Having focused mainly on using my voice and native american healing flutes in my sound therapy sessions I recently started working again with Tibetan Singing Bowls and thank Goodness I did! I have had some fabulous experiences with human clients for stress and pain relief, but last week I had the opportunity to work on a friend’s horses. I had been meaning to go for a while, but the time never quite presented itself. Then last Sunday the moment arose, and my subjects were four horses, three male and one female.
The main reason for going was to see Paddy, an ex race horse from Ireland who had often been subject to harsh treatment was because of his temperamental behaviour, often leading his owner to some injury, either being kicked or thrown! Only having worked briefly with horses in the past, I was eager to see what we could do. True to form, Paddy was not in the best of moods, and had been jumping at a show in the heat the day before. He had been quite annoyed, kicking and biting and had obviously not recovered from his day. Sensing him to be very unstable on my arrival (and having learnt my lesson previously with an agitated horse that stepped on my foot!!!) I turned my attention to begin with, to the other calmer souls inhabiting the same stable. I began playing one of my beautiful small bowls, and it sang so gently and sweetly, the smaller female horse immediately turned to look and later was completely entranced. She did not move, and her eyes gently began to close. A bit like the way a human being loses focus and switches brain state whilst having a treatment. Humans commonly move from Beta to Alpha. The male horse next to her was very intrigued and he to just stared, centimetres away from the bowl, slightly resisting the urge to fall completely into a trance like state!
I looked over my shoulder at Paddy behind me, to see how the sound was affecting him. He looked like a petulant teenager! He had turned completely away so that his face was in the opposite corner and his bottom was facing me. He wasn’t kicking and chewing anymore but he made it clear he wasn’t having any of this “new age” therapy! Just like a human reaction. Often in a sound therapy treatment, as blockages are cleared, the client can feel anger, annoyance, and agitation before succumbing to the feelings of relaxation. I was starting to see that Paddy was following the same pattern. His eyes were so full of anguish and upset, real aggravation that he couldn’t get over. I left him again and continued with the others. Whilst I continually played a smaller bowl, I asked my friend to accompany me with a larger bowl, just by gently striking the outside of it to produce a beautiful deep bell sound. We concentrated on the two original horses, placing the larger bowl on his back and around his body, which he seemed very happy about!
Singing bowls have been proven to strengthen the immune system and increase cells that fight infection. This horse had been suffering from a virus that had weakened him and we were hoping the bowls would do him some good. He couldn’t get enough of it. As my friend played the larger bowl, he tried over and over to place his nose into it to feel the resonance. Of course as soon as the sides of the bowl are touched they stop resonating, so eventually he placed his nose beside it.
I looked back at Paddy, who was actually looking back at me! As I turned to face him, he turned his huge body around and greeted me, centimetres away from the singing bowl I was still playing. For about the next 30 mins, he went through phases of turning his head flat on the side next to the bowls as we played them and resting his head on his owner’s (my friend’s) shoulder, eyes almost closed, interspersed with phases of coughing and sneezing, which again is a sign of a blockage being released. His eyes calmed and he looked peaceful. My friend said that she had never experienced anything like this with Paddy before. He had never allowed her this intimacy and trust.
I moved along to the final horse as my friend continued to work with Paddy. At that point her mum came in and said she could hear the bowls all the way at the back of the stable, and that a group of cows had gathered in the field behind, half entranced, staring into the stable.
After a little more, we felt the energy move and the session came to an end. We left the horses, calm and sleepy. It was their dinner time and usually they are awake and ready to eat. That night was different!
I will be going back in the next month to continue this work.
Tongues! How often do we actually notice our tongue? Do you wake up in the morning and think, “Hmmm, how does my tongue feel today?”
I suspect not, and for that you would be considered “normal”!
We tend to notice our tongue when we bite it by mistake, get an ulcer or eat something that gets stuck to it and for the most part, unless you suffer with a particular tongue related problem/illness, I would imagine your tongue just exists without you giving it much other thought.
Whenever I run a workshop, or giving a Singing Therapy session and I ask a client to stick their tongue out, wiggle it around, stretch it out as far as possible, people look at me like I am crazy. Some people refuse to do it at all. Other more courageous souls have a go and find themselves catapulted back to childhood, laughing, smiling and releasing tension.
At what age did we forget that our tongue existed? Children are only too happy to stick it out, blow raspberries and goodness knows what! When did the tongue become taboo?
I only came to really notice my tongue when I began my operatic vocal training. Suddenly it became all I could think about. Teachers and coaches were always commenting on it, telling me to relax it, bring it forward putting the tip behind the bottom teeth and it was the most difficult area to control. As soon as I started to sing, it was like it had a mind of its own! It would shoot back and remain held almost creating a block at the back of my throat, and affecting my sound production in both volume and tone.
Gradually I understood how much tension I was holding in this area. I had never realised it. The thing is, the tongue doesn’t stop at the back of your mouth, it has its roots half way down the throat, so if you are holding tension there, it will affect many things from vocal production to swallowing and because everything in the body is connected, you may find tongue tension contributes to tension in the ligaments at the side of your neck, in your jaw, behind your ears, in your temples and ultimately locking up your vocal apparatus causing headaches one end and a very tight epigastrium the other. That’s the thing about the body, you might think you have a problem in one area, but it’s actually being triggered by something else, a sort of chain reaction, and if you don’t even realise the tongue can hold tension in the first place, it is an easy thing to over look.
The reason I’m writing this blog about “The Tongue” is because I haven’t had a single client, or singing student that is yet to have a completely neutral tongue position, all the time. By neutral I mean the relaxed feeling it has when you are dropping off to sleep, its position forward and flat in the mouth. This position gives a feeling of space in the mouth. Most people when asked to observe their tongue throughout the day as they go about their lives will notice that it reacts to their emotions. For example, if they are stressed and tense they notice that their tongue is pulling back in the mouth. If they feel self conscious they start doing strange things with their tongues often inside their closed pursed lips. I have always found that I clench my teeth when driving and when I stop to check for a moment, my tongue is rigid.
There is a positive and negative to this. The negative is you will find that you have created a lot of knock on affect tension in your body. If you have been holding your tongue in a tense position for many years you will have a chain of muscles that have reacted to this. It may take some time to learn to unwind them, however the fact that you are even aware of it is the most important step. When I have worked with people with Cervical Dystonia or Stammering for example, the tension in the tongue is often incredible. However, once people start doing exercises to reverse this, they usually see results very quickly.
The key is to NOTICE what you are doing, even if at first you are not aware of it. The positive is that once you start observing your tongue, it becomes a really good indication of your emotional state. You might not realise that you are in fact holding tension when you perform certain tasks, including things we do to relax like exercise. This type of self observation helps you get to know yourself and your mind and how you are sub-consciously responding to things.
Ultimately when you are used to this, you will find that by teaching yourself to pre-empt a situation where you are likely to get tense, and stay in command of your body and tongue (!), you will relieve the stress before it happens, and it probably won’t! Just like a dog automatically puts its tail between its legs when its afraid, if you reverse this, and keep the dog’s tail up, as performed by Cesar Millan on his show, the body sends the brain a message not to be afraid. We are the same. Be aware that you may be tense when approaching a certain situation and prevent the physical symptoms from occurring in advance. Your body will remain calm and your emotional state will also!
This blog could go on forever as there are many related points and subjects I could cover, for starters, why are we all so uptight anyway and at what point, as I mentioned earlier, did we adopt the belief that being “in touch” with our tongue was a childlike pass time? As we grow and mature it seems that the definition of becoming an adult means to lose touch with oneself, and we wonder why we look and sound old, suffer stress and long term illness!
Anyway, I encourage you all to make friends with your tongue! Pay it a little attention, see what its up to and notice how your emotions affect it…..and most of all, HAVE FUN!!!!!!
In the last few weeks I have read a lot and spoken with colleagues on the subject of what has been called the “sizzle” factor. This refers to alternative therapists, life coaches etc. giving their clients just enough of what they need to make them feel good, temporarily fixing the problem, but leaving the client reliant on the therapist for the next instalment, the next “fix” on the road to enlightenment, recovery or whatever it may be.
Most therapists and artists I have spoken to agree there are two groups, those that offer the short lived feel good factor and in doing so almost create an addiction to their services coupled with a healthy bank balance, and those that want to help the client achieve the art of prolonging the feel good factor for themselves, so that eventually, I suppose like good parenting, the child or the client learns to stand on their own two feet, coping with their life situation in a balanced and harmonious way.
The discussion always ends with the therapists with the “sizzle” being frowned upon as they perfect the art of drawing the public in, getting good audiences for their talks, workshops, books and sessions and earning lots of money! This is not to say that the opposite camp of therapists are not successful, but it seems to be acknowledged that the “sizzle” sells! Fair enough, we all want a quick fix don’t we? Why would we pay someone to make us face our own lives and inner turmoil, trusting that if we face it head on and gradually work through it piece by piece we will emerge stronger, in line with our creative path and everything will be fine? That could take a life time, or several. Or could it?
So I started to look at my work and question what I do and from what I can see it really depends on the client. My approach and intention is definitely to help the client achieve a positive state of being for themselves. With Singing Therapy a client learns a series of exercises to address whatever problems they are having, the idea of the exercises is that of self help. The client learns the tools in the session and needs to practise and apply them in daily life to aid their recovery and re-programme their patterns on a physical, mental and emotional level, just like a musician would practise in order to improve their playing. Practise something 5000 times and it becomes habit.
With Sound Therapy my role is usually slightly different, in that I am actually “treating” a client, and using sonic tools to shift their energetic and emotional blocks. However even then, I will try to give the client some breathing exercises, or musical tools to help them divert their attention from the negative issue in their daily lives whatever that might be, hoping that by diverting them enough, they will eventually “see” an alternative route for their journey.
What I came to realise after all these thoughts, was that some clients do not want to take responsibility for their illness and recovery. They go from therapy to therapy not really grasping the concepts and not practising the tools they are given to aid their development in their daily life. They are not questioning what has bought them to this point where they needed to seek help. In many cases they just want to blame their parents, their ex lover, their GP, the NHS and so on. Asking someone to actually be honest and examine their thought patterns, choices and decisions over their life time is not an easy thing, because ultimately you are asking them to take responsibility for their actions in the past and in the present. Of course there are always exceptions where people really are victims, and they have been the object of awful intent, but even then, a person can be encouraged to choose their thoughts carefully at the beginning of their journey to recovery.
We hear it all the time….”the answer lies within”. What does that actually mean? My translation is, “the answer is our responsibility.”
Can we stop looking outside of ourselves for a moment, blaming everyone else, and just sieze the moment and realise we have the power to change our situation? We all have to play the hand we were dealt and the people that do this with acceptance and courage see the most incredible results. They stop searching and needing a quick fix, because they understand that THEY choose their thoughts and how they feel about any given situation. They choose how they see themselves and perceive the world around them.
It all comes down to perception. Incredibly I have heard people say things like, “oh she must be good, she charges over X amount per hour”. So that means, in the way they perceive the world, if something is expensive it MUST be good. Interesting concept, I should put my charges up! Yet this is true in so many fields, not just alternative therapies.
If there are people out there that honestly think like this, then why is it the therapist’s responsibility to persuade them otherwise? If a person wants the “sizzle” and is prepared to pay for it, over and over, than that is their choice. If they prefer to take charge of their own life situation and learn to help themselves, growing and evolving as they do it, then great! If we were all to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions however hard it may be, just imagine the depth of change that would bring to our world! Either way, we should have the choice without the judgement.
Trying to keep “a sound centre” and find my way in life I felt it was time to write a blog. People seem to have been blogging, tweeting, and all other forms of self expressive networking for ages now, and all I did was have a website! What was I doing with my time I ask myself? LOL! I was learning and living and traveling and studying and watching people and doing all manner of jobs to boost my income and keep me connected and grounded…..but above all I was singing, opera singing to be exact! This part of my career has taught me more about human nature, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually than I ever thought possible.
Finally I feel I have enough thoughts and ideas of my own to actually write something that some people might find interesting, mainly on the subject of what I call Singing Therapy, but also incorporating a whole host of related subjects as I come across them in my life and work.
Another big part of my work is Sound Therapy. As I digressed from my career as an opera singer, I trained to be a Sound Therapist. More about this in later blogs, but in short, I would say my biggest personal realisation was to see the effects of sound and using one’s own voice on the body. It’s amazing and it affects everyone differently depending on where they are in their own personal development.
So having tried to maintain my inner calm and sound intent on where I was going and what I wanted to achieve in my life, I now find myself literally manifesting a “sound centre”. A place where people can come and learn how to use all different types of sound to help them through their lives; singing, toning, chanting, vocal exercises, laughing, yawning, sighing, sound treatments, drums, rattles, singing bowls, chimes, flutes and so much more! For stress, relaxation, pain relief, personal development, moving on, fun, improved sleep, the list seems endless, but most importantly, there is something for everyone in this world of sound.
It’s starting small and growing, piano to crescendo!
Alexandra Rigazzi-Tarling, my journey into Singing and Sound for healing body, mind and spirit of all beings.