November 16, 2011

Art, Healing and Silence - Music Therapy for Healing

By Sachitra Mahendra

(By Courtesy of

That title and the subtitle were captivating: Swaroushada: Gilan Voo Sith Sanahalnu Vas. It sounds so lyrical and inspiring in Sinhala, and to say it in English will spoil everything. Swaroushada means ‘medicine of melody’ and gilan voo sith sanahalanu vas means ‘to cure the ailing mind’.

This was a concert organized by the Colombo University’s Faculty of Medicine. Now that the event is organized by medicos, the theme seems quite apt. Anyway this is not a report, because I couldn’t make it there.

I love the four vocalists featured in the concert: Victor Ratnayake, Sunil Edirisinghe, Deepika Priyadarshani and T M Jayaratne. I have already listened to most of their songs, and do have a private collection of favourite numbers.

But still, why not go to the concert and be healed, you will ask.

Actually that’s what I was thinking too. Thinking and thinking, I gradually started having doubts about this. I thank Colombo University for organizing this event, because it made me think of art and how it heals.

Does art actually heal, that’s my question, and you can probably have your own views. Ever heard of something called music therapy? Yes there is one. I simply wonder if other modes of art have therapies too. Painting therapy. Writing therapy.

So art heals. Virtually this means that entertainment can lift your spirits whenever you feel down. Simply said it cures a sick heart. When a sick heart is cured, you don’t have to worry about physical ailments anymore.

You can then understand and tolerate physical pains. This is something you can talk in relation to prayers and meditation, which, they say, have a power to heal. At the same time however, I have read elsewhere, people get fed up with religions they are born with. It can be either Buddhism or Christianity.

They choose to convert to another religion or remain without a religion. When a patient doesn’t have a faith on the prescription and patience to see how it works, even the smartest doctor cannot cure him.

Now when you listen to a song, you are captivated by three main things: music, lyrics and voice. When they are healingly melodious, we believe it has an effect on our health. In my case I have listened to many songs of that kind. But actually have I healed myself? I don’t think so.

When a doctor gives you a painkiller, all your pains ease away. You love the painkiller so much just for that. Most of us are familiar with the brand names of painkillers a lot more than doctors! And what would you do when you get pains coming down again? You go for a painkiller again.

Some of us even keep painkillers in our wallets. There is a fancy term attached to it too: addiction. This could be very much milder than being addicted to drugs, but still addiction is addiction. I wonder if you can call that healing.

I see art – or music, to narrow the subject – in such a ground. It is a painkiller, and you are addicted to that. Whenever the chips are down, you have to go for your favourite song. Does that mean it actually heals you? Or does healing mean that you have to keep on going back to the same medicine? In such a situation your soul or some inner voice keeps on asking for that and the result is you feel yourself down or feel the urge over and over again to listen to the same song.

That’s not healing. Silence is a proven method of healing. However silence is misunderstood in most cases. It’s not listening to some music in silence. It’s not watching a painting in silence. It’s not reading a masterpiece in quiet environs.

Silence should be devoid of everything including inner chatter of the mind. When you get used to this silence it will be your home sweet inner home.

Art always fills you with something. Listening music, you fill yourself with music, lyrics, voice and many more. Watching a painting you let yourself wander along someone’s lines. Reading a masterpiece you make yourself lost in a labyrinth. Your power of expression becomes so rich and you will have so many things to tell the world. That only makes the mind noisier. Can you call this healing, pray tell me.

To heal a wound, you have to clean it well rather than pouring some antiseptics on the surface. Antiseptics on surface means more of it over and over again to keep the wound from getting worse. If the wound is cleaned deep down, it doesn’t need antiseptics or painkillers. Antiseptics on surface too will work effectively. The wound heals and will survive tough times.

Listening to your favourite song next time, try to keep this in mind.


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