Over the past few years, life taught me some unexpected lessons (a good thing). One lesson includes a greater respect for the healing power of music. This lesson wasn’t learned in a classroom, book or from a friend. Instead, it was experienced firsthand.
30,000 Foot View of My Life
Over the past 45 years, my time was spent reading books, in boy scouts, at church, in school, with parents family, romping through the woods behind my house, in scouts, in civil air patrol, exploring new places, hanging out /chasing girls, with my own family, working, fighting wars, reading, commuting to work, or exercising vigorously (to let stress out).
The only time I chose to listen to music, was when someone else was interested in turning it on. I tried to learn guitar at 16 because my friends all started a band. However, just wasn’t motivated to practice and gave up after one lesson. Given speakers and a choice, I listened to AM talk shows, or audio books.
I have always recognized the mind-body connection. And so, I took the effort to eat right, exercise, moderate life’s pleasures, be mindful of my environment, and seek balance (or so I thought).
Mind Body Connection Works Both Ways
About two decades ago, I was draining fuel surge tanks on the B-52 at Loring Air Force Base in Main. It was after midnight and cold. As I pushed a 200 gallon tank into a hanger, the tow bar hit me in the neck and sent me flying across the pavement. The next things I remember are being put in a car and the ER Doc saying I would be OK after a couple of weeks, then waking up the next day. Being young at the time, I bounced back and though little of it after a few weeks of healing.
Everything changed when I moved to Los Angeles and degenerative disc disease gradually took my ability to be physically active. The tides of that mind-body connection began to turn against me. I had always been physically active in work, play, and family. I used my body to manage stress and keep my mind healthy. That was no longer possible.
I soon found out (and any credible source will tell you) that stress has a real impact on the body and mind. Including:
- Fast heartbeat, headache, stiff neck & shoulders, back pain, fast breathing, sweating, stomach & intestinal distress, weakened immune system, muscle dysfunction, damaged organs, crankiness, inability to cope, anxiety and more.
One Door Closes and another Opens
Years back someone said this to me, “As one door closes, and other one opens.” She was referring to my relationships, but I came to understand this applies to much more in life. This epiphany didn’t happen overnight. It took years and I didn’t realize it until a few days ago.
I was getting sore from sitting at my computer while writing a blog post about resumes and realized I was very stressed over an upcoming event. As I daydreamed of surfing or jogging again someday to let the stress out, I got up to go play my step daughter’s guitar. After picking through some songs I’d pretty much figured out (Let it Be, House of the Rising Sun, and Ode to Joy), I started to teach myself a new song (Molly Malone) and three chords (G, C, & D).
Then it hit me, I was feeling great! My spirits were high. The terrible pain from sitting at the computer was out of my mind. Best of all, I was smiling. I had found a new way to balance and release stress and it was helping me heal. So, I did what everyone does when they realize they’ve found something new (saw what Google had on the subject).
I found the following quotes.
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Berthold Auerbach
“Music is a therapy.It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.” – Yehudi Menuhin
“Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.” – Plato
“Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other in the integration of the human being because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the Soul on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the Soul of him who is rightly educated truly graceful.” – Plato
“You can look at disease as a form of disharmony. And there’s no organ or system in the body that’s not affected by sound and music and vibration.” – Mitchell Gaynor, M.D., Sounds of Healing
Sure there are some big thinkers in that list. Still, somehow that wasn’t enough to validate the level of improvement music was giving me. After all, I just started learning to play guitar after surgery two months back.
In reading some scholarly articles, and saw mention of an organization named The Music Therapy Association. As the name implies, they exist to further the research and therapeutic benefits music can provide. It turns out, music is being used clinically in many settings and applications (even surgery).
You may want to read their Fact Sheets on music therapy in crisis, trauma, Alzheimer’s, children, mental health, education, medicine, special education, autism, and yes…pain management. Always a skeptic, I was pleased to see they back up their facts with plenty of research.
Youth struggles with learning from the wisdom of age. I’m sure if I had listened, someone was telling me to go easier on my bones and body. The strength of youth baited me into believing physical activity alone was enough to balance the stresses of life (and it was for a short time).
Looking back though, it would have been wiser to include the therapeutic release and benefits that music (and other outlets) can provide early on. Perhaps, my skeletal system would be in better condition now if I hadn’t had to exercised and worked so hard for so long.
If you are interested in the resources I’ve used to teach myself to play guitar, check out Learn Acoustic Guitar Songs at Home.
I hope sharing this helps. If it does, let me know by commenting or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Seth Haigh