In the Greek myth of Orpheus, we find a powerful testimony to the power of music. Throughout his journey in the underworld, Orpheus played his lyre and sang. His music pacified the dark forces, bringing tears to the eyes of the gods and softening their hearts. Music stirs emotion. It is no wonder that music has been called the language of the soul. Music can soothe, energize, enervate, or fan passions. You’ve no doubt experienced the emotional effects of music at some point in your life—perhaps at a wedding, a graduation, or a funeral. In every culture, spiritual or religious ritual is accompanied by music, whether it involves the rousing drumbeat of a tribal dance, the mournful strains of a medieval requiem, the awakening call of a cantor, or the joyous chorus of hand-clapping gospel singers.
Music alters the body and the mind. Just as loud, harsh sounds can injure eardrums and set the nervous system on edge, so too can music and other gentle sounds, like the ocean or your own heartbeat, enhance deep relaxation, supply you with new energy, stimulate creativity, and even transport you into other states of consciousness. When used consciously, music is a form of healing. So when you are particularly stressed, feeling sick, or in pain (with a backache, arthritis, or a bothersome cold, for instance), try using a little music therapy on yourself. Plants grow better with certain types of music. Why shouldn’t the same be true for you?
Lose Yourself in Music
The key to using music for healing is to allow yourself to become part of it. Many people listen to music critically, identifying the interactions of the various instruments or comparing the selection with other pieces. This is listening with the mind, whereas therapeutic listening is done with the whole body. Instead of paying attention with your head, concentrate from somewhere lower in your body. Imagine that your heart is listening; allow your abdomen to be filled with the music; let the music come in through your hands and feet; breathe it. Abandon yourself to the music, as if the sounds were waves or clouds that are carrying you away or supporting you.
Depending on the type of music you choose, this method of listening can be either deeply relaxing or highly energizing. Listening with this degree of openness will alter the frequency of your brain waves, your rate of respiration, and your blood pressure. Imagery can be stimulated, memories evoked, emotions released, and tension dissipated.
Are you ready to expand your sensory awareness and appreciation of music, or to experience the healing effects? Music and sound-healing expert Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect, suggests that you spend ten minutes of undivided listening time every day for five days.
On the first day, select a piece of your favorite music (something that does not have vocals). Then sit back or lie down and close your eyes. Breathe. Notice whatever you notice.
The second day, as you listen to the same piece, do some ordinary activity like washing dishes or opening your e-mail or writing out checks.
The third day, while you listen to the same piece, conduct the music, as if you are a famous maestro.
The fourth day, listen to the same piece of music while you eat a meal.
On the fifth day, relax the same way you did on day one. Notice the difference in your appreciation or any effect from day one.
Other Creative Uses of Sound for Wellness