Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Christine Stevens. Christine is a modern-day troubadour who introduces people all over the world to musical expression in the form of drum circles. She’s the director of music therapy and wellness programs at Remo Drum Company and through her own company, UpBeat Drum Circles. Christine has led music and wellness seminars across the world.
With Sounds True, Christine has created a home study course called The Healing Drum Kit: Drumming for Personal Wellness and Creative Expression, which includes two audio CDs of guided instruction along with 24 study cards, a guide book and a Remo frame drum. Christine has also written a new book with Sounds True called, Music Medicine: The Science and Spirit of Healing Yourself with Sound, where she presents an information-packed resource filled with scientifically-based practices for accessing and attuning to the natural healing properties of music.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Christine and I spoke about how we can tune in to the rhythms of our body and the rhythms of life. We talked about the four elements of music: rhythm, melody, harmony and silence. We also talked about what we’re missing by being consumers and not creators of music. Finally, we talked about Christine’s own journey from being a performer to being a reformer. Here’s my very musical conversation with Christine Stevens.
TS: Christine, you introduce a model in your book, Music Medicine, that I had never heard of before and it’s the model of there being four different aspects or elements to music. I have two questions for you: One, if you could just briefly explain the model, but secondly I’m really curious if this is an original model; if you came up with this yourself?
CS: Well, the basic idea is that we think of music as notes on a page, in terms of musicians reading music. What I find is that music is more of a circle to me. It’s more of a feminine symbol of the whole—holistic.
I’ve studied a lot with Native American teachers and the idea of the medicine wheel has four directions and four elements and there are four seasons. It seems to me that music is so much a part of nature. It’s who we are. It’s what’s all around us. It resonated to me more as a circle, as a system that weaves together these four elements, much like the elements of air, fire, earth and water. To me, that’s how I envision music and that’s how I experience it as a healing aspect.
The model may feel original to me, but I’ve had such a great time in writing this book, researching the spiritual depth of music and finding interesting seeds like bread crumbs that were left for me to look back and see that they were saying the same thing. These are the writings of Hazrat Inayat Khan and Paramahansa Yogananda. It didn’t seem to matter what religious tradition I was looking at, there was a resonance of the concept of the four directions and the correlations that I find, like rhythm with the body, melody with the heart, harmony with the soul, and silence with the mind.
What I really found interesting was that in my own life—I mean I’ve had a real interesting background as a multi-instrumentalist. I haven’t just been on the rhythm path, although I drum a lot, but I also play saxophone and sing and I play the harmonium, and have recently learned to honor silence. I have found that all of that resonates as a sense of being around me.
That’s the concept of the medicine wheel. It’s not that the divine is separate somewhere up in the ethers, hiding in the clouds. It’s around us. We live in the medicine of life, in nature. That’s how I hold music, and I think that idea came to me through a moment of mystical awakening of the music of myself and that’s what I’m calling the inner music, that center point.
In all circle models, that kind of cosmology has that inner direction, the fifth element. I love the word “quintessential,” because it’s that fifth element, and it’s us as the human instruments. I really had an experience of hearing my breath as if I was hearing a soundtrack and feeling like, “Wow! There’s music just in my life force. There’s music in me.” Having that sense of myself as the music, instead of me the one who plays the music; I think I went more inside it. That developed this teaching.
TS: Now these four elements—rhythm, melody, harmony, silence—can all of music be covered really by those four elements? Is that it? Does that cover everything?
CS: I think so. I think that also we are an element of music. Because really when you listen to music you can really tune into different elements and I find that that’s how music works as a music therapist and working with wellness. There are certain aspects that I bring out more depending on the need of the group, or the need of the individual.
The interesting thing is that when I look at those four elements and I listen for those four elements, I can certainly hear that, culturally speaking, indigenous tribal cultures have more drumming and more melody; Western Europeans develop a lot of harmonies; and Eastern traditions have a lot appreciation of silence. I think that this covers music in a way that is holistic but also connected to the mind, body, heart and soul.
TS: Now it’s very interesting to me when you said that you were listening to your breath and you could feel the music in your breath. I’m curious to know more about this idea of being music, just in our experience how we are music.
CS: I think that in that moment I fell into something in myself, like the heart song that people talk about. I really heard it. I felt that inner hum.
That vibrational life force and those aspects have been really scientifically looked at and spiritually looked at. The great poet Rumi says that we’ve fallen into this place where everything is music. There are teachings from the science perspective—one thing I find interesting—of how hard it is to find absolute silence. You have to go to one of these deprivation booth chambers, an anechoic chamber, and when someone sat in there for 40 minutes they still heard two sounds and those were the sounds of the body; our neurology, our heartbeat, the blood flowing in us.
When you really start to think of it as a metaphor, life is rhythm. We sleep and wake to a rhythmic cycle and we talk and we interact in a rhythm. The speaking voice is a melody. What communicates meaning is prosody; the prosodic sound of our voices. We have it in us. We might not think of ourselves as musicians, but to quote George Leonard, he said, “We don’t make music. Music makes us.”
TS: Now let’s say that I want to hear more of the music that’s just naturally happening when I’m not doing anything. How would you suggest I go about that, so I can really tune into it in terms of these four elements? Or what would you suggest?
CS: I think it happens in the awareness of the fact that the body has the rhythm, and when you start to notice—even when you’re walking—that you entrain to a beat. When people walk together they actually start to fall into a beat together. When you start to have a musical awareness, and there are a lot of practices in the book, in fact each of those aspects has an opening practice that has to do with rhythm awareness, just building your awareness.
I’ll tell you that it really starts to become like a practice of ear training. As a musician I was taught ear training, and that was learning how to hear dissonance or harmonies or intervals. Well, what I find in this personal growth movement and spiritual movement is that we’re really in an ear-training mode. It’s not just what we see, it’s how we hear. What are we listening for? Am I listening for the beauty? Am I listening for the music of life? Or am I just hearing the chaos and the dissonance and the inner thoughts?
All around me in the morning is bird singing. What a beautiful song. What I love to do is one of the practices of going into nature and listening for the songscape and then harmonizing with it however you want. It doesn’t mean that you have to sound like a bird, but just kind of sitting in it and being in that musical soundscape.
TS: Now, of the four elements—I just want to be honest right here—for me intuitively I get a sense of rhythm. You use an example in the Music Medicine book of just even listening to the rhythm of brushing your teeth, which I liked. Mine would be kind of a crazy rhythm, brushing my teeth, but nonetheless I get melody, and the melody of the human voice and silence I feel very comfortable with.
I think harmony is the one for me, where I don’t even really know how to explore that and I’m afraid that if I tried it would be not harmonious. How can I explore harmony?
CS: Harmony—one interesting thing about harmony is that life wants to harmonize. I mean really, there’s a motion in music towards resolution so when you hear dissonance you hear resolution.
A way to explore harmony is to think of it is as relationships. The harmony is two notes coming into relationship. In our lives, it’s wherever we find that sympathetic voice with someone else. It’s a person that you resonate with—finding a harmony with them. The way to harmonize in life is to listen to what’s happening and add your voice to it.
The story of where this really was pointed out to me was when I was working in Iraq and I went to meet with the Kurdish Musical Heritage Center. A gentleman there was playing an instrument that I had never seen before called the tar, and I had my Native American flute with me. He started playing his instrument and I reciprocated by playing mine for him. Each of us had no idea of each other’s scales and I thought, these don’t even fit together. We were encouraged to try to make music together and what it required was very instructive to me about how to harmonize.
First, I had to stop and close my eyes and listen to him. I noticed that I listen better when I close my eyes. A lot of what gets in the way of harmonizing is not being able to really listen. So I had to stop and really hear him and then I would gradually play my flute and there were adjustments that he had to make to the notes but the result of that was this blend.
That’s what harmony is: it’s blending in a way that’s beautiful and pleasing. The result was both of us going, “Wow! We just both created something unique.” This is someone I couldn’t even speak to—totally different languages. When we finished there was a sense of connection that it’s kind of hard to describe, which is why I think harmony has to do with the soul, because it was as if our souls had just had a conversation. It had nothing to do with words. It had to do with deep listening, connecting, finding a unique spot where we could match and then finding our own voice within that.
So harmony is a lot about sensitivity to the whole, but being yourself. I think harmony is actually the direction within music medicine that is where we’re going on the planet. I mean, I think that this is the time of harmonizing. It’s not just about being individualistic; it’s also finding how we can co-create.
TS: You know I want to talk more about that in terms of this future of music medicine and how your work can impact social change, but before we do I’m just thinking about these four elements in one’s individual life. I’m starting to attune to them as I’m talking to you, and I’m starting to think, “Huh, maybe all music can really fit into these four categories,” and I’m listening for them. How does that change me? How does that help me? Why do I care, actually?
CS: A lot of it has to do with resonating with this vibration of beauty and good, and connecting to that which is already within us. And when we discover that, what I find from people that come to my workshops—and a lot of times they’re actually music teachers or they’re people who have had definitely suppressing messages around their musical creativity—they start to sing. They start to notice that they’re in the shower humming in the morning or that they’re more consciously choosing the music in their car on the commute to work or they’re more consciously allowing silence in places where it’s needed to give space in life.
It becomes a teaching and a practice that actually has a lot of practical implication. It doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to fall back into this because we’re really just remembering who we are. So I think it completes us in a holistic way and builds our creative voice. That transfers into anything. It’s not just about musical creativity; it could be finding your creative writing voice. To me, music is about awakening people. It’s about bringing them into that vibration that is just waiting to happen.
TS: One of the points you make in the book, that I think is really important, is how we’re more comfortable being consumers of music than we are creators of music. I’m wondering what you think we’re missing by being consumers and not creators?
CS: I think we’re missing finding ourselves. It’s interesting to me that song writing is an instinct. Six-month-old babies are inventing songs. They’re composing sounds. Even at age two, kids are writing songs and if you’ve ever been around a two-year-old you’ve seen this. Where do you think play songs come from? Kids are always singing. Why, then, do we stop thinking that we can write songs? Why do we stop being the ones who express our music and we only listen?
When I talk about the ocean of sound I’m talking about this bi-directional flow. I think it’s beautiful to listen to music and to be a conscious consumer of music, and that’s some of the music that accompanies the book. However, that is only half of the picture. That’s the in-tide. What about the out-tide, how it comes through us?
To me, that’s the expression of the unique person. When we improvise, and I found this in the research, we really actually express a unique part of ourselves. The brains of musicians light up and activate in an area that is thought to be the seed of consciousness. That doesn’t happen when we’re listening.
TS: Can you say more about that? What this research is and what’s lighting up in the brain when we improvise?
CS: Sure. The idea of improvisation—which I love that the word improve is included in that word—is that it is an in-the-moment creative act where there’s really no right or wrong because it’s your expression. This is very freeing for people. In fact, I think all of music education should start this way. Instead of reading notes we should be jamming like in most places in Africa.
The idea of this study was really creative. They looked at functional MRI results of musicians playing rehearsed music versus improvising their own creative ideas. When these musicians improvised, the special area of the frontal lobe is what lights up, what gets activated. That’s the same area—the medial frontal cortex—which has to do with your personality. It’s what lights up when you tell about yourself.
Simultaneously, what was deactivated were areas of the frontal cortex having to do with monitoring and judgment. So literally, to manifest our own creativity, there’s a lot we have to turn off. It’s more about what we have to undo. What we have to let go of or turn off those things that stop us from really expressing our true voice. I think that’s what we’re really here to discover: who we are, what’s my voice, where do I resonate? Do I feel more rhythmical? Do I feel more melodic? Do I feel more connected to the silence? We have our preferences and we want to bring that forth.
TS: Now it’s interesting, because what I hear you saying is that by starting to really, consciously listen to rhythm, melody, harmony, and silence—that from doing that, my own unique expression will be more invited forth. So, I’d like to understand more how those two things connect because I’m very interested in helping free people’s unique expression. What’s the connection there?
CS: Well I think the connection is that as we give ourselves more and more permission to explore these areas, we start to discover more about ourselves. We start to surprise ourselves and we sometimes come to a place of tearfulness.
What I’ve been noticing in my workshops is people are often surprised at what creativity lies inside them. I’ve worked with so many clients over the years as a music therapist and in so many countries that I keep repeatedly seeing that once somebody lets go of whatever that resistance is and they put it forth—and it usually doesn’t happen in a music room, it happens in a jam where you’re supported by others—I think that’s the place where the cathartic thing happens.
It really does make a difference how we go about discovering this in ourselves, that it’s not beating ourselves up that we don’t have the technique. I say in the book that it’s about permission, not perfection. It’s about creativity, not complexity. If we give ourselves permission to know that just humming a note is being musical, just toning a pitch is being musical, you don’t have to be an opera singer. If we understand that, we begin to find that voice. That voice is music is the wordless place.
This is the place when we talk about “at the edge.” I think of music as at the edge of language because what I experienced that day in Iraq, for example, was that words communicate thoughts, but music communicates energy. I think that when we discover that in ourselves and bring our voice forth in these tools, we also become part of the dialogue.
I hate to say it, but the West is behind. Most countries are singing, dancing, weaving together, and bringing music into their lives. When you look at the statistics on happiness globally, in countries and cultures, it doesn’t have so much to do with the richness and the financial gains; it literally has more to do with how we are, how we are being, and how we are nurturing our creative spirit.
To me, that is something that I want to activate more in people and for them to become inspired to do that in their lives with their kids, and with their communities. It doesn’t take long to sit and hum a note together with a community and harmonize. It takes a short time to see a great result.
The other interesting outcome when we make our own music is that we bring in three aspects that are documented as health outcomes. First of all there’s exercise. When you listen to music you’re having a great time, but when you sing you’re breathing deeply and it slows down your exhale. This has actual physiological benefits to you. So there’s an exercise component. There’s a component of social support and camaraderie that doesn’t happen when we’re just listening.
The third thing is self expression. This has been documented in a number of excellent studies looking at why journaling works because I’m writing about myself. Well, I’m journaling when I drum, whatever drumbeat comes to me.
TS: Now you made an interesting comment—that I think seems sort of intuitively obvious—that here in the West we seem behind in the dialogue. There is a drummer who worked with Sounds True who said to me once, “Here in the West we’re God’s frozen people.” I think he was just trying to make this comment about how it doesn’t seem to be part of our culture to move and groove. What has happened to us, Christine? How did we land in this situation?
CS: It’s interesting because I’ve been tracking that too. I used to look at the fact that in the 20’s they had these hootenannies, and my theory was we stopped building homes with porches. There used to be places where people got together and jammed. We’ve lost our music courts, our playgrounds for musical continuation.
There is a change happening worldwide. Right now the drum circle movement has been a growing interest. Ukulele clubs are springing up all over at the moment in surprising places. What’s that about? People want to get together and be musical together. So we’re reactivating our musical spirit. We’re rediscovering that, and certainly as we continue to see more and more cultural integration in America, I think it makes sense that this kind of musical harmonizing and weaving is happening, and there are more opportunities to make music.
TS: Okay, so as someone who finds themselves unfortunately somewhat frozen—not totally frozen but a little frosty—one of the values of your work is that you introduce dozens and dozens of practices that people can use to thaw out, if you will, and to thaw into a sense of rhythm, melody, harmony and silence. I wonder if you could just give us one practice for each of the elements that might turn us on.
CS: Sure. I think that the idea here is in moving ourselves from resistance to resonance. So, I’ll show you the four aspects through instruments and invite you to experience conscious listening through connecting the example of rhythm to feeling it in your body. When we really give ourselves the chance to understand that, we have hearing not just in our ears, but also in our bodies.
Our bodies love to listen. That helps us unfreeze. And our hearts want to listen to the melodies. Letting your soul listen and letting your mind listen—that’s a good beginning practice to bring consciousness into your listening.
So let’s start with rhythm. To listen to rhythm with your body, start by almost resisting moving, and notice in your body where the rhythm calls you to move, and then let that move a little. It might even be just how people unconsciously tap their fingers to the beat or tap their feet, but it could be as wild as getting up and dancing. It’s just to let yourself be part of the rhythm through your body. [Plays a drum beat]
TS: Yes. I mean it was definitely fun to pause and wait and then to see that my head wanted to uncontrollably move along with the drumbeat.
CS: Great. Now we’ll do the flute. So now let’s practice conscious listening to melody, and that’s listening with the ears of the heart. So take a minute and imagine that your heart is listening. Really, our hearts are listening a lot. It’s our emotional center.
I’m going to play the flute for you to experience this. I’m improvising so that I’m really sharing who I am through this flute for the heart-centered listening. [Plays the flute]
So now let’s have a practice of harmony and listening from the soul. The soul is that place of eternal sense of ourselves that is often connected to faith, music, or we even have a saying of “soul music.” The things that touch our soul, that connect us to the divine. So this is the harmony.
TS: How do I listen from my soul? Where am I tuning into physically? Help me with that a bit.
CS: Well, a lot of people feel their soul in different places. Some people feel it more in their heart center, some people say it’s more in a kind of deep place around their navel, or some people experience the soul as the sense of a presence around them, not only within the body. It kind of transcends the physical and becomes more of our extended self. So it’s kind of up to you.
I’m going to be playing an instrument called the strumstick, and that’s because harmony happens in cores, in the interaction of the notes; and I may even incorporate some singing to extend that harmonizing. [Plays and sings]
So for the practice of silence, it’s about letting our minds listen for the space between the notes and what I call musical silence. We wouldn’t just sit here in silence, there’s actually a way that music can help us fall into silence. As Jill Purce says, “The purpose of sound is silence.” So as we dive into that polarity, we listen for where the singing bowl dies off and the sound quiets, and we let that focus of that single sound focus our mind.
I also use the wind chimes because that free sound helps quiet the mind. Remember the space like air blowing through the wind chimes. Here we go for silence. [Plays wind chimes]
TS: As I was listening, Christine, I was reminded of your answer to my question of why bother paying attention to these four different elements of music in a discreet way, and one of your responses that surprised me was beauty, to appreciate beauty. I felt surprised when I heard that, and in listening, I thought, that’s something in our culture that almost we don’t see as valuable enough or something like that—like, “Beauty? What’s that?” Like it needs to be operational. It needs to give me something productive or concrete, but here we were, just beauty itself. I’m wondering what you feel about that?
CS: It reminds me of a Cherokee chant that says, “I walk in beauty all around me. As I walk the beauty way.” This Native American perspective that beauty is so important and to take time to breathe it in when we start to see it, but what I think is important is when we start to hear it; then we start to feel it in ourselves. We start to recognize that in ourselves which is what we’re identifying outside of us. So that’s how that mirror starts to change us on the inside. We remember our beauty.
TS: There’s an idea that you introduced in the Music Medicine book of “reunion grief.” That sometimes when we’re reunited with something in the context of this conversation that we find really beautiful, we can actually feel a grief response, and I noticed that while I was listening. I’m curious what you think about that.
CS: It’s such an interesting principle in psychology. I was glad that I learned it because it explained years and years of people walking up to me after my workshops with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes, saying, “I don’t know why I’m crying. What just happened to me?”
This is this idea that when you miss someone—say you’re waiting to pick up an old friend at the airport. It’s counterintuitive because you should cry while they’re gone, but no, we cry when they land and they hug us and then there are tears of reunion grief, because it’s not until we have it back that we notice how much we’ve missed it.
So it’s that reunion, which is kind of like the principle of remembering, which is a big part of Sufi practices; how we language that practice is we’re just remembering. We’re just reuniting. The tears are good. They’re a sign that you’re becoming whole.
TS: Now I want to pick up a thread of our conversation which has to do with music medicine as a force for bringing the world together, especially in areas of conflict. I know you’ve had quite a bit of experience specifically with drum circles in areas that are beset with conflict and I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about that.
CS: I think what gives me a lot of confidence in this work is what experience I had in Iraq in 2007 of going literally into a war zone with warring groups that spoke different languages, and bringing them together with drum circles.
Interestingly enough, we found that it wasn’t just a drum circle that worked. It really brought in the music medicine perspective to me because we wanted to bring in the melody. People were actually saying to us by the second day, “I don’t feel the grief as being expressed from the healing that needs to happen,” from the years of war and genocide. So they brought in the violin and they started playing these beautiful melodies on the violin and then we would add the drums. What I observed was that there was the ability to have soul-to-soul connection through music, and sound really reduces the sense of conflict.
And if it can work in a war zone, then this can really work in places where we have conflict today in gang activities. It can work cross-culturally, because when you really think about it, there’s no other tool that allows for such powerful, in-the-moment, immediate cross-cultural dialogue.
TS: So tell me how you go about this. How you go into an area—let’s say where there are two groups that are in conflict. How do you create a drum circle? What do you do?
CS: The first thing you do is to pay attention to where you’re meeting and you find a neutral place. It can’t be in that house or the other house, so you find a neutral place.
The next thing you do is you empower people immediately to participate. Change doesn’t happen by just sitting and listening and watching. We want to have people engaging. The next thing we did was an activity of handing out shakers; we didn’t hand out drums right away. I started playing rhythms on my drum and had everybody play their shakers. That’s an icebreaker.
Slowly, I stood up and pointed at the drum and basically motioned for someone else to play, and someone stood up and played. In that kind of non-languaging, I indicated that you’re actually the leaders; we’re going to follow each other here.
You gradually build that culture of participation and shared leadership so even though it looks like it’s about music, it’s really not. It’s really about these principles of non-violent communication, in a sense, because where harmony comes into play is that people really want to make good music together. They don’t really want to sit down and make chaotic horrible music. There’s a drive for beauty.
When we work cross-culturally, we slowly build towards rhythm, and we do something called “call and response.” I love that because you play a beat and everyone echoes it back to you. When you think about that, it demands listening, leading and following, but it really is validating to a person.
So we have people lead call and response, and then we work our way towards cross-cultural sharing—and that’s a really important piece. At that point we say, bring in a song from you culture and teach everyone. It’s important that we don’t do that first. We wait until there’s a sense of community that’s been built through the drums, through the camaraderie, through the sharing, and then we bring in the cultural rhythms and songs.
I’m doing this work with refugees in El Cajon, California right now, and some Iranian women were there with some Iraqi women. The Iranian women were sharing songs from their culture. The Iraqi women were sharing dances from their culture and that is peacemaking.
In the movie Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama, they ask him, “How can we make peace?” He says, “More music festivals!” I think music has a natural tool for listening and appreciating one another’s cultures and for co-creating something that is improvised and in the moment, so everybody owns that and feels part of it.
TS: In all of your travels, and I know you’ve been to many different countries throughout the world, what has happened that has actually surprised you the most, just pure surprise, never would’ve expected that?
CS: Lots of times I feel like I’m in constant surprise of the power of this. One that pops in my mind is sitting in the airport in Bali waiting to come home. I find this over and over in my life that it’s not always in the planned programs, it’s in-between them; but because I’m traveling with my instruments and I’m in an airport—I’m waiting and the plane is delayed and there’s agitation and there’s that energy that happens under those conditions. And you’re in an international airport, so you have a lot of different cultures sitting and waiting. I was bored, so I pulled out my strumstick guitar and started playing.
Without a word being spoken, a man came over from the back corner, pulled out a ukulele, and started playing with me. Before I knew it, we had people gathered around us and someone started singing a chant. Another person started to dance, and this airport turned into a moment of celebration and joy. Everyone forgot about the airport and the airplane being delayed. By the time the boarding announcement came, there was a completely different energy.
CS: I said in the book that we should practice random acts of music, because I carry a small flute with me in the event that I become stuck in some place. It’s amazing to see what magic can happen.
TS: Now I want to end on this note, Christine, by talking about a point you make towards the end of Music Medicine that really touched me. It was talking about the journey from being a performer of music to a reformer.
Here’s what you wrote: “A performer plays an instrument. A reformer becomes an instrument. A performer gets applause. A reformer gives applause. A performer used talent to be a success. A reformer gives talents to make a difference. A performer entertains an audience. A reformer transforms a community and even the world.” I’d love if you could say a couple of things about your own journey from being a performer to becoming a musical reformer.
CS: It’s challenging because when you have had experiences as a performer, it can be very ego-tempting. You’re on the stage, people love you and you get applause. I think it’s been a particular level of ego death and a level of the desire to serve. That’s what shifts you from understanding the value of music, is when you go into a community and you get an opportunity to see the impact that has.
There are great luminaries that I point out in the book, such as Michael Franti’s work around the world, just going to Israel and singing with his guitar. That’s really making use of your talents. Michael Beckwith always says that your gifts are not for you, they’re for the world.
I think we’re in an age right now where many performers are becoming reformers because music is such a powerful tool to unite people. We saw this with what happened in Egypt, with people singing and dancing together in the streets and the creation of freedom songs. We’ve seen this with our own freedom songs in our culture.
For me, the personal journey came as a music therapist, seeing what music could do to help others and becoming more selfless and more appreciative of serving with these musical gifts. It really took it to a whole new level, going to Iraq. That pushed me. I said yes to the opportunity, but I know that I had a lot of fear that I had to overcome, and in that experience I got to really understand those four principles that came to me through that work.
Those people I trained in Iraq went back to their communities and they became reformers, and they were very talented artists who then said not only is it about developing my talent and gifts, it’s about how do I serve. That’s a really important piece of spiritual development.
TS: You write that you went from being a go-getter to being a go-giver, and I thought that was so beautiful.
CS: Yes. Well, it really is what we give that we get to keep, and that means the most. When you give music, something amazing happens. I mean, it amplifies, like that moment in the airport. It just amplifies and it creates a blossoming of everyone participating with their gifts.
TS: Wonderful. To end, sometimes I ask spiritual teachers if they’ll give some kind of blessing to our listeners, and I wonder if you would give us a musical blessing of some kind.
CS: Yes, I would. What I like to say is, may your heart sing a melody of love. May your body dance in the rhythm of life. May your soul harmonize with the beauty of life. May your mind rest in the silence of peace.
TS: I’ve been speaking with Christine Stevens, she’s the author of a new book from Sounds True called Music Medicine: the Science and Spirit of Healing Yourself with Sound. Christine has also created with Sounds True The Healing Drum Kit, which is a kit that actually includes a 10-inch Remo frame drum, plus 24 rhythm cards, 2 CDs of music that you can play along with either by yourself or jamming with other people, along with a 78-page guidebook. The Healing Drum Kit: Drumming for Personal Wellness and Creative Expression.
And Christine will also be with us for Sounds True’s very first Wake Up Festival, which is taking place August 22-26, in Estes Park, Colorado, this year, 2012. Christine, I heard you made up a “Wake Up rhythm.” How does it go?
CS: I did! It goes “Wake up, badump bum ba dum, wake up, badump bum ba dum, wake up, badump bum ba um, wake up!
TS: I love it! The Wake Up Festival, and stretching me in new ways, the Wake Up rhythm! Thank you, Christine Stevens, SoundsTrue.com: many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.