Music Therapy

Posted to Subscribers on 31 July 2009

As some of you know, I have been consulting an animal communicator on behalf of my critter family.  In a recent session, Fiesta, my sun conure, said he missed listening to music and he described, in some detail, a lively piece that I realized is El Coco, played by Sarajane Williams!

This wonderful request triggered an avalanche of memories as well as a desire to communicate more about some topics that have been gestating a really, really long time.

What the animals have demonstrated in their messages via the communicator is that they have the type of awareness we have tried to facilitate in music therapy, awareness that is more spatial and less linear, consciousness that is pictorial rather than verbal, and presence that is not bounded by time or space.

In attempting to explain to people why music therapy is potentially invaluable, I have often lapsed into hopelessly mystical sounding attempts to describe the persistence of memory despite the drastic interruptions we call birth and death.

For instance, I asked the communicator to ask Celeste, one of my cockatoos, whether she sees ghosts.  She was just a tad indignant and responded that she does not see things that are not there.  We assured her that we were not questioning her sanity but merely asking a simple question.  She said she is not afraid of the spirits so I asked her why she seemed to be chasing someone into a corner and beating the ghost with her wings.  She said there was one who was carrying a cup and she was trying to pour something to fill it.

I immediately understood that this is my mother.  My mother used to say that a Swede without coffee is a Swede without friends and it had been the custom in our family to put an extra cup on the table and fill it to invite our ancestors to join us for afternoon coffee.  My mother had shown me a particular Wedgwood cup and asked me to set it on the table when I wanted her to visit.  Not knowing when the bell will toll, we had this understanding since I was a small child but the cup went missing from her estate and I failed to substitute another cup and to keep my promise.

My mother was also a bird lover and she had had a pair of Moluccan cockatoos, Cotton and Candy.  However, she reincarnated already so I thought the visitor came in the form of a small child who moved too fast around the birds.  I was therefore really surprised and just a tad embarrassed that I had not had the good manners to put the extra cup on the table and see what she had to say.

In one of the altered consciousness sessions we had done together in Hawaii back in the 70s, my mother went through a series of alignments with different levels of her own awareness until she got to a point where she could see her destiny.  She was to develop a form of music therapy that would cause the etheric body to disintegrate and then reintegrate in a more perfect manner and this would become the matrix for the physical body and pull the discordant patterns into a new relationship with the perfected auric matrix.

It was a very powerful realization and when she was dying, we discussed her future incarnations.  She was visiting me in Santa Fe and seeing my Ayurvedic teacher every day, Dr. Shrikrishna Kashyap.  She said she had been so distracted off and on in this lifetime, she wanted a future life in which she was more self empowered and not so easily influenced by others.

When it seemed that she had truly reincarnated, I gathered together some of her old sheet music and sent them to her new mother.  My former mother was about two years old at the time.  She was delighted to reconnect with the music but when her mother put it on the piano, she said, “but you won’t be able to play it.”  A bit offended, her mother asked why she said this, and she said, “Because your fingers aren’t long enough.”  If she had given any other explanation, it would not have been so important to me but my mother used to stretch her fingers by squeezing a tennis ball and she could reach from C to the G in the next octave on the marvelous square grand she played during most of childhood.


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One day, a friend and colleague Dr. David Frawley invited me over to his place to meet an Indian astrologer, K.N. Rao.  Mr. Rao is rather famous so when he asked for the honor of doing my horoscope, I was deeply moved and almost catatonic.  He was gone for an hour or so, making calculations and notes.  When he rejoined us, he said, it was my karma to be born into a family in which my mother was a gifted musician, that this would shape my soul and lead eventually to the development of my liberal outlook.  My mother had been a concert pianist but due to a swimming accident in which her ear drum burst, she was reduced to playing me to sleep every night.  I always used to call out from my room that I was not asleep yet and to keep playing.

There is nothing coincidental in this vast Universe so even as I am writing this, our local classical station is airing Beethoven’s 9th, and while mentioning my mother’s ear drum, I heard the first measures of the lovely adagio movement to which I wrote a poem during one of those long nights in Vietnam when there was a curfew.


Music as Therapy

The beginning of music therapy entails taking seriously what we often think are random wanderings of our mind and to look for the significance instead of banishing what we rarely take time to weave into a meaningful tapestry.

You might say that the art of music therapy is so incredibly simple that one is inclined to look for something much more profound but listening is the beginning of relationship and hearing is the beginning of profundity and accepting is the beginning of humility and the wisdom to allow destiny to unfold.

My good friend Gail Barber once invited me to talk to one of her classes at Texas Tech.  The students viewed this as a sort of reprieve from the note taking ordeal of modern universities, and for a long time, I did not see any pens moving.   I explained that regardless of our religious beliefs, the Universe is actually a vast symphony.  Our Bible says that, “In the beginning was the Word,” and, in Hinduism, a similar concept is expressed when explaining that the Creator was in a passive state of contemplation and reflection until He projected sound and brought the entire Cosmos into manifestation.

This sound is the actual basis of what we call existence.  Of course, like the Creator, we also have a quiescent state that is silent but in the active state, we are part of a sea of sounds that the feminine must calibrate.  You might say the masculine creative streams forth notes but the receptive feminine has to organize these musical stimuli into coherent responses and manageable rhythms.  The secret of our existence is in our responsiveness and receptivity to what we might call Divine Ideation. . . and this, in turn, is expressed musically, not with other language forms.


Ideation and Inspiration

So, what is magical about music is actually the inspiration behind the notes, not the individual notes.  Of course, each note is capable of creating resonance and response and one might even say that the greater the resonance, the greater the assimilation of the inspiration and the part of the Divine Idea that produces the inspiration.  In short, the purer the music, the more sincere and genuine the interpretation and performance, and the greater the receptivity on the part of the listener, the more the music can penetrate and reorganize reality.

Normally, despite our confidence in our wills, we cannot reorganize the deeper levels of our consciousness without an interaction with something that is active.  Put another way, the unconscious, both what we call the subconscious as well as the superconscious, are passive and therefore responsive to what is active.  In energetic terms, we would say that the unconscious is magnetic and the sound is radiatory; and this radiation is the “primal emanation” or “first movement”.  The awakening from stillness occurs as a response to that part of the divine that moved so this movement is both causal and creator and our reaction is the effect of the cause. 


Response versus Reactivity

To be without reactivity is to be free of karma and thus in perfect harmony.  I might argue that this is also the key or rather guarantee of both salvation and immortality, but getting from a state of woundedness to health is the key.


Around 1980, I wrote a book called Shadows on the Soul, still unpublished.  It was about music and memory and where they interact.  Basically, all memories have patterns and, as we know, music also has patterns, wonderfully complex patterns that involve organized streams of notes, nuances, and cadences that both entertain and entrain.

In 1984, I went to Ben Lomond, California, to interview Kay Ortmans at the Well-Springs Foundation.  In a nutshell, Kay had a bit of a reputation for knowing things that not everyone else knew so friends and acquaintances used to involve her in situations that others could not resolve.  She visited a patient in the hospital who had been in a full body brace for seven years.  Since her toes were accessible, Kay rubbed them.  Noting a piano in a room nearby, she improvised and then went back only to see a little wiggle in the toe.

I have often compared this experience to Marie Curie’s initial observation of radiation.  After that, she carried coal from the schoolyard, a spoonful at a time, hoping to repeat the observation.  Kay went back to the hospital every day for two months until suddenly, the patient began speaking an ancient language which she said was an Atlantean dialect.  She drew some pictures and explained that she had been a slave and that the man she married was the abusive slave master who had been the cause of so much suffering in that lifetime.

The marriage evidently triggered a cascade of fears that resulted in a sort of paralysis that obviously had no basis in pathogenicity.  In short, it was entirely psychological, not physical, but it had not abated because  . . . a vibration that was safe for her to receive had not occurred in a manner that allowed the psyche to reorganize.

The patient’s limbs had atrophied quite a lot but she recovered full mobility in one startling breakthrough of consciousness and from this point, she merely needed to regenerate muscles. 

Kay went on to develop an entire system of movement, art, and music therapy for resolving patterns that are held in the unconscious.  It would be quite unwise for me to quote too much without going back to my notes and trying to stick to the facts, but where Kay and I differed was over whether or not the memories that arise need to be recognized by the conscious mind.  She felt the body could release trauma without the mind recognizing what occurred but I always felt that even if this were true, involvement of the mind results in more ability to process related memories so more psychological skills are forged when the process is brought all the way to consciousness.


Music Selection

Most Well-Springs therapists did not believe that music is suggestive.  By this, I mean that something that we might agree is melancholic does not necessarily elicit memories that are sad; likewise, dissonance does not necessarily evoke memories of strife or discord.  There was considerable concurrence that some people lock up memories very tightly and that to access them, some lightning and thunder or raucous noise might be helpful.  Once the lid is off, the dissonance rarely serves any purpose.  Being a bit of an emotional coward, I tend to prefer seduction to force so I usually ask people what kind of music they like.  If they feel good listening, they are more likely to listen and to relax into a deeper state of trust in which they are willing to explore some buried memories.

For me, this is sort of like the toe massage.  Kay only had access to a few toes and the rest of the patient was protected by the body brace; however, the patient obviously liked the touch and became more and more receptive to it.  Kay always repeated the routine that had occurred when the toe first wiggled, i.e., music and massage were alternated.  Only later did she combine them into one.

What I discovered as a result of multiple sessions with the same client is that once a memory is brought to the surface and resolved, the music that was used at that time no longer is heard in the same manner and it does not evoke similar memories.  For instance, I used the Fauré Requiem about ten times with the same patient, mainly because we were both curious.  In the first session, the client heard incredible harmony between male and female voices and went on to say that she felt she could work through her problems with men because she had heard male voices that were not only beautiful but that were also gorgeously entwined with female voices.  Partly because of the importance of this insight and the potential it portended, we went back again and again to this recording.  However, the second time, she found herself inside a sarcophagus undergoing an initiation rite for which she was unprepared.


At the time I first wrote Shadows on the Soul, publishers said it did not fit with their other titles so they would not know how to market it.  There was very little in print at that time on music therapy, even less on the inner child, and less still on memories and their persistence through our various soul expressions.  Not being a musician, alas, my professional interest was more in the memories and the psychological significance of memory which I am coming to understand exists completely independently of the body, ergo Celeste’s ability to interact with a ghost that I quite frankly could not see.  I have since learned that animals have this ability.  It must be quite confusing to them that what is obvious to them is denied by so many people.  Moreover, they are telepathic and conscious on the instinctual level . . . which is where we have to become conscious if we are to shift our emotional patterns. 

Let me digress for a moment.  I recently adopted an Akita from the Washington Akita Rescue Group.  She had a seizure in her sleep shortly after moving into my home.  It was the third known seizure.  I asked the animal communicator about it.  She explained that she had lived in a home where a teenage boy was responsible for feeding and walking her but he often neglected to take care of her.  She was sometimes very hungry and frightened and the seizures started when she was so hungry that she was terrified.  With this valuable information, I made sure that she was fed several times a day.  At first, she dived into her food like it was going to run away from her, but now, she leaves food in her dish and sleeps very soundly.  This sounds very simple but without the information, we might have performed all sorts of senseless neurological tests, looked for toxic metals, parasites, you name it, but her problem was clearly emotional.

Every “behavior” is a reaction to an experience so even a condition that is well below the threshold of consciousness has a historic starting point, often revolving around a trauma.  I have learned over the years to be as gentle with my human patients as I am with my winged and furry companions because there is also a divine innocence that was totally natural and pure before “life” changed everything.  Because our dysfunctional patterns are invariably part of our inexpertise, we need to approach these patterns reverently, showing all the respect and compassion we can.  This makes it safer for clients to open up and eventually to realize the possibilities that abound if the traumas can be transformed.

Kay Ortmans felt that music actually filled the holes left by departing traumatic memories, but I feel music works on the etheric level where the aura is, as my mother saw in her altered state, restructured.  If you are very sensitive, you can feel the traumas in the aura and Well-Springs Technique used a sort of gentle kneeding motion to lift out memories.  No oil was ever used because the aura needs to be free to reorganize.  In short, one is not really looking for a tight muscle or knot but rather for some kind of subtle congestion where a memory is trapped.  This said, the memory emerges because of opportunity and the stage for this can be set by careful discussion, safe preparations, and skillful guidance, keeping in mind that the unconscious cannot move itself which is why a facilitator is needed for this therapy.

Therefore, when Gail Barber and I worked together, it took both of us because while she played the harp, I guided the client and these adventures took us not only through all the pain and suffering of countless miserable (and usually repeated) experiences in this and numerous past lifetimes but also to distant parts of the Universe where spiritual missions were explained in preparation for sending the soul to Earth.  Every story is interesting because there is obviously a Divine Plan, a Plan that becomes clearer and clearer as receptivity is cultivated.  Then only do we appreciate why the ancient Greeks felt that all art came from God and was expressed through inspiration.


The Astrology of Healing





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