from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

heart medicine

Every living thing generates an electromagnetic field, which pulses in its own oscillation, its own frequency.

We could say that this oscillation is the song of that being; in fact if we can slow it down so that it is audible, we can hear its song. If it is then 'translated' into 3D, visually-beautiful patterns are formed, rather like mandalas; and each organism's 'pattern', from organ to human to tadpole to plant to whale, is unique. (This applies to planet earth, to water, to snowflakes too; not simply to what we culturally think of as organic and animate in the conventional sense.)

In a very real way, the earth has her own song and her own visual pattern. Her movement in the solar system also has a pattern; and some of the planets' orbits are remarkable for their grace and beauty (Venus, for instance, describes an elegant and beautiful five-fold rosette, or flower-like, orbit around our home planet, completing a cycle every eight years, and presumably giving out, like all the planets, 'the music of the spheres' at the same time).

When the organism is healthy, the pattern is ordered, regular, harmonious and beautiful, as of course the electromagnetic field – the 'song' – is as it should be.

There is so much to say about all this – and so many many books have already been written – that I'm almost immobilised with knowing where to start in excitement about it all. I just want to gesture, for now, at the idea that when we eat, say, a plant – let's say a healing herb – it is not only contributing to our physical wellbeing, but it is also contributing the benefits of the harmony and order of its electromagnetic field; and, should we be sensitive enough and practised enough (in eg shamanic ways), we could even hear its song. What's more, depending on the plant we've chosen, we can be healed on various levels by its gifts. However, if that plant has been treated with chemicals and grown in degraded soil, watered with polluted water, the picture for both plant and eater is different.

But all that is another story.

I wanted to write, as briefly as I can, about the healing power of music. This is not in any way a new idea and nor will what I'm about to say be innovative. There's plenty of material out there on all this. It's simply something from my own experience that I have been thinking about again the last day or two.

The poet Novalis said 'Every disease is a musical problem.' And we've known for a very long time that certain music, certain frequencies, can heal. Many people find, for instance, that J S Bach's music sets something right within them. I certainly do. Bach composed to certain numerical principles, principles of sacred geometry, often rooted in the golden ratio, or Fibonacci sequence, that were common in Renaissance thinking and current still for a while afterwards (and have faded rather in the last couple of hundred years, with our so-called Enlightenment mindset, so reductive in so many ways).

We could say that music employing techniques of harmonious intervals soothes and eases not simply the body but the subtler levels of being out of which bodily health (or ill-health) arises. It can be, literally, 'en-trancing'. (So I wonder, too, whether discordant music for some people is exciting and stimulating partly because it awakens them from a kind of dream-state? For me, with slight synaesthesia, such music sets up a rather distressing series of jagged visual accompaniments, rather like a migraine. I don't mean, by the way, eg loud rock music; I mean music that sets out to disrupt our expectations of certain harmonious intervals, such as was common in classical composition in the first half of the twentieth century, and in Modernist compositions, classical or otherwise, since.)

Anyway, I had a small heart problem erupt in October 2012. It was triggered by something specific but was an accident-in-waiting, after 30 years of working every minute I could scrape out of 24 hours in the arts for a pitiful income, being a single parent with no financial help from anyone, including my daughter's father, and on top of seven years of very serious family illness in three members of my immediate family, and in which I was usually the main carer (I'm not being a martyr, it was the way it worked out).

I'd lost my mum, to whom I was close, the year before. Simultaneously with that death, or rather immediately before, my dog, my best-beloved dog, went down with a life-threatening illness. And at the time when my heart issue erupted a year later, I was in an emotional situation – well, two, to be honest – where my feeling-heart was deeply conflicted.

I'd routinely ignored my physical health and bodily needs all my life. Rest was a completely foreign concept. No surprise, then, that it was my heart which told me it couldn't take it any more. But it struck right to the core of me, and was very frightening. I knew all the time, of course, about 'symptom as symbol', and have spent the intervening years unravelling many threads around emotional wellbeing.

And I have also addressed the symptom with herbs and plants; both on a physical level as medicine, and by spending time in the company of plants whose song I imagine I hear; or in other words with which I feel a resonance. (And yes, I take orthodox allopathic medicine too, in small doses, at the moment, and was fortunate enough as to be given acupuncture, and Jungian analysis sessions; and I monitor my stress levels.)

One of the things that has been of major benefit is music. I realised I'd stopped playing it much (I mean as CDs, but also myself, playing an instrument). Well, finally, my very good sound system was installed upstairs at home last year (it had been in storage since I moved in with TM 6 years ago). To play music again has added such a rich and healing dimension to my life, as has my small foray into playing the harp the last year or two.

And there has been one particular contribution which I swear I can feel immediately reharmonising the whole of my system, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual; and if my heart goes into overdrive because I've been working too hard again (such a difficult habit to break when you love what you do! – and even harder when what you love and do is not an affluence-producing activity!) I light the fire, lie on the sofa and put the CD on. It's the only thing I know which can induce me to fall sleep in the daytime – new concept that that still is to me.

Those of you who are long-term readers of this blog will know of the annual retreat week I lead on the Isle of Iona. Last year, along with a stunning spiral-inscribed pewter bangle, the group gave me – quite deliberately on the part of the person/people who chose it – a CD called 'Heart Medicine', by Simon de Voil. It's very simple piano music; rather similar to Ludovico Einaudi, or a less experimental and less repetitive Philip Glass. It is improvised, and it's specifically made to accompany meditation and healing.

And boy, it really works (and I say this as someone who has listened to many dozens of 'New Age' 'healing-music' tapes over the years – and made one, 'Source', too – most of them I can't stand).

So if you haven't had a bath in music for a while – well, what are you waiting for?


  1. Dear Roselle - I love this post , all your posts, they speak to my HEART!! I love the possibilities suggested by your piece, it hints at what we know so intuitively in our hearts is true! The music of the spheres, the song of the earth..the subtle and beautiful realms available to us when we allow ourselves to attune, to offer up an empty singing bowl to Life.. ! I once heard the herbalist Susun Weed say that when new students come to apprentice with her, their first task is to go and sit in the fields and meadows for several days and wait to hear the plants, and discover which one has a song or a voice that particularly speaks to them. They then work firstly, exclusively, with that plant, developing relationship with it.And then there's the other Bach with his affinity with the flowers and their healing vibrations, And of course, the great, awe inspring JSB , and the many reports of his music used in hospitals and the effect on the heart, both in the short and long term. So beautiful! Thank you for your recommendation- these things are good to share..Some years back now, when I too was suffering in the heart, after my marriage ended, and sporadically if panic arose, I experienced quite profound healing and calm presence listening to Jonathan Goldman's Holy Harmony. The funny thing was my dear little kickass son at the time who was more Red Hot Chilli Peppers than Ravel, when he felt poorly or also a little sad would ask me to "put THAT cd on!" It seemed to enter the breath and blood and heart healing without us doing anything, apart from being open to the possibility that it might. How lovely to think ( know! )that plants have that capability too when we're sensitive enough to their needs and their beauty,the deep simple power of the green. And I'm sure you will be aware of dear nettle, and the fact that so potent a healer they are that Rudolph Steiner called them the "the heart of the world", and he knew a thing or two! Blessings on Your heart and all you give out from it...Deep healing it is. Thank you ! : )) Cxx

  2. C, what a truly wonderful comment. Thank you so much! And what an enlightened herbalist in Susun Weed (as one would hope). I don't know her work.

    And of course the other Bach! I didn't make that connection, but you did. Thank you.

    And I don't know the Jonathan Goldman music, either - so lovely to have these learning exchanges. I'll go and check him and said herbalist out.

    I also didn't know that Steiner saw nettle as being heart of the world, though I am a bit partial to them myself.

    Thank you again for this lovely, warm, contribution.


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