“All the tragedy in the world, in the individual and in the multitude, comes from lack of harmony. And harmony is best given by producing harmony in one’s own life.” — Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Music of Life
All cultures, from ancient times to now, have used music in some way to lift the spirit and enhance the healing process. Because of its nature, music is a link between the external and internal worlds, a bridge to the spirit and doorway to the soul. Sound affects the vibratory rate of every part of the body and has a direct impact on the mental processes, muscles, nervous system, digestive system and circulatory system.
Why is it that music and healing work go so well together? In addition to the pleasant environment that music provides, there are many reasons why music actually supports and extends the benefits of the healing process. In his landmark book, The Mozart Effect, Don Campbell wrote that “by listening to music with longer, slower sounds, one can usually deepen and slow the breath, allowing the mind to calm down. As with breathing rates, a lower heartbeat creates less physical tension and stress, calms the mind, and helps the body heal itself. Music is a natural pacemaker.”
Stress. The American Institute for Preventative Medicine cites it as a key role player and contributing factor in both heart disease and cancer, two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Best-selling author and physician Dr. Andrew Weil concurs, saying “I am convinced that stress is the primary cause or aggravating cause of the majority of illness.” Tension in the mind translates itself into tension in the body and can cause a state of dis-ease in the body’s organs and systems.
How exactly does music support health and well-being? Healing music, as we have discovered, is much more than just slow music with nature sounds. We have identified multiple reasons why music has positive effects. Some are listed below:
- Slow rhythms entrain bodily systems (heartbeat, pulse, digestive system, respiratory, muscles) to a more natural rhythm
- Natural sounds (if present) give a sense of peace
- Tones are nurturing, clear, warm and gentle
- Pace is slow but with a sense of joy and beauty
- Music doesn’t have hooks and repeated refrains that engage the mind
- Feeling is more like nature, flowing
- Sub-audio frequencies (if present) entrain brainwaves to alpha or theta state
A relaxed body and sense of inner calm are beneficial to restoring health and maintaining balance in the face of disease. Often, the mind needs an extra tool to assist it in letting go of disturbing or repetitive thoughts. Music has the ability to give the mind another focus, helping lower stress levels and strengthening the immune system.
Healing is about re-aligning the body with its own innate blueprint and returning to a dynamic state of balance. A primary way sound heals is through physical and emotional resonance. Resonance occurs when two energy systems vibrate at the same frequency. Certain music will cause the body and its systems to resonate with it and help it return to a state of balance.
Another aspect of healing with sound involves slowing down the brainwaves. Our brains emit a continuous and often varying vibration reflecting the state of our consciousness and attention. When we are in a peaceful, calm state, our brains emit Alpha waves (7-14 hertz or cycles per second) and we are more receptive to healing. Theta brainwaves (4-7 hertz) are emitted in an even deeper and more dreamlike state. Music with very slow, sub-audio frequencies can help entrain the brain to reach the desired states.
The level of healing gained by any musical piece is a function of the balance between the elements of intention, harmony, resonance, frequency, rhythm and entrainment. Because music is a form of art, there are also creative and artistic aspects to consider. Slow music that is morose and moody will not have as positive an effect on the healing process as soothing music that is joyful and uplifting and carries a sense of beauty and spirituality.
The good news is, there is much healing music available today that can support the healing process and help the individual return to a state of wholeness and harmony with oneself.