The Ancient Bards of Ireland could shift the energy in a room with their stories and music. They traveled from castle to castle, bringing the news of village life, wars,whatever was going on. The storytelling I do is a healing art form. It is mostly for adult audiences, for the child within us all.
Fran Stallings*, storyteller, says stories themselves have a special power. They compel us to “hear and attend and listen” in a way that other forms of speech do not. Some stories, told by some tellers, spin the web almost from the first words spoken. The human brain has a special affinity for story form. There are multilayered motifs in stories, and if they are emotionally meaningful in content, they help a person focus concentration inward.They teach you how to listen.
My life-long interest in the many therapeutic methods of self healing really began during my childhood when I found that the adults around me were not dependable, so I had to find ways to nurture myself. I spent as much time as I could in nature, and especially hiding in a certain clump of old Lilac bushes and dozing in the top of an ancient pine tree, rocking a basket of kittens and singing to them. I devoured hundreds of fairy tales with their archetypal wisdom and hope. Equally important,I also took piano lessons from age 4 to 18.
Over the years my piano lessons instilled the structures of music into my psyche. After practicing my assigned lessons, I learned to sit for hours playing the piano intuitively, giving voice to all my moods nonstop. Usually I would start playing heavy base tones, with angst, sometimes singing, they poignant sad tones, not leaving the piano until I felt more peaceful and flowing and the music would be more delicate. My piano sat by a big picture window, facing out to tall old pine trees and an expanse of green lawn. A long radiator in front of the window gave me warmth in winter.
Times have changed in the past 25 years. Methods of facilitating the healing response have made a shift. Today’s new, certified professionals are better schooled, more proficient in their art. And there are more options available. And the people who seek out therapies have changed, too.
According to one massage therapist in Colorado: “Today’s massage client is no longer the innocent first-timer. Instead, many are downright angry with themselves for having spent huge amounts of money on “Certified Professionals” only to receive a mediocre treatment that may have felt good at the time but had no lasting value. Many of these same people were disappointed with expensive spa treatments that featured pampering and fluff–with a glass of wine as part of the package!”
The concept of music as a healing force began through one philosophical concept held in common by shaman, priests, and ancient prophets: that all that exists in manifestation has a complimentary unmanifested form at its source. The sound of music, therefore, represents a macrocosm of the order of the universe…the movement of galaxies, stars and planets, sun, moon, cycle of seasons, days, nights, ocean tides, birth and death of all cellular life. A system relating musical sounds of the order of the universe had been developed by as early as the 3rd century BC. If one would listen or practice music, one would understand better these universal harmonies, and experience their fluidity and let it teach how to flow with life and each other.
Long before we had eyes to see, before we could walk, taste or speak, we could hear. Hearing is the first sense to develop in the womb, and is the last sense we have when departing the earth. Helen Keller, born deaf, blind and mute, said that “if you don’t have the sense of seeing, you are disconnected from the world of things, but if you don’t have the sense of hearing, you are disconnected from the world of people”.
What we hear and how we hear makes a great deal of difference in the quality of life we lead.
Dr. Randall McClellan, music composer, educator and writer, spoke at a national conference on Music & Health at Kentucky University. He said: “It is the destiny of future generations of musicians to rediscover the ancient laws and to develop a practice of music which will harmonize, integrate and heal by means of a deeper understanding of vibration and its effect upon the body, mind and soul of mankind.”
We are rapidly moving toward a new science of music…Music Medicine.
Walt Whitman once said “Music is what awakens in us when reminded by the instruments.”
This conveys the essence of the answer to the question: “Why use music in healing?” It is indeed our own healing energies that awaken in us when activated by music.
The whole universe is one great symphony and everything in it resonates to that symphony, in its own voice. We create a cacophony and dissonance in our body and world when we do not experience this harmony. As we relearn how to “hear” again, through the introduction of beautiful harmonies of music and sound, we are ultimately drawn into our very center and, once again, manifest our lives in harmony with the greater whole.
In music…..lies the power to complete the great circle of the evolution of human consciousness.
In a paper from the Beckman Research Institute in Durante, California, January 5, 1988, geneticist Susumu Ohno, while searching for the chemical origins of life found something else: A WALTZ .
Bored with tedious math equations, he decided to convert chemical formulas for living cells into music notes. He felt listening to the complex genetic codes would make elusive patterns easier to detect.
He found genuine music, Baroque and romantic-era music, uncannily similar to works of great composers. A Chopin Nocturne, a waltz, but a quicker tempo. Ohno felt certain melodies seemed ‘sad’ some ‘happy’ (humans are predisposed to hear them that way). Cancer-causing oncogene sounds were somber and funeral. The gene that bestows transparency to the lens of the eye is filled with trills and flourishes, airy and light.
It was a beautiful spring morning in the Northwest as I arrived at the nursing home with my harp to play my usual hour for the residents. I had created a special therapy for them, joining with a massage therapist. She massaged their hands while I played the harp. We gathered wheel chairs together in the chapel room for the hour of music, and sometimes went to individual rooms, as requested. Some magical moments happened around this experience. The following is one of them.
At the entrance to the home was a sun -filled lobby with two bird cages. The pair of bright red and yellow Love Birds always greeted me as I walked in. This day they were in fine voice, chirping and singing. I even felt they must have recognized me by this time. We whistled back and forth as I carried the harp in.
All my life I have been keenly aware of the sound of people’s voices, relationships, and the patterns created in conversations. The first 20 years of my life I lived on a farm in the Midwest still enjoy waking up at the first dawn, watching the waves of light come, listening to the first bird calls, something I learned to do as a child. Everything is vibration. Early music lessons helped to further create a “listening ear”. Communications are extremely important, not only with people but with everything. And everything will communicate with you, if you approach it in the right way, quietly listening, deeply listening with respect. There is beauty and mystery in communications.
Chaco Canyon, near Farmington, NM, is very hot and dry, without shade or water. We had to carry everything in, driving the last 23 miles on a rough dirt road that seemed to go nowhere. We had been warned by the ranger about plague, carried by fleas (should one bite you), and rabies (if one of the desert inhabitants bites you). And of course, rattlesnakes. But the desert was beautiful: yellow, purple, white, pink wild flowers, and brilliant insects….one had such tiny little legs we wondered what possible hydraulic dynamic it used to move itself off the ground! Tame chipmunks and birds played “catch as catch can” darted around the food boxes we had opened. A colorful brown and orange bird flew right into my van, unafraid.