Thursday, December 17, 2015

Blues or Bliss--Holiday Music & Moods

When I was a child, I couldn't wait to get out the Christmas carol albums and I didn't care if the songs were secular or sacred--I just enjoyed floating off on those prized melodies. But as I grew older and garnered Christmas memories that upset me, I started noticing that holiday music left me feeling more depressed than uplifted.

So last night the thought occurred to me, at least in the US where Christmas music appears like plastered wallpaper in shopping malls and grocery stores, that some people might actually feel ill at ease when hearing the songs. First, they might not enjoy listening to Christian carols if they come from another religious background, or they might harbor bad memories associated with those songs.

Perhaps, it's hard to believe that anyone would associate pain or grief with "Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer" unless they lost a loved one, received a dire medical diagnosis, or experienced some other challenging event around the holidays. Then we must consider the people who work long shifts in shopping malls and retail stores listening to holiday music drone on for three plus weeks. We associate certain songs with specific memories and until we heal the roots of those memories those songs dish out angst and grief.

Yet, some folks still associate the holiday songs with putting up a Christmas tree, baking cookies, or holiday celebrations with relatives not from a dysfunctional family. And we don't want to toss the baby out with the holy bathwater because holiday music triggers depression or angst in some people. But we could be more mindful of it. Does holiday music sell more products? Is this why stores blast Christmas songs during the shopping season? Could they alternate with other types of music such as classical music or light jazz or no music at all?

And for those of you throwing holiday parties for a diverse group, why not invite a harpist or classical guitarist to play live music that doesn't all carry holiday themes or if it does have holiday themes, let them be Celtic or something unfamiliar to your guests? I once attended a holiday party hosted by spiritual teachers and healers that hired a harpist and she ended up being the hit of the party. I would even suggest playing new age music in the background or recordings of singing bowls blended with Native American flute or light jazz. People have been working or shopping all day before they show up at the gathering so relaxing music might just hit the spot. But you could run into the music also relaxing people too much to the point that they turn inward and don't mingle.

Try listening to a new type of holiday music or genre such as renaissance polyphony or sacred chants from Russia or as I mentioned earlier, Celtic holiday fare. Or if you enjoy the American classics, try listening to alternative versions such as new age, jazz, or classical or even pop (if that lifts your spirits).

So this holiday season stay mindful as ever about the effects of music. You might even journal about how specific holiday songs affect your moods and emotions. Are there any particular songs with painful memories attached to them? And which of the songs have joyful attachments for you? Obviously, either toss the songs with bad memories or take them to your next therapy or energy healing session so you can clear those emotions when listening to those songs. In this way you give the songs a new life and a fresh start.

Incidentally, as I healed my emotional wounds of the past, I found that listening to Christmas music brings me joy again, though I certainly don't want to overdose on it. And I prefer not to hear holiday songs everywhere I go for several weeks. When I was a child, there was less exposure to it and we only brought those albums out when the Christmas tree arrived. And I will mention that in my 20s, I worked retail jobs during the holidays and my ears did grow numb after listening to Christmas songs for an extended period of time.

Happy holidays and may your ears be greeted with sweet music that feeds your soul.

Holiday music reviews from my archives:

Holiday albums 

More holiday albums 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Practice-Change Your Moods with Music

By Patricia Herlevi
Have you ever found yourself in a funk and didn't know how to transform or shift your mood? Finding the right music helps us to release a "negative" mood or shift it. After all, moods and music share vibrations in common. Here are a few suggestions to help you apply music to cathartic experiences.

First thing you must know is to not suppress a mood or layer another mood on top of it. This reminds me of putting a band aid on a gaping wound. Second, know that moods pass and that all humans experience the spectrum of moods. Third, even though a mood doesn't feel good, it serves a purpose and has you tune into your mind-body-spirit so you can see what thoughts, feelings, or behaviors require a shift in consciousness.

I have covered this topic previously on Whole Music Experience so some of these tips and music selections will sound repetitive to some of you. And I would never tell someone not to feel their sadness or anger because some times we must ride through it to reach the opposite bank of an emotional river. If you are grieving a loss, use music to bring you relief but understand that the grieving process is necessary. And in addition to working with music, join a support group or seek professional counseling because these options give you other perspectives, validation and support.

Anger: I know few people who handle anger in a healthy way. We either suppress anger which comes out later as self-sabotage or inappropriate behavior such as road rage or bullying. Or we express our anger with violence. But anger tells us that something or someone violated us and it's our body's way of telling us that someone trespassed beyond our boundaries. Some of us were told as children to repress our anger. "Good girls don't get angry." Want to bet.

Start by listening to Beethoven's 5th Symphony and listen to the entire four movements (it's a short symphony). In the first movement, the hero is called to a quest as fate knocks at the door. The energy is angry and tense similar to receiving bad news of some kind that burns through us. Then the next movement, the hero picks up the gauntlet and rides through his anger by taking action that leads to triumph in the final two movements.

You can also listen to didgeridoo music (solo instrument) which breaks up heavy energy such as anger or clears away fragments. I would listen to the instrumental track for at least 20 minutes and then follow up with singing bowls (either the actual bowls or a recording) for the heart and liver (since we store our anger in our liver).

Grief & Sadness: Start with the saddest or most melancholic songs you know. And allow yourself to sob. Get the sadness up and out. If you're grieving the loss of a relationship, listen to a song such as Carol King's "It's Too Late", which even has the right chord structure to bring the sadness up and out. You can also listen to theme or soundtrack music from a tragic movie. Now this might sound counter intuitive, but you're going to work your way up from sadness and grief to relief and then hope. And depending on the depth of the loss, you'll have to do this each day until you find release from the despair and helplessness and even anger that grips at you.

So maybe you start with Carol King, then you find nostalgic music that resonates with your mood (but stay away from anything that is hateful or revengeful). Some of you would rather listen to classical music or jazz ballads which work as well.

Start with melancholic music then move to Chopin's nocturnes or perhaps a sad Brazilian jazz piece. Then listen to songs that are hopeful such as Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" or Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." Then end with singing bowls for the heart chakra either the actual bowls or a recording of them. Harp and flute music also brings relief.

Fear & Anxiety: The best antidote I know for fear is humor. So find songs that you know will make you laugh, especially if you sing along with them. For some reason I'm thinking of Weird Al Yankovic, but you can even listen to music from a Broadway musical comedy. I also like children's songs or songs from The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins. You might even sing the Alphabet Song or a Beatles' song if that gets your mind off your fears. Or listen to lullabies or a Chopin nocturne.

If this is just a passing fear or anxiety, then music will prove helpful. However, if you have chronic anxiety, get medical attention.

I'm not a music therapist or sound healer. I'm channeling this post and sharing what I've learned from using music to shift my moods (which found roots in depression and anxiety). If you find that you have serious issues with grief, sadness, depression, anxiety, or anger, please seek the help of a qualified music therapist or sound healer. I'm a strong believer in music therapy and engaging with an expert who has studied in this field and who has had success with clients.

Despite that we live in a world ruled by fear and anger, we can find our calm center by listening to the right music for our emotions. It's also a good idea to turn off the news and spend more time exploring musical choices that bring you relief and allow you to shift moods. The more we stay centered in love, the better chance we have of creating peace in the world. Music offers the magic carpet ride that helps us transcend our moods.

Also check out books that explore the brain and music. And check out Jeffrey Thompson's brainwave recordings.