Sound healing and harp therapy are not new ideas. As far back as Biblical time, the harp has been used as an instrument of healing, stress relief, and transformation. In more recent decades, the practice, study, and certification of harp therapists has brought this healing work into clinical and scientific communities. But this story is not about research – those interested can learn more about harp therapy from many wonderful books and organizations. Rather, this is my personal experience in a harp therapy session.
In July, 2010, I attended a Healing Harp workshop. The purpose was to learn improvisation for use in clinical musical settings. I am not a harp or music therapist, but I was interested in free musical expression and meeting other local harpists. The workshop was a success, and I enjoyed learning new bass patterns, rhythmic styles, and different genres of harp music.
After the workshop Sarajane Williams gave a demonstration of Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy. I can only describe it as full relaxation through sound. Sarajane asked a series of personal background questions, whether I was taking any medications or experiencing bleeding or breathing problems, and where I felt pain or tension. I had a lot of neck and shoulder tension after playing harp all day and also had a mild headache.
After this short profile, I leaned back in a 0 gravity chair. I’ve been wary of dentist chairs before, but after a few moments I got used to laying back with my feet elevated. Pillows cushioned my head and neck, and for longer sessions a blanket was available.
A pedal harp, like you would see at an orchestral concert, was in the room. It was amplified and connected to the chair. When Sarajane played the harp, I could hear the un amplified sound in the room, coming from the harp itself. However, I also felt it as vibrations in the chair. After some testing of which notes provided relaxation and pain relief, Sarajane improvised on the harp. The music was designed, in the moment, to use the notes I found most soothing.
It sounds simple, and it was. However, Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy offered pain relief and a sense of well-being I hadn’t experienced until then. I’ve always been interested in alternative and
complimentary medicine and somewhat in sound healing. But the personal experience of, “The power of sound is mine,” if you will, was always just beyond my reach. After that session, I realized how truly healing sound and music can be.
Since my experience with Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy, I’ve brought healing intentions into my own music. The mystical, connecting, universal nature of sound have become real to me. I believe they have always been there, but my focus was elsewhere – on pain relief, on the “next thing to do,” on other results or accomplishments. When I’ve noticed this and focused on sound as meditation, other outcomes fall away. In sound meditation, I experience oneness.
Science is now validating what mystics, seers and sages have known through the ages: that sound transforms and heals. Personally, I became a Music Minister to share this healing power. We can theorize and philosophize about sound for years to come!
However, nothing can replace your own healing experience, whether it is pain relief, relaxation, sleep, meditation, or mental clarity and a feeling of being refreshed and re-focused. We accept that music touches people mentally and emotionally – you have favorite songs for different moods. Taken further, music is a powerful force that should be shared, and used for good. As a songwriter, my prayer is to do just that.