Acoustic Massage

In December of 1992 I spent my Holiday ‘bonus’ pay from work on two musical instruments: a small conga drum and a 22 ” Zildjian Brass Cymbal. I had played a similar cymbal in my first drum class that fall taught by Colleen Haas in Minneapolis.

In that class I had found myself completely fascinated with the ‘ringing’ instruments, although I had signed up for the class expecting to be mostly focused on hand drumming and rhythms. I did pursue that also, but the gongs, cymbals, chimes, bells, and singing bowls entranced me with their simplicity and power — round pieces of metal that, when sounded, produced wave upon wave of tone. Hearing their voices was like being at the ocean, a world of overlaid waves that induced deep healing and inner self-connection. Outwardly I was just aware of how very beautiful I found the sounds. So I purchased the 22" cymbal a month later and hung it by rope from one of the heat pipes in my basement apartment under the patterned, pressed-tin ceiling.

I had a padded drum stick that I sounded it with, kind of like the ones they play big timpani drums with… Sometimes I would come home from work carrying in my neck, shoulders, thoughts, attitudes and feelings the tension and stress of my workday. I would lower the cymbal to about four feet above the floor, sit or kneel under it, and spend five or ten minutes gently sounding it right over my head with the padded stick. Each sounding lasted about a minute or so.

Acoustic Massage

After a few minutes I consistently felt my breathing relax and deepen, and I would usually find myself repositioning myself and rearranging my spine for comfort. As the vibrations of the deep “Whooooooommmmmmmmm…..” poured down on and through me, I would notice any judgmental thoughts about the events of the day soften into open perspectives. Any hurt feelings would ease and complete themselves, replaced by a sense of ease and presence and comfort in the moment. One time I distinctly felt my major internal organs shifting inside my body cavity (what a strange sensation)!!! Negative or unhelpful attitudes seemed to relax and shift to productive and positive ones and I would connect with my own participation in the problematic situation. Overall, five to ten minutes under this simple, ringing disk of brass would vibrate me into a holistic state of wellness!

Within several months of practicing this I noticed that I consistently wanted some lower tones than the rich, medium pitch that my cymbal produced. Later that year I found and purchased a 26 “ Zildjian cymbal that resonates with a really full, deep “BWWWWAHHHHHHMMMMMM” voice. I played that one the same way I played the higher toned one and was very aware that the vibrations and sound seemed to register lower in my physical body as well… Hmmmm, if this were the case, what would higher toned instruments do? Well, I happened to find a rope of lovely small bells at Pier One Imports of all places and they seemed to really ‘touch’ my “third eye” (forehead region) in an exquisite and gently penetrating way. Again, hmmmmm… I soon laid out the various ringing instruments that I had acquired in high-to-low order of pitch, at distances appropriate to the body regions they activated most strongly. I had some friends come over and tried out ‘ringing’ them. Their experiences were similar to mine. Most of them felt that this was really something significant in terms of healing and wellness.

The instrument collection expanded in the next couple of years to include some really sweet, high chimes and a Ting-sha for the crown of the head, a very large temple bell from Tibet for the heart/mid-region, and some shakers as I explored the effect of occasional ‘rattling’. A few years later, I’ve added a large bamboo rainstick and a variety of brass and quartz singing bowls.

The other noteworthy part of the development of this trance work form is how I hung the instruments. Over the years it has been a rather hilarious process of watching my mind simplify into efficiency the structures I built for this: the first couple of places I lived in where I did this, I built these crazy-looking sort of spiderwebs out of lumber, mostly 2x4’s and 2x2’s, and just sort of hung the instruments all over them. The next place I made it a sort of rectangular grid and there was my housemates massage table under it. (Up till then I’d been doing this on people laying on a floor mattress.) Finally I “got it” after moving to the West Coast and simply put up a single 2x6 beam and attached all kinds of hardware to it from which to suspend the instruments. It worked like a charm, simple and efficient. I added shelves at the head and foot of my massage table to place the singing bowls on. Over the years I’ve made a variety of sticks out of suede and fake fur and all kinds of things. Thin knitting needles and wooden chopsticks are among my favorites for sounding the large cymbals when they are vibrating. They take a really nice ride if you just rest one end on your upturned palm and let the other end rest on the cymbal…the skipping motion makes an incredible wave.

And waves are what it’s all about — I’ve learned that as I explore Sound Vibration work. Waves are the way energy in all its forms moves when uninterrupted. If you want to feel pure waves of delicious sound vibration moving through you and ‘talking’ your tissue, mind, and feelings into their own full, unrushed waves, you might want to get on my table and try an Acoustic Massage.

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