by Katherine ‘KOOL KAT’ Farnham
Aug. 29th, 2017 - Many people are concerned about the flooding taking place now in Texas. My heart goes out to those who are in need at this time. Although many Americans living in other areas are probably very busy, with too many responsibilities on their plate already (isn’t this something most of us can relate to), it is good to lend a hand whenever possible. Especially in this age of technology, we can connect and help others more easily than in the past. Moreover, one could argue that we now have more of a responsibility to help each other than ever before. We have the means to do it through the Internet, cell phones, social media and more. That is positive news!
Although music is viewed often as a recreational vehicle, it is actually a philosophical system as well that contains many universal elements already found in nature. Being aware of these elements can actually help to bring people back into balance. Moreover, there are skills that can be learned that can help people and communities create balance and reduce conflict. Let’s explore what I mean below.
Humming, light singing to the radio or singing/chanting with people in a group gathering can be very relaxing and healing. For those seeking to find relief during a natural disaster, simple things like these are not to be taken for granted. Anywhere you are, you can find a few people, gather around, hold hands and sing a song for five minutes. Be sure to get in some hugs too! Or you can sing your favorite song alone or humming quietly while sitting, waiting in line or in a vehicle.
Singing involves the breath. If you don’t do yoga or can’t meditate, singing is an alternative activity that can eventually bring similar benefits. Studies have proven that doing deep breathing can reduce high blood pressure, calm an elevated heart rate, and have other beneficial health effects. During periods of high stress, most people can find some level of benefit from this. Singing is a fun activity that synthesizes the mind, heart, body and spirit and also gives one a bit of light exercise.
Group singing can be done in a spiritual or religious center, cultural, educational or youth group. Ask around to see if anyone you know can help in your area.
THE FOUR LEVELS OF BEING
The approach utilized in the “Music as Life Tool” Online Workshop focuses on helping others on a mental, spiritual, emotional and physical level. All four areas are considered. Most people are more focused on one or two of these levels, and it may be the areas they utilize most in work or home life. However, to achieve true balance and mastery all levels must be worked on. Focusing too much on one area or another can create imbalance, life problems and even health issues.
During difficult life moments, it is often the emotional level that is challenged the most. Singing lightly and focusing on the breathing can create relaxation, reduce the heart rate and bring clarity to the mind.
Keep in mind that doing these exercises will create improvement in one or several areas. After teaching for many years, it has been my observation that most people eventually end up working two or three levels fairly well if they practice regularly. However, it is the fourth and final level that is often the slowest to progress. It may take months or even years to finally master the final level. In some cases it may take decades. This is normal. Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Also consider that at different seasons of life, different levels may change or respond differently.
Try singing a simple song. You don’t have to be a great singer for this, just somebody who likes music. Pick any song you like. Now the first time just sing it through and notice how it feels. Don’t judge anything just notice your body, is there tension in your shoulders, how does your throat feel, are you happy when you do it - and so forth. The second time through try and correct a few things but still have fun. Now - the third time through - see if you can see where you are and where you’d like to be and somehow merge the two! At first, this may not be possible but with practice you will improve.
Example: Let’s say you sing a hymn from church and enjoy it. The first time you are happy. But perhaps you notice your shoulders are tight from your morning commute. Or perhaps you are slightly sore from working out at the gym early in the morning. Suddenly you feel your shoes are too tight. Your mind is scanning the wall when you know you should be trying to focus. You might therefore have a vision for yourself for the third time through - that you would have better mental focus, and greater physical relaxation while still maintaining your enthusiasm for the song. No matter your level, there is always something to notice about the mind and body that we can work on! Others may need to focus on a greater sense of selflessness spiritually so they can open up, or maybe emotionally one is too shy. Learn about yourself and always give it three times through!
If you have a basic instrument nearby or percussion, pick a simple piece or a short section of a song and do the same thing. What did you learn from the three times?
HARMONY & PEACE
The musical element of harmony is very similar to peace. In situations where there is conflict, we can help to restore balance by reflecting upon this element and then applying it practically to our lives. Consider however that mastering harmony in a song is not necessarily the same thing as applying it to life.
Harmony means two or more sounds that are pleasing together. If there is dissonance, it must resolve. Too much harmony and there may not be enough challenge.
Being flexible in today's world is very important. Having an awareness of how far you can stretch comfortably is critical, as our nation and world seeks to integrate increasingly diverse viewpoints. All of us can stretch a bit farther in order to create peace. However, everyone has limits too. By working together, communicating honestly and being teachable, we can improve our own lives and the lives of others.
Expand your viewpoint to include the four levels of being. Imagine what kind of growth you would like to see. Hold fast to it - for that collective growth is more and more becoming the wish of all people.
I hope this article has helped you in your growth. Also check out "Peace on Earth Goodwill To Men" video and MP3 download on this site featuring Four-Time Grammy Nominee Denny Jiosa.
(c) 2017 Katherine A Farnham