I returned recently from the International Harp Therapy Program workshop in Cedar Falls, Iowa and the follow up experiential workshop on Resonant Tone in Albert Lea, Minnesota. While I wasn’t looking forward to traveling to the mid-west in August from all I had been warned about: sweltering heat, oppressive humidity and bugs; none of that proved to be the case, at least while I was there. The weather was agreeable, even cool and rainy and the bugs stayed home. It is always inspirational and validating to come together with the IHTP tribe of Therapeutic Harpists, including new students, former teachers, experienced practitioners, and old friends. We speak the same language and have shared experiences. While all presentations at this weekend conference were valuable and informative, my favorite takeaway from this session was the Aromatherapy Workshop. I use aromatherapy with patients by dabbing it on my wrists. The movement of my arms while playing harp sitting close to the bedside then sends it subtly into the room. My favorite blend is from Young Living Farms called Forgiveness. It includes sesame seed, melissa, geranium, frankincense, sandalwood, coriander, angelica root, lavender, bergamot, lemon, ylang ylang, jasmine, Helichrysum italicum oil, Roman chamomile, and rose.
“Forgiveness™ contains an aroma that supports the ability to forgive yourself and others while letting go of negative emotions.”(https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/products/forgiveness-essential-oil)
It is useful when people are at the end of life and can’t seem to let go because of anger, bitterness, resentment, guilt and fear. And I love the smell.
Pamela, my new IHTP sister, friend, and roommate for both workshops, acquired a room spray of Frankincense to help us sleep and ground us while we were there from Rodney Schwan, which she liberally spritzed every night before bedtime. It seemed to do the trick. Rodney is a Massage Therapist and Aromatherapist who works in the field of palliative care. The knowledge and personal experience he shared about using various scents in palliative care use was extremely valuable and which I intend to include more of in my own practice.
On Saturday night, Gaylord Stauffer, Cedar Falls host, harpist and gardener extraordinaire, invited us all to his home. The following pictures are from his incredible gardenscape, where we were able to wander and wonder at our leisure while our friends played harp and sang into the evening. Good food, good company, and incredible creative landscape artistry created a magical environment for us all to refresh and relax.
Albert Lea and ESM Workshop
“ESM – Experiential Specialty Module – The Experiential Specialty Module requires in-person attendance for all students. This is a week long Module. The ESM is scheduled at venues in many countries, and you can take it anywhere it is offered. This allows the program to be quite flexible and moderately paced for all students. The Experiential module (which is an extension of Unit 4) enables the student to be ‘recommended for Hospice work,’ as opposed to those who only take the theoretical Unit 4 about Resonance.” (http://harptherapycampus.com/campus-2/faqs/).
There were four of us in this training:
From left to right: Diane from Idaho, Pamela from New York, Sharon from Edmonton, CA, and me. Included is Sharon’s Stony End harp which we all got to play one evening in the hotel lobby for our own amusement and that of the hotel staff and guests while it poured rain outside.
Being such a small group with 2 fabulous instructors: Christina Tourin and Judith Hitt, allowed us to really go deep into the training which was so appreciated by us all.
Having gone through the theoretical ESM training seven years ago, much was review for me but the experiential resonant tone was practice-changing for me.
The concept of resonant tone is based on the fact that we all vibrate, and that which vibrates, produces sound. As Therapeutic Harp Practitioners, we must be centered, focused and attentive to our patients and their surroundings, integrate that information and meet the patient where they are at within that moment vibrationally, emotionally, and mentally. Any vocalizations produced by the patient provide a clue as to their resonant tone which we try to match with our musical selections. Items in the room provide clues to their interests and personality and whatever they are willing to share with us in that space also helps. Being open to all of this and completely focused on the patient allows intuition to assist with the choices. Some of my colleagues refer to this as “the voice”, “Creator”, spirit guides” “universal intelligence” and “pure coincidence”. Whatever the source for an idea that comes to us to play a particular tune or improvisational mode for a patient that is absolutely perfect, it will come to us if we are open to it, paying attention, and grounded in our intention to do the best we can for the person we are with.
Watching the response of the patient to our musical selections, key, rhythm, genre, allows for opportunities to change and select a more appropriate choice to connect with the patient as needed.
At the end of the week we gave a performance for the residents of the facility which had provided a beautiful space for us all week. Then we traveled to a different facility where we were allowed to shadow Christina and Rachel Christianson, IHTP graduate, amazing harpist, and local host for our training, as they provided Therapeutic Harp music for selected patients. They used harp, voice, conversation, shared experiences to establish that special connection for the patient and their families within a limited amount of time. There is no way to glean the benefits of this level of training without being present and experiencing it first hand.
Another dinner party, this time hosted by Rachel and Dave Christiansen of Albert Lea, MN at their lovely home on the lake. From L to R: Tina, Judith, Pamela, Sharon and Diane.
I have been able to develop a new depth to my own practice of bedside playing for hospice patients because of what I learned in both of these workshops. It was well worth the time and money to participate, expand my skills and work outside my comfort zone with such incredibly talented and dedicated professionals.