Hani Mansour is a sound healer who uses a handpan in his active meditation sessions.
Eileen McCormick caught up recently with this practitioner of creative meditation techniques at Enso Healing Centre in Phnom Penh’s St. 240.
GT2: Where do you feel you come from?
Hani: I am from Egypt. In 1991, my family was back in Egypt on holiday because we had migrated to Kuwait. Luckily, we had extended our holiday by two weeks. Those two weeks saved us because Iraq had invaded Kuwait and it was the start of Gulf War 1. When we were about to leave for Kuwait, my dad told me to go back to bed. I asked him what he meant by that. He replied the airport was closed and Iraq had taken over Kuwait.
GT2: Do you think the Gulf War 1 that your parents, your family and relatives went through guided you to war-torn Cambodia?
Hani: I never thought about it but maybe something about the suffering of the Khmer people and my own childhood of having my land taken under siege has some how led me to Cambodia.
GT2: Can you share with me your healing journey?
Hani: Seven years ago I hit rock-bottom. I was almost completely broke financially and nothing was getting better. I was in poor health. It’s crazy to think of that now but I was, like, planning my suicide. In between I felt that there was something else. I could see that my brain was trying to control me. I wasn’t looking into meditation that much at the time. And then I discovered what meditation is really about. It is about trying to understand how the brain works, and how it connects itself. After this epiphany, I quit my job about three years ago and started traveling. I told myself I wasn’t planning anything. I didn’t have enough money and had no idea how it would all unfold. But it has been the best three years of my life.
GT2: What type of meditation do you practice?
Hani: It’s about movement. Sound is something I consider as active meditation because it’s a movement that vibrates with you and with your thoughts. It moves your emotions and there are just a lot of layers to it. Best of all, sound allows us to witness these movements. It could be external or internal movement and it could prompt you to scream, shout, jump, dance, move fast or slow, or whatever way your body moves.
GT2: What are some highlights from your years of travel?Hani: My first destination was Australia. I stayed in an eco village in the middle of nowhere in the forest. You just wake up and kangaroos are outside and the whole community was into meditation and art music etc. Every day I would wake up and ask myself, ‘Is this real? Is this happening?’
GT2: Is that where you learned the handpan?
Hani: There was a guy there who played the handpan really well and he helped me learn. But the first time I first heard this instrument was almost 15 years ago and I cried when I listened to it in Turkey. Anyway, I was staying in a jungle in Malaysia for three months after I started to pick up the handpan. And I kept getting these dreams coming to me that I needed to own one. So I eventually bit the bullet and said I am going to buy that.
GT2: Did you know one day you would begin healing sessions with the handpan?
Hani: I had no idea these dreams would lead me to Cambodia or in any sense to use my sound for group healing that would in turn guide people.
GT2: What makes sound healing unique based on your experience?
Hani: It’s all about shaking your thoughts through with the help of music. Sometimes you do not even know that it is happening.
GT2: What notes do the handpan have?
Hani: The handpan can have a lot of different notes. Some of them are made to play only 9, some play 12 and some play even more. This is one reason why it can take a few months to receive one when you make an order because they have to be custom-made with the sounds you pick.
GT2: What are the techniques?
Hani: The way you hit the hand pan is like you are hitting something really hot but you don’t want to bend or overstrain your fingers. You just let your fingers flow with the rhythm.
GT2: How do you pick what notes to play when you are on your handpan?
Hani: Good question. In the beginning my brain was in overdrive, thinking and studying all the different notes and combinations to produce different sounds. It was all a bit too much. Then I decided I was going to be in the present and chilled out for a couple of months. And then it just happened. I saw a video on YouTube and I heard the handpan notes being played. I said, ‘Yes. These are the notes that I need!’
GT2: Have you seen any big transformation from people who come to your sound healing class?
Hani: The reactions are interesting from the sessions I have. The week before, there was someone in the class who stood up at the end of it and said she was so happy. She said she wanted to cry. I said, ‘Okay. If you want to cry please go ahead.’
GT2: How would you describe a session of sound healing?
Hani: My practice is all about release – shaking your thoughts through vibrations with the music. Sometimes you’re not even aware that it is happening. Sometimes you don’t know which memory is being released. Is it a first or second memory? You just absorb the sounds and let them vibrate within you. Let the sounds go where they need to go in your body. And then you just observe whatever thoughts and feelings that arise.
GT2: How do you know what you will play each class?
Hani: How I choose to play is different every time. I rely on my intuition. Each class is different and their collective needs also differ. For that reason I don’t preplan. I will just wait and play one note at a time and take it from there.
GT2: Does sound healing work the same for everyone?
Hani: I think sound effects everyone differently. For some it may bring up different past experiences which will impact your emotional memory etc. I would like to say this class is not meant to be a relaxing happy class. It’s completely the opposite and it’s meant to shake you. If you can let go of all of the things that have shaped you, then the by-product of a session with me might be happiness. But first one needs to de-pattern themself from what they are used to.
GT2: What have you noticed about the needs of Cambodians?
Hani: I notice that they have a big shell around them that needs to be broken so they can open up and move past their own experiences. I can only do so much, though. I hope I will reach more of the locals. But at the moment, those who come to meet me are the ones I need to help.
GT2: Do you have any vision when you play your handpan?
Hani: I see colors and have feelings. But it’s all in my head and not really external, so I don’t see things around people. But sometimes I can just visualize what sound goes with different animals etc. and I play it.