Singing Woods

photographs by Mike Greenlar
Good Vibrations
From the March/April issue of Body & Soul Magazine

Think there's a big leap between tuning stringed instruments and tuning human beings and animals? Not for Deena Zalkind Spear, whose life has been a practice in creating harmony.

By Swaha Devi

Deena Zalkind Spear never expected to become a healer. Quite the contrary: She trained as a scientist, earning a degree in neurobiology from Cornell University in 1971 Spear hoped to become a doctor, but while studying for the medical school entrance exams, she realized she didn't want to dedicate her energies to learning about drugs. Searching for a new career, she found herself attracted to violin-making. After learning the basics, she and Robert, her husband and fellow violin-maker, devoted nearly 25 years to creating fine instruments and performing sensitive adjustments. As a result of their work, the couple attracted a devoted and illustrious clientele of musicians.

But in 1995 something strange happened: Spear discovered that she could adjust instruments without any physical manipulation of the wooden parts. Then she found that she could perform dramatic, long-distance sound enhancements over the phone. It wasn't too long before she was using her new abilities to heal humans and animals, too.

"Everything is energy-violins, animals, people, potato chips, thoughts, feelings, and events. They all vibrate," Deena wrote in Ears of the Angels, a chronicle of her transformation from acoustical researcher to healer published in 2002. "If it vibrates, it can be tuned."

How did she make the journey from a left-brain, linear orientation to a right-brain intuitive one? To find out, I visited her at Singing Woods, her home and healing center in Ithaca, New York. Set on 48 acres, the centerpiece of the retreat is a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired building, which Bob Spear designed and built. Every detail was executed with healing in mind, from the nontoxic materials to the color palette of the walls. I was greeted warmly by Deena and Bob, and by their dogs Pocca and Yuppee Dupp (who, as Deena warned me, has a tendency to wisecrack).

Swaha Devi: I know from reading your book that you and your husband have a national reputation as luthiers, making and adjusting stringed instruments, and that you have worked with top-flight musicians, such as cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.

Deena Zalkind Spear: Yes, we feel very privileged. Maestro Rostropovich, who owns several world class instruments, bought a Spear cello some years ago and even played it at the White House. We were very pleased-even though we didn't vote for that president.

SD: How did you discover that you could use your heightened awareness of sound to perform healings?

DZS: It started 10 years ago with the death of my first dog. My husband and I were so devastated that we stopped working for two months. I cried for weeks.

We keep ourselves safe in childhood by freezing parts of our emotions and then as adults, those defenses get in our way. Loving that dog and then experiencing the shock and despair of his death blew apart my childhood protections. And my Dad's death two years later finished the job. I adored my father, and the trauma of his death dissolved some of the remaining barriers to my intuitive abilities. While I know that it's also possible to learn without devastating events, for some of us, that's what it seems to take.

Four months after my dog died, I enrolled in the Barbara Brennan Healing Science Training, a four-year program that prepares people to be professional energy healers. I had always been interested in the metaphysical and in healing, and I felt drawn to attend. I considered myself a psychic brick at the time-I didn't see auras or consciously receive psychic information. But near the end of my freshman year, when classmates were practicing how to generate a certain frequency or color, I realized I could feel if they were off. That's when I woke up to the possibility that I might not be hopeless in the energy-sensing department, after all.

SD: So it just had to be in a sense realm that was stronger for you?

DZS: Yes, or maybe it helped that it was early morning and I was half-asleep!

SD: And what breakthroughs did you have after your father's death?

DZS: I had been working with violins for decades discovering innovative physical techniques to adjust for more beautiful and powerful sound. Some methods involved tapping in certain spots on the outside of the violins, then raising and lowering those pitches by physically removing little wood scrapings from the insides.

One night, a week after my father's death, I was absentmindedly tapping on a dresser and noticed that I could just think of changing a pitch and it would change-just as if I had physically scraped the wood. That really gave me a start! I gradually put the tools aside and began using mental energy alone to improve the sound of violins. Now, seven years later, what I can do with healing energy to enhance the sound of a musical instrument has far surpassed anything I could achieve with physical tools. And I don't have to be there physically: The recipients can be on the other end of the country.

We take a break to go downstairs to visit Bob in his instrument-making workshop. The Spears have worked as a team since the early 1970s. Because Deena's healing practice now takes much of her time and focus, Bob designs and constructs all the instruments and she makes just the final adjustments-these days without touching them.

Before leaving northern California to interview Deena, I attended a long-distance tuning at the home of violinist Leslie Ludena, who plays in the San Francisco Opera orchestra. Ludena played her violin for me in-person both before and after Deena's tuning session, which took place over the phone. Even to my untrained ear, the tone became noticeably more resonant, and the previously harsh upper range quickly mellowed. Deena told me she had sent healing energy to the player, too, since her low vitality from the flu was affecting the instrument's sound. Ludena, who said her violin had sounded like a cigar box, described the newly restored sound as "chocolatey"-warm, sweet, and rich. When I spoke to her again three weeks later she told me the violin still felt great-and so did she.

SD: How did your work with instruments lead to doing "tunings" on people and animals?

DZS: At the same time I entered healing school, I also began working with intuitive Marlene Sandler. She was willing to try receiving violin information using her telepathic abilities. It was Marlene who obtained the specifics for the first crossover technique I used: tapping bodies to equalize their pitches, as I had done physically with the instruments.

That's primitive compared to what I do now, but it was an important learning step. I do an all-parts-at-once tuning now in multiple dimensions.

SD: Would you elaborate on that?

DZS: We don't have the capacity to understand the complexity of existence. But these healings go into such places as thought patterns, other lifetimes or the soul. If we try to control the healing with what we think we know, then it doesn't go to those deep levels where we create our lives.

SD: Do you describe to your clients what the disharmony is about?

DZS: I'm working with a kinesthetic sense of sound and vibration, and I don't have a way to translate that into terms like, "Your problem is that you hate your brother-in-law." So sometimes I consult with or refer clients to intuitives whose perceptions can be verbalized in a manner that lends conscious understanding to the issues behind an illness.

SD: What does it feel like to shift vibrations?

DZS: For me, unhealthy energy can sometimes feel dense or sticky or some other unpleasant sensation. I've learned not to wallow in what I wish to change-because that's a good way to get stuck there. This energy stuff is real. Healers can be affected for the worse if they immerse themselves in their clients' pain. It can make for short careers. The first time I worked with a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, clumps of my own hair started falling out! Now I've learned to get out of the way. A bleeding heart is the kiss of death for a healer. While the heart must be open and loving, you must also be detached during the healing itself.

SD: Let's talk about some healings you have performed.

DZS: One dramatic case involved a woman with a kidney transplant. She had developed severe infections because the anti-rejection drug she was taking is an immuno-suppressant. It looked like she was going to die. The doctors drastically reduced the dose so her body could fight the infection, but they feared she would need another transplant.

I realized that she needed her own energy in the transplanted organ instead of the donor's energy. Then she wouldn't need so much anti-rejection medicine and she would have fewer infections. I started to remove the energy of the donor, and it was horrible. I later found out he was a troubled young man who had died in a fistfight. Instead of pulling his energy out, intuitive Louise Cook suggested I change techniques and simply infuse the patient's own energy into the kidney, which I did.

The next day, the doctor tested the creatinine level [a measure of waste in the blood], expecting it to be worse, but it had improved because she was accepting the kidney. After that, she needed much less of the anti-rejection drug.

SD: Would you share some stories of animal healings?

DZS: One example I give in the book is of a dog named Brodie with massive scar tissue in his ears from infections. The veterinarians thought they would eventually need to operate to save his hearing. But we had an unforgettable healing. Within 24 hours, all the scar tissue disappeared, and his ears have been fine ever since.

Sometimes I have a better chance of seeming miracles with animals because they are less likely to hold on to rigid concepts-unless they are holding onto something for their human owner. That's similar to disharmony in an instrument often having its roots in a disharmony in the player. In both cases, I have to tune the human, too.

For instance, one client had a cat that developed diabetes, which required insulin shots. I kept sending energy and the cat seemed to be saying, "Thanks, but no thanks." I learned from intuitive Carla Gordan that the cat was reflecting the energy of the owner, who didn't have enough sweetness in her life. Once the owner was informed of this, she left an unsatisfying job for a better situation. Since she's been happier, the cat is no longer ill.

What makes remote healing possible? For one thing, it has a basis in the new physics, which emphasize interconnectedness. The theory of the holographic universe says that the whole is contained in any of its parts, which may explain why healing energy can traverse the apparent boundaries of time and space.

Larry Dossey, M.D., a well-known advocate for newer approaches to healing, has written extensively about mind-body medicine and the effects of our thoughts and prayers on healing. One of the researchers who tested the power of prayer in medicine was the late Elizabeth Targ, M.D., former director of the Complementary Medicine Research Institute affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco Medical School. In a ground-breaking, double-blind study, Targ gave photos of 20 advanced AIDS patients to people from diverse spiritual traditions and asked them to pray for these individuals ;20 AIDS patients received no prayers. The results were irrefutable: Those who had been prayed for reported six times fewer AIDS-related disorders and improved T-cell counts, a recognized immunological measure.

Skeptics may say that humans can be swayed by suggestions of healing. But Targ's subjects did not know whether or not they were receiving prayers. And Deena adds that being able to produce audible changes in a violin's tone provides compelling objective evidence that energy healing is real.

SD: Your work says a lot about future possibilities for medicine.

DZS: Almost everything in conventional medicine could be made better with energy healing involved. The medicine of the future lies in understanding how we create health and illness-from thoughts and beliefs, which create the energy fields that create our bodies.

SD: What would you say is the essence of healing?

DZS: Healing is about understanding the loving, creative energy that we are-and how to get back to that when we get afraid and lose it.

YUPPEE DUPP: (grabbing a talking squeeze toy): "I love you! I love you!"

SD: Your healing techniques apply to both emotional and physical health, and also to smoothing out difficult situations. What's the key to working with energy?

DZS: One thing I've learned-whether the tunings are for instruments, animals, people, or events-is that if you push against energy, you energize what you don't want. At first, when I felt unpleasant vibrations, I would try to force them to change. But you don't do effective, elegant healing by pushing and pulling and sweating. Once the intention is set, the change takes place after you've let go and focused on good feelings.

SD: In other words, if you are having a conflict with someone, instead of making war, you back off and find some peaceful place within yourself?

DZS: Exactly. And that allows the energy to flow. Now the other person still has free choice, but if there's nothing to butt heads against, then it is much more likely that you will encourage the peace of the other person to come out.

SD: I've had direct experiences of that phenomenon. Years ago, I had been in an ongoing argument with someone who refused to pay me for some work. One day I decided to completely withdraw my energy from the situation and let it be. To my surprise, he called the next day to apologize, saying he had been having family problems, and sent me a check.

DZS: That's it. If you come to your own peace, things can shift. If you had pushed against him, you would have fed energy into that. It would have taken a very big person to apologize. But when you went to a place of peace, you had essentially book-marked the energy you wanted. There was a part of you that could forgive him, and you left an opening for him. And he knew telepathically.

In fact, all of us carry on the entire reality telepathically. But most of us block this knowledge. We all have these so-called extra senses, but recognizing them is another matter.

Christiane Northrop, M.D., a leading expert in women's health who wrote about Deena's work in her newsletter, Health Wisdom for Women, acknowledges that humans are born with the ability to perceive many things that science can't measure. I checked in with several people who had attended one of Deena's workshops at Singing Woods to see what their experiences had been like. As a result of learning Deena's techniques, Laurel Wright of Salt Lake City was able to ease her pain and reduce her medications for chronic fatigue syndrome. Barbara Shiefelbein, a professional Broadway singer who attended the class, remarked that it felt effortless to sing after Deena's vibrational healing work. The group also practiced a series of energy tunings on an inexpensive student violin, dramatically changing its sound.

SD: Would you describe the actual process of doing a healing?

DZS: My techniques constantly change. One way is to set the intention to make harmonious energy available to a specific recipient, feel the energy come to me, and wait until it hooks up. Then I shift my focus to a feel-good place inside, and let go of consciously trying to make anything happen. There is usually an initial energy transfer, but ultimately the result is up to the free will of the intended receiver.

SD: Do you need to know what's wrong with the person?

DZS: There are really no rules. Sometimes it's helpful to have a specific intent, such as when clearing a medical toxin. Often it works well not to know so I don't get lost in the story. I just help create balance and flow, which lead to health.

SD: Do you use the sound of your voice in healings?

DZS: In some of my healings, I've used the power of the ancient languages, especially Hebrew and a tad of Sanskrit. When I use my voice to move energy, I often don't have my clients hear it. Sometimes it's gentle, but sometimes it's like screaming in order to break through a block. It's not the kind of thing you want to do at a Borders book signing!

I got my own chance to experience Deena's soft chanting and powerful healing. The night before the interview, as I was about to board my flight to Ithaca, I suddenly realized I'd mislaid my jacket. I had 15 minutes to run around the airport retracing my steps, while dragging my bags with me. As a result of the strain, I developed an asthmatic response and arrived in Ithaca tense and wheezing.

But what seemed like bad luck becomes a perfect entr´┐Że into a meaningful healing session. Deena has me lie down and begins to use her voice to induce a harmonious state. I burst into tears and try to attribute this overwhelming emotion to some problems I am facing, but she says it is much older and deeper grief being released.

Deena advises me to let go and think of something that feels good. My mind grabs at different story lines and wrestles with them, but each time she can feel it and gently reminds me to return to a peaceful feeling. In a matter of minutes the constriction clears, and I feel lighter and more joyful. I've been breathing easier ever since. More significantly, letting go has released other obstacles, such as problems I was facing with an impending move.

SD: Why do you think some people are more likely than others to get sick?

DZS: Some people have never acknowledged they are in emotional pain. So they can't go to the next step, which is to honor that the hurt exists and then say, "This doesn't feel good. I'm going to focus on something more joyful." When you do that, it isn't denial. But if you ignore your feelings, that's denial. And your body will say, "Excuse me, I've got feelings and I'm going to show you."

SD: What is the key to that next step?

DZS: Forgiveness. In a difficult situation, for example, it's understanding that the other person did the best he could at that moment. That person's behavior actually has nothing to do with you, but it activates your wounds, so you are sucked in. If you can step out of your own wounds, then you can let go, which is different from having hurt feelings and denying them.

SD: You deal with serious stuff, yet you manage not to take yourself seriously. What keeps it light and fun for you?

DZS: Taking a larger view of life and death and time. There really isn't a beginning or an ending, and consciousness isn't ever annihilated. If you leave your focus on bills, the IRS, and an impossible level of cleanliness, you won't have time for joy. My father was a master at maintaining a sense of humor. After two excruciating months in the hospital, as he was clearly about to die, he didn't miss the opportunity to joke about meeting "cool" people at the morgue.

SD: What is the main message you would like readers to come away with?

DZS: That reality is not as our eyes and ears tell us and that true healing goes much deeper than the physical body. Everything that happens in our reality is a reflection of an inner part of us-ours to create, ours to change.

SD: So, the practice of tuning and harmonizing is really about spiritual attunement, a deeper understanding of who we are.

DZS: Yes, it's attunement to the divinity within yourself, the loving energy that you are made of. It's going back to the creative energy that we are. All this stuff that seemingly happens to us is what we create-it's not who we are.

To contact Deena Spear about a healing or workshop, or to order a copy of Ears of the Angels go to or call 607-387-7787. (Hay House will publish a paperback edition in May 2003)

Swaha Devi is a freelance writer and editor who is establishing a wildlife retreat on Bradford Island, east of San Francisco, California. Her last piece for Body & Soul, "Grief Is an Opening," was published in the September/October 2002 issue.

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