17 August 2009

A2 (2:07)

making the maple syrup

(written by audience participant at Folklife,
Seattle Center May 31, 2010)

D (2:19)

A (3:34)

E2 (2:53)

B (2:41)

Seikilos (3:01)

D2 (4:20)

G3 (:47)

G (2:10)

C (1:59)

E3 (2:40)

D3 (3:20)

listening for comfort

Thank you for making the effort to engage in this imaginative listening process. This music and exercise has been used as part of a music therapy practice with critically ill and injured adults and children in medical settings.

It is being shared here to promote the use of imagery through music as a self-directed technique to induce relaxation.  And to gather from a larger community, the collective images from this set of guitar pieces.

While any music can be used, instrumental music and music you are not familiar with may be more effective at "mining" images.  This exercise is intended to help you discover individualized images of comfort for promoting relaxation and to recall for the purpose of calming when experiencing distress.  

It is important to note that this exercise may be more useful for some than others.  There are other methods of self-directed, or autogenic, practice to induce relaxation such as progressive muscle relaxation and breath awareness exercise and individuals may find more success with one technique over another.

Step 1:  Being focus

Before you begin, find a comfortable seat or lay down.  Allow your breath to flow in and out comfortably several times.  Agree to put off for a few minutes any mental business you may currently be working on.  Direct your attention to your breathing, feel the tension that builds as you breath in and the natural release that occurs as your breath flows out.  Practicing this technique alone several times per day will increase your ability to use it actively at those times during the day when our minds and bodies get "spun out" with tension:  picking the wrong line at the supermarket checkout, after a difficult or unpleasant interaction, trying to fall asleep.

Step 2:  Listen to music

Listen to one of the guitar pieces and allow the music to paint a picture in your mind.  If you find that the music does not elicit images that feel comforting, calming or relaxing, 

find different music that you think may help you for this exercise.  If you do experience images of comfort and calm,

find a point that will help you to recall that scene in your mind.  Some people have success thinking of a sensation such as texture, taste or smell that they recall or imagine in the scene.  When you are ready to stop, return your attention to your breathing and feel the air flowing in and out of your lungs again.  Turn the music off.

Step 3:  Practice

It may be helpful to reflect through journaling about your experience or talking to someone close to you about your practice.  If you would like to train yourself to be "relieved" by a certain piece of music, practice relaxation with that specific piece of music and only use that music when you are engaging in your relaxation practice.  You can also employ your comfort image at times when you would like to relax yourself or when you are facing a challenging situation such as discomfort from illness or pain.

The set of fingerstyle guitar miniatures have evolved from bedside improvisations intended to comfort, console and distract patients during painful and anxious moments.  As the pieces coalesced into discrete forms, they were used as part of an introduction to one of three approaches to self-induced relaxation training:  imagery, breath awareness and control, and progressive muscle relaxation.  As the pieces lack any elaborate ornamentation in their titles, the comments posted to this blog serve as the evolving linear descriptions of their aural and individually imagined qualities.

For a more comprehensive view of the use of music and imagery, visit the

Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music at   http://www.ami-bonnymethod.org

This exercise, and other receptive techniques used in music therapy, are just one example of how musical processes are used to facilitate a therapeutic change.  

For more information about the field of music therapy, please visit:     http://www.musictherapy.org 


David Knott, MT-BC, NMT