Sounds True: In recording Music as Medicine, what aspects of music did you focus on for healing?
Nawang Khechog: Western medicine shows that a prominent cause of disease is tension, or stressful feelings. So on this album, I focused on making music that is quiet and peaceful, intended to calm the mind and allow a listener to relax when they are in a stressful situation.
I also thought about the sources of suffering. Human beings create all sorts of problems—war, suffering, disease—because of the imbalances of hatred, greed, and attachment. In Buddhist tradition, we refer to these harmful states as the “inner poisons.” Music has such great healing power because it can touch the emotions directly to inspire states of love, compassion, and kindness—these are the antidotes to the inner poisons.
I feel the healing energy in this album is especially strong because of the “transmissions” I have received—that is, powerful blessings for specific chants or prayers from great spiritual masters. I received transmissions for this album from the abbot at the Namgyal Monastery in Tibet, and then another from His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself. These blessings were given to me so the music on this album would be more effective for clearing the inner poisons.
If you have time and the circumstances, you can light a candle or incense, and just be quiet and still while you listen to the album. This is one way to draw upon the healing energy of the music. However, these recordings are also useful at times like when you’re driving and you need to calm down. It can help you quiet your mind and inspire you to drive more carefully. Those are often the best times for healing music, when things are really stressful around you.
Sounds True: Could you tell me about your collaboration with R. Carlos Nakai?
Nawang Khechog: R. Carlos Nakai and I have worked together a few times before in live concerts and other projects. But I found this collaboration is the best one I’ve ever done with him. I’m always inspired by his ability to play spontaneously, directly from the heart.
Also, Tibetan and native American people share many things in common. The destruction of native American culture and their identity as a civilization is so similar to what happened to Tibet when communist China invaded. And it’s still going on. So I can feel their pain and am sensitive to their struggle. I feel a very close bonding with R. Carlos Nakai and native Americans, and exploring that connection through our music has been a very moving and powerful experience.