Fighting Cancer with Singing Bowls and Yogic Chants
The bowls bring me into my body and make me feel that I am part of this infinite universe.
Illustration Credit: Tibetan Singing Bowl by Elena Ray
Back in 2003, I wrote a story for this magazine on the remarkable healing and pain relief made possible with the chanting of age-old scripture and sounds like Om, and through drinking in the tones of crystal or metal singing bowls.
The article described a “smiling and energetic” Marisa Harris, who had been diagnosed five years earlier with stage-four pancreatic cancer, the final stage of a disease that kills nearly all its victims. A top New York oncologist had given her nine months to live. Chemotherapy, he said, would do her no good. And yet, Harris is still alive and well, and as vivacious as ever. She works as a Certified Master Life and Health Coach and a Life Mastery Consultant, accredited by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. In her practice, she taps into many of the tools that she believes saved her life—including singing bowls, chants, and lifestyle changes.
Harris credits Mitchell Gaynor, MD, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical Center in New York, and the founder of Gaynor Integrative Oncology, with helping her combine the healing powers of mind and medicine. For years now, Dr. Gaynor has treated cancer patients to traditional Western and alternative techniques with a sound arsenal, including translucent crystal bowls, as well as metal Himalayan bowls, nature sounds, Sanskrit yoga chants, and affirmations such as “infinite love,” “infinite wisdom,” and “infinite beauty.”
“I grew up with the belief that cancer was a death sentence,” reflects Harris. “The music and chanting created this enormous space where there were so many possibilities.” Harris eventually decided to go ahead with chemotherapy, but also began a multifaceted regimen that included nutrition and changes in her dealings with her husband and children.
“Today, when I play the bowls, it has the effect of not only calming me but bringing me into my body and making me feel that I am part of this infinite universe,” says Harris. For clients, she finds, “The sound of the bowls are one of the most effective ways of changing a very narrow and constricted way of seeing yourself and seeing life to one that is expansive and filled with infinite possibilities.” In her Manhattan office, she keeps a crystal bowl “right under a photograph of Mitch.”
Gaynor, meanwhile, has expanded his ancient sound healing methods with a series of CDs that he calls Crystal Sonic Therapy (CST). The specially mixed crystal bowl tones—as well as nature sounds, drums, and chants—are said to put an individual into immediate relaxation.
“On every track,” explains Gaynor, “the frequency of the crystal bowls differs significantly in terms of what’s heard in each ear—which creates a relaxation response in the brain that can be measured by multiple different modalities including heart rate variability and skin resistance.” Gaynor adds, “Just as the food you put in your body also effects the neurotransmitters in your brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine, so do sound frequencies. Both affect how we experience stress as well as inner peace in our day-to-day lives.”
After Gaynor appeared on The Dr. Oz Show touting the Crystal Sonic Therapy concept in July, 2013, the response was so great that five of his CDs designed to encourage relaxation, concentration, and sleep made up half of the Billboard Top 10 listings after the broadcast.
Gaynor believes that crystal vibrations do more than relax patients and improve sleep (both of which are critically important when fighting cancer). Back in 2003, he told me that the sound affects the disrhythmic motion found in cancer cells. When you place water in one of Gaynor’s singing bowls and draw a baton around the rim, the harmony that results turns the liquid into “beautiful shapes like snowflakes,” he says. With the use of certain sounds, the same harmonious transformation can occur within the cells of the human body. Research to figure out how all this works continues; meanwhile Gaynor’s methods have healed numerous individuals who were not expected to survive by incorporating singing bowls and chants, as well as chemotherapy and other Western methods.