By Johan Vedel.
There are subtle rhythms in nature. If a rhythm is speeded up to around 20 cycles per second, it becomes a tone. Humans and animal’s blood is pumped through the body in a rhythmic pattern. Our respiration flows within a rhythmic framework at a faster or slower pace. Walking too takes place as a repeated rhythm.
These very basic rhythms are also used within meditation. Mystics have always used the breath for meditation and as a means of remembering God’s name. As the Indian poet Kabir Das said, “The breath that does not remember the Beloved is a wasted breath”. There is a story of a sufi teacher, who, for the vocal remembrance of God’s name, would use the rhythm of his own pulse as the basic rhythm for spiritual practice.
The healing power of music is well known. Shamans of old cultures sounded a drum to induce a state in which the treatment needed to cure a particular disease was clearly seen. The shaman would then communicate with spirits of the netherworld, upper world and everything in between, so as to mediate between the physical and non-physical worlds. My point is that mysticism and healing in this way are interwoven.
Sufis are sometimes compared to shamans, as they stand between the divine and the human world, and can mediate between the two. At least, some Sufis can, by no means each and everyone. The traditional position of Sufis, especially Sufi saints, is to be in the space between the physical and non-physical plane. Here we see a link to the samâ practice, which brings the participants one step closer to God, or to experience the Divine, by means of meditation on mystical poems set to music.
There has always been a certain element of therapy attached to music. For instance, in old Greece, the harp was used for music therapy, and in Turkey before anesthetics were introduced, the oud was used to calm down the patient before and during an operation, the oud’s sweet tones being the only way to control the pain. An oud player was therefore often present at medical operations. The Danish physicist Christian A. Volf had dental surgery without anesthetics while listening to a specially designed sound record. Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute of Copenhagen have a research project based on the premise that nervous signals are transmitted as sound.
Music, especially the indigenous types, contain a certain element of mysticism, in that music can be used to experience unity with the divine or a higher power. Being a practitioner of Hindustani classical music for many years, I have experienced the healing properties of this music. One of the effects is an induced calmness and a subjectively experienced activation of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, leading to optimized control of muscles, mental excess and rehabilitation after severe stress, especially while playing raga Durga, Durgavati and Durgeshwari.Water-garden photo by Morguefile
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