Music as Medicine for the Soul
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.
I always hear music in my mind, without playing an instrument. It varies from classical symphonies, popular tunes with messages, to hearing waves of sound in nature. This music has been my constant companion in life.
Playing music, I now realize, was a profound therapy for the whole family, as well as for me. At least I assumed it was as good for them as it was for me, because we lived on a big farm and I was the only one who brought music into our home the 20 years I lived there. My mother was a former school teacher and insisted we all have a lot of disciplined “duties” daily,one of which was for me to practice my piano every day, summer and winter. As a child I didnʼt like all the practicing, but as an adult I am eternally grateful for this discipline as I learned music structures very early and it was my lifeʼ s work.
In the late 1970ʼs I went to the Bahamas. One morning I awoke with energy rushing through my body and out the top of my head. New doors opened in my mind. Right after this I went to visit a friend who had been saving a book and music recording to give me. As I went to bed that night I played the music by my bedside and was amazed at the journey it took me in my listening mind. It was like a movie. I was traveling through space, surrounded by syntilizing waves of color, and flying over mountains in exotic lands. Up to that time I had no idea what music would do except sooth my emotions. It was transpersonal. After this experience I searched out several pioneer teachers who knew about music in a deeper way. tom Kenyon, renowned sound healer, Dr. Arthur Harvey, music professor specialized in healing music for different patient populations , and Dr. Helen Bony, music therapist and guided imagery and music, a specialized therapeutic way of working with clients using classical music. In 1973 Dr. Bony wrote a book called “Music and Your Mind: Listening with a New Consciousness”. This was the very book I was given that put me on my journey with music in healing. Working with Mr. Kenyon, Dr. Harvey, Dr Bony and several others, I ultimately developed my own research projects and quickly began receiving invitations to speak about what I was learning. I traveled around giving music workshops for several years. Later I developed the harp and took one to perform in my presentations.
In the late 1980ʼs I was invited to teach at Atsitsa, an European Holistic Center on the Greek island of Skyros, a couple hours out of Athens by air. For two weeks I taught a course called “The Magic of Healing Through the Arts” which included music, mandalas and rituals in the olive groves up high in the mountain on the island, then in the evenings around a big bonfire I did storytelling with a little lyre I had in my suitcase.
Waking up in the early morning on this Greek island was a vast sound bath, with the sounds of hundreds of little song birds, some roosters and sheep with bell swaying back and forth on their necks as they made their way to the feeding pens. We ate outdoors under a thatched roof dining area. Fresh fish from the ocean and vegetarian dishes were part of the delicious menu.
After the classes I flew back to Athens and traveled for two weeks around Greece. I met some wonderful Greek women who were in the arts in Athens and they were very interested in my subject. They wanted to gift me with something special and asked what I would like. I told them I would love to experience a temple site that did not have tourists around it.They drove me two hours outside Athens to a deserted temple ruin and thoughtfully left me to wander around on my own for a while.
I walked around inside the old temple with its musty smells and dusty rock floor then followed a trail in the woods to a deep well where I sat to meditate. Hours alone allowed my mind and heart to open. I began to feel the history of the area, and who had lived there. The idea that kept repeating in my mind was that Paracelsus would give “music prescriptions” to his patients for both physical and mental disorders. I remembered my childhood experiences at the piano and how much music had uplifted my spirits and healed my emotions. The idea intrigued me, and I made an intent to focus on Music Medicine. It was an idea whose time had come!