We just had two days with Pat Moffitt Cook, PhD, founder of the Open Ear Center on Bainbridge Island, Washington. She was very linear in her presentation style, although her content was completely holistic and expansive. She has an incredibly intuitive presence and way of dealing with people on a real emotional level, confronting their blockages with ease and gentleness while not avoiding the tough spots. In other words, she is a deep listener. She says we all have listening capabilities not only through our ears, but through our skin and our bones. These latter modalities of listening are how we pick up the emotional content and meaning of what we hear. They govern how we learn, and how we interact with others.

It’s a fascinating field of study, first pioneered in the 1950s by the French otolaryngologist Alfred Tomatis. The Tomatis Method says that “the voice cannot produce a sound that the ear has not heard.” Sounds a lot like the basis for the original writings of Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the approach to music training.

Our first day was focused on cross-cultural music healing, using humming, toning, and bija mantras as ways to stimulate the auditory system, and guided-imagery music listening sessions. Today we delved into the Tomatis Method and some of the science behind it (it’s a vast field and not something reasonably covered in just two or three hours), followed by more listening to prescriptive music, designed to “meet the patient where they are” or the “iso” principle. We noticed that some music is grating or “annoying” because it forces us to confront certain mental states we suppress or avoid – chaos, agitation, anxiety, for example – but then through repetition and gradual minimal changes, the brain then entrains to the music and comes out of that original state.

I am most fascinated with the observation that how we listen, and how we hear, are two different things. It takes skill and practice to discern these, but it’s the key to unlocking our ways of learning and interacting with the world around us since our birth. How we speak and use our bodies and voices also tells a practitioner how we listen. Pat was able to look at a person while doing a “voice scan” (starting from lowest pitch in their range and sliding up to their highest pitch, then back down again)  and know so much about their way of putting themselves out to the world. I immediately wanted to start learning how to deeply listen to all the voices of people in my life, in order to really hear who they are. I thought of my own voice, and how little I use it lately. And how it’s true that it means I’m holding parts of myself silent.

Listen listen listen. We all need a refresher course on how this really works.