The ancient Greeks had gods for everything. So, I’ve always found it interesting that Apollo’s attributes included not only music, but healing and light as well. He is most often depicted with an ancient Greek instrument called a lyre. But also, he is said to have brought the science and art of medicine to humankind.
I am not a doctor, nor have I played one on TV. However, I am a musician, a life-long lover, maker and student of music.
I know music heals. I am convinced that my own teenage angst and dramas were made bearable by the hours I spent at the piano immersed in Beethoven, Bach and Chopin – not to mention that practicing got me out of drying the supper dishes!
Since that time, I always have been able to improve my mood by taking a turn in my music room – just my piano and me – sometimes a guitar, sometimes a bass, sometimes a pencil and a piece of music paper on which I can write a transposition or arrange a tune to sing.
So, I am passionate in my conviction that music heals and uplifts. Think about at the act of singing. It’s something everyone, yes everyone can do. Okay, tracheotomy patients would have a difficult time singing. So, don’t smoke. But for all the rest of us, each of us has the ability to sing!
We breathe deep, engage our vocal cords, open our mouths and sound floats upon the air, up towards the heavens, out into the universe. This simple, beautiful, wonderful, magical act produces joy and art, literally out of thin air!
So, why would the ancient Greeks put their medicine god in charge of their music? Wasn’t it enough to be in charge of making sure people could overcome bodily ailments that could threaten the very existence of the life force itself? Why would Apollo be in charge of their music, as well? He already had the responsibility of driving the sun across the sky each day. That seems like a lot of work, even for a god.
I have a theory about this.
Music is vibration, vibration is life! When we engage in listening, or producing music, we are engaging in experiencing vibration, in experiencing life. What medicine could be more powerful?
Thankfully, many forms of “vibrational medicine,” are becoming commonplace, even bordering on mainstream.
For example, most all of us living in the Pacific Northwest are familiar with full spectrum light therapy, which is used for treating SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. It‘s a mild form of depression brought about by lack of light during the long, rainy winter…and spring…and late fall. One treatment involves sitting with full spectrum light for a period of time on a routine basis. Also, there is color light therapy which is proving to help people overcome an array of emotional challenges.
The ancient Chinese healing art of acupuncture predicated upon the existence of the life energy force “chi,” is becoming commonplace. Sometimes medical insurance will even cover it!
So it makes sense to me that the music god would also be the healing god. Humankind has used music for healing for centuries. What do we do with a fussy baby? We sing to and rock the child.
Music healing, music and the brain, music therapy, it’s all growing exponentially in the 21st century. In one group of studies by psychologist Dr. Daniel Levitin published in the journal “Trends in Cognitive Sciences,” patients who listened to music before undergoing surgery not only self reported feeling less anxious, they also presented with lower amounts of a stress hormone called cortisol versus patients who took anti-anxiety drugs! Dr. Levin studies the neuroscience of music.
Drumming, chanting, and toning are being successfully used in addiction recovery. Music is proving an invaluable tool for treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I experienced this first hand with my own father, who suffered with dementia. He could no longer stand to dance, but I could. He would sit on a chair. I would put on his favorite music, take his hands and sway us together to the tunes. Boy, did he beam with joy.
On the road, I listen to all kinds of music. But most days I start my driving shift listening to New Age music. It helps to seal in my meditation practice for the day. I can look at the mountains or the prairies. See the big sky all around me. And in that moment I connect. I connect with the divine. I feel the energy flowing through my body. It flows out my hands onto the steering wheel, out my feet onto the floorboard of the truck. I imagine that energy expanding all around our truck and know that my husband and I are safe.
Safe, just like that ancient musician, healer and early truck driver Apollo, who drove the sun across the sky every day. Thanks Apollon.