Vibrational Healing & Trance Inductions Using Singing Bowls
"Of all the methods for altering brain state, the use of sound is the most ancient and primordial. Vibration is the fundamental basis of everything that exists, from the stars and galaxies to our bodies and minds."
We stand at a very interesting point in history. We are at the seam where the "magic" of shamans and healers of ancient cultures and wisdom traditions is being joined with the latest discoveries in "science". Throughout history, healers have used vibrations specifically the audible vibrations of sound and music as a pivotal modality, to induce and enhance healing states of consciousness. After decades of study and research into the consciousness-altering effects of sound and music from around the world, I was drawn more and more to the practices of the Buddhists and Bonpo from the Himalayan region now known as Tibet. Their "extended vocal techniques" utilizing polyphonic (overtone) chanting, which produces two or three notes simultaneously, have a transcendental power and unearthly beauty. These vocal sounds can be learned but take some time and diligence to master.
The metal Singing Bowls from Tibet, Nepal, and northern India have become increasingly available in the west over the past decade. Compared to learning overtone chanting, the bowls are relatively easy to play. Most people can make a bowl "sing" in the first 5-10 minutes. A number of physicians and hospitals have recently begun to utilize the bowls with cancer patients and others suffering serious illnesses. Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D., Director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine at Strang-Cornell Cancer Prevention Center, affiliated with New York Hospital, authored the best-selling book, Sounds of Healing. Subtitled "A Physician Reveals the Therapeutic Power of Sound, Voice, and Music," the book is a resounding endorsement of the principles outlined in this article, and cites numerous research projects from around the world as scientific "proof" of the ability of sound and music to heal.
It behooves us, in our training as guides, healers, and hypnotists, not only to finely attune our sensory acuity, so as to be able to sense our clients' rhythms, but also to study some of the ancient shamanic techniques for entrainment, and understand their relevance to 21th century research into brain wave activity.
There is very little information available in written form on the singing bowls. Their origin is somewhat of a mystery, and seems to be shrouded in secrecy. They have been used for thousands of years; anecdotal evidence claims that they pre-date Buddhism, and were created and used by the Bon. Originally the term "bon" designated the various existing religious and magico-ritual traditions, very probably based on elements common to the heritage of pan Asiatic Shamanism.
However the people of the Himalayas used the bowls, one thing is certain: contemporary Western people are deeply moved in a special way when they first encounter them. Many feel that their spirit has been touched when they listen to the living sound of the bowls. I have played the bowls for thousands of people... I have yet to encounter anything other than a positive response. A frequently heard comment is that although the sounds are completely new and different from anything they have ever heard, there is something extraordinarily familiar about them. This feeling is less strong when heard from recordings than in person. The sound from the bowls instills great space and peace. A sense of well-being and relaxation is experienced. The vibration seems to synchronize with brain waves for therapeutic effect.
(For more information on this, see booklet Himalayan Singing Bowls on the Products page)
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Hypnosis and Shamanism
While the conscious mind may insist on orderly, logical explanations, it is the unconscious that must be reached for true healing to take place. Both the hypnotist and the shaman recognize this and use language of myth and poetry, metaphoric imagery, and confusing grammatical and syntactical construction to bewilder and bypass the conscious mind, and reach the unconscious directly.
In the old days, when people lived in small villages, each tribe or community had a person who performed a special service. Remember, this when there were no physicians, as we now know them. There were certainly no social workers, or psychologists or psychiatrists.
This person, who might have been referred to as the shaman, or the
In the introduction to The Language of the Birds, editor David M. Guss says, "This shaman's flight, which makes things whole, does so with the power of song. For this ecstatic journey is above all a linguistic one. And it is with this in mind that Rothenberg and others have referred to the shaman as 'proto-poet, for almost always his technique hinges on the creation of special linguistic circumstances, i.e., of song & invocation.' Accompanied by drum or rattle, by drugs, costume, and dance, the shaman enters his trance through the power of his words and once there receives the special message he has set out to learn. This message special in both form and content is delivered in another language, the secret, esoteric one that spirits and animals use in their own world. This is the language of transformations and Magic Words, the language of the unconscious and the underworld, the one that shamans speak to one another, and refer to as the 'Language of the Birds.'
Contemporary practitioners of hypnosis, particularly those influenced by the work and approach of Dr. Milton H. Erickson, depend to a large extent on their ability to a) enter into trance along with their clients, and b) to invoke trance and powerful changes in trance, through 'special linguistic circumstances'. Hypnotic language patterns often "invent" their own grammar. I encourage my hypnosis students to "put more poetry" into their inductions. Do you ever think to sing, chant, or whisper to your client, while they are in trance?
In addition, 21st century hypnotists address a wide range of presenting problems, including purely physical ones, such as migraine headaches, skin rashes, high blood pressure; and purely mental ones, such as phobias, lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, etc. (Although the author does not believe that there are any presenting problems that are "purely" physical or "purely" mental/emotional, for the sake of simplicity, this distinction has been made). In the field of transpersonal hypnosis, many ancient and esoteric practices, such as channelling, and past/future life accessing, have been incorporated, as well.
The medical or clinical hypnotist of 2001, practicing in the manner of a contemporary health professional, might seek to distance him or herself from the theatricality of the stage hypnotist. However, those who dare, could find that theatrical "tricks" of lighting and special dramatic "costumes", etc. may engage the client's attention and imagination in an even more profound manner. Certainly every shaman understands how to utilize ritual in a creative manner to create an atmosphere conducive to "extra-ordinary" reality.
The techniques of the imaginative hypnotist, like those of the ancient shaman, may utilize unusual objects or artifacts in the treatment room, sound and light machines to induce alpha-theta brainwave states, burning of sage or incense or aromatherapy to anchor state-dependent learning in the limbic system, playing of special trance-inducing musical sounds, which are outside of the client's normal reality.
I have spent the last decade investigating how to introduce and incorporate specific shamanic practices (such as "journeying" using frame drum, or singing bowls; and overtone or "magical voice" singing), with hypnosis clients when appropriate. All of these, as well as a particular special tone of voice and pacing, when inducing and utilizing hypnotic trance are ways of making a distinction to the client's unconscious mind, that one is now entering a place where the normal laws that govern physical reality are temporarily suspended. The magical child in each patient responds to magic. To engage the client's mind and achieve the temporary suspension of disbelief, the contemporary hypnotist, as well as the shaman, should be prepared to do whatever it takes to create such an environment.
Hypnosis as Energy Work
What goes around, comes around, according to one old bromide. In the early days of hypnosis, when Mesmer and Charcot were first introducing this modality in18th century Europe, the phenomenon was often referred to as "animal magnetism." In terms of the existing paradigm, in the scientific world, this was the time of the discovery of invisible forces that affected people and objects at a distance: electricity, gravity, magnetism. It was only natural that these early pioneers should think to categorize hypnosis as such a force. As the age of enlightenment spread, this way of understanding hypnosis was discouraged. As Bertrand Russell said of electricity, "It is not a thing, like St. Peter's Cathedral, it is a way in which things act."
And it seems that this is still true, hypnosis is not a thing. It is, to paraphrase Dr. Milton Erickson, a special type of communication. Communication can also be regarded as an exchange of information, using energy. Using the model of co-trance, as advanced by Gilligan, Wolinsky and other neo-Ericksonian hypnotists, a hypnotic interaction between therapist and client can usefully be described and experienced as energy work.
Human beings are beings of energy. There are primary and secondary fields of energy both within and surrounding each human being. These have been described historically in esoteric literature as the aura, or subtle bodies. In the process of training, a hypnotist learns to develop sensory acuity, to quiet down in order to attune him/herself to the energy field(s) of his client. How these are experienced is subjective, and differs from one person to another. As in physics, the fields have dimension, density, and vibration. From the "super"-sensory
perceptions of kinesthetic, visual, and auditory, they also can be experienced as having feelings, sounds, and colors.
In the time that I have been immersed in the field of hypnosis and the study of altered or trance states, an increasing number of people in the healing or therapeutic communities are doing what is called "energy work." The more I consider my own evolving understanding of the induction and use of hypnotic states, the more it seems clear that this, too, is a form of energy work. Perhaps, to put it in that framework to examine hypnosis from the perspective of energy work might enhance an increasingly interdisciplinary approach.
We human beings are, after all, matter and movement that is to say, potential and active energy. Our bodies and thoughts can be described and understood in terms of fields, vibration, frequency, cycles, etc. "Classic" older hypnotic inductions often utilized "passes" of the hypnotist's hands around the head and body of the subject. Besides attracting and fixing the client's attention, is it possible that these movements actually alter or re-align the energy in the client's subtle body?
Most subjects who come for help in gaining balance in their life and health through the use of hypnosis are, on some level, seeking to change their vibration. A depressed client, for instance, can be experienced as having too low a vibration... not enough energy; whereas an anxious patient may present as someone whose vibrational level is too high for comfort or too chaotic.
The key to understanding and changing "locked" vibrational patterns; i.e. stuck states (habitual neurotic cycles of thought, feeling, and behavior), lies in accessing the unconscious. In order to manipulate these templates, it is helpful, if not necessary, to enter into a co-trance with the client. This can also be described as matching frequencies.
Ericksonian and neo-Ericksonian inductions utilize the concepts of pacing and leading to establish rapport and to introduce an altered state. Various techniques of pacing and leading involve matching posture, facial expressions, hand movements, breathing patterns (location and rate), and verbal expressions tone, pitch, rate of speech, and key words and expressions. Subtler behaviors that can be matched include blinking, swallowing, heartbeat, and muscular micro movements.
Rosalyn Bruyere and others working with the aura claim that it is a useful point of view to understand that mind is synonymous with aura or energy field permeating and surrounding the dense physical body. Shamanic healing traditionally was performed by those who had been born with, or developed super-sensory perceptions. Perhaps future generations of hypnotists will recognize and work with consciously pacing the auric pulsations. If it is perceivable, then it can be paced and then led.
Why I (May) No Longer Teach Ericksonian Hypnotherapy
The great poet/bard of our age, Bob Dylan, once said (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Woodie Guthrie was my last idol; and he taught me not to have idols..." For over a decade, Dr. Milton Erickson was my hero. In the field of hypnotherapy, from what I could ascertain, he was light years ahead of just about everyone else. So — using a term made popular by NLP — I "modelled" him. Which was made a bit more challenging by the fact that in 1985, when I first heard of Erickson, he had been dead for five years.
Modelling is no big deal. It is essentially how we learn to walk and talk and respond to the world — by watching and listening to our parents, older siblings, teachers, etc., as we grow up. Mostly it is done on an unconscious level. What Grinder and Bandler did was develop a rather elegant framework for modelling on a conscious level.
Since I was unable to hang around Dr. Erickson, I did whatever I could to learn about him and study his ways. I watched video-tapes of him, I listened to audio tapes by him of lectures and demos, I read all the books I could find both by and about him, and I sought out teachers who had studied with the legendary Dr. E.
In time, I began to teach "Ericksonian Hypnotherapy." It's been several years, and I still do... but I am beginning to think that it really has evolved into something else. In the process of putting together a training manual to teach "Ericksonian Approaches to Hypnotherapy," I was re-reading William Hudson O'Hanlon's excellent book, Taproots, and came across the following:
Erickson was concerned that his approach might be codified and reified. Therapists learning these reified procedures might try to apply them inappropriately. In so doing, he felt, they would not be responsive to the individual variability and needs of their clients; they would merely imitate Erickson mechanically, not expanding or developing their own procedures and approaches. In his own words (1983), "Develop your own technique. Don't try to use somebody else's technique. ...Don't try to imitate my voice or my cadence. Just discover your own. Be your own natural self. It's the individual responding to the individual.... I've experimented with trying to do something the way somebody else would do it. It's a mess!"
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A core concept in our work is to enable our clients to use more of the resources they have. In order for us to congruently teach this idea, it seems important, if not necessary, for us to be doing it ourselves. What does this mean in practical terms? For me, it means realizing that who I am, how I work therapeutically, and what I teach, is a great deal more than "just" Erickson.The words "authentic," "faithful," "reproduction," and "recreation" have been floating through my mind.
My approach, at this point, draws from many influences. Included in that list would be musicians, tennis players, medicine men and women, shamans, painters, healers, energy workers, bio-energetic therapists, poets, martial artists, dancers, storytellers, sufis, and buddhist lamas, along with the requisite hypnotherapists. It is my own personal alchemical stew - or what one of my students laughingly called my "gumbo."
And – we live in a world and a culture that relates to people, places, activities, and objects by name. We love a label! Apocryphal stories abound such as how Richard Bandler was stopped by a traffic cop once who asked Richard what he did... and in a moment of inspiration, Richard allegedly said "Neurolinguistic Programming" – making up the term on the spot. (A reliable source told me that Count Alfred Korzybski originally coined the term... but who knows?)
Herb Lustig, a psychotherapist who trained with Dr. Milton Erickson, presents an insight into Erickson's own wry humor as far as this subject. The excerpt below is from an article "So Whose Therapy Am I Using, Anyhow?" (in Developing Ericksonian Therapy – State of the Art, Ed. Jeffrey K. Zeig & Stephen R. Lankton © 1988 The Milton H. Erickson Foundation, published by Brunner/Mazel, NYC)
L: Milton, you're the best at doing psychotherapy and hypnosis of anyone I have ever met or read about, and one of the most creative. But, now that I know and practice some of your work, Milton, what am I to call myself?
E: Herb Lustig, I hope. There's no need to change your name at this stage in your life.
So... if I had the desire to create an empire, another in the never-ending series of "isms" that we in the field of healing are inundated with, I guess I could say I now teach "Blumian" hypno/healing. There are, however, two good reasons not to do so. First, how many people have heard of "Blumian"? In the grand scheme of things, not enough to count on drawing the same kind of attention as is done by saying it's "Ericksonian" or "NLP". And second, I can't say it without laughing out loud.
The workshop group at a recent Florida training included a physical therapist who specializes in manual lymphatic drainage, a building renovator, a dance and meditation teacher, a massage therapist/light worker, and a physician, along with several hypnotherapists. We had a great time, and covered a wide range of techniques and approaches. I hope they got a glimpse into the mystery of just who was Dr. Milton Erickson. And, I have a strong feeling that each attendee also got a glimpse into the mystery and magic of who they each are. No one else has had the experiences and learnings that you have.
In the way of our "Native American" brothers and sisters, a healer "carries" a particular kind of medicine. It almost always was connected to something in nature – the wind, a rock, a tree, a bird, a four-legged... What kind of medicine do you carry?
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All contents ©2006 by Peter Blum.