Sound creates well-being

Interview with Peter Hess by Dominik Flinkert published 23/2/18 Syker Kurier
Peter Hess invented the singing bowl massage in 1984. In this interview, the 76-year-old talks about the institute, research projects and a new book.
That sounds good: Peter Hess shows a singing bowl which vibrations can also help stroke patients. (Janina Rahn)
Mr. Hess, you have developed the sound massage with singing bowls. How did you come to this?

Peter Hess: The origin of the Sound Massage dates back to 1984, that is over 30 years. It was a difficult time for me then. At that time, I was looking for an alternative healing method because there were serious illnesses in the family. I tried different things.

Then friend of mine, professor dr. Niels Gutschow, who does research in Nepal said, “Peter, come to Nepal with all your equipment – you’ll have fascinating experiences.”  I was a vocational school teacher at that time, so I took time off and spent a year in Nepal to gain experience. That was wonderful, that was also the origin of the method. But the method is not an Eastern method, it is tailored to the needs of people in the Western world. The exciting thing I discovered was: as I gained experience there and got to know rituals – I realised that all that I can learn there, I could also find here in the West. For example, one still finds rituals in the Catholic Church. There, the effect of sound is also very important.

What sets the singing bowl massage apart from the physiotherapist’s massage?

There’s a huge difference. The physiotherapist has special techniques to work on the body. This can be severe and can also be painful. The sound massage is a much gentler method. Also, we support the area to promote good health and not to get rid of problems. We work through sound vibrations – vibrations that go beyond the body, muscles, nerves and bones. And we use specific vibrations for this area. But the key thing is that we move attention away from the problem. When I go to the physiotherapist I am in the problem and I am problem focussed. That is not good because I know the problem, and the thought solidifies the problem. We work in the surroundings, and it is gentle and pleasant. I always say: enjoy sound, forget the pain. And there we have great success with pain therapy.

In 2013, your institute introduced the extra-occupational study course “Bachelor of Science, Complementary Methods, specialisation Sound-Resonance-Method” with the Steinbeis-Hochschule Berlin (1). How is this accepted?

Yes, first of all: the fact that it was adopted is already extraordinary in our society.

People always come to me and say, you have to believe it (that the sound works). But we use the sound massages, for example, on sick horses, on sport horses. And that works. The horses do not believe, they are neither Catholic nor Protestant nor Buddhist.

Now I have to go back a bit.

Of course, in 1984 I started with self-help groups. That was partly set in the esoteric community. But very quickly we got interest from physiotherapists. So more and more we have expanded the system  through specialist staff – through experience and reflection.

In the meantime we had many Congresses (2) and scientific reports: How does the sound affect the cells or the brain? This consistent documentation, this consistent work has led to our presence in many, many areas today: healthcare, clinics and psychiatry. We have great success, for example, with stroke patients, who often can move their hands after treatment.

Then the traditional science has become aware of us and has said, there must be something behind it. That was the gateway to setting up a degree course and settling the Sound-Resonance Therapy and Methods there at Steinbeis.

This programme of study is especially good. Students come from specific disciplines such as nursing, therapy or education. This idea, where they want to go, accompanies them throughout their studies. After that, the focus and the work align themselves. There is also a whole range of content that goes hand in hand with medicine and psychotherapy.

Yes, and how popular is it? Not hugely, we now have about 15 students, but it is accepted.

But not everyone wants to do a university study. We have wonderful training programs in sound therapy that are for therapists, but also for others, to participate. “Sound Massage / Sound Expert”, “Sound Massage to support healing processes” and “Sound Education”, that’s the other area. “Working with children in school” and “Coaching” field.

At the Peter Hess Institute you offer many further education courses and seminars. Will more courses be added this year?

Oh, I have to think about that first. The Institute offers many courses and all these have been developed from practice. We always say: from practice to practice. This is how ideas develop into seminars for the therapy area.

I have just spoken again with a physiotherapist who has been using our method for some time and offers lymphatic drainage. She then developed a seminar “sound to support the lymphatic flow”.

We have a total of over 80 technical workshops and seminars, we carry out some 700 seminars a year in Germany, and we have over 20 foreign academies – mostly in Europe, but also in Brazil or Australia.

Several research projects have been carried out on behalf of your institute. What is currently being worked on?

We recently had an exciting project at our Congress: the project of the voice hearing. These are people who hear voices. They meet with incomprehension and are often abused and belittled. And they end up as psychiatric patients. Psychiatry usually responds by psychotropic drugs.

It is a very interesting research project with a Psychologist and a Sound Massage Practitioner. They have formed groups to come away with sound from these voices – with great success. Consequently we will now investigate this under a larger number of areas, which we will support.

What is happening? People feel threatened, insulted, made small. What does the sound do? Sound creates well-being. When I feel good, I am strong. And now I’m ready to listen and I’m ready to take on more and more. In the course of time, as I assume, I am becoming stronger and stronger and more and more in order. It’s about returning to basic trust. Basic trust is the deep trust in us that unfortunately is not maintained in our society anymore. We come into the world with primeval trust, and then we get confused by being nursed into kindergarten and school to become functional.

The trust in ourselves is lost. As I get more and more into my basic trust, the problems go away. And the exciting thing is: the voices change, become friendlier or go away completely. This is one project.

The other project is with Professor dr. Thilo Hinterberger, Chair of Applied Awareness Sciences at the University of Regensburg. There is also an article on this in our new journal (Sound Massage Therapy – Journal of the European Association of Sound Massage Therapy, editor’s note). It is about the consciousness research, that is, how we perceive ourselves  and  the environment differently through the sound. That’s a very important thing. We feel the way we perceive ourselves and how we perceive the environment. Sometimes we lose sight of our subjectivity. It is about looking at things from other sides. Then it looks very different. Other words, I’m in my problem, but through the sound I distance myself from the problem and look from above on me, so to speak. And when I look at something from above, the altered perspective gives me another picture, a different consciousness, and I can handle it in a different way than if I clung to the problem.

The topics of wellness and relaxation are very popular with many Germans. Accordingly, the sale of items in your stores should have developed well.

That can not be said. We have changed. Earlier we used to be more focused on the population, on the problems. We will do that again, now we offer training. But people who want to do something good for themselves do not necessarily come to the training. But there are enough that do come. In fact several thousand people a year. Now this has shifted to areas such as medical and healing professions. Hence the sales do not necessarily have to be better than before. But it’s okay, it’s wonderful. We have the best sound materials in the world, quite clearly. They have been developed over the years.

You have published many books in your own publishing house. Are you currently writing another book?

We always have a lot on our plate. But a new hit, which is now being reissued, is called “Singing bowls – my practical companion”. That means: What can I do for myself in everyday life?

With small exercises – and there are studies on how effective those are, by the professorial couple Hella and Luis Erler – my life changes positively. I live much more aware life, I know what I do, I get ideas and implement them too. That’s wonderful, otherwise we do not even spend a few minutes in everyday life. Listening to singing bowls, or singing bowls on the palm of my hand, and even if I have problems – such as knee, joint problems or abdominal discomfort – I can do something for myself, for my family, children or partner. This is a wonderful book, a guide, with many practical examples (3).

  1. 1. Private university in Berlin; 2.Annual Conference of the European Sound Massage Asscociation in Germany; 3. Soon available in English