By Jai Inder K. Christina Brandt
When we were given the task of writing a sound healing report within the 5th grade of our naad yoga teacher training with the focus on how others do sound healing, I thought “wow, what an interesting idea”. As I then was reflecting about the topic my first idea was to create a kind of overview of all sound healing methods currently practised. I felt that via internet research this should be possible. When I started searching within the world wide web I became disenchanted quite quickly. Not only that there is a multitude of possible hits but also it turned out that in many cases the link given is just a marketing page for a certain cd or something similar or that if this is not the case and you really find a method therapists work with it is not described in depth.
So I decided to change the focus and scope of this sound healing report. Suddenly I remembered that a couple of years ago I already had bought some books about music therapy. When going through them it turned out that western music therapy comprises a variety of methods, many of them working with classical music. Although it seems quite obvious that from the beginning of mankind on there has been sound and music, within the western hemisphere it were the Greeks who created the word “music” and e.g. Pythagoras developed cosmological harmonics, based upon previous thoughts about scales and notation.
Nevertheless it took till the end of the 19th century to bring systematic music therapy approaches into the western world. To my current understanding there are three pillars: 1. Music and medical science: This section is based upon the functional impact of music. This means music guides the patient, there is no psychotherapeutical attendance and the focus is on measurable physical changes as a consequence of the music heard. 2. Receptive music therapy: The patient is listening to (often classical) music pieces or the therapist is playing in an improvising way for the patient. 3. Active music therapy: The patient chooses one of the offered simple instruments and / or his voice and starts playing (where required together with the therapist) in an ad-lib way. Both, the receptive and the active music therapy are psychotherapy with music. As such they are mostly used for psychic ailments and problems and sometimes as an additional treatment for patients suffering from (so called) physical deseases as cancer or AIDS.
Within the receptive music therapy I would like to present a method which is called “Guided Imagery and Music” (GIM), created by Dr. Helen L. Bonny in the 1970s in Maryland, USA. Originally GIM was developed as a means of stepping into an extraordinary state of consciousness and transpersonal experiences. GIM is influenced by the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung, a disciple of Sigmund Freud. In the beginning of Jung’s career he had been working with a method called “active imagination”. This meant that the patient was encouraged to let his imagination run wild regarding a certain topic.
Jung thought that this flow of inner pictures was a perfect therapeutical means in order to reveal fears, traumata and aetiologies as well as becoming aware of unlived desires and unused capabilities. Helen Bonny has chosen classical music as a guide for her work with her patients. Why classical music? Because classical European music reflects occidental history and expresses cultural and religious imprints. As well as myths and fairy tales music too is part of a nation’s intellectual property and reflects emotions, hopes and fears of its citizens as well as their capabilities and self regulating powers.
GIM works as follows:
- Normally a GIM therapy consists of a series of sessions with musical voyages and / or conversation.
- After having determined the topic, the patient lies down. The atmosphere should be as relaxing, silent and secure as possible and the room should be slightly shaded.
- During the musical voyage the eyes should be closed. The journey starts with a deep relaxation phase so that the patient can let go his daily routine thoughts and prepares for the musical journey.
- The introduction can be done e.g. by a fairy tale or an initial picture which already has a connection with the topic to be worked upon. Then the music – which has been chosen in similarity to the problem to be solved – starts.
- During the musical journey it is the music which guides the patient. He has the possibility to share with the therapist upcoming pictures, emotions or memories. The therapist has only an accompanying and supporting function; by means of directed questions or deepening the patient’s feelings or pictures he is enabled to get more information on this very deep level of consciousness regarding the problem to be solved.
- After the music has finished the patient is led back to the state of “normal consciousness”. There is time to go through the main pictures again and to let them sink in.
- Afterwards the experience made is discussed and – if appropriate – the patient is invited to paint a mandala.
- In order to conclude the session there is a résumé of the experience(s) made during the musical voyage and the mandala.
While doing some research for this report, one question more and more emerged: Why should a western citizen choose a naad yoga therapy if there is western style music therapy available and effective? According to Anna E. Röcker music of foreign cultures often reflects parts of the collective unconscious (“kollektives Unbewusstes”) which means that this kind of music may be very valuable in terms of self-knowledge. Or could it be the fact, as J.-E. Berendt mentions, that Indian raags are an extract out of the eternal music? According to him Indian raags are a representative of the inaudible, the “anahata nad”. In order to answer this question there may be left room for further discussion.