As you've probably gathered, this post is about music. I should start by telling you that I am not musically inclined.
My personality is a bit on the shy side. I also can't carry a tune. For these reasons, not many people have heard me sing.
But my car hears me sing ... a lot. And my kids hear me sing ... because they're often stuck in the car with me and have no choice. :)
And there was that one time, in a karoake bar, when an "unhealthy" number of beverages led to me and some friends to sing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody on stage.
It wasn't pretty. (Luckily that was before cell phones had video capability.)
But this post isn't about torturing karaoke bar patrons (or my kids) with my singing. Musical ability is actually irrelevant.
And for the record, I'm not recommending "liquid courage" for stage fright. Take it from me, the short-lived perception that you are a rock star is not worth the hangover.
This post is about the healing power of music.
I like how Dr. Frank Lipman, functional and integrative MD, put it:
"Music, one of life’s greatest pleasures, has power—the power to ignite a sprint on the treadmill, bring a tear to the eye or quiet a racing mind. Music also has the power to help heal."
Recently while driving home from work, a great song came on the radio. It was one of those songs that speaks to your soul. You can't help it—you just have to turn up the radio and belt it out. And it feels so good.
Music is incredibly powerful in this way. Perhaps Elton John said it best when he taught us:
And it's times like these when we all need to hear the radio
'Cause from the lips of some old singer
We can share the troubles we already know ...
If someone else is suffering enough oh to write it down
When every single word makes sense
Then it's easier to have those songs around
The kick inside is in the line that finally gets to you
And it feels so good to hurt so bad
And suffer just enough to sing the blues...
They reach into your room (oh oh oh)
Just feel their gentle touch
When all hope is gone
Sad songs say so much
Whether it's sad songs or happy songs, it's crazy how certain songs just "get" us. We feel their power and experience their healing presence.
Last year I had the opportunity to participate in a program called the Whole Health Medicine Institute, which was a six-month holistic training course for healthcare practitioners. The program kicked off with a live workshop in San Diego. One of the speakers was Gary Malkin, who is an Emmy award-winning composer and producer, as well as a speaker and performer. He taught our group about the profound role music can have in wellness.
One of the things I really remember about Gary's presentation was a video clip he shared. The video was of a busy city scene. It was played twice. The first time the video was accompanied by sounds that were noisy, chaotic, and stressful. The second time it was accompanied by beautiful classical music. Although the same exact scene was shown each time, it was amazing how different the experience felt when the music changed.
I was so happy to findthis videoon YouTube. It is a similar presentation that Gary gave at USF. The video clip I am referring to (with the busy city scene) starts at 2:20. It lasts about one minute. (I recommend watching his entire 20-minute presentation though.)
Gary states, "True wellness is cultivated when we're consistently living fully in the HERE and NOW."
He asks the question, "How can we use music to transform our relationships to our illness, to our lives, to our dying?"
He states, "When we are touched, moved, and inspired ... physiologically we are at our optimal state." (He is referring to the body being in a state where natural repair mechanisms work optimally.)
In other words,
"Have you had your daily minimum requirement of inspiration? Because it's going to add years to your life."
He clarifies, "Every time I use the word music, it's a proxy ... for the immersive art forms that shift our biochemistry into inspiration, peace, love, and acceptance."
"Silence and nature are the ultimate healers. But music and the arts are ways to come into the state of presence."
Gary challenges us to:
Look at the role that music and sound have in our lives.
Consider how sound may be taken for granted.
Consider how sound is affecting us (emotionally and spiritually).
Aim to be more conscious of it all.
Remember that we can "tune" our environments, internally and externally, to a tonality of love, connection, empathy, healing, and wellness that make a difference.
How about you? When was the last time music really moved you? What kinds of music speak to your heart and soul? How might you use music to "tune" your internal and external environments?
The next time you find yourself singing along to a great song (whether or not your kids appreciate it), I encourage you to recognize and really savor this powerful, healing gift we have called music.
Kiley Owen is a physician assistant, blogger and preventive health enthusiast. This post — along with helpful links to other resources — originally appeared on her blog, makinghealthapriority.com.
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