I had a fascinating experience the other night which just proved to me once again what a powerful effect music and sound have on the human nervous system for good or ill.
I attended a monthly meditation group led by a highly respected oncologist in New York City. Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, who has made many CDs and written numerous books on the healing power of sound and clearly is passionate about the subject. Dr. Gaynor is unusual in combining mainstream and complementary medicine for his patients.
Being with people who have come together with their doctor in a setting other than his office or the hospital is a rare enough experience; watching him expertly play singing bowls as he chanted in (I believe) Hindi as well as English was mind-blowing. Then he asked all of us in the gracious livingroom of the Manhattan apartment to chant OM five times at whatever pace was right for us. At this point chanting truly became singing, since everybody chanted at a different pitch. The sound built and resonated in our ears and bones in that room filled with people.
Some of them were current cancer patients. Others have been, and are not now. Others never have been. Dr. Gaynor focuses on prevention as well as treatment. Does music prevent cancer? That’s not the right question. Instead, do certain kinds of sound and music promote mindfulness, which is a state of quiet in which the immune system can renew itself?
We say yes. We know people with heart diseases who also attend Dr. Gaynor’s group, and we would guess that people with autoimmune diseases that are exacerbated by stress would benefit from this kind of experience too. The focus, peacefulness, and optimism which were present in that room are hard to come by in everyday life.
I think there is special power in group experiences of this sort. Just as groups can engage in mindless violence, so coming together to make “joyful sound” can increase individual mindfulness. But mindfulness is a quality we need to practice daily by ourselves as well.
With that in mind, Josh and I recently bought a crystal singing bowl to play as we listen to certain pieces of music. Our bowl is pitched to B. The chakra is the top of the head. The element is thought or understanding. The color associated with it is violet, my favorite color.
This was a surprise, since when we bought the bowl–we had few choices at the store and were mindful of cost–we were told it was pitched to C, which resonates at the base of the spine and relates to physical needs. But the bowl knew better than we did what we truly wanted, and it’s given that to us.