Posts Tagged ‘music and healing’

I awakened with the light this morning, at first, thinking I’d overslept, but then remembering the time change.  For weeks, I’ve been waking and dressing in darkness before taking our terrier, Maggie, out for her morning walk.  But this morning was already light as we went outside.  Maggie trotted happily along, stopping to pick up seeds and stones to toss and chase as I smiled as we welcomed the sunrise.  Around us, the houses were quiet as neighbors slept, happy for an extra hour this Sunday morning as clocks everywhere were turned back an hour.

Cher’s voice, belting out the lyrics “If I could turn back time,” played in my mind as we began walking.  It made me wonder, as I do each autumn, how it might be to have a “do-over,” to really turn back time and live events in my life differently…like taking the other road at the fork Robert Frost wrote about, a different set of choices than the ones I made so long ago.  Maggie romped and I followed, indulging my daydreams, the “what ifs” of my life.  What if…I’d chosen a different university that the one I did, or if my first husband and I had taken the offer in Colorado instead of the one in Canada…  Or if I’d stayed in Halifax for graduate school instead of going to Toronto, or if my present husband and I hadn’t decided to return to California …or if…

I’m not alone in those lazy daydreams, wondering what life would have been like if I’d chosen or acted differently.  Ben Franklin may have been responsible for introducing daylight saving time, but novelists, filmmakers, singers, science fiction writers, and poets have long been intrigued with the idea of turning back time. Think of H.G. Wells’ 1895 novella, The Time Machine, adapted for film, radio and television many times since its publication, Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, or Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.  Fox’s character traveled to the past in an attempt to influence the outcomes of life in the future.  Murray’s arrogant, self-absorbed news reporter was doomed to repeat the same day over and over until he learned to care about others’ lives.  Ken Grimwood’s protagonist in his novel, Replay dies of a heart attack in 1988 and awakens as an eighteen year old in 1963 with a chance to relive his life, although his memories of the next twenty-five years remain intact.  He replays his life and death, each time awakening in 1963 before he realizes he can’t prevent his death, but he can change the events for himself and others before it happens.

When Neil Sedaka wrote and recorded his signature tune, “Turning Back the Hands of Time,” in 1962, it quickly became a hit, the lyrics capturing the longing many of us experience as we look back over our lives.

Turning back the hands of time

To see the house I lived in,

To see the streets I walked on…


To touch the face of friends and loved ones,

To hear the laughter and to feel the tears,

What a miracle this would be,

If only we can turn the hands of time…

If only we could turn back the hands of time…Let’s face it, we all daydream about it from time to time, but when we open our eyes, we’re still faced with the life we have now.  How many times have you begun a sentence with the words, “if only I had…” and wished you did something differently, could rediscover that “simpler time,” a place you loved, see old friends, a deceased parent or grandparent, or have a chance to choose differently that you did, return to a time before illness or loss dominated your daily life …if only you could turn back time.

Next time I won’t waste my heart
on anger; I won’t care about
being right. I’ll be willing to be
wrong about everything and to
concentrate on giving myself away.

Next time, I’ll rush up to people I love,
look into their eyes, and kiss them, quick…

and I will keep in touch with friends,
writing long letters when I wake from
a dream where they appear on the
Orient Express. “Meet me in Istanbul,”
I’ll say, and they will.

(“Next Time” by Joyce Sutphen, from After Words. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2013.)

Imagine, this week, that you were given free rein to that longing, write about what you would do if you could turn back time?  What events in your life would you replay?  What might you do differently, knowing what you know now?  Write about it—without constraint or apology, beginning with the line “If I could turn back the hands of time…” and let it take you into that memory or longing.  Once finished, read what you’ve written and then write again—but this time, with an eye to discovering the gratitude for the life you have.

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Blues a healer, all over the world
Blues a healer, healer, all over the world, all over the world
It healed me, it can heal you
The blues can heal you, early one morning

(“The Healer,” by John Lee Hooker & Santana)

The blues.  Their roots lie in African-American history, from Southern plantations of the 19th Century, sung by slaves and share croppers as they toiled in the cotton fields. The blues evolved, interacting with jazz and giving birth to rhythm ‘n blues and rock ‘n roll.

Nothing “blue” would have defined our evening last night as we attended a live performance by the San Diego blues band, 145th Street, as they paid tribute to the great slide guitarist and blues singer, Muddy Waters.  Instead, you would have witnessed a crowd of people, young and old, on their feet, moving and clapping to the hard rhythm of Waters’ best loved songs.

We had come close to not going to the show at all.  Yesterday was hot, and by day’s end, I was tired and irritable, wanting to do nothing more than sit near the air conditioner.  But we’d bought the tickets in advance, and it seemed a waste to not use them, so I dragged my wilted self out the door with my husband, and we drove downtown.  We arrived a full half hour before the performance began, but already, the room was crowded with fans.  Luckily we managed to snare two of the last available seats.  A short time later, the band filed on stage and launched into their first number.  Within moments, the irritability and lassitude I’d been feeling had disappeared.  The musicians rocked and, as it turned out, so did we all.

“When you are feeling particularly down or upset, make music your friend,” advised music therapist, Dr. Suzanne Hanser, in a recent article in Coping with Cancer Magazine.  “Begin your day with music. Music with a strong beat or dance rhythm might make you boogie out of bed…”  Well, I can’t vouch for wanting to boogie out of bed–I prefer quieter starts to my days– but I do know that music can elevate one’s mood and sense of well-being.

Mark, Sichel, LCSW, writing for Psychology Today, states:  “While music therapy  as a distinct field has been around a long time, it’s only recently that I’ve begun suggesting to patients that they sing their way out of the blues… Losing yourself in the right music is an immediate, unconscious and effortless way to reframe your situation.”  Hmmm.  Years ago,  I was a devotee of Donna Summer’s “I Will Survive” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want…,” belting out the lyrics right along with the recordings as I nursed a broken heart.

“The power of music to integrate and cure is quite fundamental,” Dr. Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author of Awakenings wrote. “It is the profoundest non-chemical medication.” Music has a long history in medicine and healing. The ancient Greeks believed music could heal the body and the soul. Ancient Egyptians and Native Americans incorporated singing and chanting as part of their healing rituals. Even the U.S. Veterans Administration incorporated music an adjunct therapy for shell-shocked soldiers after World War II. Today, music therapy is widely used in hospitals and cancer centers to promote healing and enhance the quality of patients’ lives.

Google “music and healing,” and you’ll find a number of articles attesting to the physiological and emotional benefits of music.

  • It aids our autonomic nervous systems, positively affecting blood pressure, heartbeat and breathing.  In fact, music can actually improve the overall functioning of our cardiovascular systems.
  • It helps reduce stress, aid relaxation and alleviate depression.
  • In cancer patients, music can decrease anxiety. Together with anti-nausea drugs, music can help to ease nausea and vomiting accompanying chemotherapy.
  • It relieves short-term pain and decreases the need for pain medication.
  • It’s effective in diminishing pre-surgical anxiety and beneficial for patients with high blood pressure.
  • Music even plays a role in improving troubled teens’ self-esteem and academic performance.

Add a little movement to the mix, as many in the crowd of people did last night, and you may find yourself smiling even more.  Dance or movement therapy is a newer expressive or healing art, and yet The American Cancer Society states that “Clinical reports suggest dance therapy may be effective in improving self-esteem and reducing stress. [It} can be useful for both physical and emotional aspects of quality of life.”  I used my version of dance therapy during the most difficult period after my first husband’s sudden death. I often played favorite rock’n’roll tunes and danced to them in our darkened living room once my children were asleep.  It was far more beneficial to my spirit to dance in the dark than sit alone and cry!

Let music be your muse this week.  Why not take time to listen to some of your favorite music?  Maybe you’ll feel like dancing, or perhaps you’ll find old memories ignited.  Perhaps certain music lulls you to sleep.  Whatever your experience, notice how music affects your mood, even how different selections trigger different feelings or memories.  Write about what happens when music is a part of your day.

I think I should have no other mortal wants if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.— George Bernard Shaw

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