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Sound therapy helps restore balance

 Written by Linda Freeman / Poughkeepsie Journal / 12:18 AM, May. 29, 2011.

At the American Symphony Orchestra's recent marvelous rendition of Beethoven's Ninth at Bard, the orchestra paused between the second and third movement to tune their instruments. When I asked my husband about it later, he said it's because they had played so hard they needed to retune to perform the quieter third movement successfully.

Musicians know everything is off in the music if their instruments get out of tune, but I had never thought of the body as an instrument needing tuning until my sound healing session with Philippe Garnier.

A native of Paris, Garnier is a former magazine art director who discovered the healing properties of sound 15 years ago during his quest to cease vertigo brought on by Ménière's disease (an inner-ear disorder). Not wanting to undergo the operation doctors offered, he turned to alternative practitioners. During the 15 days he spent with the indigenous Shipibo people of the Upper Amazon in Peru working with curanderos (spiritual healers), he experienced a transformation that not only altered the course of his disease, but of his life.

Garnier greets me at his studio at Sage Center for the Healing Arts in Woodstock. He tells me sound healing is not about listening with our ears, but feeling with our whole body.

Although Garnier's training is steeped in the sacred ceremonial practices of indigenous medicine men, he is quick to point out he has also worked with others, including Dr. John Beaulieu, who studies the science of wave phenomena, molecular sound research and stress theory. Indeed, Garnier peppers our discussion with talk of light as sped-up sound, sound being the primal frequency and the various geometric shapes of sound. He pulls out a thick book and shows me photos of sound, which look to me like the intricate shapes I made on my red plastic Spirograph as a kid. The mandala-like patterns also remind me of the experiments of Dr. Masaru Emoto who has published several books; his work, "The Hidden Messages in Water" (Atria, 2005) was also featured in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know." Emoto found we can change the shape of water crystals to be beautiful or ugly depending upon whether the words or thoughts expressed are positive or negative.Garnier agrees. He says sound creates a pattern in every water molecule of our physical body. The body is 75 percent water, which is why sound can be so healing.

Garnier says he can feel the body's resonance as he searches for hot spots or issues. He looks for disharmonies and seeks to harmonize them through sound. 

According to his website, sound therapy improves and transforms a range of conditions, including chronic illness, allergies, compulsive behavioral patterns, trauma, grief and more.  Garnier tells me many people who seek him out are going through chemotherapy, suffering from migraines, addiction or depression. The minimum a sound session can do, he said, is reduce tension to a level of deep meditation.

And what is the maximum? Garnier himself is a sound success story. He has not suffered from Ménière's disease since his transformative work 15 years ago with the curanderos, with whom he continues to study. Now Garnier says his main purpose in life is sharing the amazing healing properties of sound.

The experience

Garnier ushers me into a room filled with bowls of various shapes, sizes and materials. Some are crystal, some metal. Tuning forks line a table.

I lie face up on a massage table in the center of the room. Except for being shoeless, I am dressed exactly as I was when I arrived.  He begins not with sound, as I expected, but with silence. His hands are warm as they clasp my feet. He moves around my body, and I get the sense he is listening deeply to its interior sounds.

Then the external sounds begin. I hear the soothing song of a crystal singing bowl, the tingling of bells, the deep reverberation of drums. Rather than a continuum of sound, there is an equal degree of silence and the deep vibrations emanated from tuning forks held against my body. The sound and resonance floats over and through me. I enter a profound state of relaxation.

At some point, he asks me to turn over on my stomach. He applies the vibrating tuning fork against the tight spots in my neck, shoulders and back — areas where, he tells me later, he sensed I carry the weight of the world. Most amazing of all is that he applies it to the precise point where my back chronically aches.

When the session is over, I still feel the inner vibrations. I feel alive and connected from the inside out. Garnier had called it a sound massage, and that is exactly what it feels like, as if I've had an internal massage.

The bottom line

I left the session feeling as if I had gotten a complete tune-up. I felt an inner balance that I normally get only from a fantastic yoga session. I felt cleansed from the inside out, completely in harmony with my body and the environment around me. I felt as if I could deal with any situation life presented — not so much invincible, but strong, not so much detached, but indivisible.

Written by Linda Freeman / 12:18 AM, May. 29, 2011

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