Pet owners happily talk to their pets, generally doing so in sing-song tones. Dogs of course are experts at reading the nuances of body language but as we all know can also distinguish the relevance of some spoken words too; cats respond to eye contact, or lack of it, and primarily to tone of voice. Dogs, cats and other animals will happily vocalise to humans too. In fact, the sounds made by animals and birds around us provide a huge source of information about our immediate environment that we can consciously access if we care to.
I am a keen walker. Living in Mid Wales in an area not at all frequented by tourists, I often come across livestock that are not inured to wandering strangers in their midst. Over many years I've discovered that the best way to avoid needless panic racing through a flock of sheep is to keep the individuals nearest to one calm. Vocalising achieves this. Two syllables, two notes descending, using an interval of a 4th works well, as do the major 3rd and the 5th. Tone and intent are most important but the words too have a further effect: "there now" and "ea-sy" are for some reason less effective than "good girl".
Last summer, in the aftermath of several days of heavy rain, a friend and I took the opportunity of fine weather to go for a walk with her dog. We followed a steep bridleway up through several fields of sheep until we reached a relatively level ridge.
I could see cattle in the distance, crowding either side of an open gateway through which the track passed to the field beyond. The herd consisted of around 30 or 40 animals, half-grown calves and their mothers - a potentially dangerous combination when approached with a dog. Despite prompting, my companion was heedless of any risks. As we neared, some of the cows and calves became increasingly boisterous and noisy, their voices rising in pitch, anxious, threatening. My companion remained quite oblivious, her only concern being that the dog was becoming increasingly distressed.
Realising the whole situation required attention - healing - I began calling out to the cattle as I'd heard dairymen do in my childhood, "Come on", with the emphasis on the "come" and the "on" being about a major 3rd lower. They began taking more notice of me and a little less of the dog; my voice and tone reassured them and we passed through the gateway unmolested.
Once through I told my companion to carry on walking slowly with the dog while I hung back, knowing the cattle would be emboldened once we had our backs to them, and sure enough there was immediately some argy bargy in the ranks. I stood my ground calmly and talked firmly and reassuringly to them, in a steady, sing-song tone, always using phrases that ended on a descent, matching "calm cowspeak".
After 30 or 40 seconds I distinctly felt the energy change and a second later one of the more boisterous youngsters nearest me turned and wondered off, no longer interested. Several seconds after that, they'd all begun to disperse and had gone back to grazing. Being able to read the sounds and energies of my environment saved us from walking blindly into a dangerous situation. Using my voice in a healing way then defused the situation, calming everything down.
As a farmers wife I have responsibility for watering and feeding the animals. Ever since I trained in Sound Healing and Reiki I have set up a hospital area in one of my sheds.
We have some lambs that are born unable to walk; this condition is called sway-back, due to a lack of copper during their time in the womb. It is awful to see. They are unable to use their legs and their balance is non-existent. No medicine from the vet is of any use, so we had to put them down.
It is an awful thing to say but life on the farm is very hard sometimes, tears always flow when situations like this happen.
About two years ago I said to my husband, why don't I try some healing on the lambs and see what happens. Anything is worth a try he said, not really thinking that the healing would work.
I said give me a week to see what happens. I spent about half an hour a day in the pen with the lamb and its mother, sitting on a bucket.
I held the lamb over my knees and started sounding. The lamb went very still and very relaxed. I can always picture the look of trust the lamb gave me, that tugged at my heartstrings even further.
I use the power of sound intuitively. I concentrated on its base chakra and spine. I even sang a beautiful melody to the lamb at one stage in the healing.
It took a week of sounding with improvements every day. By the end of the week the lamb could stand on its feet with quite a few wobbles with my support.
My husband went to check the lamb one day and shouted. "Gill you will have to come and see this."
The lamb was up on his own in the pen and taking a few steps. My husband could not believe it and had never seen anything like it before. I just smiled with my heart full of joy and love.
He was the first of many to be healed with sound and all sway-back lambs are healed now. There are also other animals on the farm that are sung to with amazing effects.
What a beautiful thing it is, the power of sound.
Gill Evans - Llanfair Caereinion
I live on an island called Shetland in the very North of Scotland. These isles are full of wildlife, including seals, otters, and a variety of seabirds and migrating birds. Up until the late 1980s there was nowhere on the island to treat injured or sick wild animals. Due to the fact that fishing is one of the main industries, seals in particular are seen as pests and nothing was being done to protect them.
My mum started looking after seals and otters in 1988 after we found an abandoned baby common seal on the beach outside our house. Word spreads fast in Shetland and after this incident people started to ring up and bring seals and other animals to us to look after.
In 1993, when the Braer oil tanker ran aground on the south coast of Shetland we were inundated with injured and oil covered animals. At this time we had very basic facilities to care for the animals but this incident brought awareness of the need for a wildlife sanctuary in the isles, and we were made a charity - the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary.
In order to help fund the sanctuary my mum turned our house, a 400 year old building which was originally a pub, into a vegetarian and vegan cafe and restaurant where people pay by donation.
Volunteers come to help with the cafe, sanctuary and gardens in the summer months and we have also held storytelling nights, tai chi, shamanic and natural healing workshops.
We try to use natural and holistic methods in treating the animals as much as possible as they are wild creatures and respond well to natural healing and a lot can be learned from working with them in this way.
It was an experience working with a seal that inspired me to learn more about sound healing. In December 2005, Isis, an adult grey seal arrived at the sanctuary. She had been found on the road in a village 30 miles away and had been badly injured by a boat, resulting in her being blind.
Due to the distress that she was in, and the extent of her injuries it was really difficult for us to handle her as she was very ferocious and we were unsure if she would survive.
In an attempt to calm her down, I sat next to her and started to sing to her, making mainly low sounds. Within ten minutes, she was much calmer and more relaxed, making it easier for us to care for her. Eventually her injuries healed, and although she was now blind, she was healthy and we were able to release her back to the wild.
Since this experience, I have practiced toning with other seals, particularly babies that have been abandoned and they respond extremely well to the sounds. It seems to have a really soothing effect on them, perhaps similar to the sound of their mother, as seals often sound like they are singing themselves.
I hope to continue to practice and learn how to use sound healing in this way as I feel it is a very powerful, effective and organic way of promoting an individual's own abilities to heal and be well, both in animals and humans.
For more information please contact Amy Morgan at Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, Hillswick, Shetland, ZE2 9RW.
I would like to share two incidents that concern a cat and sound. The first was when I was giving a distant sound healing treatment to my friend in Australia as a case study for my practitioner training. It was an experiment really and so I set up my room as if she were there in the room with me. Just before I began, Thomas the neighbour's cat came in and jumped up on the treatment table. The type of treatment I was practising was the Bija Mantras - going up the chakras. As I went up each chakra Thomas the cat moved up the table with the sound!! I think he got a good dose of healing and when I finished he jumped down and went to sleep on a chair!
The other event that also concerns Thomas the cat was after he was in a particularly vicious fight with another cat outside our back door. I opened the door and he ran in, he was all shaken up and fluffed up. Outside there were literally bits of fur on the ground. I began to play my singing bowl to Thomas. Very quickly he began to purr and climb up the furniture towards the sound. Then he climbed up me! He was trying to get to the source of the sound and wasn't content until he settled himself on my chest so he was positioned right next to the bowl. In a matter of a minute of two from being in a distressed state he was in bliss.