“Be music always. Keep changing the keys, tones, pitch, and volume of each of the songs you create along your life’s journey and play on.” ― Suzy Kassem
Our response to sounds is often predictable:
When an ambulance roars past the house.
When certain songs play.
When someone who has lived with an alcoholic hears the sound of a can opening.
Sounds can have many effects on a person, and as I look for ways to meet my hopes for the kind of year I want to have, sound looks to be playing an important role.
Starting with our earliest moments, we are affected by sound. A baby in the womb begins to hear sounds by 18 weeks, and by 24 weeks, it has been shown that babies will respond to voices, words and music. Ah, the body’s response to music is powerful, indeed, throughout life, and usually pretty magical. I hope that as Kassem says, I can be the music along life’s journey. What about you?
All the time in between the two days of birth and death, music (and sound) makes a difference. Whether we are making a beautiful noise with our voice or with an actual instrument, science is proving our attention to the power of sound as a healing option.
Lest you think healing with sound is a new thing, I’ll take you to a passage in the Old Testament of the Bible: 1 Samuel 16:23, “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: So Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”
Whether you look to philosophers like Plato, composers such as Zarlino, or to the healers in Native American communities, you will see the use of music as a way to bring healing for everything from depression to the bite of a tarantula. Has it always proven effective? No, but very often it has, and that provides hope to me for bringing healing to my own life, as well as yours, in this new year.
Ways we might consider bringing healing sound into our lives:
- · Chanting and the use of mantras
- · Listening to music
- · Singing music
- · Playing an instrument (piano, strings, tambourine, and drumming)
- · Dancing
- · Meditating
If you’ve ever noticed the music in a waiting room, you realize how music is often chosen to bring a sense of calm to the listener. For someone with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), it can be sounds that have created the problems, and different sounds are used to counteract the negative impact.
Children with a range of physical and emotional challenges respond beautifully to music therapy, which is why Music Therapy became a course of study in colleges.
One of my favorites is the research (2017) that shows patients who were exposed to music therapy had less anxiety before surgery than those taking prescription medication.
Finally, in later years when many adults deal with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological diseases, the presence of music has proven to be effective in bringing pleasure to life. In a study in 2010 and 2011, dementia patients exposed to music therapy had greater quality of life, less need of medication, and less agitation than the group in standard care.
So, how does my showing you all the ways we’ve already seen music therapy used bring us to the use of sound healing? I questioned it at first, not wanting to subscribe to anything too woo-woo, but then I remembered how we are able to see a baby in the womb through use of sound (an ultrasound), and how there is even a surgery (MR Guided Focused Ultrasound) thanks to the power of sound. Sound is the perfect force to consider in looking for healing!
The sound of our own voice speaking words, along with the placement of the tongue in making those sounds, is called a mantra, and this style of chanting is seen in many religious practices (think praying). Nothing new, of course, but the proof from the science community makes it more than just something people say is pleasant and meaningful.
After hours and hours of reading, I have so much I want to share to prove how worthwhile it is for you and me to give this greater attention, but I’ll have to hope that you’ll just do it and see for yourself. I’ll just tell you that it was Huygens’ (1665) discovery of how two pendulum clocks came into synchronization that really caught my attention — in sync is how I want to feel, and the tools are as close as my own voice, music on the radio, singing bowls I can listen to on someone’s Instagram page, or my favorite gongs in a Kundalini class.
Too much sound is sensory overload (I can attest to that), the absence of sound for too long is a dangerous deal, but the right amount of sound is a stress reliever. The National Institutes of Health offers these benefits of sound therapy/healing:
- · stress reduction
- · decreased anxiety and depression
- · improved memory
- · reduced blood pressure
- · pain reduction
- · lower cholesterol
- · decreased risk of heart disease and stroke
This is your time to hop on the internet and look for binaural beats, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No3 in G major (when you need to feel good), or Bach’s Italian Concertos when you are trying to recover memories (helpful with people with neurodegenerative disease).
Most important, I think, is that WE continue to be the music in life. While you and I look for healing through the sounds available to us, let’s don’t deny those around us the beautiful healing sounds that our presence in the world has to offer. Life is definitely a journey, and healing sounds make it so much richer and more pleasant.
Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others.