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February 2006

A monthly newsletter dedicated to serving the principles of
physical and spiritual health envisioned in the Baha'i Teachings.

Volume 10, Issue No. 2, Music - Sustenance for the Soul
- Quote of the month
- From the Editor
- Music - Universal Human Ability
- A Sound Thing to Do?
- Physical Affects/Effects
- And For the Spirit
- Contra-indications, a Warning
- Links for further information
- Baha'i Music Related Resources
- Using Music for Transformation
- Health in the News
- Letters
- Purpose of the Newsletter
- Subscription Information
- Web Site


March: The Importance of Celebrations. What kinds and how do you and your family use them to make life better?

April: Feed the Creative to Heal the Body and Mind. What arts and activities inspire you?

May: Nurture the Spirit for Better Health. Retreats, walks, music, poetry,
prayer: what makes you feel refreshed and energized?

June: Coping with Catastrophe. Share spiritual resources.


"Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of the melody may kindle thine own soul..."

(Baha'u'llah, "Baha'i Prayers," p. 3)

"...although sound is but the vibrations of the air which affect the tympanum of the ear, and vibrations of the air are but an accident among the accidents which depend upon the air, consider how much marvelous notes or a charming song influence the spirits! A wonderful song giveth wings to the spirit and filleth the heart with exaltation...."

('Abdu'l-Baha, "Compilation on Music," in Vol. II of "The Compilation of Compilations," p. 75)


Dear Readers,

Music is considered a higher brain function, meaning that appreciating and making music stimulate parts of the brain thought to have developed much later in evolution. The front part of the brain (frontal cortex) is where working memories are stored and also plays a role in rhythm and melody perception.

Pain is considered a lower brain function because it is processed in the more primitive sections of brain anatomy, so I was surprised to learn that chronic pain and music appreciation are both associated with widely spread hyperactivity in the prefrontal lobes of the brain.

In the 1940s and 1950s, some psychiatrists began treating intractable chronic pain by surgically disconnecting their patient's frontal lobes from the rest of the brain by a process called a leucotomy. Antonio Egas Moniz won a Nobel prize in 1949 for inventing this operation.

What is truly odd about the results is that while the patients self reported and were considered recovered, their pain didn't actually go away. What happened was that they no longer cared about hurting!

Researchers and physicians concluded that while sensing pain was a lower order brain function, probably necessary for survival, suffering was definitely a higher brain process.

"Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional?"

What if we could give ourselves a daily, non-surgical leucotomy -- without the nasty side effects -- to deal with our own suffering?

Isn't this a central theme of religion -- that true detachment does not prevent or negate pain, but rather, mitigates our suffering from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?

Prayer and meditation have been used for centuries, and recent research has proven that they affect brain function and lower stress. It turns out that music and rhythmic movement assist greatly in being able to focus both prayer and meditation.

Take two songs and call me in the morning?

Cheryll Schuette, Michigan, USA



Music has been called a universal language because some form of melody and rhythm seems to be a part of every culture. Other behaviors with similar longevity have proven to be important for survival, so perhaps music is equally vital.

Babies come into the world with musical preferences, according to William J. Cromie, in an article for the Harvard University Gazette. He quotes Kay Shelemay, professor of music at Harvard, "All humans come into the world with an innate capability for music.

"At a very early age, this capability is shaped by the music system of the culture in which a child is raised. That culture affects the construction of instruments, the way people sound when they sing, and even the way they hear sound."

"Music is in our genes," agrees Mark Jude Tramo, musician, songwriter, and neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. Tramo believes that studying the biology of music can lead to practical applications related to learning, deafness, and personal improvement.

For babies, music and speech are on a continuum. Mothers use musical speech to "regulate infants' emotional states," says Sandra Trehub at the University of Toronto. Regardless of what language they speak, the voice all mothers use with babies is the same: "something between speech and song."

This kind of communication "puts the baby in a trance-like state, which may proceed to sleep or extended periods of rapture." The upshot, Trehub believes, is that music may be even more of a necessity than people realize.


So asks Leonard Sweet in his blog on hearing and healing and other things spiritually musical. (See link below) "Songs are more than barometers that record atmospheric pressure without being able to do anything to change the weather itself. Songs are less a consequence than a cause of events."  Music affects both the world and individual health, according to Sweet.

Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel said, "First we sing. Then we believe."  Isaiah 55:3 (Christian Bible) admonishes, "Hear that your soul may be healed."

The original meaning of the Latin word cantare, from which came the verb to sing, was to work magic, to heal. Carmen, the Latin word for poem, originally meant magic formula. A cantor became someone who worked magic, who healed with sounds, with music. A cantata was a healing piece of music.

Acoustic ecology is a new academic field studying the sounds people listen to and finding ways to maximize the sounds people need and enjoy, and that help them heal and maintain good health on many levels.

Randall McClellan, Sonic Arts Foundation Director, writes that "Beneath the surface rhythms and changing pitches of music lies a subtler level of vibration that is the music's essence. It is this inner level of vibration, created by the energy of the music, that harmonizes us spiritually and is, therefore, the deepest source of music's healing potential."


The news is difficult to miss, as study after study has linked active music making with better language and math ability, improved school grades, better-adjusted social behavior, and improvements in temporal-spatial reasoning, which is the foundation of engineering and science.

Making music and dancing along with it are especially important for children because they help sensory motor development. Music is an organizer that helps the body and mind work together.

Physicists mapping brain activity have even identified patterns that resemble musical notes, echoing a very old Pythagorean conviction that the cosmos is governed by musical laws.

Following heart bypass surgery, patients often experience erratic changes in blood pressure. Studies show that those in intensive care units where background music is played need lower doses of regulating drugs compared to patients in units where no music is played.

Researchers have found that playing soft background music -- as well as nurse's or mother's humming -- helps premature babies gain weight faster and leave intensive care units earlier than premies who don't hear these sounds.

At the other end of the age scale, music has been used to calm Alzheimer's patients. The right kind of music, it has been demonstrated, reduces confusion and disagreements at mealtimes in nursing homes.

Investigators have also found that music lowers blood pressure in certain situations, and it seems to increase the efficiency of oxygen consumption by the heart. One study showed that the heart muscles of people exercising on treadmills didn't work as hard when people listened to music as it did when they exercised in silence.

In 2001, Alternative Therapies Journal reported on a controlled survey of 29 mostly female patients aged 21 to 68, that found significantly increased levels of salivary immunoglobulin A and lower levels of cortisol after concerts. It could be concluded that these people had improved both their immune status and their state of well-being with this type of musical experience.

Michael Green, President/CEO of the US National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, is willing to go even further in his enthusiasm for the positive effects of music. In his speech at the 1999 Grammy Awards, he said in part:

"Music is magic. Music therapists prove every single day that music is powerful medicine -- tearing down the walls of silence and affliction of Alzheimer's, depression, Parkinson's and autism. And did you know that kids who study the arts, do an average of forty points higher in math and science? And that music education is superior to even computer instruction in enhancing early childhood mental capacity and spacial intelligence?"


"Music is regarded as a praiseworthy science...use spiritual melodies, songs and tunes, and to bring the earthly music into harmony with the celestial melody. Then thou wilt notice what a great influence music hath and what heavenly joy and life it conferreth."
('Abdu'l-Baha, "Compilation on Music," p. 5)

Although music was initially used to map brain function, the same research is also reinforcing the health benefits of some age-old religious traditions and practices.

"Some people find that their spirits soar when they let their feet fly. Others --particularly those who prefer more structure or who feel they have "two left feet" -- gain the same sense of release and inner peace from the Eastern martial arts, such as Aikido and Tai Chi.

"Those who are recovering from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse may find these techniques especially helpful for gaining a sense of ease with their own bodies. The underlying premise to dance/movement therapy is that it can help a person integrate the emotional, physical, and cognitive facets of "self."

"It is no coincidence that many people turn on soothing music to relax or snazzy tunes to help feel upbeat. Research suggests that music stimulates the body's natural "feel good" chemicals (opiates and endorphins). This stimulation results in improved blood flow, blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing, and posture changes. Music or sound therapy has been used to treat disorders such as stress, grief, depression, schizophrenia, and autism in children, and to diagnose mental health needs."

(from US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Mental Health Information Center website


A caveat must be added to the affects of music on well-being, however: to improve health, it must be the right kind of music, and the listener must be in the right frame of mind.

"We have made music a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high.  Change it not into wings for self and passion."

(Baha'u'llah, from the "Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Book of Laws," quoted in "The Compilation on Music," p. 3)

In the early part of the Twentieth century, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith warned against being taken in by what He referred to as the prostitution of the arts -- using these powerful tools for evil instead of good.

"Whatever is in the heart of man, melody moves and awakens. If a heart full of good feelings and a pure voice are joined together, a great effect is produce. for instance if there be love in the heart, through melody, it will increase until its intensity can scarcely be borne; but if bad thoughts are in the heart, such as hatred, it will increase and multiply. For instance: the music used in war awakens the desire for bloodshed. The meaning is that melody causes whatever feeling is in the heart to increase."

('Abdu'l-Baha, "Compilation on Music," p. 8)

If it is physically true that we are what we eat, then it could be spiritually true that we are what we hear. Music can heal, or harm. Negative music creates negative states of being and the cumulative effects of that music continue to direct and distort the soul long after the song has ended.

Presently, science is just beginning to map the ways in which music (and sounds of all kinds) affect our physical, mental and emotional health. But some directions are emerging -- some disturbing, and others very hopeful.

Thomas Mann believed that the way to gauge the health of a civilization was through its music. Perhaps he's right in his perspective on history: the present level of violence and distorted reality which characterize much the arts today are merely signs of a dying age.

Baha'is are exhorted to expend their energies in building God's kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven, with the basic belief that their starting place is to improve and reshape themselves.

Music can be a powerful tool when used correctly in pursuit of health, happiness and a better world.

"Music is an important means to the education and development of humanity, but the only true way is through the Teachings of god. Music is like this glass, which is perfectly pure and polished. It is precisely like this pure chalice before us, and the Teachings of God ... are like the water. When the glass or chalice is absolutely pure and clear, and the water is perfectly fresh and limpid, then it will confer Life; wherefore, the Teachings of God, whether they be in the form of anthems or communes or prayers, when they are melodiously sung, are most impressive."

('Abdu'l-Baha, "Table Talk," 'Akka, July, 1909, quoted in "Herald of the South," January 13, 1933, pp. 2-3)


* MuSICA, the Music and Science Information Computer Archive, currently provides all issues of MuSICA Research Notes, a newsletter of analysis and commentary, by subject, issue or title. Also maintains a database (citations and abstracts) of 50,000+ items:

* For current uses of music in improving mental health, American Music Therapy Association AMTA website fact sheet:

* "Hearing and Healing," Leonard Sweet's essay on the spiritual importance of music:

* Mpower, a new youth awareness campaign by the US National Mental Health Assn. "that's harnessing the power of music to change youth attitudes about mental health and fight the stigma facing the 1 in 5 youth with mental health problems. Working with a diverse coalition of artists, music industry executives, mental health advocates and youth leaders, mpower is dedicated to reaching out to today's youth about a range of mental health issues."

* For a collection of the latest studies showing the importance of music
education: and more can be found on the Richards Institute of Education and Research page:

* And before you ask -- the "Mozart Effect" debunked, but nicely: See p.3

* is a children's online creative music environment for children of all ages. It's a place for kids to compose music, play with musical performance, music games and music puzzles. Try out the musical sketchpads: draw a picture and it will play as music!

* Songs for Teaching, an on-line catalog of materials utilizing music to teach a wide variety of concepts, such as math, languages, reading, science, and character education. Includes songs books, sheet music and CDs which can be purchased, with nice song clips to hear before you buy.

* The compilation of extracts from the Baha'i Writings on the importance and use of music in spiritual development:


- Some single artist pages:,,,

- For listings of multiple artists:

- Live Unity concerts catalog pages give a sampling of the very wide variety of Baha'i inspired music and musicians: -- But beware that their ordering process is not secure, and it isn't clear how current. If anyone has update info, please let us all know.

- Baha'i Faith index pages include one for music (powered by from some of the 'big name' musicians of the past 30 years, such as Seals & Crofts, Kevin Locke and Vic Damone. Albums featured are often commercial recordings of more popular than religious music:

- Dissonance Resolved has the "From Exile to Exaltation" CD by the Boston Praise Collective that was submitted for 3 Grammy nominations and won 2!

- Divine Notes is the first site with downloadable music by Baha'i
musicians, starting at US$0.99: Not a large
selection, yet, but growing.

- For a great list of resources and links to music and lyrics, as well as suggestions for enhancing study, devotions and meditation, Ruhi Resources

- Online Baha'i radio program/stations: has a list, including the first Baha'i streaming audio station, Radio Nur

- And program listings from Western Australia:

By Howard Richman, Sound Feelings Publishing, Tarzana, California.

Eleven helpful free tips show how to listen to music for transformation and healing. This free information reveals secrets to support recovery, meditation and spiritual growth through music healing.

All music can be healing especially when it is played in sequence using the entrainment principle.

1- Select Appropriate Music.

Most of us choose music that we “like” but will this give us the best results? In fact, often the music we are least attracted to will have the greatest benefit (when played in the right sequence). Let’s say you are very angry. So your first instinct is to put on some really angry music. Does it really help, or does it kind of perpetuate how you feel? Yet, on the other hand if you play some light and happy music, by comparison to how you are currently feeling, it will probably make you feel angrier! As you see, selecting music is not a simple one-shot process.

2- Consider Music Sequencing.

Sometimes it is necessary to first choose music that totally matches your current mood rather than the mood you wish to acquire. Consider arranging a series of different musical compositions in sequence that are customized just for your needs. For example, if you are dealing with depression, select a composition which represents depression in its extreme form, to you.  Follow this with one that is only mildly depressing. Then select a neutral composition, and end with a composition which is clearly uplifting and motivating. Listening to music in a sequence like this allows for your current stress level or mood to be first honored and then to be gradually transformed.

3- Speakers Are Ideal.

It is ideal to listen to the music through speakers rather than headphones so that the cells of the body themselves may “listen” to the sound.

4- Prepare Yourself to Listen.

Take off your shoes. Stand relaxed, sit or lie down and breathe.

5- Listen All the Way Through.

It is preferable to listen to the musical composition all the way through, without interruption. This allows for the optimum response to the transformation process.

6- Foreground, Not Background.

We all have the tendency to use music for the background of other activities. Try developing the technique of just listening to the music, not doing anything else. This way, you will get the best benefit.

7- Your Response is What is Important.

It is through your response that the emotional/cellular memory may be released. Do not think that you have to just stay still and concentrate on the music! In fact, if the music inspires you to get up and do something or your mind begins to wander, allow, allow, allow! Allow all responses without judgement. On the other hand, do not begin listening to the music while you are already doing other unrelated activities. The important thing is to let the music embrace you totally.

8- Listen Actively, Not Passively.

Allow the music to reach your inner feeling, and respond freely to it.  Everyone has a different manner of expression. You may experience visual images, thoughts, movement, an intensification of emotion, physical vibrations, sleep, or nothing at all.

9- Observe Mind/Body Connection.

A lot of research has been done recently showing that there is a definite connection between the mind and the body. (Actually this refers to the emotions too but it sounds succinct to say “mind/body.”) Even though music healing is often related to relaxation and emotional issues, there is the likelihood that this indirectly could have a benefit on physical illnesses as well.

10- Enjoy the Silence!

When the music stops, it is suggested that you bask in the silence for many moments. This will help integrate the feelings.

11- Use a Journal.

If you wish to record your progress in a journal, it can be helpful, but not necessary.

Sound Feelings Publishing website:


"I believe my music is the healin' music....It regenerates the ears, makes the liver quiver, the bladder splatter and the knees freeze. I'm not conceited, either."

(Little Richard, nee Richard Penniman, the acknowledged founder of Rock and Roll,


- Cow Music

HEPHZIBAH, Georgia -- Daniel McElmurray has milked his family's dairy farm for all it's worth.

After hearing his dad, Earl, complain about weak milk production from their 300 cows, the 10-year-old student at Goshen Elementary in Augusta helped solve the problem with a prize-winning science fair project. He tested the effects of classical, country and rock music on the cows.

Daniel said he and his dad like to listen to music while they milk the cows, without giving the cows much say in the selection.

Turns out rock is their least favorite. After listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Shania Twain and a selection of classical music, the cows proved they prefer classical to country and rock by producing 1,000 pounds more milk.

"I guess a slower beat helps them relax," Daniel said Thursday, after learning he won first place in his region. He received a special award from the American Society of Mammalogists, an organization that supports the study of mammals.

(from Associated Press, September 15, 2003)
- A Little Music With Exercise Boosts Brain Power, Study Suggests

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's no secret that exercise improves mood, but new research suggests that working out to music may give exercisers a cognitive boost. Listening to music while exercising helped to increase scores on a verbal fluency test among cardiac rehabilitation patients.

The researchers asked participants to complete a verbal fluency test before and after two separate sessions of exercising on a treadmill. The workouts were scheduled a week apart and lasted about 30 minutes. Participants listened to classical music -- Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" -- during one of the sessions.

Participants reported feeling better emotionally and mentally after working out regardless of whether or not they listened to music. But the improvement in verbal fluency test performance after listening to music was more than double that of the non-music condition.

(from Science Daily Blog, Posted: March 24, 2004


My three children are the only Baha'is in their school, and elementary schools really make a big thing of Christmas and Easter and other commercialized holidays around here. How can I create an equal enthusiasm for Baha'i Holy Days? We do have a small Baha'i community, with some other kids, but they are bombarded by the frenzy of other holidays. Any ideas would be most welcome!

DC in Michigan, USA


- Free advice/manual for adding music...

Would you like to get everyone singing songs before or during or after your
3 core activities, and/or all the other activities in both your Baha'i community, and/or in the other communities/organizations you're involved with?

I've been leading group singing for a few years now (it's the joy of my life!), and I've just finished writing some helpful hints and general guidance about how to do it.

In 4 pages you can read about -
- 7 basic how-to's and what-to's,
- how to make a song higher or lower (transposing),
- connecting with the group you're singing with,
- rhythm.

No charge - just send me your postal address. An s.a.s.e. (self addressed stamped envelope) would be appreciated but isn't necessary.

Have fun singing!

Dick Grover
16100 S.W. Century Drive, apt. #160
Sherwood, OR 97140 USA

p.s. And I'm always interested to learn of your experiences. What's
worked for you?


"Healing Through Unity" is published for the purpose of sharing thoughts, comments and experiences on how the teachings of the Baha'i Faith are being applied to physical and spiritual health. Other than the quoted Holy Writings, the material in this newsletter represents the thoughts and opinions of the writers and has no authority. None of the material published in this newsletter is intended to be a substitute for the advice of a physician.

You are free to copy articles, provided you indicate the source of the article. There are 10 issues per year; it is not published during July and August. The newsletter is produced in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


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All of us have had healing experiences, as well as climbed out of low points along life's way - physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Please share your stories, tips, useful links, and quotes from the Baha'i Writings about staying healthy in a stressful world. Your articles do not have to be long - even a few paragraphs in length is fine. Baha'u'llah gave us each other as a big part of a healthy lifestyle, and sharing stories and ideas that work for you brings encouragement to others. Asking for information and support from others can bring encouragement to you!


Many thanks to all of you who share helpful ideas for the Healing Through Unity Newsletter. The decision to select and edit material submitted for publication is determined by the editor. We welcome submissions from everyone.

Please e-mail your stories, comments, suggestions or "Question for the Month" ideas to the newsletter editor, Cheryll Schuette, at:


Please specify if you do not want your full name, or any part of it, used in this newsletter, particularly for the Question of the Month. Once published in email and in the archives on the website, it is difficult if not impossible to remove with any certainty.


Editor - Cheryll Schuette
Contributing Editor - Lynn Ascrizzi
Founding Editor - Frances Mezei
Medical Reviewer - Dr. Diane Kent
Circulation Assistant - Kathy Yonash
Web Master - Russ Novak

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