Dave Jones on Healing from Traumatic Brain Injury with Handpans

This is a true story of sound healing, a first-hand account of the impact handpans had on Dave Jones' life after he suffered brain trauma, and the ripple effects that en-joying handpans can have in the life of others.

"Replace our years of trouble with decades of delight" (Psalm 90:15, referenced in the episode).

Connect with Dave Jones on Facebook & via his website

Podcast Transcription:

Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain and this is the Handpan Podcast.

Sylvain: Hey, if you stick around until the end of the episode, I want to tell you something, something big, actually like life-changing for me, and very exciting for the handpan art form as well. I promise I'll tell you all about it, but first I'm really happy to release this one-on-one conversation I had with Dave Jones, who you already met in the previous episode of the podcast about handpan camp. Something happened to Dave a few years ago that turned his life upside down and amidst the dark times that ensued that traumatic event. He stumbled upon the handpan. What happened next? Well, I'll let you hear it from him directly, but it's a powerful first account of something. I think a lot of us have had a hunch about with these instruments that hand pens can be therapeutic in some real, tangible ways. I'm grateful that Dave agreed to share his story and I'm really honored to be able to relay it to you. So here's my conversation with my friend, Dave Jones.

Sylvain: Dave, where are we right now?

Dave: We are underground, I think.

Sylvain: Yeah, at least partially. So I guess I should explain. We are in Dan's studio. Uh, this is day three of handpan camp and I have the great pleasure of sitting down with my friend, Dave Jones. It's been cool. It's been a long time coming. We met only for the first time two days ago.

Dave: Yeah.

Sylvain: But it felt like we knew each other. So I'm glad we can, uh, spend some time in real life.

Dave: Yeah, me too.

Sylvain: So there are so many ways to look at the hand pan, whether it's culturally, the instrument itself, the history its healing aspects. And we hear all of these aspects being talked about, you know, in conversations and online. Um, but some of the lingo that I picked up from you really quickly as we started chatting online was, uh, some kind of visceral mind-body response to the sound. Um, and I know that there's a reason for you being sensitive to that. Um, can you tell me about what brought you to the handpan and, and what your body and your mind's response is and why?

Dave: Yeah, sure. And I'll do my best to make us editable later. Not edible, but editable. Yeah. I think the, the, the handpan for me means many things now, but back in 2018, when I heard a handpan for the first time on February 20th, it, um, it meant one thing in particular and that thing, um, if I were to describe, to use one word to describe it would be hope. So if we rewind a little bit, I had in 2015, I experienced, um, brain trauma and it undid me, uh, inside and outside. And so what is what a normal person is able to experience in the world? The person who has brain trauma experiences, maybe a little bit different because the brain is working to heal itself. It's damaged maybe in a, in a way for me that meant, um, you know, constant migraines and, um, sickness in the body it's as if you had vertigo or were on a, if you get sick, you're on a boat in the ocean that you in 10 foot swells, and you can't see the horizon, but you can't get off. And so that was, had been happening for years before the handpan. And I experienced relief in, in different ways. But I was particularly looking by February of 2018, for ways to help me experience the life. Um, I was living fully, you know, no matter what, because at that point, you're in the chronic stage of an illness or an injury. And I was, I had been told, we just don't know if this will ever go away. And so those symptoms were still there. He was relating to them differently now because of some different practices I was introduced to, but I was also looking for new ways all the time to deal with the light sensitivity and particularly where the handpan comes in is with, um, sensitivity to sound. So I somehow, after the accident experienced loud, loud ringing in my head, actually with hot, I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling like there was like, it was burning inside of my head between my ears and be so loud that I would ask people, do you hear that? Like a siren going off? And I was trying to manage that particular symptom. And I had lots of different practices for, you know, listening to all the sounds and going deep into that sound and finding the center of it. And those are very helpful, but I was looking for something else as well, lots of good medicine out there. So I found these Tibetan singing bowls, and I don't know how I found those. And I ended up buying one. And so I was, I was playing this thing all the time and I put water in it and play it that way in, and I would move it all around my body and play it and hold it around my head. And I was showing everybody look at the singing bowl it actually, it seemed to, um, it seemed to actually resonate inside of my body in really interesting ways and especially on move it down to like my chest. Um, but around my head, it was almost like a massage. So I don't know how long I had the singing. Well, it wasn't very long. And I think I had mastered most of the techniques I'd been shown in the store when I bought it. And I, I was, I went on my phone and I'm like, I put in a Google advanced singing bowl techniques or something like that, you know? And so up pops up this guy with dreadlocks and he's sitting in a tunnel and he's smiling and he's playing a shaker in one end. And with the other hand, he starts to play this thing on his lap. And I just wept almost instantly. There was something about the sound that just brought me home and, and there was, um, I mean, I, I like, told my wife, my kids, you gotta listen to this, you gotta see this, what is this? You know? And that began the quest, um, for, um, to just to find a handpan, but they're expensive. And so that was February 20th, 2018. And we just didn't know like do pump at that time. It really felt like most handpans were at least $3,000. And so we were like, I don't, and we didn't know which one to buy. And then you have all the different keys and scales. And the more I went down that hole, um, but I started listening to a bit of, of handpan music, but I could feel it, I could feel it in my body and I could actually feel what it would feel like to play. I had a sense of like what that was going to feel like I also had really intense neuropathy on my left-hand side. And so my left hand, like parts of it were more like a claw and depending on heart rate, I would lose feeling on my left side inside, outside. And so up to the point of losing vision on my left side. And so I had this feeling like, I think, you know, this, this thing could be, could be really, could be part of my story. I really think it is part of my story. When I heard that pan. And I think it was Daniel Waples when I heard that, by the way, a Daniel, if you're listening, like thank you for recording it because it, it changed my life. And I just knew whatever he was playing and how he was playing it, you know? And now I know like part of his heart was coming through this music that was connected to this pan in front of him. I knew that I wanted to experience that, that there was something about that. And that day I wrote in my journal, I'm like, you know, I don't know how, cause it really expensive, but I know the universe is conspiring and someday I will, I will have one. If I could name the texture, I felt that day. It was the coolness of, um, the cool, uh, force of a river. If you were to get in the river and hold onto the rocks and face upstream and put your head under the water while it rushed over you, that's what I felt.

Sylvain: Um, I love that image. We were just in the river 30 minutes ago, at that point, you really start being obsessed with handpans.

Dave: Yeah. I started, you know, there, there was like some app where you could play different Hang and I would like go through it and play. And even that sound was pleasing, but it was more of like, I could, I would dream about the texture of, you know, feeling the pan and the balance of the fingers and the touch of the pan. And, um, I think that, like, I just, that all of a sudden, like there was this longing, like there was a, there was a relationship like we, it was almost instant, uh, you know, it's metal. So it was, there's a magnetic quality to it. And it really drew me in and I must've drawn it in as well because in October we met.

Sylvain: That's. Right. Yeah. And it was really cool that you reached out. I remember, I think I told you I was visiting my brother in London when I got your message and you reached out and I think you said something along the lines, like, you don't have to respond. Like I'm not, you just wanted to reach out. And I thought that was really cool. Um,

Dave: I think I reached out because of an episode that you did, um, with, um, is it Spiros.

Sylvain: Spyros.

Dave: Spyros.

Sylvain: And so you heard that?

Dave: Uh, yeah. And that happened, like I was listening to that on this like incredible journey that ended in Pahrump Nevada at Jacob Lee's workshop.

Sylvain: Okay. That's, it's cool that it was with that episode because this episode with Spyros was so inspired and he had transformation stories to share from his past and from his encounter with the Hang. Um, so yeah, if you had to summarize this evolution these past couple of years, since you discovered the instrument, what did you learn? What did you discover?

Dave: I mean, I think the first thing that comes to mind is just like how much gratitude I have for, um, the community of at large, whatever that means. And some specific people, uh, in particular, Daniel Waples being the first, like, I don't know why he uploaded that video or made it, it changed my life. And that set me on a course toward meeting a lot of other people who would change my life. And so, as I say, we didn't know, we just were not in a place to like put a bunch of money into this thing that we weren't sure if it was like, what I use it. I don't have rhythm. I think of you, my wife was like, how's this going to work? But she just saw that I kept after it. And, but I wasn't willing to like, just do it without, I just felt like we needed to wait. And that was, uh, that was kind of an interesting thing. And so as we're waiting, um, Colin Foulke does a thing where he has a lottery, you know, and if you get, if you, and so Emily had everybody, we knew put their name into the lottery and we didn't get it. And it was super bummed. And then he does another one for kids at later. We're like, wow, who is this guy? And at that point I knew of Collin and I knew of Pantheon Steel. And we were on both of their lists and we would get updates from them. I think that was kind of the only two makers I really was following. And Emily, I didn't even know she did this. She put our kids' names in for the kid lottery and we g