Peaceful, eyes closed and unresponsive, she lay there in the last hours of life as her body slowly shuts down its functions. She was waiting to die. Though she had not spoken for several hours, I asked her if she wanted to listen to music. She moved her head as if to nod and said a soft “yeah, yeah”.
I chose music that I thought would be familiar and soothing to her. Her Catholic faith had been of life long importance in her 91 plus years and she also sang in her church choir. As the tunes of the familiar hymns played: Ave Maria, On Eagles Wings, Be Not Afraid, she lay relaxed, breathing slowly and easily.
As a music therapist, especially at the end of life, the intention for the music played is to be relaxing and relevant to the listener. The last thing a person needs when faced with the challenge of dying is to have to listen to music that they do not care for. One time the person I was working with clearly did not want what he heard, as indicated by his struggle and grimace as I played music. Some clearly do not want music, for whatever reason. It is not my place to judge but to be present to the needs of the person.
Visitors came and I turned the music off. Her breath had turned to the sound known as the “death rattle” and the morphine dosage was increased. The doctor said that it wouldn’t be long. I asked the visitors to leave; as the sound of her breathing was obviously disturbing them and she had seemed more peaceful with music playing.
Alone with her again, I chose the sound of the ocean, water lapping onto the shore. It matched her ragged breathing as she went deeper into the final stage of death. I thought that perhaps she wanted to be alone to die in private, so I told her I was going to leave the room and would be back in 5 minutes.
When I returned, the pastor from her assisted living facility was at her side, praying and gently singing to her. Again, I observed a peaceful presence as she seemed to be listening and benefiting from the music. Suddenly she coughed and opened her eyes, looking straight into my eyes. I spoke to her in loving, gentle tones and sang her favorite hymn “Be Not Afraid”. I told her that she was loved and would always be loved, and that there was nothing to fear. I said that all would be well on this side of earth’s consciousness and that she would be well too. I told her that I loved her and began to cry.
Her eyes closed and I saw a small tear drop from her right eye. I wiped it and said goodbye. She took a final breath, and all breathing ceased after that.
That was 3 years ago. Music carried and loved her into her death, and so did I. This person was my mother. I was privileged to be her daughter as well as her music therapist at the end of her life.
Clearly my mother loved music. I remember her singing at home, in the car and dancing with my father. She was my most honest critic and loyal encourager as I began to take lessons and later pursued music as a career. I felt privileged to be her daughter and to use the gift of music to help her to move into the consciousness beyond. She died on December 23, 2014.
In releasing the sorrow, I can also see the beauty of the gifts that my mother gave me. Gifts of life itself, of her loving me unconditionally, and the knowledge that I did everything I could have done to help her throughout her life, through to her passing.
The gift of saying goodbye and creating complete closure is a rare one to experience with the loss of a loved one. I am most grateful for that gift. For in that completion I again realize the Love and presence of a spiritual connection that continues beyond death. This knowing of Love is even more real and authentic to me as her physical presence was on earth.
My mother was always grateful to me, and I will always be grateful for music and the experience of divine presence through and beyond her passing. Good night, Mom. I hear the carol “Silent Night” and remember her sleeping in “heavenly peace”.
Creativity is one of the numerous divine qualities such as love, faith, gratitude, wisdom and joy. It is inherent, hard-wired into our True Self.
Despite this fact, how many times have you said, or heard someone say “I’m not creative. I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”? We all are creative, holding the spark of divine being within.
Last summer I was visiting with all 5 of my grandchildren, being with the cousins from age 5-9. They played an improvised game that we called “changing channels”. In it, I held the remote and pretended to change channels as I told them what show I was watching. They quickly moved from the jungle channel, cooking channel, surfing channel and numerous others, effortlessly being whatever character was instantly called for and interacting with each other. It all unfolded seamlessly and naturally from their inner selves.
Children playing is one of the easiest ways to see creativity in action. If we make play our work, think of how much fun we could have!
Losing yourself in an activity such as watching a sunset, listening to music, gardening, having a conversation, engrossed in a good book or movie is creativity in action as well. When you are engaged in activities where you are fully present and lose track of time, you are in a creative space. Who knew that daydreaming could be so productive!
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while” – Steve Jobs
Creating Sacred Space, a CD of evocative and relaxing improvised piano music has on its cover the Nautilus shell. This chambered, spiral image helps to illustrate how we can create space for creativity, among the many divine qualities that are inherent to us. I was fascinated with the image and did more research on it. Here’s what I discovered:
The chambered nautilus is a mollusk which lives in a spiral-shaped shell that has an iridescent purple color. The shell is divided into successively larger compartments or “chambers.” These chambers are formed as the mollusk grows. As each chamber becomes too small for the mollusk, it builds a new, larger chamber, and closes off the old. This activity is repeated many times, resulting in the spiral shape of the shell.
Having survived almost unaltered for over 450 million years, the Nautilus, (meaning “sailor” in Greek) is one of the only shells to continue from the time of the dinosaurs, therefore often referred to as being a “living fossil.”
In Hindu mythology, the sacred Nautilus Shell symbolized the multiplicity of creation. Its shape represents the golden mean number, known as PHI, in which the digits continue indefinitely without ever repeating themselves. PHI is found in all living forms.
The ancient Nautilus Shell is a symbol of proportional perfection in its expansion and renewal as it grows increasingly larger chambers throughout its life. It is the natural symbol for creating space through the process of letting go or closing off the dysfunctional, obsolete and negative patterns and creating a larger space for renewed growth, enlivening regeneration and spiritual insight.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
Creativity can be used for personal and spiritual growth as well as for problem solving.
Here's an experiential meditation for opening space for creativity:
Take a moment to connect with the natural flow of your breath. Think of an experience when you lost track of time, being completely with whatever activity you were engaged in. Bring the memory clearly to mind, picturing it, feeling it, sensing its energy.
Become aware of where the memory lives in your body.
Focus on the place of its energy and release the memory. Allow this place to become its own space of awareness, continually growing within you, a chamber of creative expansion. Notice how it feels to just be with this particular space, letting all else go.
Get to know this space in you, a place of creative energy. As you sink deeper and deeper into it, ask what do I most need to see, hear or know at this time? What do I most need to see, hear or know?
Take a moment to allow whatever comes to you to surface, and be with it completely.
Did you experience creative space?
Blessings to all you creative beings!
I have had the privilege of facilitating and witnessing remarkable transformational changes through music therapy. Learn more about my video offering of music therapy: http://musicheals.me/video-3-music-therapy.html and see the intro video here: https://youtu.be/8WRm1YyOF4g
Music is, in its essence, vibration. We are influenced by sounds because there is a resonance that is set up from the vibration of sound waves to your body and energy field. How many times have you heard comments such as, “The music moved me” or “I felt the music in my body and soul”?
Music as a powerful and non-threatening medium of healing and integration provides a safe container for exploration. Musical elements of rhythm, tempo, pitch, harmony, color, texture and text affect different responses in the brain. Music has the ability to cut through levels of consciousness and change physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual states.
“The place to begin is your body. People not musically trained only too easily assume that music is something that happens ‘out there,’ rather than something ‘in here,’ that I do.” — Mathieu, Bridge of Waves, p.4
Music can bypass mental processes, moving beyond the walls of perception that have been created over time. As sound enters your body and energy field, the vibration influences your mood and your thoughts. Music can help enable expression and catharsis of hidden thoughts, emotions and energy, speaking in places where there are no words, realizing a deeper truth within.
Your own particular life experience, emotional and mental state, and social and cultural influences determine how music resonates with you in any given moment. In addition, your posture, time of day, frame of reference for listening and intention for the experience can also affect how you experience the music. I have always been dismayed at the uncomfortable seats in concert halls, as they affect my ability to relax enough to take in the music fully!
Here are some examples of the ways that music therapists use music for reprogramming and reforming old patterns.
Watch this video I put together introducing music therapy: https://youtu.be/8WRm1YyOF4g