Gong therapist may quiet your soul
West Seattle music therapist and counselor Sha'ari Garfinkel and her practice, Inner Listening, gives new meaning to the concept of the "gong show." The name of her garage-turned-cozy meditation space is the "Hummingbird Studio," situated behind her house at the end of a meandering stone walkway necklaced with flowers. This may seem an ironic cocktail, quiet meditation, small, gentle humingbirds, and nine boastful gongs with mallets at the ready, and most even larger than those giant pizza pies served at Talarico's in the Alaksa Junction.
But Garfinkel, who also works in the emergency room at Swedish Hospital, Cherry Hill, is board-certified as a music therapist, a licensed independent clinical social worker, among her bevy of credentials, and seems to pull the elements together as one unifying force as she preps her class with a quick overview of her various gongs, and instructs her pupils to relax, become empty like a claranet with holes to let it all out, and take in the vibes of the gongs. .
"A lot of times I feel I have one foot in one world and one in another," Garfinkel said, referring to her ER gig and this more fluid approach to healing. "A lot of people call themselves sound healers or sound therapists and there are a lot of freaks out there. I'm completely normal. I think it's important that people have some formal education to know how to handle things that come up emotionally during meditation. I'm coming from more of the straight music therapy field, so some colleagues would think I'm totally off the deep end whereas some of the sound therapy people might think I am conservative.
"This space was designed specifically to do therapeutic work," she said. "It was a carport in its former lifetime and we basically filled in the walls, insulated it. One of the key things is we made the floor and what is beneath it a resonating chamber, like a sound board on the back of a piano. There are two layers of wood under this carpet with an 8-inch gap of air, then the concrete slab is beneath that. When we are getting the sound going, this room becomes one big resonating chamber. I believe also because of the people who come into the room and what their open to. Any time there's more openness there is going to be more resonance. In the middle of the studio between the layers of wood we placed a mandala made of semi precious stones chosen for their different energetic and healing properties with a geode in the middle."
The gongs are Paistee, a German brand that rhymes with "feisty." Also there is a Balinese gong she utilizes for blessings on the bank of the Duwanish River in South Park.
"There is a lower fundamental pitch, then overtones, tand that is what gives these gongs their unique flavor," she said. "Sometimes you hear these very high tones I call fire tones like flickering of flames.
"Think about what it is you want to get out of your experience this evening," she tells the class as they prepare for a half hour or more of really loud clanging and banging, but not chaotic nor randomly chosen, she insists. Her musical selections have a beginning, middle, and end, she said. 'Sometimes you get something different than your original intention. Sometimes you get more than you bargained
for. I take your intention and incorporate it as a channel, a facilitator, use my knowledge, and intuition, all improvised. I've had people say they came to the studio because they had nothing better to do tonight. Others say their entire life is in the process of being torn down and rebuilt.
"I have real volume to shake things up a bit," said Garfinkel with a defiant grin. "That and other little tones that jump out are uncomfortable to some. It is not about being wooed into a bliss."
You can attend Sha'ari GarfinkeI's next Duwamish Rriver blessings AUG 25, 7:00pm-9:pm at Duwamish Waterway Park, 7900 10th Avenue S, Seattle, WA. and her gong medidation session begins AUG. 26, 7:30pm-9pm at her Hummingbird Studio.
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