by Esther "Little Dove" John
I discovered it in a workshop one brilliant Saturday morning.
I'd known for years that music had the power to open previously untapped reservoirs of valuable emotional material. I'd known for years the effect of working with music and the chakras for certain people. I'd also been on the path of a psychological healer since I was 13. Even earlier, I surrendered to the demands placed upon my body and soul by the goddess of music.
That goddess made me play music, yes; more than that, she demanded that I listen to her, at least as profoundly as if she were a person face-to-face with me bearing an urgent message. I have to listen to her if she presents herself through sources outside of my mind, and I have to listen to her when she strides upon the stage within the confines of my mind.
I've also had to learn to reproduce as faithfully as possible what she sings into my mind's ear!
That brilliant Saturday morning in May, with twenty souls joining me for a musical voyage into the chakras, I realized that we could go into each chakra to discover the life issue it encompassed for each individual and we could access the resources for healing that chakra held!
Thus we embarked together upon a path of healing that led us to discover and resolve deep personal challenges that day.
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I would like to share with you some of the solid scientific evidence that music heals.
During the Second World War, British nurses noticed that music helped heal in ways that other treatments did not, especially their traumatized, disoriented shellshock patients. Not only did it seem to relieve psychological distress; it also seemed to alleviate physical pain.
In the previous century, English mental hospitals recognized the healing benefits of music. Some even maintained professionally directed patient orchestras. Sir Edward Elgar, composer of "Pomp and Circumstance," the song we associate with graduations, was one of those professional conductors hired by a mental hospital to lead the patient band.
Since the late 1950s, North American researchers have investigated the physiological and psychological effects of music. Although much research must still be done to confirm the results so far, the general drift of the evidence indicates that music can:
Reduce the need for pain medication
Reduce the amount of anesthetic patients need before surgery
Reduce the perception of pain
Reduce the amount of time patients need to be in the hospital after surgery
Speed the healing process
Increase endurance during exercise or physical therapy
Help to regulate pulse, respiration, and blood pressure.
Psychologically, music has been shown to be effective in helping Alzheimer's Disease patients orient to present time and place, as well as to behave more appropriately socially.
Music healing practitioner and author Helen Bonney developed a system that indicates specific pieces of music for specific mental and physical disorders. In mental health clinical practice, the Bonney method can be very effective in releasing memories and emotional material buried in the subconscious. You may have had the experience of being moved deeply by music without being able to intellectualize about why it has this effect upon you. It is this ability to reach directly into the subconscious mind that makes music a powerful adjunct to psychotherapy and counseling.
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About twenty years ago, I was led to learn about music and healing. The path started in Boston, led me to Australia, Canada (where I experienced a musical healing of my own), and ended in the Pacific Northwest, where 12 years ago I founded the Mission for Music and Healing, an organization that places musicians in area hospitals to perform for patients with life-threatening diseases. Swedish Medical Center has funded its weekly music program for cancer and AIDS patients for the past year and a half, the Washington State Arts Commission has funded the Missions work at Childrens Hospital Medical Center, and the King County Arts Commission has funded music for AIDS patients throughout the county. A cancer patient, Lori Nelson Norling, left a bequest to keep musicians at University Hospital, where she found our service so helpful as she battled the disease that ultimately claimed her life.
Among my experiences working with the ill and dying using my flute have been witnessing a semi-comatose patient awaken and smile a radiant smile; helping a friend over a problem with high blood pressure during the birth of her son; and ushering a hero, who risked his life stopping the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, into the next life with peace and dignity.
I know music is a powerful healing tool.
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My training in the field of psychology and counseling came first from followers of Sigmund Freud's methods. Freudian analysts tend to be very non-directive; that is, they hardly ever tell you what to do. Neither do followers of American psychologist Carl Rogers, some of whose proponents ran my graduate program in counseling and consulting psychology at Harvard.
Later, I was introduced to neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and transactional analysis, both of which involve more visualization and role-playing, which require more direction on the part of the therapist.
My present work with the chakras, music, and mental health represents an amalgamation of the psychotherapeutic techniques Ive found most effective: parapsychology and music healing techniques.
For example, a person who presents with creative blocks may benefit from working intensively with the second chakra: its color, its sound, and its sphere of influence. We first discuss the individuals specific problem with creativity and how she or he would like that to change. Next, we open the chakra and the subconscious with music that originates both within and outside of the individual. Then we talk about the discoveries that have emerged and any implications for future action. It is so simple!
Other spheres influenced by the chakras include love, communication, will, power, intuition, spiritual connection, and material well-being.
This new field may reduce the amount of time it takes to get to core issues while enlisting the help of additional inner healing resources. Much more work needs to be done to fine-tune the technique so that it can be used by other practitioner/musicians to the benefit of their own clients, and to identify the optimal uses of the technique.
Esther "Little Dove" John will be giving an all-day healing workshop using the techniques discussed in this article on Saturday, November 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Stonehouse Bookstore in Redmond. She will perform the weekend of November 20-22 at the benefit for the Women of Wisdom conference. For information or appointments, contact Paula at (206) 522-7684.