Chris James
from: Chris James
Category: Sound Healing

What If? … Contemplating Sound Healing

Dear Friends


What if …. Sound being energy, as is everything, we need to look at the quality of the source of that energy before we can begin to know what we are truly expressing when we speak and sing … all the nice and good in the world cannot possibly change a thing if the impulse creating the sound has only come from the mental mind and not a truly self loving body and heart.

 When we can love ourselves first, creating loving bodies to express from, only then is it possible to express love. If we put harmfulness into our bodies, then we can only express harm.

WHAT IF….. Underlying all our ‘knowledge ‘ of sound healing, all the lovely quotes that we use, the stories of how sound was used in creation, etc etc   what if underpinning everything was an immutable energetic law that sound is either harming or healing, and until we TRULY know ourselves, all our lovely sounds chants, sound baths, healing sound, chakra sounds, primordial chants, Tibetan bowls tuning forks, missing notes, waves of aums, are ALL contributing to the illusion that is actually driving deeper, burying and hiding in the human body all that needs to be exposed and healed.

What if ……   for a presenter or sound healer being sincere is not enough, and that when, with the knowledge of self and true energetic responsibility our clairsentience or ability to feel the energy that flows through and around us at all times is re-awakened, we start to feel what actually comes through ‘sincere’ and ‘well intentioned’ sound healers. Then we will start to feel the truly contracted and harmful nature of what to our physical ears ‘sounded nice.’

This ability to feel energy, and what is behind the energy (most important), that comes through music and sound is now vitally important, if sound healing is to move OUT of the old school of modalities of the ‘new age’ that were just highways of ill-aligned energy that have truly harmed and continue to harm a generation of ‘spiritual seekers’.

A sound healer needs to be in a constant process of attending to ALL area of their lives to even START to move from this overwhelming wave of illusion that pervades our field of healing into even a small awareness of self responsibility that is necessary to truly do our work. Everything affects the sounds and the music we make. If we drink alcohol or take recreational drugs or smoke, we are numbing ourselves, burying our grief, or aligning ourselves with energies that do not have the journey of return to our inner hearts as their motivation, in fact, directly the opposite. 

What if the old adage “physician know thyself” is just as important for sound healers, as the energy that we are aligned to, be it the separated aspect of us (spirit) or the soul-full nature, is AMPLIFIED, when we use sound. Would our soul say yes to alcohol and drugs? How can we possibly “heal” others if we are not clearing ourselves?

When our reawakened ability to feel truth in energy starts to work, we will feel what happens when we listen to so called meditations or new-age music played by musicians that choose to NOT be energetically responsible. We can feel how its shrouds the listener in a numbing blanket of bliss, we can feel the truly awe-full energy that comes through most players of crystal bowls; we can feel that unless a harmonic singer truly knows themselves, the sound of the harmonics is, to the Ears of the Heart, which can never be fooled, truly imposing.

I know these words may sound ‘over the top’ or ‘too full on’, but please take time to consider this. How long will sound healers continue to use such outdated modalities as the 7 chakra system, (if a sound healer uses this system it is a guarantee that they do not know the difference between spirit or soul,) or indulge in the truly imposing process of ‘sending’ sound healing, (another sure sign that the sound healer knows not themselves) You emanate love and don’t send anything.

With Love, Chris James, Your Fellow Student.
Posted: 04 Feb 2010 By: Clifford Sax

What If….The Singular Personal Pronoun Were Used?

A Response to Chris James

Thank you Chris for writing an article that has provided the opportunity to think very deeply about my own personal position in relation to all of the points you made. I find that I learn most about myself through the resonances that arise as a response to my interactions with others (be it face to face or through their words).

In my response I am sharing my own decidedly subjective understanding. It is being shared as a counterpoint to what has been written by you. My intention is to spark possible debate and is not meant as a critique, invalidation, or smear on your understanding, your process, or your beliefs (as if that were even possible)!

Firstly your article seems to be intimating that we need to achieve a state of ‘self love’ before even thinking about working effectively with sound. This is expressed in quite stark terms - an either/or state of affairs. Your understanding seems to suggest that I either love myself totally or not at all – end of story. In response to this I would like to share my own experience which I suspect may be similar to many others. There are aspects of self that I love (humour, intelligence, commitment, understanding, compassion) and aspects of self that I am more ambivalent towards (easy irritation, caustic wit, laziness etc). When working with clients I endeavour to align myself with the loving resonances that I identify within myself and the client whilst bracketing any ‘negative’ projection that may arise (“what a lazy b****”). My experience (through practice, reflection, and supervision) is that the ‘other’ with whom I’m working (be it client, workshop participant, or student) is a simple reflection of ‘self’ and that my imperfection is there to be reflected upon outside of the treatment space. Now, if I were going to wait for my awakening before embarking on any loving endeavour with sound, then surely I would still be waiting when hell freezes over? The truth, as I see it, is that I do my best at all times – even if in somebody else’s eyes that ‘best’ does not come near their expectations of what ‘best’ should be. I am certainly held within the constraints of my own current understanding and it cannot be any other way. Surely then the call is to simply reflect on my own experience – to be a reflective and responsible practitioner rather than to do nothing until I have reached that elevated state of total self love that you seem to be advocating?

I am in the process of waking up (as I suspect many others are as well). Your suggestion that I can only be an effective sound practitioner once I inhabit the elevated position described by your words could be read as a harsh critique - not only of me, but of 99.99% of those individuals currently working within the sound field! It also seems to negate the ‘process of becoming’ that we are all a part of. I find cause to ask myself “what would love really do here?” I think that love would acknowledge, without judgement, my limitations and praise my desire for movement and growth. It would not judge where I find myself right now as being not good enough. Where I am is where I ought to be! Reality or ‘what is’ is truth – not an idea about what reality should or ought to be. There are many of us working with sound that are, through the process of this work, endeavouring to understand more about ourselves and others. This is the gift that sound can give us – the opportunity to become more aware and to move toward love rather than away from it. This is deep and profound learning but learning, as I’m sure you would agree, is a process. It is not an end point that then says “it is deemed that you can now work with sound because you have become enlightened”. There is no end point to learning! Love allows my learning to unfold as it unfolds. Something other than love judges my learning process and suggests that it is invalid.

You mention “an immutable energetic law that sound is either harming or healing” and you suggest that the way that people work with sound is contributing to what you refer to as ‘the illusion’ and this drives that which needs to be healed into the body. This is a fascinating model that you are proposing but it is unsubstantiated in your article. Where are the references, where is the research? Am I simply to take your word for it? Why would I do that? Why would I take on board anything at all that is stated by you (or anyone else on this earth) without it being my own experience? The inculcated, conditioned, unreflective self seems to be the problem you are identifying in your article. But if, as you state, the physician needs to know him/herself, then surely that can begin with questioning all and every concept that has been taken on board that is contrary to ones own experience? Who am I? Who are you? I can’t answer that for myself (yet) but I know that what I am is beyond anything that can be pointed at or identified with. On that note the only illusion that I can identify is the illusion of separation – of an identified self. This illusion (as far as I can see) is perpetuated when we decide that ‘we’ are not good enough, when ‘we’ could do better, when ‘we’ need others to change or be different. You are right - everything is energy – so what of me and you? Where do I start and end? Where do you begin? It seems to me that one cannot judge a part of the whole without implying that the whole is flawed. This seems to be what you are doing and so I find a massive contradiction that I am unable to grasp.

In your article you seem to be giving sound workers / practitioners / therapists (and by extension yourself) an immense amount of power (often to do ‘harm’ as well as ‘good’). I would like to question my (or anyone’s) ability to cause another human being to feel anything at all. What I feel, how I respond, or how I perceive the sound is entirely caused by ‘self’ not ‘other’. If I explore my responses to sound I find that all that has happened is that a resonance has taken place which highlights an aspect of my current experience. This may be perceived as blissful, it may be perceived as painful, it may facilitate release, or it may highlight resistance. Either way the sound is neutral (in a therapeutic context). The story or narrative that I construct around my experience is also mine. With that story I may choose to stroke myself, congratulate myself, beat myself black and blue, or take no responsibility at all. I may even point my powerless finger in the direction of the sound practitioner and try to make them responsible for my experience! The choice is mine, BUT it has nothing to do with the sound practitioner or the sound itself. It does, however, have everything to do with me. You see - there is either self responsibility or victim-hood. We cannot have it both ways. I would suggest that, for me at least, walking the path of total responsibility is more empowering and a healthier movement toward self awareness / self love than victim-hood – a state which you seem to believe is a possibility when you suggest the harm that can be done by sound practitioners.

Another point that facilitated a form of cognitive dissonance was your diktat that “A sound healer needs to be in a constant process of attending to ALL areas of their lives”. Well, my initial response was “how would the dusting get done” and then “who are you kidding – I don’t do the dusting anyway”! But seriously, for me to do that I would need to be so overly identified with my work as a sound practitioner that the greatest gift would be for somebody to smash all my bowls, confiscate my diagnostic bell, and stick me in an empty hut in the Himalayas for a few years. My job, my work, really is not who I am. This is my experience, my truth. If my work were taken away from me tomorrow it would not compromise my sense of self, my worth, or my identity. I would simply come up with another one! It would be, I feel, a mistake to therefore assume that all sound practitioners are as identified with their work as you appear to be through your statements or that sound practitioners give themselves as much power as you seem to do.

Your observation that in order to work effectively with sound we need to give up the fags, cut out the pints, and refrain from the odd joint is strongly refuted by the evidence. The authenticity, potential, and power of sound or music to facilitate powerful transformation and growth within the receiver (regardless of the personal qualities of the ‘giver’) is, if we look for it, overwhelming. Consider great communicators of their art such as Hendrix (drugs), Joni Mitchell (cigarettes), or Billie Holiday (drugs and alcohol). History is littered with less than ‘perfect’ messengers, facilitators, and channels for sound and music. Wagner, Beethoven, Delius, Bach – all flawed according to your ideal. What of them? In many ways it is the pathology of the individual that instigates the genius of their sublime creative acts (see James Hillman). What of the great sages such as Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj? He was himself a chain smoking ‘beedie’ wallah who had a very short temper. Does this somehow negate his message? Do we take his words with a pinch of salt because he constantly had a beedie hanging from his lips? Do we deny our own experience and resonance facilitated by their words and their art because they drank too much, slept around, and smoked?

There is a deeper truth here for me and it is the value and the importance of personal responsibility. Personal responsibility (in my view, the path to freedom) dictates that we are wholly responsible for our process, for our experience – something which you are clearly advocating in the idea of knowing oneself (it seems). My understanding is maybe more radical - but what I don’t understand is how (when acknowledging our responsibility to our own process) it is then possible to ‘heal’ another? Surely I am a mere facilitator? I am nothing more or less than a ‘bowl donger’, a ‘toner’, an ‘overtoner’, ‘drum beater’, ‘Gong sounder’ etc who understands the sublime ability of sound to facilitate personal process. This is something I am happy to be in the midst of this post-modern moment where we are beginning to understand (maybe for the first time) how we create our own meaning, our own understanding, our own reality. Would I want to be a healer? No thanks. I will support your healing process, I will hold a safe and loving space, I will be a compassionate witness - but the decision to heal, to move toward wholeness is yours alone. Would I want to be treated by a healer? No, I’d run a mile. Why would I want to hand over that particular responsibility (that has been so hard won) to another person?

This brings me to my final point: the singular personal pronoun – where was it? You acknowledge your status as a ‘fellow student’ but a statement such as the following:

How long will sound healers continue to use such outdated modalities as the 7 chakra system, (if a sound healer uses this system it is a guarantee that they do not know the difference between spirit or soul,) or indulge in the truly imposing process of ‘sending’ sound healing, (another sure sign that the sound healer knows not themselves) You emanate love and don’t send anything

is so easily read as being judgemental, dictatorial, alienating, separating, polarising, and unloving. It does not suggest by any means your status as a student or learner but as a ‘teacher’. How am I, as the reader, able to identify with such a statement? On the other hand, this statement:

How long will I continue to use modalities that are for me outdated (such as the 7 chakra system)? If I use this system I believe that it is a guarantee that I do not know the difference between spirit or soul. If I indulge in the truly imposing process of ‘sending’ sound healing I feel that it is another sure sign that I know not myself. I emanate love and don’t send anything.

is immediately engaging to me. I want to know more. I am curious about your process and wonder what experiences have caused you to arrive at your understanding. I connect with you and can find my own identification with your process. Even if your understanding is far removed from my own it doesn’t matter. With the singular personal pronoun you let me in. You allow me to witness your humanity rather than causing me (with the first example above) to assume that your words are a defence against it.

This, to my mind, is responsibility.

Clifford Sax

Posted: 04 Feb 2010 By: Clement Jewitt

What if?

well, I haven't met you, Chris James, which makes a lot of difference to how I can comment on your article. I hope I don't offend you, as I have some cavils to air.

Aired with the intention to seek clarity, I do assure you, at any rate such clarity as may be possible. And I wholly agree with you on the importance of intention. No more need be said on that.

Reading your article I find I am not sure whether your primary intention is to lay out some provocative speculations, or to imply strongly held thoughts presented in the guise of speculation. As to the latter, I expect many of us have adopted that particular strategy when not quite certain about ourselves. And I can't know, of course, the contents of anyone else's mind.

But down to details. "... an immutable energetic law that sound is either harming or healing, and until we TRULY know ourselves, all our lovely sounds ... are ALL contributing to the illusion that is actually driving deeper, burying and hiding in the human body all that needs to be exposed and healed." Do you mean that unless we are perfected beings who have voluntarily returned to this world to help others (Avatars), we can only do harm? So only the likes of Sai Baba can do good? The Manichees disappeared as a consequence of believing something like that.

Sorry, this is too harsh a dualism for me, and besides, I don't think that the answer to that ancient philosophical/theological conundrum as to why there is so much evil is found as easily as your words possibly imply: all of us except a very few Sai Babas unintentionally doing NOTHING BUT bad? How demoralising is that? I cannot envisage anyone at all making sounds with positive intentions who does not achieve some good, despite their all too human imperfections. And how would you identify the flip point between doing bad and doing good? Life ain't like that, more a continuous flow, continual change. So sometimes, at our best, we can offer the best, at other times, owing to weather, personal factors, etc, we can't do as well. The extremes of those in some individuals might be quite close to your dichotomy of only bad, only good.

Healings take place in many ways, in my experience and as reported in many places: not infrequently despite adverse circumstances. There is a person at both ends of a healing, the transmitter, and the receiver. Both play an active part. Personally I conceive sound as the carrier of 'something else', impelled in part by intention, achieving its effect via the physical vibrations, transduced by various bodily substances into non-physical vibrations, thus able to interact directly with the electro-magnetic body, and with the willing participation of the receiver, much of whose receiving is below ordinary consciousness. I suspect that this is what you are referring to with "what is behind the energy" And as you suggest, sounding nice has nothing to do with it.

But I feel you really know all this, though you would I think couch it in different language to me. With this in mind, I am inclined to think you did write some of your blog with tongue in cheek . . .

"Physician know thyself". Of course this is also important for sound healers. But even in the materialistically constrained allopathic medicine world healings occur, despite the ministrations of doctors who are far from any intention to work on themselves. No doubt most often because the 'patient' wants to get better. And I do think that a similar situation occurs with other forms of healing ministrations, though in the alternative/complementary world it might be reasonable to expect that the practitioner does work on hirself. Here too the intention to 'get better' or 'achieve balance, grounding, etc', whatever is the objective, of the person receiving is crucial. Generally speaking I don't think anyone ever heals anyone else. What we do is offer an opportunity for the immense healing power which is within all of us to believe that healing is possible. Workers with sound offer a carrier wave of physical vibratory energy. Others do it in other ways.

I don't think I'm that far from your intentions here? And I fully agree with your point about irresponsible musicians.

As to the chakra system, I'm aware that the Jovian Archive people work with what they call the 'nine centred being' (www.jovianarchive.com), and I know at least two complementary practitioners who say they are working with chakras beyond the 7th. But I am not convinced that working with the 7 is useless, as you seem to imply. Perhaps you would like to enlarge on your perceptions/experiences in this area?

And finally (it's more than time I stopped) the difference you suggest between 'sending' and 'emanating' seems to me to be more of a verbal problem than anything else - perhaps there is a cultural usage here which has passed me by.

Clement Jewitt

Posted: 09 Feb 2010 By: Lyz Cooper

My thoughts on Chris's article are on one of my Posts - copy this link into the address line in your web-browser to go to my blog - http://www.soundtravels.co.uk/resonance-resistance-sound-healing-cooper-fa-108.html

Posted: 18 Feb 2010 By: Rod Paton

I enjoyed reading this article though I have to confess that even after re-reading it a number of times I still do not fully understand some of the points. This is a question of style and perhaps the author is trying to express ideas which are, ultimately, too subtle for words. However, I take the two big themes to be "self-love" and "self-renewal" as qualities which need to be developed and maintained by anyone involved in healing.

In earlier times and other cultures, the shaman, as is well known, is described as "the wounded healer" with the implication that it is only through some kind of painful journey, event or initiation that a person can truly develop the skills necessary to heal others. Abstinence, exercise and self improvement may be only a part of it. The willingness to separate from the tribe, to become isolated, to sit in the wilderness and to practice self-denial, certainly to keep off alcohol and drugs has been a pre-requisite in the initiations of holy men (healing men) through the ages.

If this is what Chris James is suggesting, then I agree. Traditionally, none of us should really be talking of healing unless we are willing to submit to this kind of self discipline. Yet, the reality is so different. For most of us, as Chris points out, being sincere is as much as we can manage...or perhaps I would prefer the term "being authentic". It may be unrealistic to expect more in this time. For myself, I would never claim to be a healer and I love good wine and real ale too much to give them up. Yet, I hope and believe that simply making music, authentically (and exploring in depth what this means) and opening doors to others who want to share in this does provide some kind of depth to living, some comfort to people and some glimpse of the transpersonal.

Posted: 15 Feb 2010 By: andrew hodges

Is it not more likely in the case of a WSHD-type event that what might be apparently 'sent' is, in fact, at another level, merely the generally benevolent 'emanation' of good intention. In other words it helps everyone at least at one point in time to have a sense of communal direction; a kind of world-wide well-intentioned entrainment.

What I am really saying is that many (even wise sages) would say that at its very worst, it does no harm. However as I read your article I feel I am missing something. How is 'sounding nice' really an issue? Or are you pointing at such things as the prevalence of the pentatonic in sound healing to 'fix' the healing (with no semi-tones all so-called 'bad' sounds disappear) so that everyone feels good.

As for the chakra system, I have an issue with Vivikananda's almost materialised version of them (created for Western tastes and wallets) but could you explain in more detail how chakras might be being misunderstood in terms of soul and spirit.

One final point is that you could be making an inference that healers be 'qualified' by achieving some level of self-healing before they can consider themselves healers. Do you really want to go this far?

Posted: 15 Feb 2010 By: andrew hodges

Following the "What If" article Chris wrote to me and added these comments (read my earlier post before reading this one):

On the subject of "well-intentioned entrainment" CHRIS said: "yes but what is being entrained. This is still sitting on the fence and not understanding that now, in this age of deepening energetic awareness and intensity, energy, in this case sound is either harming or healing. How could it not be , as what comes through you is what you are aligned to. Remember that I have put my money where my mouth is here and taken off all my old back catalogue because it WASN’T CLEAR. Again sure I was sincere, the music was nice, lovely, people around the world loved it and still do, but it just goes to show that we have to re-awaken peoples energetic discernment. If the composer and the performer of some music says no its not being sold now because...... And people don’t WANT to hear this then there is cause for an even clearer message of energetic awareness"

On the subject of "doing no harm" CHRIS said: "uh uh.. Its back to the understanding of energetic truth, music's either harming or healing... LOTS of new age music ‘sounds’ nice to the physical ears but to the energetically aware its not good at all"

On the subject of "the chakra system" and soul and spirit CHRIS said: "The soul does not have a bar of the lower three chakras, to be energetically clear everything connects to the inner heart, and then the other 45000 chakras. The spirit ( the disconnected separated self seeking aspect that loves most new age practises) loves people to work with the lower 3 centres , that are the seat of emotions, from which all dis-harmony and disease come."

On the inference that "healers be 'qualified'" CHRIS said: "well yes this is the whole point. If a person is sincere, well meaning etc etc but do not know themselves and do not live in an energetically responsible manner and truly know the difference between spirit and soul, prana and fire, and do not know what they are aligned to, they should certainly attend to themselves first. The karma that these well intentioned but ill-aligned healers , musicians, sound healers etc are accumulating and the damage they are doing to their clients and listeners is manifold."

Posted: 06 Mar 2010 By: Stefan Cartwright

There is music which has nothing to do with idioms and good or bad intentions. This music arises naturally as a result of a complete easefulness about the process we are engaged in. It arises when we allow our internal dialogue to quieten and when we give ourselves fully to listening. It arises when we relax the stories we tell ourselves about what we should be doing and what is right for the planet. It is play. Play for pleasure. Play because it just happens. Play for the sake of play. Play because we are curious.

For grown-ups this requires courage: the courage to drop any ideological investments we have made and any expectations we may have.

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