Daily archives "February 15, 2019"

TAO March 2019–The Wisdom of OZ

The Wisdom of OZ

Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz has charmed generations of children since it was first published in 1900. Its characters live in the hearts and minds of adults, who can easily recall images of Dorothy and her companions skipping down the Yellow Brick Road. We feel the intensity of their search for what is missing in their lives. We root for them as they are assaulted by a variety of dark forces. I still duck when the flying monkeys arrive!
Even though we know the book’s lessons by heart, it is easy to drop them when the challenges of adult life distract us. What lessons, you ask? Why, the need to live courageously, like the Lion; to think clearly, like the Scarecrow; to have a heart, like the Tin Man. And as with Dorothy, we must keep ourselves oriented towards Home, regardless of the distance from Kansas.
If you find yourself a little farther from Home than is comfortable, you are not alone. As the flying monkey population increases, so does our anxiety. Anxiety, along with its relatives, fear, doubt, and cynicism, easily leads to a disconnection between heart and mind. How quickly parts of ourselves become scattered, separated from each other. How easy to get lost on the Yellow Brick Road!
These are trying times. What is an artist to do? We are called to minister to anxious people. Music is our tool, and with it we can calm, encourage, and inspire our people. But, first, we must work on ourselves. We must have the courage to harmonize what our heads are saying with what our hearts are whispering to us. This is the work of Lent. It’s hard work, this Lenten journey. Traditional spiritual practices offer a veritable forest of methods to try. Is there a simple path to take through them? I believe there is.
With no claim that the work of the HeartMath Institute is superior to traditional spiritual practices, I invite you to consider how their perspectives might enrich our understanding of how to “listen to our hearts.” We are a headstrong people, it goes without saying. HeartMath founder, Doc Childre, draws attention to the underappreciated role of the heart in human health. He observes that negative emotions are the result of disharmony between the brain’s waves and those of the heart. The goal of his method is to bring them into “coherence,” which means bringing heart and head into rhythmic alignment––the same goal of music!
The method is deceptively simple:
“1. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and try to relax.
2. Shift your attention away from the mind or head and focus your attention in the heart area. Pretend that you’re breathing slowly through the heart for ten or fifteen seconds.
3. Remember the feeling of love or care you have for someone whom it’s easy for you to love. Alternatively, focus on a feeling of appreciation for someone or something positive in your life. Try to stay with that feeling for a time from five to fifteen minutes.
4. Gently send that feeling of love, care or appreciation to yourself or others.
5. As head thoughts come in, bring your focus gently back to the area around the heart. If the energy feels too intense or feels blocked, try to feel a softness in the heart and relax.
6. After you’ve finished, if you can, write down any intuitive feelings or thoughts that are accompanied by a sense of inner knowingness or peace to help you remember to act on them.”
The foundation of this simple technique is based upon Childre’s research that describes the power of positive emotions to calm erratic brain waves and bring them into harmony with the regularity of the heartbeat. While his instructions recommend accessing positive personal experiences, why not consider using images of divine love instead? Doing so would bring this exercise within the parameters of more traditional religious methods. As with all self-work, regular practice builds upon itself, resulting in an accumulation of experiences whose results will sustain over longer periods of time.
It will come as no surprise to you that music can also be useful in increasing the effectiveness of your experience. Childre recommends, “Find music that feels right for you. We suggest using instrumental music that falls somewhere between stimulating and peaceful. Use music that you feel helps open your heart and promote internal balance but doesn’t space you out or make you drowsy. Remember, this technique is designed to give you a relaxed but highly aware experience.”
Using music to make music better and seeking healing to heal others is not the empty promise of the Wizard of OZ. It is the way Home. As ministers of music, we are called to be leaders. We must find our way, so we can help people find their way. Do your work, so that others can hear the call of peace and joy above the monkey’s chattering. Let them feel the goodness of Love and Mercy in your music. It’s the most practical thing we can do!