That memory is emblazoned in my mind and on my heart; I can remember the smell of the grass, the sensation of the warmth on my back from the earth, and the gentleness of the breeze as it moved over my face. Being a young child, I could not fully understand what I had experienced that day. But I now realize that I had connected with the Divine Presence and been allowed my first, tiny glimpse of expanded awareness.
As I grew, my life’s journey guided me further into music, both as a teacher and a singer. I was given piano lessons and voice lessons as a teenager and went on to college to earn both a Master’s degree in Music and Vocal Performance and a Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling. Along with the comprehensive knowledge of music theory, history, vocal literature, piano performance, composition and vocal technique, I was acutely aware of a deeper primal knowledge…the magic and mystery of music and sound. That knowledge was never “learned”…it was a profound awareness that was as natural to me as breathing. I knew that music can evolve the soul as I consistently felt its presence and its effects. Music was the sacred land, the temple of peace, the healing stone and I would go there daily. I found that when I would perform and sing, I did so from an expanded level of awareness. Time would often stand still as I became unaware of myself, but deeply connected to my audience in a profound experience of unity. My personal awareness was expanded to a universal unity. Could this awareness formed by music be the place of wholeness, healing and profound peace?
This magical bridge became a permanent fixture in my life after a second “enlightenment” experience, which happened to take place on the Connecticut Turnpike. I was returning from my uncle’s funeral in Philadelphia and listening to Pachelbel’s “Canon,” truly one of the most beautiful and moving orchestral pieces I know. Alone in my car, with tears streaming down my face, my heart was opened as I mourned my uncle’s passing. Then, without warning, I was suddenly enveloped in a tube of brilliant white light. Nearly blinded by my tears, I pulled my car off the turnpike, and the love that I felt flooding into my heart was beyond any love I had ever experienced. If I could, I would have stayed there, suspended in that state for eternity; I would gladly have left behind my life as I knew it.
The love was deep, without end and beyond words to describe. It was a peace beyond human understanding. I suppose I stayed enveloped in this light for a couple of minutes, though I don’t really know as time was both an eternity and a split second. As I slowly returned to my earthly awareness, I realized that I was forever changed. I knew that I was part of that light, just as I knew as a little girl that I was connected to those clouds. I had found this light with an open heart and on the wings of music. This love had always been there, waiting for me to accept it. Music became a portal for me to divine peace.
Music as the Healer
From that moment on, music became my passion, my beloved, my world. I began to compose, and the music I was creating would take me “across the bridge,” letting the sounds and harmonies flow through me as I wrote them down. My purpose became clearer; I was becoming a “way show-er” or guide for my students, clients and a servant to my art. Before long, my teaching, performing and composing opened me up to another path - the study of music as a healing modality in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.
I knew that music had the power to remind me and return me to the knowledge of who I truly am. I knew that music had the power to move me past the limitations of my beliefs, conditioning, ego, and judgment. The question then became, “Could it be this way for others as well?” Feeling as though I was now on a quest, I began to wonder if there were universal elements that could be found in sacred and spiritual meditative music all over the world. Could the qualities in healing music from all cultures be the same? Music carries frequencies and vibrations, it is the key to the universe. Perhaps this was a key that has always been available to one who is searching, but is so close to us that often we do not see it.
On the Journey of Discovery
What I discovered on my journey to explore this key was that there are indeed some consistent elements in the musical expressions of all spiritual tradition. I researched and sang Gregorian Chant, experienced American Indian drumming, listened to and sang the mantras from the Hindu and Sufi traditions, studied the throat singing from Tibet, and sang the Icaros songs from the Shipibo Indians in Peru. To further explore the mystical Icaros, I went to Peru and took part in their sacred plant medicine ceremonies, which use these songs as a way to call forth the Divine Healing Spirit. I realized that all of these sacred music expressions lead the listener past the ego with imprints of disease and trauma into a state of wholeness and expanded pure awareness. It was also clear that infused in all of this healing music was a sense of “deep memory,” an atavistic recollection of mystical ritual and ceremony, a calling to the pilgrim from our ancient ancestors and spiritual masters.
I am reminded of my childhood and the comfort that group singing brought me. Knowing that ours is a tribal species (we need each other to feel safe) this group singing made perfect sense. When people sing together, they breathe together and if the music is uplifting, they begin to entrain together in peace and joy.
It all makes sense when I think back to the days where I would sit around a campfire at Girl Scout Camp, all of us singing songs we knew. That experience was simple and yet brought profound joy. When I taught elementary school in Pittsburgh and Boston, the same phenomenon was created through group singing and my “challenge children” became wholeheartedly involved in the group effort. Peace ruled the classroom!!
Singing is also a way of balancing and expressing energy. Disordered energy can be dispelled by the release of vocal sound. Why do we cry when sad, scream when afraid, moan when traumatized and laugh when overcome with happiness? We use sound to express and more importantly to balance us. Singing is a key in the healing part of this journey toward balance and wholeness. Children LOVE to sing and do so with great gusto. Adults sometimes are dampened from this healing medicine because of self-judgement and shame. I have discovered a way around that for the “bathroom singer” and that is toning, which is a means of vocalization that utilizes the natural voice to express sounds and humming on the full exhalation of the breath, often on one pitch. I have taught this technique to many and it has proved to be a quite effective therapy.
Lastly, in my quest to understanding musically created, heightened states of awareness, I also was drawn to crystal singing bowls as musical instruments. Their sound is rich in overtones and happen to mimic the human voice, which from the beginning of time has been used by mothers to soothe their children. Research by the late Dr. David Simon, former medical director of neurological services at Sharp Cabrillo Hospital in San Diego and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, found that chants and the sounds of the singing bowls can create internal opiates that act on the body as painkillers and healing agents.1 In other words, through intentional music and singing, we can become our own pharmacy and heal ourselves. Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, who until his passing in 2015 served as director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine at the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in NY stated, “One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us. It does this on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning. Therefore, it plays a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.” His research shows that the sound vibration of the bowls affects the dysrhythmic motion found in cancer cells, causing a harmonious transformation.2
My experience with using crystal singing bowls has been nothing less than miraculous. The sound is ethereal and yet very grounding to the listener. I have been giving “sound baths” with my crystal singing bowls for the last seven years to groups of people who report feelings of deep peace, serenity and sometimes, remarkable trance-like states. At the very least, a participant in a sound bath will feel calm and peaceful.
For thousands of years, our healers and mystics have used music to enliven us in countless ways – to enhance our spirituality, unite us, heal our spirit, help us rejoice with others, mourn, resolve our sadness, and to connect with the Divine. Music elicits that deep and profound echo from within our hearts that calls us home. Music is our bridge to the Divine and to our expanded, limitless selves. As a healing force, it can provide respite and peace and in times of joy, it is a true celebrant of life to be appreciated each day. What an amazing range of attributes and how lucky we are to have music to carry with us on every journey.
Flicka Rahn is an internationally known opera singer, educator, sound therapist, composer, and distinguished academician, who was a tenured Professor of Voice at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where she taught for 22 years. Ms. Rahn has sung major operatic roles throughout the United States. In 2017, Rahn released her first CD recording, Chakra Soundscapes with accompanist Daniel Wyman. Chakra Soundscapes fulfills Rahn’s unique life mission to provide healing energy through the universal language of music. The second CD soon followed, “Hymns to Gaia”. Both of these CD’s contain the elements of healing music. For a deeper dive, her book, “The Transformational Power of Sound and Music” is available on Amazon.