How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman

In her book Listening for the Light and in her extensive writings on the importance of music therapy for the ear and brain, Laurna Tallman has not only focused her considerable insights on the healing of dyslexic syndrome, schizophrenia, bipolarity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and substance abuse, but also on the socio-economic context where many find themselves unable to access the therapies that may truly help them. What little I had absorbed about the Tomatis therapy (the starting point of her work), even after undergoing the therapy myself and devoting a chapter of my own book to it, was unclear and confusing. I had no idea why Tomatis therapy might be key in treating my son’s schizophrenia. Laurna’s book changed that. The Tallman Paradigm is a theoretical, neurological framework for behavior that builds on and extends the work of Alfred A. Tomatis, with an important contribution from Vilayanur S. Ramachandran.

Simply put, the Tallman Paradigm maintains that altering the right ear with music has a global effect on brain function by making the left-brain dominate in cerebral integrative processes. The stapedius muscle in the right middle ear controls the amount of sound energy that reaches the left brain. If that muscle is weak or damaged, the left-brain cannot maintain its dominance over the right-brain. In people with a very weak ear muscle, the hemispheres trade “dominance” every two minutes. That condition of non-dominance, she asserts, characterizes schizophrenia, autism, and the state of normal sleep. The illnesses can be healed by using high frequency music, which Tomatis appreciated for its power, and headphones modified by blocking the left earpiece to force right-ear listening. A very important added bonus for anyone wanting to do the Tallman therapy is that anyone can do the therapy. You don’t need to travel to an expensive Tomatis center to benefit. People of any income level, no matter where they live, can heal themselves cheaply. The only equipment needed is ordinary headphones, a few CDs of Mozart violin concertos or other classical violin music, and a CD player such as a walkman or a computer. Laurna‘s website is another instance of Internet distance learning that people can apply in their own homes. She has several publications for people wanting to dig deeper into her discoveries.

Interview with Laurna Tallman, author of Listening for the Light

RF: I devote one of the chapters of my book, The Scenic Route, to the Tomatis Method therapy, which my son first underwent for a total of 60 hours in 2009. In 2009, the therapy produced interesting small changes in Chris. Not being particularly enlightened as to why he should continue the therapy once he had completed the 60 hours, I thought once was enough. What I took away from my meetings with the director of the program was that Chris would just “blossom” in some undefined way over time. When I finished my book in the late summer of 2017, Chris and I had some free time to revisit some of the therapies that (a) were covered by our insurance and (b) had a somewhat documented body of knowledge behind them, which is the case for Tomatis therapy. Both of us did the therapy this time, for 40 hours each. I felt energetically rejuvenated, but came away none-the-wiser about what this therapy can do for people or why Chris and I should stick with it.

Laurna, I suspect that my impressions of Tomatis therapy are shared by others. Tomatis therapy is expensive. Tomatis clinics usually are restricted to large population centers and the treatment is not covered by a lot of insurance plans. Can you expand on any other of its drawbacks when it comes to schizophrenia and the other conditions and why you advocate using Focused Listening?

LT: Yes, I can. But, first, I want to express my appreciation for the genius of Tomatis that led to important discoveries and my gratitude for the kindness of practitioners who use that method to reach out to people in need. Four members of our family experienced some version of the Tomatis Method and each made astonishing recoveries from dyslexic syndrome or from chronic fatigue syndrome. Those healings were not permanent, however, which set me on my own road to discovery. I would learn that treatments affecting the ear cannot be guaranteed to be permanent because the ear is easily harmed, for example, by loud noise, by infections, and by other means. Continue reading “How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman”

Progress report from Chris

In the cranial-sacral therapy I have been doing for a few weeks, comfort is key, the therapy is intimate, you are placing your body into the therapist’s hands so it’s best to make the most of your time and listen to your feelings. At our last session the therapist stressed the importance of “mind-body dialogue,” keeping our thoughts firmly grounded in our real-world self. Strong feelings and judgments have their effect on the physical body and during the sessions I am encouraged to notice how certain thoughts are received, if they manifest themselves as tension.

Sound therapy continues to be a source of wonder and amazement. I’d never pay as much attention to a teacher at school or my GP, probably because my ST has all these cool gadgets, a lakefront view and a portrait from the adult version of “The Little Mermaid.” At each session after he plays his kaleidoscopic mix tape we share our impressions of what happened. I say this allows me to see clearly into my past, and he says each sound has with it a certain feeling associated with it. The channel of time is opened up.

Dr. Stern, my psychiatrist has all but said “reduce Serdolect at your own rate.” She genuinely supports my coming off this particular medication and is leaving it up to me. I’m down to about six milligrams from eight, and I could be as low as four by now if I paid more attention to the schedule for reduction prescribed online. Despite the lazy days of summer I’m more than willing to go for a jog in the morning or swim in the evening, partly as an effort to keep my weight down which has shot up again even over the past month.

I wish I’d paid more attention to my brother’s advice to find a job or a course to pass the summer because I don’t have anything to look forward to from one week to the next. Like many other hopefuls to the job market I’m throwing in my lot with a local technical school for computer training in the fall. It will be tough; I’ll have to work with younger people in a non-native language for me, learning something I’m not absolutely crazy about, but it will hopefully lead to better things. Thankfully there’s someone working with me who better grasps the language and the school’s policies. One of my goals is to find someone who wants to learn English to do things together and share language skills.

Chris Forbes

Cranial osteopathy versus cranial sacral osteopathy

Prior to the voice training workshop and his introduction to the Alexander Technique, Chris underwent a series of cranial sacral massages. Cranial sacral massage is related to cranial osteopathy. Cranial osteopathy was developed by osteopath William Sutherland in the early 1900s. He observed that the temporal bones of the head near the ears move very slightly, rather like the gills of a fish. Cranial osteopaths and cranial sacral osteopaths believe that there is something called a cranial rhythm, which is present in all body tissues and results from the pulsing of the cerebrospinal fluids surrounding the brain, spinal cord and sacrum. Disturbances to this rhythm put pressure on the cranial bones and other parts of the body, leading to bodily and nervous dysfunctions. The rhythm can be disturbed by birth trauma, forceps delivery, accidents, etc. Both cranial osteopathy and cranial sacral osteopathy detect and correct the cranial rhythm through gentle massage.

Stephanie Marohn devotes a chapter of her book, The Natural Medicine Guide to Schizophrenia, to cranial osteopathy as of potential benefit for schizophrenia. The finer distinctions between cranial sacral osteopathy and cranial osteopathy were unclear to me and I booked cranial sacral massages for Chris and me thinking they were one and the same. Chris reported suddenly hearing new age music while undergoing his first massage, and he knew there was no music playing in the room at the time. I, on the other hand, experienced nothing so dramatic. My massage was pleasant and relaxing. I had no reason to think that this particular massage could be anything but beneficial.

On returning from the vacation and college tour in late August (and missing his flight), Chris began to become unfocused. In addition to not hearing what Ian and I said to him, he soon failed to keep up with his course assignments at the local university. At choir practice, he was out of sync with the others. Chris and I talked about this at length. He confessed that he felt his perceptions were changing. “Take that police siren we are hearing right now off in the distance. Now it seems like it’s just a siren, but before I used to think about all the bad things that had happened to someone or the crime that had been committed. I am still stuck halfway between the old perception and the new one and it gets disorienting. I also feel that my physical reality is changing and I don’t know where to look or put my feet.” Chris was not so sure that the new reality was going to be better than the old one.

I began to worry that I had inadvertently “killed” Chris by mixing up cranial osteopathy and cranial sacral osteopathy.