Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coming to his senses: Chris's self-assessment of the Tomatis Method

I began the Tomatis therapy in May of this year and I am just now finishing my third session, in all, thirty one days for a total of sixty-two hours. Two hours a day can really drag on, even if you enjoy painting or whatever tactile activity is offered at the Tomatis Center. Sometimes I just lie down, but this really is to be avoided as in addition to the warning of “you must keep your hands busy”, it can drain you of your energy for the rest of the day.

If you've ever seen “A Clockwork Orange” based on the novel by Anthony Burgess, you can perhaps better appreciate the idea behind the Tomatis Method. In the film, violent Alex loves Beethoven, but after undergoing rehabilitation, including hearing his beloved Beethoven played over a Nazi propaganda film, he is “cured” both of his love of violence and also of Beethoven. By filtering and repeating, ad nauseum, Mozart and Gregorian chants, you really question all your senses and how you derive pleasure from them. The Tomatis Method is really maddening and you get the urge to run somewhere away from the music, and you start to blame yourself a bit for the pain of the constant repetition. It gets lonely as well, with no one to compare your art with and no one to think about while you're listening to the music.

I have always been, if not a clumsy, then a primitive visual artist, yet I've found an appreciation for everything that goes into painting something with meaning. In my Tomatis sessions, I mostly draw stick-figures and simple landscapes, little outdoor scenes with some children or a stormy afternoon. For an eleven-year-old, it's not bad, especially the ones where I use crayons. I want to paint or draw, well, better, but now I notice how every little effect of color, the texture of the crayon or paintbrush, becomes so important to me, that I know I can't draw what's in my mind because my senses are controlling me.

It's difficult to describe the effects of this one therapy because of other therapies and techniques which I have undergone. I don't hear Mozart ringing in my ears as I do my food shopping, but I do become a little tired after the session is over and just want to watch TV and relax, anything to “center” me so I can feel alert to confront the rest of the day. There are overlaps with the Alexander Technique, craniosacral therapy, gem therapy and, indeed, dear old singing lessons. With singing, one of the most important things to get right is being in tune, and I have known people who cannot sing when the rest of the choir is out of tune with respect to the piano. I've noticed that I've become more exacting from my voice, that it is more difficult to sing out of tune. So everyone else is singing, and all of a sudden I stop completely. How much of this can be attributed to overconfidence I'm not sure.

I have noticed that after the therapy I feel much more communicative, and exposed. Previously, when I became angry with my brother over a television show or something similarly stupid, I was able to control my emotions and articulate my frustration. Now, with this heightened emotional sense I find that when I listen to people, they aren't “just people” anymore, but I hear the subtext of their concerns, their emotional presence takes the place of being “a body in space.” The Gregorian chant from the sessions really makes you pay attention to the “spiritual presence”, and this is both confusing (people are less predictable) and also exciting. I get the sense that people can float in and out of rooms, and I start to lose my sense of self. Also, I become more critical of myself, noticing every change in breathing or of not being comfortable and this is very annoying. The music really clears your head, so you can't fixate on any one idea or topic, you have to put aside any concern you presently have, because you're in another place altogether.

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