesthetics of the resulting crystals using microscopic photography.

Emoto has claimed, through his research experiments, that varying water sources produce different crystalline structures when frozen such that water sample from a mountain stream would purportedly show a geometric design that is beautifully shaped when frozen. On the contary, Emoto claims that polluted water sources will be distorted and will be randomly formed. Similarly, crystalline structures will be well formed from soothing classical music and malformed if exposed to aggressive heavy metal music.

the one to one relationship in counselling and psychotherapy is the single most important component for the success of the therapy

There is a lot of research that suggests that the one to one relationship in counselling and psychotherapy is the single most important component for the success of the therapy – irrespective of the theoretical approach and orientation of the therapist.  Paul Byers (1920 – 2001) trained as a cryptanalyst in Washington DC, and Melbourne and was relevant to the weekend after his work on the syncronisation of heartbeat between psychiatrist and patient.  With Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978), he developed techniques using still photography to record human behaviour.  Byers helped develop Mead’s interest in conference (or many-to-many) communications. The result of their collaboration was a book ”The Small Conference: An Innovation in Communication” (Mouton, Paris and The Hague).

Byers went on to work on photographic sequences that became the visual basis for a classic analysis of many-to-many communication. The resulting sequences illustrated the inattention, restlessness or eagerness of participants as observed by the speaker and others participating in the recorded conferences. He taught at Columbia’s Teachers College and supervised the dissertations of more than 100 other candidates.

modern medicine after all uses ultrasound as a diagnostic tool

Did you know that our bodies are roughly 70% water? The effect of sound vibrations can, therefore, be huge. Modern medicine, after all, uses ultrasound as a diagnostic tool. Entrainment refers to the synchronization of organisms to an external rhythm, usually produced by other organisms with whom they interact socially such as human music and dance such as foot tapping. Four simple periodic rhythms recorded in the brainwave measurement in an EEG are alpha, beta, delta, and theta. It is said that sound harmonics and chanting helps us enter alpha state and even theta state. So, perhaps it is an idea to join the Hare Krishnas when you see them on the streets celebrating Rathayatra, or the Chariot Festival.