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Jeff Volk
from: Jeff Volk
Category: Cymatics

Cymatic/Somatics: A Sound Path to Self-Awareness

Reflections on the Integrative Health and Healing Program-Wide Event June 8-9, 2012  

Jeff Volk, with IHH Academic Director and somatic practitioner, Dr. David Forbes, in a collaborative undertaking that sought to integrate the principles demonstrated by Cymatics with the proprioceptive practice of Somatics. Dr. David Forbes is planning on offering a retreat in the TGI area over this next year so that participants can experience a more direct taste of this profound healing process.

undefinedThoughts from Jeff Volk 

Last June, it was my tremendous pleasure to be introduced to The Graduate Institute community. A couple of months earlier, Shari Specland had connected me with David Forbes and we shared a couple of very dynamic and exciting phone conversations co-creating our program. We were enthralled with each other, and truly amazed at the synergy between us, as well as by the similarities between these two very diverse fields.

Though they sound almost the same, you seldom hear these terms together, as Cymatics (the study of wave phenomena and vibration) is a branch of physics, and Somatics (bodily awareness) relates more to psychology and physiology. Nonetheless, in this context the two blended seamlessly, as the basic principles of causative formation are the same, whether you're observing gross physical effects such as harmonic geometric patterns created in sand or water as they are 'animated' by sound vibrations--or the structural patterns manifested in the way we posture our body. In both instances, it is the underlying vibration that determines the form. Cymatics employs dense physical vibrations, while Somatics reveals how the more subtle vibrations of our attitudes--those habitual patterns of thoughts and feelings, which are largely unconscious--actually structure our physical body. Thus, I love to use the gross representations of Cymatics to help make the invisible, visible (whether that be sound vibrations or psychic oscillations).

A brief example might help to illustrate what I mean. From what I understand of David's work in Somatic Awareness, a large component of his body-centered healing practice has to do with establishing a safe container to allow an unobstructed flow of emotion. During our session, David clearly articulated the principles and elucidated on how this takes place in a therapeutic setting. Although his language is more psychological, the same principles apply universally, from the world of physics to the subtlest realms of the psyche.


An oscillating water droplet animated by an audible sound frequency (sine wave), seen from three perspectives. Top row, from the side; Middle row, about 45º; Bottom row, straight down from above.  

Photos ©2006, Alexander Lauterwasser from his book Water Sound Images. 

Here we see a close-up of a water droplet in a dynamic state of turbulence as it is subjected to audible sound frequencies. As the frequency increases, the water flows more vigorously and in a more complex manner. There is a period of chaos, but suddenly, as certain factors fall into place, a beautifully harmonic form arises in the midst of all this turbulence. How often in our lives do we perceive the apparent chaos around us and panic--judging what appears to be unstable as threatening, and telling ourselves that all is lost! Once we can view this uncertainty as simply a temporary phase within a larger cycle, a moment of incoherence within a larger field (the "safe container") that is infinitely coherent and gives order and meaning to the seemingly random occurrences which fill our days, we can relax a bit, take a deep breath, take a step back...and see things in a much more beneficent, all-encompassing way. 


These patterns, formed in lycopodium powder on thin steel plates, bear striking resemblance to the markings of a leopard.  

From Water Sound Images, by Alexander Lauterwasser. ©2006 MACROmedia Publishing 

Just like the physical phenomena we see above, our patterns of perception take shape, are integrated, and are literally incorporated into our body structure! This is a complex process that is more than I can go into here, but the concept of body armor or the hunched over figure of a chronic worrier are two good examples illustrating the results of a lack of sensory awareness. Since it is this lack of awareness that results in such undesirable conditions, it was quite heartening to learn and practice several modes of reawakening our innate awareness. 

Lest I give the wrong impression, our weekend was far from theoretical. David Chandler, an IHH colleague in the program and a T'ai Chi master, graced us with a rare experience of being sonically and shamanically transported with his set of seven Peruvian whistling vessels, and after our lunch break on Saturday, he led us in a wonderfully energizing and focusing series of breath and movement exercises -- bringing us back to attentive awareness for the afternoon session, which featured an open dialogue between the cohorts, David Forbes and myself. We closed with another rich sonic treat, a "gong bath," led by Maren Good and Michael Ungar, whose Paiste gongs, tuned to the sun, moon and planetary frequencies, created a cosmic atmosphere within which to do some very deep interior exploration.

If this is any example of how rich the programs are at TGI, you can sign me up!

Jeff Volk is an award-winning video producer, a poet and a publisher, living in southern Maine. More information may be found at  

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