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Essential Musical Intelligence
Using Music as Your Path to Healing, Creativity, and Radiant Wholeness
By Louise Montello
Theosophical Publishing HouseCopyright © 2002 Louise Montello
All rights reserved.
YOUR ESSENTIAL MUSICAL INTELLIGENCE
Essential Musical Intelligence is your natural ability to use music and sound as self-reflecting, transformational tools to facilitate total health and well-being.
Imagine starting your day by finding a tranquil spot in nature where you can sit quietly for a spell and listen with an open heart to the subtly emerging sounds of the pulsating life within and around you that gently reveal to you the secrets of your soul ...
Imagine being alone on a cold winter's night wrapped in a warm blanket and listening to Brahms's Requiem with candles burning brightly, asking in your heart for assistance in mourning the loss of a loved one of whom you have not been able to let go ...
Imagine using intentional sound making (toning) to give voice to that persistent pain under your left shoulder blade. Feel the chronic tension melting in the creative heat of your expressive self as you let go and allow the music take you where you need to go ...
All these scenarios are examples of how you can activate your Essential Musical Intelligence in daily life. They each reflect a certain level of comfort and intimacy that you can develop with the wise, compassionate, and deeply creative capacity of your Higher Self (or soul) through your engagement with music. It is my premise that we become overwhelmed by pain, suffering, and ignorance when we are cut off from our innate divinity, and that deep and lasting healing ensues when we reestablish a conscious relationship with this aspect of ourselves.
Although Essential Musical Intelligence is ubiquitous and instinctual, it will, however, require some effort on your part to consciously integrate its potential for healing into your daily life. There are two complementary phases involved in using EMI to facilitate self-healing and transformation.
The first phase, which I call the witnessing stance, involves the practice of self-observation and inner listening. Witnessing is the process of turning your focus inward and becoming the observer of the permutations of your mind, body, and emotions, as opposed to living your life on automatic pilot, without much conscious awareness. Witnessing can be honed through the formal practice of meditation, in which you sit quietly for a period of time and watch the flow of mind stuff with a sense of detachment; or it can be practiced informally at selected intervals throughout the day as a way of consciously tuning out the noise of external reality and allowing yourself to gradually tune into the deeper music of your inner self. The process of tuning into your inner music—the emotional and archetypal landscape that colors both waking and dreaming states—is associated with inner listening. In order to achieve full engagement with the witnessing stance of EMI, it is important to cultivate the ability to listen with the ear of the heart—your innate intuitive capacity that allows you to both hear your inner music and at the same time realize its true meaning. For instance, if you find while engaged in the witnessing stance that you are unable to maintain your equanimity and you succumb to mind-body states that are less than desirable (e.g. pain, confusion, despair, psychological numbing), you can call upon your intuitive listening capacity to provide a deeper level of understanding of what is going on inside you.
As you become more skilled at turning inward and engaging the witnessing stance, you will soon become aware of those thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and behaviors that foster health and creativity as well as those that detract from your sense of well-being. The witnessing phase of essential musical intelligence involves your willingness to take regular time-outs from the activities of your day and tune into how you are feeling. This can be done upon rising to observe if and how certain somatic states, feelings, and attitudes might influence your daily activities; in the evening before retiring as a way of reviewing the dynamics of your day; or any time during the day when you feel the need for centering and mind-body coherence.
Once your internal feeling states are illuminated and clarified during the witnessing phase, you may then allow yourself to move gently into the deeper, more musical essence of your being, where you can intuitively sense what you need to become more balanced and whole. As you enter this second transformational phase of using EMI, you may either consciously choose to engage in specific musical activities that help to create balance and harmony within, or you can allow spontaneous music or sound to emerge from a deeper source (improvisation) as an agent of change in harmonizing and transforming the specific physical, mental, and emotional energies at the root of your problem.
For example, if you have been working hard all day on a research paper and start to feel a suspicious tickle in your throat, you have several choices: you can ignore the tickle and keep pushing yourself to finish the paper; you can suck on a couple of cough drops and continue working; or you can pause, connect with your Essential Musical Intelligence, and be receptive to the message that your body is trying to communicate to you. In the intuitive space of your musical intelligence, you might discover that you are truly tired and require a play break. After some gentle stretching, you put on big-band music and swing yourself around for a few minutes, letting that "fascinating rhythm" take you where you need to go. When you feel pleasantly fatigued, you turn off the music and notice that the tickle is gone. What happened? Most probably, the combination of music and dance had a salutary effect on your immune system, possibly precluding an infection. You feel energized and ready to return to work.
Essential Musical Intelligence can also be engaged to root out and transform painful emotional states. For example, many of us are hampered by performance anxiety, which can affect anything from presenting a report to a roomful of colleagues or meeting with a potential new employer to having dinner with our in-laws! You may try numerous tactics to push the anxiety away, like holding your breath, imagining you are somewhere else, or seeing the audience as a bunch of cantaloupes. When these strategies fail, you may try even stronger remedies like alcohol, tranquilizers, or beta-blockers. But the root cause of the anxiety never goes away. By activating your musical intelligence, you can become aware of the emotional dynamics underlying the anxiety and playfully externalize this energy through some kind of musical improvisation, such as drumming. Once the emotional energy is externalized, understood, and accepted (instead of being feared and/or repressed), then it can be used creatively toward achieving your performance-related goals.
Developing a witness stance is a prerequisite to using EMI for health and healing. There are many exercises that can help to strengthen your capacity to observe the modifications of the mind-body. My favorite one involves breath awareness.
Take a few minutes now to observe your breathing. In a comfortable seated position, be aware of the air as it enters your nostrils and again as it leaves your nostrils. Continue to follow the movement of your breath. You might notice some jerks or pauses as you breathe, or even a faint breathing sound. Do not try to change anything—just watch. You may even become impatient and resist this self-reflective activity. That is all right. On your next exhalation, allow the breath to release these impatient feelings, and as you inhale, bring your awareness back to your breath. If any thoughts arise, simply let them go for now and bring your focus back to your breath. Soon you will notice that your consciousness begins to shift. You feel more present and rooted in your body, calmer and more relaxed. You are moving into state of being versus doing. You have become a witness to your internal states. You will now be able to consciously connect with your Essential Musical Intelligence.
Once you are centered in this witnessing/listening stance, you can continue to engage EMI to address specific health issues, emotional problems, or relationship difficulties from the perspective of your infinitely wise and creative higher self.
Liz was recovering from a debilitating eating disorder. She had been using her Essential Musical Intelligence as a way to change her focus when food cravings emerged and threatened to propel her into a binge. She described to me the power and sacredness of connecting with EMI at a moment of escalating temptation:
I was on my way to the supermarket to buy food for a binge. I felt dazed and confused but completely controlled by my urge to binge. As I walked, I began to hear the words of the song that we had worked on in therapy: "I know that I can make it ..." My mind went back to my craving. Then I heard the second line of the song: "I know that I can stand ..." I heard my Essential Musical Intelligence. For a while there was a battle going on inside, but then EMI won out. I literally began to sing the rest of the song out loud as I walked toward the store, "No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your hands." I kept repeating the verses, and when I arrived at the store, I bought just enough food to prepare a normal healthy meal for myself, nothing extra. I felt blessed and healed and so grateful for the presence of EMI in my life.
Liz had found a gospel tune (Kirk Franklin's "My Life is in Your Hands") that activated her EMI and allowed her to stay connected to spirit even in her darkest moments. When she first brought the song to her therapy session and began to sing while I accompanied her on the piano, she cried uncontrollably for several minutes. When I asked what she was experiencing, she told me that for the first time in her life, she felt she was not alone. As she listened to her own voice connecting with the words of the song, Liz suddenly felt a loving presence radiating throughout her being. In that moment she realized that she had been gorging herself to fill up the emptiness inside, using food to keep her company. Now she knew that she possessed something that could radiate warmth, caring, and love whenever she took the time to listen within—her Essential Musical Intelligence.
One way of deepening your connection with your Essential Musical Intelligence is to keep track of the choices you make on a daily basis in creating your unique musical and emotional environment. How are you using music right now to maintain a sense of emotional and physical balance, to help you to understand yourself better, and to give voice to your creative vision? You can document your relationship with music and sound by keeping a Music and Sound Awareness Journal, where you make daily entries that reflect your expanding capacity to listen with the ear of your heart (intuition) and use music and sound to create and transform your inner and outer realities.
Music and Sound Awareness Journal
Some ideas for journaling might include how and why hearing J. S. Bach's "Air on the G String" at the Pottery Barn changed your mood while you were shopping at the mall; whether Barber's "Adagio for Strings," part of the soundtrack for the movie Platoon, affected your mood while you watched the film; what those annoying song fragments that keep running through your mind are really trying to tell you. You can also tune into specific rhythms and sounds that vibrate in the space about you (dishwasher, sirens, a babbling brook) and observe how they affect your equilibrium.
Systematically observe how the other elements of music—tempo, melody, harmony (or lack of it), dynamics, and timbre—influence your body, mind, and spirit as you listen. You might want to actually audiotape your journal so that you can include significant fragments of music that you listen to or recordings of your own music—improvisations, songs, sound making, and other musical creations. You can review the journal tapes later to explore the permutations of your musical work-in-progress and to reconnect with the vibration of your soul during occasional dry spells. It is important to listen to and make music on a daily basis. The more in touch you are with your evolving musical and spiritual life, the greater access you will have to your Essential Musical Intelligence.
A more immediate way to reconnect with your musical intelligence is through conjuring your earliest memory of music. When we are children, listening to music usually evokes a mood of awe, wonder, joy, celebration, and love that we openly share with our parents and loved ones. Thus, for most of us, this earliest memory reflects an aura of safety, security, and trust in the inherent goodness of the world around us. It is often our first conscious experience of the vibration of the deeper self.
After many years of practicing music therapy with people from all walks of life, it often seems to me that this musical memory is like a keynote of the soul's mission or desire in this lifetime. It is uncanny how the emotional quality of the music almost always mirrors the temperament of the individual as he or she moves through life.
For example, Samantha, a bubbly psychiatrist with a passion for dance, literally began to sway in her chair as she connected with her first musical memory of listening to Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals when she was two years old. She remembered creating special dances for each of the animals while her parents looked on in admiration. Throughout her life, this client had spontaneously used music and dance as a way of playfully connecting with the "beloved child" within.
Another client's earliest musical memory occurred when he was three years old. Adam recalled sitting in a diner with his depressed mother on a dreary Sunday afternoon, listening to Sandra Dee sing "I'm Sorry" on the jukebox. He told me that this memory was strangely comforting and made him feel safe. A songwriter, Adam had a melancholic temperament and suffered from incessant guilt related to his growing success in music. It is interesting to note from the presenting core memory how the life of the soul of this young man was somewhat veiled due to the emotional climate of his early life. The memory helped explain why a more healthy inclination to feel good about his success was overridden by feelings of depression and guilt associated with his early relationship with his mother. The following story illustrates how recovering our earliest memories of music can help restore our relationship with Essential Musical Intelligence.
Anna was at a standstill in therapy over painful issues related to parental abandonment and neglect. She was unable to activate her musical intelligence. I led her through a guided meditation to retrieve her earliest memory of music. The memory came quickly:
I was very young, riding on the bus with my mother. I was singing "Thumbelina" (from the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen) and rocking back and forth on the seat. I must have been in preschool at the time. I remember the bus going by a park. We were sitting up front behind the driver's seat. It was summer.
I asked Anna to describe the feeling tone of her memory. "It felt good," she replied. "I kept repeating it over and over again. People probably got sick of it."
When she returned from her meditative state, I asked Anna if she could recall any of the words to the song. Incredibly, she remembered all of them, though she hadn't heard them in more than forty years:
Thumbelina, Thumbelina, tiny little thing,
Thumbelina dance, Thumbelina sing.
O Thumbelina, what's the difference if you're very small?
When your heart is full of love, you're nine feet tall.
In processing the memory, Anna realized that even at a tender age, she knew she was different from her parents. She told me that they would sing, but there was no delight in their singing. They weren't able to share in the joy and wonder of singing that Anna experienced. She remembered her mother in particular as distant and numb. Anna eventually internalized that numbness, and as she grew older, forgot about her great love of singing—the natural channel for her Essential Musical Intelligence.
Excerpted from Essential Musical Intelligence by Louise Montello. Copyright © 2002 Louise Montello. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE Your Essential Musical Intelligence,
CHAPTER TWO Music of the Body,
CHAPTER THREE Music as Life Force Energy,
CHAPTER FOUR Music as Mind: Witnessing,
CHAPTER FIVE Music as Mind: Playing,
CHAPTER SIX Music as Intellect/Intuition,
CHAPTER SEVEN Music of Bliss,
CHAPTER EIGHT Music of Trauma,