According to a Navajo legend, the deity Changing Woman told her twin sons, “Do not forget the songs I have taught you. The day you forget them will be the last; there will be no other days.”
Another Native American teaching is relayed as that of hózhó or “balance”. “A life that has balance possesses good health, beauty, peace and harmony. If a person does not possess balance, he or she is in discord with his or her physical and supernatural surroundings and is in a state of illness.
What then is the medicine to bring one’s life back into balance? What is the prescription to restore our health and re-establish beauty, peace and harmony in our lives and in that of our community?
We commonly think of Medicine to be what helps or heals when we are sick. The way people go about healing is often reflective of the spiritual, religious and philosophical belief of the community itself. We know of shamans in the Amazon using plants for healing, the people of Calabria dancing the Tarantella to ward off evil spirits and surgeons of the west using scalpels and sutures to mend tired organs. It is all a reflection of the time and place we are living in.
The word medicine is derived from the Latin ars medicina, meaning the art of healing. It is no small coincidence that the highly anticipated event, Music is the Medicine is set to launch its first installment this Saturday, March 7th at Brooklyn’s foremost center for healing and arts traditions, The Sacred Arts Research Foundation. Teaming up with it’s sister studio and earlier predecessor Golden Drum, Music is the Medicine is exquisitely curated to evoke the power of the imagination, to ignite the creative fires of passion and to fully engage the senses of its participants in a communal setting.
Music and other art forms have long been utilized in the realm of health and healing across cultures and times, ranging from traditional healing rituals as well as the social use of music in communities. Many cultures view illness as a spiritual matter, and singing and chanting as an important way in which the healer (in some cases, a medicine man/woman) can gain entry into the supernatural world. Music is the Medicine offers its participants exposure to virtuoso musicians (shamans in their own right), cutting edge research on sound and vibration, film, and sound healers to bring wholeness to the collective consciousness of North Brooklyn.
Our substance free environment (The Ark in Greenpoint, Brooklyn), lends most folks a rare opportunity to experience life beyond the lens of being consumed, or rather controlled, by substance. The reality of this is quite foreign (and quite possibly frightening) to most New Yorkers and could even be the most obvious form of healing Music is the Medicine has to offer; finding comfort in one’s own skin at a social event without the mask of drugs or alcohol. This in itself is a progressive movement from the mundane to the mystical.
A look into the healing practices of indigenous cultures often reveals rituals that engage music as a means for transcendence, diagnostic discovery, affirmation, treatment and for communication across human and spiritual realms. The members of SARF and Golden Drum know this process all too well. While the community has its helping hands in many different arenas, its strong point tends to be the song it carries as a collective. Go to any event where members of the group might be performing and your spirit is sure to experience something undeniably special. Members of the community are highly encouraging of one another to express themselves through song and music. Even those that wouldn’t consider themselves to be singers or musicians understand well the benefit and healing power of song and find themselves not only on the receiving end of this ritual but as participants extending the offering outwardly to those who may be in need.
While the goal of any spiritual aspirant is to master the many realms of the self, it is through song, music and art that this painful and joyful journey is often expressed. This dedicated practice the community has developed is not just an echo of ancient days past but a continuation of what has proven to work for thousands of years. This is the birthplace of Music is the Medicine. It is a lighter entryway for all walks of life to explore and receive the benefits of connecting with spirit through song.
Manuel Rufino, recognized elder, ceremonial leader and teacher has said, “On the outside it might look like a sauna but it’s not a sauna; it’s a sweat lodge,” meaning what truly matters is the intention of those that come together to create an experience. Our job as seekers is to look at the core of things, to not simply judge the outside, but to study the deeper truth of any situation.
Looking deep into the core of Music is the Medicine one can rest assured that this is an event to inspire the awakening of our collective song here in Brooklyn while invoking health, harmony, peace and beauty for many days to come.