Currently at: Northwest Acutonics
Where: Lopez Island, Washington
Roots: I was born in Hollywood, California in 1960. I grew up in Southern California and spent a lot of time between Venice Beach and Huntington Beach. I left in the mid-70s because I wanted to be close to nature and live a simpler life, in a more natural setting. I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area during my 20s before moving to the Pacific Northwest.
Influences: My dad’s parents came here from Italy. My great-grandmother, Nona, had a huge garden and made her own medicine. My dad met my mom when he was in the army and stationed in Germany, where my mom was born and raised. She left Germany when she was 16 to marry my dad. His parents adopted her. She went to Hollywood High School. They married and had me. I grew up speaking German and was surrounded by a strongly influenced Italian culture. Home-cooked food, art, natural remedies, classical music and family gatherings were the core of my every day. I started playing the piano when I was four years old on my grandfather’s accordion. My first healing practice was a grasshopper hospital that I built for the grasshoppers I found who had broken legs.
My mom was a drafting engineer for a while, and then moved to the Bay Area to pursue her dream of being an artist. She became a massage therapist when she was 30 and practiced well into her 60s. She went to the California Institute of Integrative Studies in her 50s, where she got her PhD in psychology. She later taught at CIIS and had a successful practice in San Francisco, and in Marin. She has been such an inspiration for me. Both my parents always told me that I could do or be anything I wanted to be and that the sky was the limit.
Her Carl Jung Connection: My grandfather, in Germany, was a medical doctor and practiced “natural medicine,” including homeopathy. He was deported when my mom was 7, because he refused to refrain from treating people in the Jewish community he lived near. He relocated to Switzerland, where he lived and studied with Carl Jung till the end of his life. My mom never saw him after the age of 7, although we do have his dream journals from his time spent at the Jungian Institute.
Studies: My mom introduced me to yoga and alternative medicine when I was nine. Then I started Tai Chi at 12. All of that steered me out of the city and into the healing arts and spiritual traditions. I had a strong passion for alternative education and helped start an alternative high school when I was a teenager in my public high school. I would often “skip” school and hang out in ashrams for a week at a time and find creative ways to integrate my experiences into my studies.
When I got to the Bay Area, I studied structural integration with a man who’d studied with Ida Rolf. This was before Rolfing had a name. I learned the 10-Series protocol and at the same time was also trained and certified in the use of the Bach Flower Remedies. I set up a practice as a massage practitioner in 1981.
I then jumped into a program at the UC-Berkeley extension and got my teaching certificate in Montessori education. I taught at the Marin Cultural Center, in Sausalito, for three years. I was still interested in alternative healing, so, I went to live and study at the Alive Polarity Institute in Southern California.
Sometimes the Simple Life: After I had my first child [a son] at age 17, I moved to the top of a mountain at the end of a dead-end road, in eastern Washington. I had three more children [two boys and a girl] and lived up there for 13 years. We lived very simply, with no running water and minimal electricity. I studied shamanism with the Native people there and had a Native American grandmother—Gramma Bertha. She taught me about the ways of Spirit and Nature and how to listen between the worlds of time and space. She also taught me the gift of just simply being. I learned to walk this path because I was isolated. I was actually more living it than practicing it.
. . . Ain’t So Simple: I moved to Lopez Island for my children—so they could have a place to launch into the world. The community here is rich in locally grown food and extended family through a tight network of people who live here year-round. For my children, it was a way they could remain connected with the natural world and easily bridge into the modern world and other cultural influences—Vancouver and Seattle are only an hour away after a ferry ride to the mainland. When we moved here in 1996, on a raw piece of land, we lived in two teepees, with an outdoor kitchen and a phone tied to a tree. It was just me and three of my four kids. Little did I know that it would shape me into the practitioner and teacher I am today. Now, I have a classroom and a studio and several small buildings that I call home. My daughter lives close by with her husband and new baby and has a natural clothing business. My next-youngest son, a farm-to-table chef and successful restaurant owner and consultant in San Francisco is building community through food; my next-oldest son is a personal trainer and nutritionist; and my oldest built his own house, has a family and a huge garden in Eastern Washington. It’s lovely and secluded here—yet a hop, skip and a jump to the mainland----and a great destination spot for people to come study harmonic medicine.
Leveled/Level I: In 2000, I was told that I had cancerous cells that needed to be surgically removed. There was an acupuncturist who’d just started her practice here who happened to have studied with Donna and graduated from NIAOM [the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine]. After one treatment with needles, she used the forks exclusively on me, stating that my pulse and hara diagnosis showed a greater response to the forks than to the needles. I remember lying there on her table, I heard this Tibetan chanting and I asked her, What CD is that you’re playing? She claimed that the only music during the session was that from the forks. I was enamored by this woman and her practice and her ability to touch into these places I’d gotten to only in my personal practice.
After seeing her once a week for 12 weeks—during which I sold my car to pay for the treatments, and traded her salmon for sessions—I went back to my surgeon hoping to postpone the surgery, and the cells were 100 percent clear. At this same time, my acupuncturist told me she was relocating to Mexico, so I thought, Now, what am I gonna do? I need to continue this to maintain the pattern and keep the cancer at bay. In 2001 I found an Acutonics Level I class at Bastyr Naturopathic College. Everything I learned in that class tied in with everything I’d studied before—the Montessori, the Chinese medicine, Polarity, Rolfing—and the Jungian work. All of it.
The Warp and the Woof: I went back to Lopez Island and started practicing what I learned on family and friends. I worked on a three-week-old baby, who was a preemie and had to be in an oxygen tent. I worked with her and her mom. The first night after I treated her she didn’t have to sleep in an oxygen tent anymore.
Amazing things kept happening after I would work on people and I began to wonder: How do cells talk? What is behind this vibrational theory? How does it work? I wanted to learn more . . . and that began my journey into Acutonics.
Trial by Fire: Right after my first Level I and II classes, I had a house fire and lost everything—my forks and all my notebooks. Donna and Ellen gave me new forks and I took the Level I and II classes again, which at that time, there were only two levels to complete. Every time I turned around, there was another class being offered and new forks to discover. It was a very exciting time for all of us! Not long after I completed my practitioner certification, I decided to enroll in the teacher certification program and begin teaching my first classes in 2005.
Around that time, I began my studies in Asian Healing Arts and Nutrition at Heartwood Institute in California with Paul Pitchford, the renowned author of Healing with Whole Foods and Matthew Sweigart founder of Heart Mind Shiatsu. After I completed my program, I stayed at Heartwood and taught Shiatsu alongside my teacher for a couple years. I also taught Acutonics as an adjunct therapy in the massage program. It was here that I developed a strong love for the Five Elements, which I weave into all my classes.
Forks v. Needles: I think you can go farther and deeper with the forks than you can with just the needles. During a session, patterns begin to shift and change, and through the work with sound, frequencies, intervals and harmonies you can tangibly move with those changes like a musical score. That’s something I learned to feel and sense through my practice with shiatsu . . . which goes back to the way to listen that I learned from grandma Bertha. And it all comes from working with and listening to the energy flows.
With the needles you can really only move through one vortex, set them in and walk away and wait, which is an art of its own. But with sound you move in that meridian, and with it, in such a personal way—which allows me and the person I am working with to move and change with it in collaboration, and this is what is happening cellularly as well! It is an art and a dance as well as a science and a medicine. I get so excited when I talk about this stuff!
As I mentioned before, Acutonics has had a profound impact on my personal health and I just want to share several additional examples from my own life. I had a closed TBI (traumatic brain injury) a little over two years ago and was not able to read or write for the first several months. The one thing I could do was play my ukulele and sing without getting extremely tired. I used my forks daily to create stability and integration between hemispheres and then random neuro-pathways. It was also a way that I was able to monitor my progress. At first, I could only handle one frequency combination and only in one location. It was so soothing and nourishing.
I also had two very profound experiences with my dog. One was when the platelets in her blood were not delivering oxygen to her body—a condition called hemolysis—due to her having ingested a poison. The veterinarian told me she would not make it without a complete blood transfusion and there were no more ferryboats off of my island that night. I remember seeing a video taken of blood cells before and after an Ohm gong session. She regained consciousness and after several treatments she would go to the window and put her paw on the fork to ask me for another session. Another time she had a cervical spinal compression that left her paralyzed. Acutonics was the only thing that helped to relieve the pressure on the cervical nerve that allowed her to walk.
Sound—the Universal Language: The beauty of working with sound is that it’s a carrier wave between heaven and earth. Between that which is seen and unseen. And it interfaces seamlessly with all the different modalities and practices, whether it is Eastern medicine or ways of thinking, Western medicine, in a hospital after surgery, with a crying baby on an airplane, basic or complex, two-leggeds or four-leggeds, or an amputee, internal, spiritual, emotional or just listening to the forks or the gongs . . . this language is universally understood.
Forks v. Gongs: Forks are very specific. They are more like the melody, because you are working with a precise tool in a precise location that can easily create different harmonies and intervals. The gongs are more like a membrane that opens up a portal of sound that is layered and opens up inter-dimensionally. Each time I play the gong it interacts and plays differently depending on who is in the room and what is being addressed. I’m pretty methodical and can play in a calculated way, but even so, it changes depending on who I’m working on.
With the gongs it’s very personal and very profound.
People always ask, “What was that? What happened?”
The gongs and the forks enhance that place between wake and sleep, a place where one is not fully asleep, and not fully awake, but awake enough that you are aware of more than what you are aware of in the awake world and it’s in that place that the gongs and the forks create a consciousness that nourishes our souls and thus nourishes our minds, our hearts and our bodies.
Acutonics and Integrative Medicine: People are more receptive now, and they’re more demanding. Because the pharmacological industry often motivates people from a place of fear or is geared to addressing the symptom that is causing the most disharmony, more and more people are left dealing with additional symptoms or reactions to the medication or procedures they are given and are not achieving balance or the quality of life they are seeking. I think education and empowerment is a large component of Integrative Medicine. Western medicine is amazing at saving lives, fixing the broken and extending the function of worn-out parts and also changing the chemistry when things are way out of balance. People are waking up to the fact that there are limitations to this system and are wanting more. They are seeking to have or create quality in their lives. It’s really not a one-over-the-other thing, with Western medicine versus alternative medicine. With integrative medicine, it’s an exploration of, What works now in this specific situation? How do we integrate with the therapies the client or patient has chosen for themselves and how do we meet them where they are to assist them to create wholeness and balance in their life?
This is where music and vibration come into play. It connects everything and connects through everything and is continually changing, revealing itself and unfolding. I have been practicing for almost 20 years now. I’m still as excited about this work as I was in the very beginning. I’m still learning and discovering and am ever so fascinated by this world we live in. It’s vast and complex, magical and mysterious and at the same time it is pretty basic and quite simple too. I’m also super excited to teach this language to others so that there are more people to whom I can relate and who can relate to and integrate this work into their lives and practices.
Each session I give is like a sound painting and a symphony infused with the history of medicine and science that is utterly astounding and then inevitably gets up and walks out of my office. Sometimes I read my notes from a session and see the most beautiful progressions and music our universe is alive with and I am literally moved to tears.
Her other Passions: I love to go for walks in the woods or by the water, I love to sing and play my piano or other musical instruments, and I love playing and being creative with children. I also am quite passionate about traditional and improvisational partner dancing and participating in creative movement. I love connecting and collaborating with people and with nature. Yes, I love creating connection—whether it’s cellular or in conversation or on the dance floor.
Carmen can be reached at 360-468-4608, emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website to schedule appointments, classes and tutoring http://www.northwestacutonics.com/content/about/northwest-acutonics
"Every cell in our body is a sound resonator. Every cell lives in a dynamic rhythmic pattern. Each organ has its own cycle and its own pulse. Each and every system has a cycle, rhythm, pattern, and pulse that exist in resonant harmony and sympathy to the cycles of the earth and the heavens. These body systems respond to sound vibration, as do our spiritual, mental, and emotional states of consciousness. "
- Donna Carey, LAc