Music is a Drug

Have you ever been ‘high’ on music, just the music no other recreational ‘stimulants’?  I have, and I continue to experience transformative moments as I listen to music, and they come unbidden at the most surprising times. 

What other legal ‘drug’ can bring you back immediately to a wonderful experience of adolescence, or maybe even to a cherished childhood memory.  The music induced memory often is all-encompassing and more effective than any virtual experience because often we recall the smells, the temperature and emotional feeling of the moment – and it comes in a non-linear experience. 

Spiritual mystics refer to this immediate, all-encompassing, fully-engaged encounter with the Divine as a high-order experience on their way to Nirvana, Union or Unicorn. In their descriptions one common theme is that the experience is non-linear.  They did not recall a thought, that led to a ‘bigger’ thought that opened to a feeling that yielded a vision.  The entire experience all ‘hit’ at once and in an instant the cosmos was revealed. 

For some of us the experience was far more modest, say an embarrassing date as a high school freshman complete with wild feelings of passion, the taste of way too much alcohol and the smells and sounds associated with wacky, wonderful first dates. 

But… the manner in which the experience unfolded is similar to deep spiritual experience. (Note: I do not suggest that trolling through your adolescent music collection will yield the same spiritual growth as a full comprehension of the Way of the Cross, or Pantajali’s 8 limbs of Yoga.  …Too bad, so much easier.) 

I have a friend who regularly ‘medicates’ himself with music. Throughout his day he has music that supports his work, inspires him, helps with his workout at the gym, unsticks emotional constipation and elevates his spiritual practice.  The benefits are great, the cost is low and it can travel anywhere and be used anytime with no medical contraindications.  What other drug can do that? 

Any drug advertised on CNN that claimed just one of those benefits would have a full half of the commercial devoted to listing those ‘potential side effects’ i.e. spontaneous bleeding, vision impairment, loss of limb or slow painful death. 

Music delivers benefits that out-performs drugs with no ill side-effects.  You can find comfort, healing, nurturing, fun, emotional catharsis, spiritual inspiration, release of stress and a damn good time, and all for the price of an internet radio subscription, or a favorite CD recording.  Go ahead, be bold, get high and find your custom music medication.  Who knows, you may be able to cut back on your prescription and recreational drugs. 

James Schaller, CMP is a clinical musician and consultant who trains caregivers how to use therapeutic music, and consults with healthcare facilities to create soundscapes that benefit patients and staff.

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