THE ART AND SCIENCE OF SOUND HEALING

Clare Hedin

Interview with musician and sound healer  Clare Hedin who uses energy awareness, connection and deep listening to explore the nature of being. Clare performs and speaks at conferences, events and symposiums, and teaches Creativity & Innovation at San Francisco State University, and in online workshops.

Leslie: How did your calling as a healer first manifest itself – and what have been the milestones in its further development?

Clare: I have always been empathic. I didn’t know that that was a ‘thing’ growing up but, as a child, I was quite inwardly focussed, daydreaming and being quiet and gentle. It actually manifested for the first time when I saw someone being bullied in my primary school playground. In a way, it was my first visible response as a ‘social healer’. I intervened and put myself between the bully and the new girl who had just started at our school – she was olive-skinned (from Spain) and her difference made her a target. Although I had no experience of racism prior to that I did understand the energy that I was reading from all the way across this large playground, and I felt compelled to run over and stand up for this stranger – I could tangibly feel her vulnerability and his aggression. It’s a skill, one might call it a gift but it’s not a particularly convenient one, as on this occasion when I said to the bully that if he wanted to hit her, he’d have to hit me first… and he did! I remember the surprise that my internal sense of authority was not recognized as a stop sign for him! A learning moment, indeed.

Before I could really become a healer I had to learn more about myself. And it wasn’t a plan, the idea of becoming a healer, more of an unfolding of inevitability.

My mother died when I turned 14. As a family we had no clear way forward so we did the best we could, developing coping mechanisms and ways of interacting to keep us afloat. For me, one insistence that I had was to not lose contact with her so, when I felt able to and ready I did two things; I started seeing a therapist in my early 20’s and I started seeing psychics and studying the flow of energy and other dimensions. This has been my ongoing practice. I also, over time, became an artist; both visual, written and sung/performed – until I became a sound healer.

When I moved to California in my mid 20’s I came across Judy Author who taught all sorts of energy work – she became my spiritual guide for a skill-based healing practice. I studied Reiki I & II (later I did III, in UK), Energy Body Balancing and Light Body Work. She was a wonderful teacher and helped me keep a grounded sense of humour around all the processes. One thing I’ve learned from people I deem to be ‘successful’ in their field, whether as healers or yoga teachers, is a wonderful sense of self-critiquing humour… even cynicism! It is perhaps one of the few ways to protect ourselves from taking ourselves too seriously. This keeps our personal energy fields open for humility and learning.

Clare Heddin

From my early 20’s I was a musician and a healer so it was a matter of time before I joined these two inclinations together to become a sound healer and a sound artist, combining my energy healer self with my social healer self. I cannot help but constantly notice when something is out of alignment, out of integrity. It is a visceral experience for me. I become so uncomfortable that I have to speak – that is how it is for me. It does not always make me popular! I have learned to speak carefully so that I minimize damage and increase the potential for mutuality and growth. I am not separate from ‘you’ so anything I share with you of my observations affects me too – we share a field, our connection exists.

A milestone I am particularly grateful for is the time I spent at Oakland Children’s Hospital, bringing music for healing and solace. At that time I was more of a singer/songwriter so the songs had lyrics and stories but they still were particular to the people involved. It was a beautiful 5 years of interactions and closeness, meeting children and families that were to lose each other and some that were just there for a short time before healing occurred.

Another milestone was helping the Sound Healing Institute in San Francisco to develop its sound healing programme. David, the owner/founder, had a sound production and recording school and needed a teacher and sound healer to bring in the elements needed to create, and teach, classes in the field; my favourite class to teach was interspecies communication – a subject I had studied independently in my MA in Consciousness Studies at JFKU, Orinda. The focus being on appreciating the diversity of our organic, sonic, landscape, that we share with so many others.

My newest milestone is Dynamic Emergence – an online learning forum where we can study the flow and movement of energy as it moves through us – a cosmological dance of creation and revelation of who we are and what we carry inside us. I am particularly excited by the possibilities that I feel this work represents – an advance in our understanding of who we are, no less!

My newest CD ‘Singing The World To Peace’ is about to be released – music from an actual sound healing that I gave with the intention to share internationally for those in distress, at war, at the effects of war, feeling lonely. I’m fundraising for it still here.

One other milestone is being continually invited to play at Grace Cathedral, providing music for 100’s of people doing yoga under the guidance of Darren Main. It is an amazing weekly event full of community deeply exploring.

Leslie: Can you describe how you ‘sound heal’ please? How did you train for this role?

Clare: I sing with my Shruti, sometimes using additional instruments like singing bowls, percussion, etc. My voice can change shape, becoming softer and harder, edgier, depending on the energy of the person/people receiving it. People lie down – or sit if necessary – and I go into the silence in order to find the sounds that want to come through. It’s not always pretty and sometimes it’s loud. But it works on the emotional, physical and mental levels. There are many testimonies that speak to people’s experiences of transition and transformation – it’s very encouraging.

I didn’t’ officially train for this role – I developed it as I developed as a person. I had some classical musical training as a child on the piano and sang in the school choir, often soloing. I studied guitar and saxophone and various hand drums, learning more about the nature of music. The journey was a patchwork one, not organized in advance. I suspect I broke open studying vocal improvisation with Rhiannon – I found a place to express my creativity. I also studied creativity with Margaret Blackwell whilst doing Transformative Arts classes at JFKU. I was simply the oven that let it all cook together. My curiosity and openness were essential ingredients in this process. There are now schools of study that weren’t available at my time but I’m glad they are here now.

Leslie: Could you explain how creativity enters your life and its results, please?

Clare: I love creativity! I absolutely celebrate it for my life, for this planet, and for our future. Second to consciousness is creativity in terms of importance. Dynamic Emergence tracks this relationship we have to creativity via our consciousness. I listen, listen, listen, with my body, my mind and my emotions for triggers, sensations, information, and impulses. I choose to respond to them all, taking my time to be clear. I listen for feedback loops from the universe that help me move creatively forward. I make bold choices, including when to stay quiet in a room. I identify what is happening by being a tracker of energy – that is a creative choice of paying attention. It allows me to notice what is happening in situations, to identify actions and needs in/for the gestalt of a situation, and to create connection and closeness. Creativity, and our right relationship to it, keeps things fresh, alive and relevant. When I’m playing music, I listen, when I’m in a conversation I listen. But in the music, when I’m listening, that allows creativity to reveal itself through me ideally, without too much interruption from me, so that I can merge with what is coming through whilst remaining a vessel and transmitter for it. I also combine music and my nature photography to help bring people into close contact with someone tangible and sublime. Sound Art Meditations:

Leslie: What are the most memorable stories of change and development you’ve seen in people you’ve worked with?

Clare: Years ago, I worked on a man who had had both legs amputated, just using Reiki, and afterward, he reported to me that he felt his legs and he had noticed in his journey that little white flowers were growing on his legs and they were coming to life. It was stunning.

One time I visited a young girl at Oakland Children’s Hospital and she was quite a lonely child but very outspoken – a true firecracker of opinions! I ended up writing a song for her, spontaneously (creativity comes in again!). Later the hospital chaplain told me the lyrics were remarkably appropriate for who she was and what she was experiencing. Things like that comfort my soul.

Two friends of mine had to terminate a planned pregnancy quite late into the pregnancy and they were having trouble recovering from the trauma. At a letting-go ceremony, we shared around a fire and I received this brief melody to sing into the fire, which I did. A few days later the melody came back to me with words, so I ran into my studio and recorded it, delivered it to them and told them that Deeya – the name of the child they had lost – had given me this song to give to them to help them heal. The sentiment of the song was gratitude for the visit. It was such an honour.

Leslie: As a Planet and People first activist, what are your personal ‘lightbulb memories’ of actions you’ve been involved with? Who are the environmental activists who you admire – why them?

Clare: Greta Thunberg – because she believed in her own convictions and just got on with it. She also doesn’t lie and is not motivated by being self-serving.

Clare Dubois – because she also just gets on with it, dedicated, seeking honest dialogue and action. Also not self-serving.

David Suzuki – because he’s been talking about this for years, decades, and is still passionate and obstinate about getting the truth out there and acted on.

Extinction Rebellion – because they’ve just ‘gotten on with it’ and continue to grow and learn as they go, focused and motivated.

Fritjof Capra – systems theory and systemic relational interdependence.

My personal lightbulb moments came from training by the Pachamama Alliance. I remember when I understood the inseparable relationship between spiritual wellbeing, civil justice, and environmental wellness. From that place I began to see the complexity of systems design and that we live in an interdependent universe. For me, that awakening changed everything. I also thank Fritjof Capra’s work for that.

Clare Hedin performs for the walk of the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. March 11th 2016. Photo by Julio Marcial

Leslie: How do you think the arts and the sciences should relate?

Clare: The Eden Project is a wonderful example to me of science informing art and art bringing science into people’s lives intergenerationally. I also see the same at Kew Gardens; people doing both conservation and education. For me the point and value of highlighting the dual nature of science and art is the education that can arise from that.

I love seeing artists capture the transitions of nature evolving and sometimes decomposing, for instance. A good place for attracting that kind of work is Social Sculpture at Oxford Brookes.

Anything that also helps us transition into the ‘in-between’ spaces is, to me, a deep way of helping people understand the complexity of our natures. We are not fixed, we are moving constantly, coming in and out of being. Artists can help people experience this in visceral and emotional ways. When we combine with science we do the unthinkable(!), we bring science off the page and into our imaginations – one of our most important assets – taking data and turning it back into life.

Next week I interview artist Su Blackwell, who creates her delicate, intricate dreamscapes out of paper.

ABOUT LESLIE TATE’S BOOKS:

  1. Heaven’s Rage is a memoir that explores addiction, cross-dressing, bullying and the hidden sides of families, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. “A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage” – William Blake. You can read more about/buy Heaven’s Rage here.
  2. Purple is a coming-of-age novel, a portrait of modern love and a family saga. Set in the North of England, it follows the story of shy ingénue Matthew Lavender living through the wildness of the 60s and his grandmother Mary, born into a traditional working-class family. You can read more about/buy Purple here.
  3. Blue tells the story of Richard and Vanessa Lavender, who join a 90s feminist collective sharing childcare, political activism and open relationships. You can read more about/buy Blue here.
  4. Violet is about late-life love. It begins in 2003 with Beth Jarvis and James Lavender on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s openness, Beth feels an immediate, deep connection between his honesty and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister… Signed copies of Violet can be bought here.
  5. The Dream Speaks Back, written by Sue Hampton, Cy Henty and Leslie Tate, is a joint autobiography exploring imagination and the adult search for the inner child. The book looks at gender difference, growing up in unusual families and mental health issues. It’s also a very funny portrait of working in the arts, full of crazy characters, their ups and downs, and their stories. You can buy a signed copy of The Dream Speaks Back here.

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