Sunday, December 7, 2008

Caring for Your Healing Drum | BYBS

Once you have a drum, you need to know how to care for it properly. Even synthetic drums require some care. Proper care can vastly extend a drum's useful life. 

Heat Can Kill Your Drum

Leaving a drum in the car is a great way to ruin it. Heat can cause the skin of a natural drum to tighten so much that it bursts. Djembes and other drums that are headed with goatskin under high tension are expecially susceptible.

As heat causes the skin to tighten, the extreme pressure can cause the frame of the drum to warp. That can ruin a frame drum or hoop drum. 

If the hoop is made of jointed wood (instead of all one piece) or of soft wood, the frame can break, ruining the drum completely.

Think of the dangers of leaving small children and animals in cars for just a few minutes. Leaving a drum in the car is also a very bad idea.

High Humidity Loosens Drum Heads

High humidity can cause drum heads to become looser (though still under tension), so that they sound terrible. Very high humidity over a few hours or days can cause the drum to slacken enough to lose the harmonic overtone and undertone sounds that are often used in healing. In other words, the drum sounds flat.

You have probably seen people with hoop drums, holding them over heat sources or warming them with a hair dryer to tighten them. That is why they do it. 

Note that if you have to constantly tighten your drum, either it was not strung tightly enough to begin with, or it may have been made in a dryer environment and not intended for the level of humidity where you live. Drums made in Taos, for example, will probably not be strung tightly enough for Seattle or Singapore.

For short-term humidity problems, one remedy is to keep your drum in a container, so that the humidity has less effect. At least, the drum has more time to adjust. In some cases, quick humidity changes will not affect your drum at all.

For example, if you do not have air conditioning, but you keep you drum in a plastic container, such as a Christmas tree skirt storage box, a brief thunderstorm will likely not affect your drum at all.

Low Humidity Can Cause Splits

Low humidity can be just as dangerous to your drum as moisture. If you take a drum that is tightly strung enough to be used in a humid environment, such as a coastal area, and move it to a desert environment, your drumhead may tighten so much that it splits.

Even in a moderately humid area, storing a drum in a dry upstairs closet or on the wall during the winter can be just like taking it to the desert if you use central heat all winter. Central heat sometimes lowers the humidity in your home until it is even dryer than a desert.

You might need to keep your drum in a plastic container and mist it occasionally so that it does not split in the extremely low humidity.

The lesson here is to buy a drum that was made in your geographical area in the same conditions in which you will store and use it.

Getting Wet Can Be Fatal to Drum Heads

Getting a drum head wet can cause it to split even without being played. Only a few drops, if not wiped off instantly, can destroy a djembe head. The skin is just so thin and under such high tension, and the liquid weakens the skin very quickly, causing it to split. 

Djembes and similar drums with thin heads laced to a high tension must have the pressure relieved immediately if they get wet. If you wipe off the liquid right away, and it is more than a drop or two, you must immediately loosen the drum lacing to lower the tension on the head while the skin dries. Once the head is completely dry, you can retighten the lacings and tune the drum.

Generally frame drums and hoop drums that are laced onto their frame (not tacked or glued), are not in so much danger. Native American drums in particular are usually made of stronger hides. If you wipe them off immediately and keep them from drying out too fast, they should be OK.  

Do NOT try to loosen the rawhide laces on a frame drum or hoop drum unless you are a drum-maker! Unless you know exactly what you are doing, the drum will be ruined. 


When transporting drums it is always best to put them in a case or container of some sort, especially if you have to carry them on foot or in an open vehicle. Even a large, heavy duty trashbag can protect your drum from rain or spills.

Parties and Public Gatherings

Beware at parties, drum circles and other events that most people do not realize how fragile drum heads are. They have no idea that a little spill can fracture your drum head. So be careful where you put your drum. 

Don't leave your drum unattended even for a few minute. Some people will thoughtlessly set a drink or heavy object on top of a drum! So beware. It is best to cover the head of the drum while you take a break.

Even synthetic drum heads need to be protected from getting wet. While Remo and other synthetic heads are great for use in humid, even damp environments. they are not made to actually get wet. They need cases, and don't try to play them in the rain.

Sharp or Abrasive Objects

Sharp objects are the enemies of drums. But objects that you might not think of as sharp can also damage drums. 

Never wear a ring, bracelet, or watch while playing a hand drum such as a djembe. Even a smooth ring intensifies the pressure on a small area and can break the drum head, especially if there is any weakness in the skin already.

A bracelet or watch can easily puncture or cut the drum head when you hit a base note (hitting with flat palm in the center of the drum head). Never risk that, especially if the drum is not your own.

That is another reason not to leave your drum unattended at parties or public events. Someone who knows nothing about drums may start playing it while you are gone, without removing their rings or bracelets---and damage the drum head. I have had it happen.

Avoid Any Pressure on Head

Be careful, when you store and transport drums, that nothing can press on the head. Loads shift in transport, and the drum may roll or fall against something that will stretch the head. That can sometimes be fixed, but other times it can cause a rupture.

That's why a hard container, such as a smooth plastic box for a frame drum or hoop drum, or a case with a hard top for a djembe, is best.

Do I have to say it? Never, never ever use a drum as a table. Even setting something on the drum for a moment can result in damage that will split the head. 

Good Care Pays Off

No drum will last forever. In traditional societies, a good drum may last for the life of one drummer, but the drum head may have been changed many times. 

Hoop drums, if headed with strong skins such as buffalo, should last much longer. Traditionally they were not reheaded if they did break. A new drum was made instead.

Djembes and other heavy African drums with thin heads are another matter. The hardwood base may last for centuries. 

The head and its lacing cord of such drums can be replaced many times without affecting the base as long as the wood is protected from insects, excessive moisture and heat. And because the hardwood base is hand-shaped from a single piece of wood, it is well worth the cost of reheading.

Metaphysical Drum Care

If you use drumming or other sound for healing, you probably know the importance of intention and vibration, the metaphysics of healing. If so, you will understand that the spiritual environment in which you play and store your drum is important, too.

Sometimes you have to take your drum into a negative environment in order to do healing. If so, be sure to spiritually cleanse the drum afterward.

Drums that will be used in healing should not be taken into negative environments just for fun. Avoid taking drums to parties or other events where people are drunk or drugging or have destructive, ridiculing attitudes toward others. You do not want those vibes in a drum that will be used for healing.

If you are a professional musician, and you need to play at such events, it is best to get drums that you use only for that purpose, and leave your healing drums at home.

I know that playing music can have an emotionally healing effect on a crowd, and that is good. But that is not what I'm referring to. 

If you are a healer, you know what I mean, even if you have not thought about it. If you use sound for healing, it is good to be aware of the spiritual vibes in the tools that you use for healing. 

Such awareness, like the ability to use drumming for healing, is a blessing.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to Select a Djembe Drum to Buy | BYBS

Having the opportunity to help someone else is considered to be a blessing by Jews and by Buddhists. Both groups have sayings to that effect. 

I think it is always a blessing, if you take the opportunity and do help, and if you do it with a glad heart. I feel sure that there are people in other spiritual belief systems who feel the same.

Yesterday I got an email from someone I have never met, asking how to choose a djembe as a present for her son. I'm glad I took the time to write some guidelines for her, and now I can share them with you.

My drum teacher, Abubakr Kouyate, says that traditional West African people consider the sound of the djembe to be a healing sound. He says the healing actually comes from the tones (one of the three types of djembe strokes: tone, slap, and bass). 

So playing traditional rhythms on the djembe and its accompanying dunnun family of drums is a very old way of healing with sound. Generally djembe ensemble rhythms are played to heal a whole community.

In case you have thought of learning to play djembe in the traditional way, here are some guidelines for choosing one.

1. Wooden body with a real goatskin head. If you buy a "djembe" with a fiberglas body and artificial head, you will quickly become unhappy with the sound as soon as you hear real djembes.

Artificial drums are OK for camping, because they are light to carry and resistant to moisture. But the sound is very different from a real djembe.

2. Do not buy a so-called djembe that has metal bolts around the top edge to hold the head on. That is a sure sign that the drum is artificial and the sound will be wrong. The heads of real djembes are laced on with strong nylon cord (such as mountain climbers use). That allows them to be tightened.

2. Make sure the wood is not cracked. Examine it closely.

3. The body of the djembe should be made from a single piece of heavy tropical African hardwood, called lingue wood, hand-shaped on the inside. Definitely you need a hard, strong wood.

4. Carving on the outside is just for looks. Don't let it sway your choice. You could end up with a low-quality drum that only looks pretty.

5. The head must be goatskin (not cowhide). Only goatskin is thin enough to give the right sound.

6. Make sure the head does not have any holes or tears (even tiny ones). If it does, it will soon require reheading, which costs $50 to $100, I think---unless you get a super deal on a drum with a broken head and can factor reheading cost into the price.

That is, if you get the wooden body cheap enough, you could afford to have it reheaded.  That's a good thing, because drum heads only last a few years anyway. A reheaded drum is like a brand new drum. You know it will be good for several years, unlike a used drum with an old head.

7. Any drum that has been played a lot, or that has not been used in awhile, even a new one, may need to have the head tightened. That is not hard to do, but you need to know how. My teacher or any **real** djembe drummer can show you how.

8. Real, authentic djembes, come from Africa, from Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and other West African countries. However, some nice djembes are also made nowadays in Indonesia (if they use a heavy tropical hardwood), and they will be less expensive.

9. Must be big enough! A real djembe is about 24 to 28 inches tall and 10 to 15 inches in diameter. You need it to be tall enough that you can stand it on the floor, tilt it slightly away from you, and play at a comfortable height.

Also, it needs to be plenty big enough to spread out both hands flat above the near edge of it at once. Anything smaller than that is too small to play and will not give a good sound.

I hope this helps in selecting a djembe for yourself or for a gift. Playing a djembe in the traditional way is not only healing to those who listen. It is even more healing to those who play. It is a real blessing either way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Water Crystal Healing Music | BYBS

I've just started working with a very interesting book, Water Crystal Healing, by Masaru Emoto, the best-selling author of Messages from Water. His work was featured in the film, The Secret.

Dr. Emoto has what seems to me to be a whole new take on the subject of sound for healing: viewing a crystal formed by the energy of a musical piece while listening to that particular piece of music.

He says "when you listen to a piece of music and look at the water crystal created by the vibration of that music simultaneously, you can 'see' the vibrational pattern of the music in the crystal and absorb all the vibrations into your body through your eyes and ears."

In case you are not familiar with Dr. Emoto's work, his lab developed a way to photograph individual water crystals. They found that the emotional atmosphere around the crystals affects their shape. Even taping printed phrases to the outside of a water container would affect the shape of the crystals that formed in the container.

The results were not caused by the experimenters. Similar crystals were caused by similar sentiments even when the phrases were in foreign languages and the technicians did not know what they meant.

Unpleasant words made for ugly, blob-like crystals. Phrases expressing sentiments like love, gratitude, and other benevolent emotions caused intricate and beautiful crystals.

What does that have to do with using sound for healing, you may ask? Well, the premise of this book, which comes with two music CDs, is that when certain pieces of music are played in the presence of pure water, the water forms exquisite crystals with a certain energy vibration, or (in Japanese) hado.

Gazing at a photo of particular crystal while at the same time listening to the piece of music that caused it to form will supposedly convey to you the healing benefits of that particular piece of music.

This is all very interesting, you may say, but how did they measure the effects of the music? All I can tell you is what Dr. Emoto wrote. He says that he measures the energy vibration, or hado, of the water crystal photograph by placing it on a hado-measuring device called a Magnetic Resonance Analyzer (MRA).

Dr. Emoto says he has been using the MRA for years to analyze people's hado and treat water for them to drink to adjust their energy so that they are healthy. He says it works. He says "Organs and diseases have measurable hado, a subtle form of energy that is easily transmittable and present in all things. In English, hado translates as 'wave' or 'vibration'."

Because he had discovered that he could analyze photos of absent patients with equally good results, he figured out that he could measure the hado of music by playing it in the presence of vials of water (50 samples for each piece of music) and measure the hado of the resulting water crystals.

So if this seems like somewhat circular logic to you, well, it does so to me, too. I have admired Dr. Emoto's work in the past. I've read a couple of his books and watched his video. But this seems a little far-fetched to me.

The music on the CDs is all European classical music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To each musical selection are attributed emotional hado and physical hado.

For example, the first selection is The Moldau, by Bedrich Smetana. It is said to convey emotional hado of calmness, peace of mind, and relief from irritability as well as physical hado of improved lymphatic flow. The crystal is especially intricate and lovely.

My favorite crystal is the one that represents Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. The emotional hado is said to cleans the heart and body and relieve emotional stress. Physically it is said to affect the lumbar vertebrae and improve lower back pain.

I would love to know what Jonathan Goldman would say about this one. And I would love to know what you have to say about this book and CD set after you have worked with it.

Anyway, the musical selections are lovely, and I love the photos. Just when you think there is nothing new in a field, here comes something like this. Whether it works as advertised or not, it is fun to experiment with, and I feel blessed to have found it.

I'll let you know how my experiments turn out. Please leave a comment to tell the rest of us know about yours, OK?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Blog Your Blessings Sunday

Today I'm grateful for a wonderful blog network called Blog Your Blessings Sunday. Through them I have met some wonderful people and read some great blogs. I highly recommend it.

If you are interested in joining, go to for more information.

Intention and Sound Healing

Since I reviewed the book, 7 Secrets of Sound Healing by Jonathan Goldman, I've been thinking. One of the main points of the book, almost the main idea in the book, is that intent is the most important element in healing.

All right, that is true in energy healing. And sound healing is, I guess, a form of energy healing. But what about all the medical research that shows that certain speeds of steady, unison drumming cause specific changes in brain waves?

Of course, Goldman is talking mainly in terms of assigning various notes to various ailments or parts of the body, or the idea that certain genres of music are healing, while others are not. His point is that the right note to heal one person of a specific problem might not be the right note to heal another person with the same problem---or even the same person at a different time.

So maybe the medical research does not invalidate what he is saying. But i wonder.

If you work with sound healing, especially if you have read 7 Secrets, what do you think?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

7 Secrets of Sound Healing | BYB

I just read 7 Secrets of Sound Healing by Jonathan Goldman. It is the best introduction to healing with sound that I have ever read, and it comes with a 26-minute CD of healing music composed by Goldman.

The small hardback book is not much larger than the CD it contains, but it is about three-fourths of an inch thick and 161 pages long. It is beautifully designed.

The book is printed entirely in Indigo ink on cream-colored paper. That is startling at first, but it is easy to read. And the dark, dark blue becomes a soothing element, contrasting with some startling ideas.

7 Secrets of Sound Healing is full of good information and experience from one of the pioneers of modern sound healing. Even without the CD it is worth the $17.95 list price. I bought it at, though, and paid only about $12.50. And the CD is lovely.

Goldman was a rock musician until he decided about 25 years ago to pursue the possibilities of healing with sound. Since then he has founded the Sound Healers Association, has won Grammy Awards for his healing music CDs, and has authored several successful books on healing with sound. He has devoted his life to studying and teaching the use of sound for healing.

This book not only explains the basic principles of healing with sound. It also debunks a lot of myths about sound healing, including some that Goldman himself believed in until research evidence and experience taught him otherwise.

Although I will probably write more about this book in the future, I won't list the 7 Secrets right now. Each one takes a whole chapter to fully explain.

I just wanted to let you know about it as soon as possible if you haven't read it already. This is by far the best book on Sound Healing that I've read. I highly recommend it. Whether you are just starting out or have been in the field awhile, I believe that you will find this book valuable.

7 Secrets of Sound Healing
will make you think, and it may force you to reconsider everything you have been taught about healing with sound. And that could be a blessing in disguise: It could make you a much better healer.

Please read the book, listen to the music, and let the rest of us know what you think.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Poll: 92% Believe Music Is Healing

In the Polls section of a site called Care2, about living lightly on the earth, I ran across poll results showing that 92% of those who took the poll believe that music can be healing.

The people who took the poll may not be representative of the public at large. They tend to recycle, care about peace, and be concerned with water and wildlife conservation and the environment. 

Even so, it was by far the most definitive poll on the Care2 site (and I took dozens of them, just because they are interesting and fun). Most of the poll results were about what you would expect from a well-educated, green-leaning audience. Pretty sensible and often pretty evenly divided on issues.

But almost everyone believes that music can be healing. I find that very encouraging. How about you?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Seeing Sound: Harmonic Overtoning | BYB

Last Saturday was the monthly Meetup of my group that works with sound for healing.

We always use rattling and chanting to break up and reform the energy in the workspace for our purposes, and we always use drumming, which in itself is healing. However, sound is not always the main focus of the healing work we do.

But last Saturday we were doing psychopomp work. We were guiding the souls of the dead, especially those who had died unexpectedly with no one to properly mourn them.

To do that kind of work, calling the spirits of the dead who may not yet realize that they are dead, and calling the spirits of loved ones or spiritual figures to come and escort them to the other world, we use an ecstatic trance posture. (See the work of Felicitas D. Goodman, Ph.D., for more info on that.) The psychopomp trance posture requires toning or wailing to call the spirits.

In preparation for the work, we did a little bit of practice with harmonic toning---not that harmonic overtoning was required for the work, but it is especially effective. And doing harmonic toning is also very healing for those who do it.

We spent 30 minutes in the posture, toning (or wailing) to call the spirits. It was a moving experience, as it always is. This time, though, was especially rewarding in a different way.

One of the healers, Lyn Clark, who trained for several years with South American shamans, was able to psychically See the sound. At the times when we were successful in creating harmonics, she saw the sound as light. And she saw us weaving strands of that light into a huge cube. What a blessing to share with us!

Lyn has worked with us many times before, and has done that same kind of work with us several times. But we had never toned harmonically while doing that work. (We just wailed.) And so she had never seen that particular vision.

You can be sure that we will be working even more with harmonic overtoning in the future!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Music and Sound in the Healing Arts | BYB

John Beaulieu, the author of Music and Sound in the Healing Arts, discovered for himself the energy and power of sound for healing. Beginning as a little boy of 6 years old, he noticed that certain songs he played on the piano had the power to calm his family, to defuse tense situations, even to prevent fights.

Later, as a professional musician on tour, he played many musical genres, from classical and jazz to country and pop. He noticed time and again that even the same song, played different ways, with different energy, could be used to affect the audience deeply in very different ways. The energy in the music could cause the audience to do whatever the musicians wanted: eat more, buy things, dance, calm down, and so on.

Then Beaulieu became a therapist in a hospital and began to experiment seriously with the use of sound as energy for healing the body and mind. He went back to school and became a doctor of naturopathy. And his successful work with patients drew the attention of physicians and other therapists.

Music and Sound in the Healing Arts is a brief book, packed with facts, diagrams, exercises and the genuine experience of a gifted intuitive with a professional credentials. It describes his work and his discoveries and tells how to use tuning forks, voice (toning) and all kinds of music to heal the mind and the body.

This is a beautiful little book, and I highly recommend it. Personally I feel blessed to have found it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Great Harmonic CDs for Healing | Blog Your Blessings

Currently I'm buying and reviewing harmonic CDs. I'll be back soon with more reviews and recommendations for CDs to use for healing.

I'll won't tantalize you by recommending unavailable recordings, but there is no need to miss out on something just because the chain stores do not carry it.

Meanwhile, I just want to say what a blessing it is to be able to locate hard-to-find, out-of-print CDs on Often there are plenty available---but there is no other reliable way to get them.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Book of Sound Therapy | Blog Your Blessings

The Book of Sound Therapy by Olivea Dewhurst-Maddock, is subtitled Heal Yourself with Music and Voice. That's an ambitions promise, and the book delivers pretty well.

At 124 pages, the book is more of a survey than an in-depth textbook, but it still covers a lot of ground and gives a good introduction to the field.

I can see this as the basis for a course of study, with experiential lessons in using musical instruments and in hearing and creating harmonic overtones to supplement the text.

Written by a voice teacher, the book is focused mainly on the use of the human voice. Though I tend to work more with musical instruments, especially percussion, I think The Book of Sound Therapy is well written and well worth reading and working with. Topics include

* Introduction (including a history of the use of sound for healing)

* The Nature of Sound

* The Voice

* The Languages of Music

* Self-Exploration Through Sound

* Five Sounds for Meditation

* Healing with Sound

* Resources (Useful Addresses, Bibliography, and Discography)

There are physical exercises to improve voice quality (to be expected, I guess, since the author is a voice teacher).

Surprisingly there is also a section on using crystals to enhance voice quality.

As one might expect, the book is Eurocentric (presumably without the author realizing it). There is the usual nod to South Asia (mantras and chakras), a bit on Sufism, and a single page on harmonic chanting (though nothing about the use of it by Central Asian peoples). And there is nothing on the use of sound by indigenous peoples in Africa, Australia, or the Americas.

What The Book of Sound Therapy does cover, it seems to cover well, and there are some unusual topics and ideas. For example, the section on mantras covers more cultures and religions than I expected, including Celtic and Sufi mantras as well as the expected Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Jewish ones.

The retail price of this book is $14.00, but you can buy it for much less on line. The book was published in 1993 by Gaia Books Ltd in London and by Fireside Books (Simon & Shuster) in New York. It is nicely designed and well illustrated.

I plan to work with this book, hopefully with a group. I'll let you know what happens. If you have worked with this book, please share your experiences.

As always, I feel blessed to have access to such authors through their books. And I feel blessed to have you to discuss these ideas with.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Blog Your Blessings

Sorry to say that I've been too busy to blog lately. I've been blessed with a great new job!

But it comes with a long commute. And then I got sick!

I'm on the mend, so watch this space. I'll be back soon with more on sound for healing.

Till then, please check out some of the blog links on the lower right side of this page.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Healing the Land with Sound | BYB

Sound not only heals people, animals, and plants. It also heals the land itself. In recent years people have begun experimenting with chanting, for example, to clear polluted lakes. And it works.

I discovered interacting with the land through sound for myself, almost accidently some years ago.

We went camping in Big Bend National Park, a vast desert area that stretches north from where the Rio Grande flows through the mountains of Northern Mexico and Southwest Texas. The park is huge, many miles across, and mostly desert.

We were there in early February, because the heavy rains are in March and September, and anyway, between March and October it is just too hot to enjoy. Presidio, which is right outside the park (and farther north than much of it) is often the hottest spot in the United States.

Because we were there during the week, there were even fewer people around than usual in the winter. It was lovely! You could hike for hours and not see another human being (and that was on the "easy walk" hikes).

On the first day we managed to get a camping space in the Chisos Basin, which is the high crater of an extinct volcano. High above the desert floor, the Basin is an oasis of grass, oak trees, a creek, and lots of friendly wildlife. It is also much cooler than the desert floor below. That's important, even in the winter.

After setting up camp, we went hiking. One of the "easy walks" at Big Bend is along Oak Creek to a hole or window in the crater walls where the creek falls for a hundred feet or more to the desert floor below. The view out that window is spectacular. You can see for miles.

But after that easy walk, we were tired and hungry. We sat down on a bench to eat an early supper before the long walk back to camp. It was very, very quiet in that little canyon with no one else around.

After we ate, we started drumming. I had packed a couple of small drums and rattles in our day packs along with the food. It was pleasant, but something didn't sound right.

We stopped and looked at each other for moment. "What's wrong with this picture?" "No echo!"

That's right, we were in a small canyon (maybe 40 feet across) with high rock walls, yet there was no echo at all when we drummed. It was as though the walls were hungrily absorbing the sound.

We drummed as long as we could with the early winter sunset coming. By the time we left, it was getting late, and we had not brought a flashlight. Uh-oh. Total darkness on a rugged, rocky path with cactus along the edges and mountain lions in the area.

So we had to move fast. Yet I wanted to keep feeding the hungry land. I couldn't really drum and walk fast, so I started rattling. Immediately it was as though someone put his hand on my lower back to help me along. And it did help.

Whenever we met some (unwise?) people going the other way, I felt foolish and stopped rattling. Immediately the helping hand was gone. Each time I started rattling it returned.

We continued the practice of drumming or rattling on all our hikes in the park. We had some other interesting experiences, too. After conferring with others who had had experiences in other desert environments, here's what we concluded.

We know that even before the Indian peoples of historic times came to the area, it was home to paleo-Indians for thousands of years. We believe that they gave back to the land for its generous support by drumming, singing, and dancing. And the land was nourished by that.

But they have been gone from that area for at least 100 years. The white ranchers did not feed the land. And the modern tourists tend to either go there to throw off the stresses of modern, perhaps urban, life or to soak up the peace, quiet and healing vibes.

But no one comes to feed the land with healing sounds anymore. If it had not been for that quiet canyon, we might not have noticed either. Try it, and see what you discover.

In later years my friend Bill Freeto used to go to a forested park on the outskirts of Chicago. He would walk deep into the woods to a certain spot to meditate. After a few years, a buck started coming to escort him to his spot. Later sometimes two or three bucks would escort him.

Eventually several does started hanging around. They felt safe, I guess, because while he did not get to go often, he had been meditating there for years. When he began to practice throat-singing, the does would come closer, seemingly drawn by the sounds.

Make of this what you will, but I believe that all of us who use sound for healing should also be using sound to heal the land. Try it and see. I believe that being able to give back something to a place that nurtures and supports you is a true blessing for everyone.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sound-Healing Cyber-Sangha | Blog Your Blessings

One of the best things about blogging turns out to be the people you meet because of it. I am astonished by and grateful for all the people who comment here or contact me by email about sound healing.

I live in a big city, and while I have met many healers, I rarely meet others who deliberately use sound for healing. So it really helps to have a community on line to talk with. It reminds me of the Buddhist concept of sangha---a group of like-minded practitioners who help and encourage each other along the path.

Through I was contacted by someone who was organizing a drumming for peace event in Virginia. That led me to a group that had organized a similar national event. I introduced them, and now I'm part of a group that discusses drumming and dreaming of world peace. Some of them have studied with my favorite author on the use of dreams for healing.

Through BlogCatalog (an active online support group for bloggers) I found the Blog Your Blessings movement. Talk about supportive! Blog Your Blessings keeps me posting week after week instead of letting things slide.

Best of all are the thoughtful and thought-provoking comments, public and private. They are both encouraging and inspiring. I feel truly blessed to have found a sort of cyber-sangha, people who work together on the web and off line, using sound for healing.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Is Your Cat's Purr Healing Her--and You? | BYB

A cat's purr is not just a sign of contentment, as biologists had previously assumed. Veterinarians and others have long known that cats also purr when giving birth, when gravely ill, or when recovering from injuries.

An interesting website called cites a paper that was presented at the 2001, 142nd annual Acoustical Society of America, American Institute of Physics, International Conference. The title is "The Felid Purr: A healing mechanism?"

The article explains that all small cats, such as domestic cats and ocelots, and many of the large cats, such as lions, purr. And they purr at or near a particular frequency of vibration of 100 Hz, which has been shown to heal broken bones and other injuries in humans. Physicians, therapists, and trainers often use a metal plate, vibrating at 100 Hz, to help heal injuries and build new tissue.

The speculation is that cats use the vibration that causes the purring sound to heal themselves. Researchers cited the fact that cats heal easily from surgery, illnesses and traumas from which dogs would not recover.

Then the paper discusses many illnesses, such as some types of cancers that dogs have, that either do not occur or only very rarely occur in cats. It also gives statistics on many types of surgeries and traumas from which cats recover much faster than dogs.

It is very impressive, and the implication thoughout the paper is that the cat on your lap or pressed against your side, purring, just may be also healing you.

If the researchers are right, it is actually the vibration rather than the sound itself that heals. But as I mentioned in my last post, sound is a spectrum, not all of which is audible to humans.

The effect of the purr probably comes from the same part of the sound spectrum as the sub-bass vibrations I mentioned then. But the frequency is different, the rhythm is different, and so the effect is different.

I suggest going to this link and reading the article for yourself. Then you decide.

Meanwhile, for those of us who love cats, as if being loved by a cat were not blessing enough, now there's this one! Cats healing with sound. Imagine that!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sound to Heal, Sound to Harm | BYB

This blog is about using sound for healing. The truth is that sound can also be used to cause harm.

Noise pollution is a serious health threat in North America, Europe, and other urbanized parts of the world.

Medical studies have shown that the human brain can cope with no more than three noise sources at a time---and then only for a limited period. How long, minutes or hours, depends on the person and the noise.

After that, the human brain's thinking processes literally shut down. You simply cannot think anymore (never mind trying to sleep).

Part of the problem is too many people and machines concentrated in one area. Traffic and construction noises are typical examples.

Much of the problem, though, is lack of consideration for others, even outright hostility. Deliberately creating excessive noise, or refusing to moderate noise that you know will disturb others, is an antisocial act. It can be a form of aggression.

Technology often outstrips common sense. And marketers are quick to push products that will make money, regardless of the harm they may cause. In particular I'm referring to the spread of subwoofers, also known as "sub-bass speakers".

Sub-bass speakers are actually subsonic. That is, they are designed to vibrate humans and their environment (walls, floors, etc.) with "sound" that is technically below the audible (hearing) range.

Any sound you hear from sub-bass speakers is just added on to let you know that they are working. Sub-bass speakers are actually designed to rock your world. That is, they are designed to vibrate buildings, air, and people's bodies.

If you live miles from civilization, maybe that would not harm other humans. But it could certainly harm wildlife.

But sub-bass/subwoofer speakers are generally an urban phenomenon, and they are a harmful one. Their use in vehicles has been outlawed in some cities, because their use in the so-called "boombox cars" has been found to damage masonry buildings.

Cars are not the only places that sub-bass speakers are installed these days. They are in all new stereo systems, medium to large television sets, computer speaker systems, video game systems, and even cheap CD players. That is a really bad thing!

Think about it: If the vibrations can damage buildings, what do they do to your body? Part of the answer depends on the vibration.

* Some throbbing beats actually make your legs ache when they vibrate the foundations of buildings.

* Others feel like you are being bopped on the back of the neck at the base of the skull. Inside that area is the brain stem, the oldest part of the brain, the part that controls your body's automatic functioning such as breathing, hormone release, and heartbeat.

* The rapid air-pressure changes caused by some rhythms make you feel as if someone is boxing your ears (a practice that was stopped generations ago as a way of disciplining children, because it damages your hearing).

* Other times the vibrations affect the stomach and intestines, interfering with digestion and causing nausea.

* Probably the most frightening and unpleasant effect is when the vibrations affect the human diaphragm, the thin muscle membrane that supports the heart and lungs. It can feel as though you are having a heart arrhythmia. In other words, it feels as though your heart is beating out of sync. It also feels difficult to breathe.

* Trying to sleep in a constantly jolted bed keeps you from sleeping normally---if you can sleep at all. The damaging effects of sleep deprivation for mental and physical health are well documented. Sleep deprivation is officially, legally a torture method.

Recently a neighbor told me about a man who had a small subwoofer (sub-bass) speaker attached to his computer. He had placed it on the floor, which happens to be the best place to put one for maximum vibration. He had also "turned it way down low" and forgotten about it.

His downstairs neighbors could not sleep and felt that they were being constantly bopped on the head when he was working at the computer. It took awhile for the computer guy to figure out what they were complaining about, because he didn't hear anything and didn't notice the vibration.

The vibration was being propagated through his floor, magnified by the air space between floors, traveling down the walls, and even vibrating the foundation of the building.

All this is in addition to the effects of actual sound. It is just vibration. Of course, such vibrations also often create sound, as when they vibrate window panes, glassware, fan blades, metal railings, and other things.

Add to the misery of having your body pummeled by someone else's choice of rhythm the fact that rock and roll (and rap/hiphop) rhythms have been proven stunt the growth of plants, and you have dangerous sound pollution.

This has all been brought more and more to mind recently by a nasty neighbor, a lawyer who rehearses a rock band several times a week from midnight till 3 or 4 am across the street from where I live.

When one neighbor dared to tell him that the noise was jolting her building all night and was costing her and others sleep, he started a campaign of retaliation. He now runs a stereo (with powerful sub-bass speakers but with the sound turned down somewhat) all night long, every night.

That jolts the foundation of our apartment building. It can be felt and heard even in the courtyard on the side of the building away from the street. Sometimes it can be heard (or felt) up to two blocks away!

Having been sleep-deprived now for months, I have been having a hard time thinking, much less blogging. However, I finally found the blessing in this particular misery: It inspired this blog post.

Be aware of the sound and vibration in your environment. Make sure that you are not disturbing others. Sometimes the most healing sound of all is silence.

May you be blessed with plenty of silence---as well as healing sounds when you need them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Drum, Dance and Dream for Peace | Blog Your Blessings

Sound can be used to heal the Earth and all peoples as well as to heal individuals. We often forget that. Research shows that sound can heal or harm animals and plants as well as humans.

On June 25, 2007, a group called Drum, Dance and Dream for Peace held the "largest drum circle in the world" in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall as part of the World Children's Festival. Find out more at

Groups at various places all over the world held simultaneous drum circles as part of that event. I can't tell from their website whether they plan to do it again this year, but I hope they do.

It's a beautiful idea. Let's drum for the Earth. Whether we all do it on the same day or not doesn't really matter. Let's just do.

This year in March a group in Virginia is staging a similar event. I received the following email this week, and I'm working with a local shop owner to see if we can hold one here in Houston on the same day.

Greetings, White Cranes, my name is Blake. I'm the organizer
for the Richmond Virginia drum circle meetup. I'm putting the
word out to all the drum and dance meetup groups on here asking
for help for a special event we are having here in our town.

Our winter meetup spot is at a great club/social gathering
place called the Camel. On Saturday March 15, they are hosting
an all day, sunrise to sunset drum-a-thon, featuring drummers
and dancers from our area (and or course, our drum circle has a
spot, too!). This is a fundraiser for the non-profit Richmond
Peace Education Center.

I'd like to ask your group to drum along with us that day to help raise energy and positivity. Can you imagine thousands of drummers across the country AND Canada drumming together for a peaceful cause? YES! Just the thought
is exciting.

Feel free to check our meetup site and email me with any questions or comments or whatever. Hope you have a great meetup next Thursday and PEACE AND LOVE to you and yours! Richmond Peace Education Center The Camel, our winter oasis

* If you'd like to see the Meetup profile for Blake, visit:

So now you have all the information to contact Blake if you would like to organize a drum circle for March 15 in your own community.

People who care about the Earth and who gather to heal her with sound. Now that is a blessing!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Abubakr Kouyate, Drum Master & Healer---BYB

Although I have used sound for healing since 1990, I might never have written about it (much less created this blog) if it were not for my African drumming teacher, Abubakr Kouyate.

Abubakr teaches in the casual West African village style, where all ages and all skill levels learn together. More important, he teaches what each complex multipart djembe rhythm is intended to do. Some are for young people's iniations, some are women's business, some are for social gatherings.

Others are for stylized combat exhibitions among young men, for war, or to honor certain occupations. There are also different rhythms to accompany (and synchronize) different kinds of group work.

Our class favorites tend to be the spiritual rhythms that accompany such acitivities as foretelling the future, advising community members on their lives, admonishing children, blessing a household, or fishing once a year in the sacred pond.

However, every single rhythm has a type of healing energy that we can feel, whether listening or playing them. Medical research, as discussed in some of my earliest posts, proves that.

A couple of years ago, the owner of the shop where we have our drum class suggested that I write a magazine article on the healing power of drumming to accompany an ad he was placing about events at his shop. With research help from a classmate, Lynn Colwell, I wrote the article, and the magazine editor published it.

After all that work, researching and writing, it seemed like a good idea to reserve future publication rights and put the information on a web site. Eventually that article was serialized on this blog.

So while I know I have been blessed by knowing and studying with such a spiritual man and a gifted teacher, it occurred to me today that if you enjoy this blog, you, too, have been blessed by the teaching of Abubakr Kouyate.

By the way, I am building a small web site for Abubakr. It should be on line by Monday evening: Stop by sometime if you would like to know more about him.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Origins of Healing with Sound | Blog Your Blessings

Many ancient spiritual belief systems say that sound created the world. That tells us that ancient and indigenous people were/are keenly aware of the power of sound to heal, to harm, to create, and to destroy.

We all know that sonic booms can break windows, loud blasts can break eardrums, and too much loud noise can make you crazy. The U.S. Goverment even used sound (very loud rock and roll music) to try to get the President of Panama to surrender so they could cart him off to prison in the U.S.

Research shows that the human brain can filter out up to three noise sources at once, but only for a limited amount of time. How long depends on how loud and how disruptive the noise is. But at some point, the human brain simply shuts down, and you literally can't think anymore. Corporations that allow noisy offices should take heed.

Medical research also shows that certain forms of sound are healing---even though they are not sure why. For example, there is extensive research on drumming: how it cures headaches, promotes trance states (which are often in themselves healing), retrains the brain (which can be important in recovering from strokes and other kinds of brain and nerve damage), and so on.

Indigenous people have many teaching stories about how sound can heal people. But western medical science does not listen to them. In fact, until recently anthropologists largely overlooked much of what indigenous people do and think. Anthropologists had certain questions that they asked about certain categories of society. Much of indigenous culture, having no counterpart in modern European and American culture, was invisible to them.

In a way, many beliefs and practices of indigenous cultures have been invisible to indigenous peoples, too. That is, some are like water to a fish---so obvious that you would not feel a need to mention them, even to outsiders. Yet the outsiders (anthropologists and others) are blind to those obvious things, because such things have no meaning in their own culture.

Other things are so sacred that they are not spoken of openly to the uninitiated, and certainly not to outsiders. So shamans or priestesses might know something that ordinary folk might not.

As ridiculous as it may seem, up until recently both male and female anthropologists only bothered to interview indigenous males. They assumed that women were just workers, not carriers of culture. How wrong they were!

Archeologists now know that women invented mathematics, language, astronomy, basketry, pottery, weaving, dyeing, gardening, shamanism, medicinal lore and plant knowledge and much more. There is hard evidence for most of those statements and strong circumstantial evidence for the rest. All of that matches what is observed among indigenous peoples.

The oldest pictures of drums show them being played by women. Some archeologists theorize that the drums derived from sieves that the women made and used to separate the chaff from grain. But those would be much later drums, invented after agriculture began--only a few thousand years ago.

Modern human beings like us have existed at least 250,000 to 300,000 years. Long before agriculture someone is bound to have discovered that hollow logs make good drums. Women who stretched pieces of rawhide to dry would have discovered they could make a noise.

Before that there were always sticks or stones to be clapped together. Or just hands clapping, voices humming, and so on.
What matters is rhythm. Rhythm is powerful no matter what you use to make it.

How sad it is that our culture is so ignorant of the power and importance of sound for healing---and of the harm that the wrong kinds of sound can cause. Only in the last couple of decades have experiments shown that different kinds of music affect plant growth. Rock and roll, for example, stunts growth, while classical music enhances it.

And that's just western music. The sacred music of many cultures has been used for healing for thousands of years.

So please spread the word. You can learn more about the power of sound for healing by searching on the Internet (using Google, Yahoo, or your favorite search engine) for phrases like "drumming for healing" or "sound for healing" or look for books and/or recordings on the topic on There are quite a few.

And so today I'm grateful for the blessing of sound and for the huge variety of sounds that are useful for healing.