There is a traditional Buddhist practice called "loving-kindness meditation". It was designed to develop goodwill and passion towards ourselves and also towards other human beings. There are phrases that are used to invoke benevolent feelings and are repeated and aimed at different targets. Loving-kindness is supposed to be directed towards oneself before it can be directed towards others. This "loving-kindness" involves compassion, self-worth, and acceptance of ourselves and our human flaws. Ways of implementing "loving-kindness" can be to visualize yourself or someone else in a joyous situation, reflecting on positive qualities, or using phrases/mantras. In the book "Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind" by Dr. Kristin Neff, the following set of "loving-kindness" phrases are used: "May (I/he/she) be safe, May (I/he/she) be peaceful, May (I/he/she) be healthy, May (I/he/she) live with ease". After you have achieved loving-kindness through these practices, you start directing them towards a respected mentor figure, then towards a dear friend/loved one, then towards a neutral person, then towards someone difficult in your life (WE ALL HAVE 'EM!).. and finally towards all conscious beings.
To me, this creates a few things in us:
- It helps create self-compassion instead of self-criticism. When we make mistakes or fall short, we can use "loving-kindness" mantras or visualizations to bring us back to a place of kindness and care for ourselves.
- It helps us start having positive regard and compassion towards those who we willingly aim positive vibes towards and then helps us get to the place where we can (eventually and hopefully) think lovingly towards our nemeses. ;)
So you're probably thinking... "Ok, great... but what does this have to do with music therapy?"
I think that the "loving-kindness" practices/meditation works great with music therapy-- in an individual environment and even more so, in a group environment.
For individuals, music therapy strives to work on needs based on a person's strengths. It is success-oriented and shines a positive light on challenges.
For groups, it gives individuals a chance to be surrounded by the human condition and to become more understanding and compassionate of others's struggles. This also helps us to become more compassionate and kind towards ourselves because we learn that everyone has their own obstacles and challenges... and we're all in this together.
Music can be used as a catalyst to discover wonderful things about yourself and those around you. It can be used to facilitate group interaction where people learn about each other on a deeper level and develop an appreciation and concern for each person. Musical entrainment happens on a physiological level and brings our bodies and minds to a meeting place where "loving-kindness" can be extended across the board.
Wouldn't it be nice if the world could participate in music therapy and "loving-kindness" practices all the time?
-Miquel Garland, MT-BC