Thursday, December 30, 2010

Music for Stroke Victims

For the past week, I have spent every evening in the neurological unit of Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel to provide healing music and therapeutic singing sessions to a patient recovery from a major stroke less than two weeks ago. The sister of the fifty year old stroke victim was enthusiastic about having me come in during the first days after the stroke - even as her brother lay in the Intensive Care Unit.

My first visit to the Neuro Surgical Intensive Care Unit occured just two hours after he returned from surgery. He was still highly sedated, though when I began to sing, his eyes looked up towards his brain as if he were looking at the electronic pulses connecting the two hemispheres. It was so striking to me that I stopped singing. Perhaps it was too much?

I asked him: Silence? Or more music? He looked at me, not so able to speak, yet focusing upon something inside, when suddenly he responded in a clear voice: "More music. Play more music."

It was astounding.

Researchers from Finland found that if stroke patients listened to music for a couple of hours a day, their verbal memory and focused attention recovered better and they had a more positive mood than patients who did not listen to anything or who listened to audio books. This is the first time such an effect has been shown in humans and the researchers believe it has important implications for clinical practice.

"As a result of our findings, we suggest that everyday music listening during early stroke recovery offers a valuable addition to the patients' care- especially if other active forms of rehabilitation are not yet feasible at this stage-by providing an individually targeted, easy-to-conduct and inexpensive means to facilitate cognitive and emotional recovery," says Teppo Särkämö, the first author of the study.

Less than ten days later, the patient was moved out of the intensive care unit to a regular hospital room. When I sing, I ask him to conduct imagery exercises - imagining he is moving his legs, getting up, yet without trying to physically do it. His recovery is amazing the doctors and his family alike.

Yesterday, he actually sang with me. It was so exciting.

Since it is too early a stage to know exactly what the long term ramifications are - and he also can speak, I implement wordless singing. Since wordless singing is pre-cognitive, I believe that it exercises both hemispheres simultaneously.

It would be wonderful to have this medically tested.

What are your experiences with music and stroke? Or music and brain functioning, and specifically wordless singing?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Setting Limits with Heart

Do you have difficulty drawing limits with yourself? I for example, love the work I do with healing music. I can spend hours and hours researching the subject on the internet. When it comes time to break away, I don't. My body is softly whispering: "Honey, it's time to rest. Take a break". My mind is engaged. My curiosity compels me to check out - "just one more thing" which leads to "one more thing", which leads to "one more thing".

Before I know it, hours have passed. When I finally DO break away, my eyes are fried, my back is creaked and my inner voice is silenced with disappointment. Disappointed at my self ignorance - ignorance as in - ignoring.

I believe that ignoring is one of the most crippling means of self abnegation and violence. We avoid being kind to ourselves in the name of being kind to others. We are the last in line to receive our own compassion.

Now that holiday season is in full blast, you may be experiencing this phenomenon in full blast as well.

How do we turn this habit around? I'd like to share with you what I am doing that is really helping...

Setting limits with your heart.

The operative word here is "with your heart", not your head. There's a small but huge difference.

When you make a decision with your mind, when it comes time to reinforce the boundary, it's easy for your mind or your ego to argue with you. It's so easy for an inner battle of wills to begin. In order to avoid the battle, many times the mind just ignores your body's signals.

The heart speaks a softer language. It won't pound or pounce on you. It will acquiese to the powerful will. Though you won't feel so great about your ignoring yourself. The worst part about it is that only you know the difference.

When you make a decision with your heart, there is leeway. There's a soft and tender pliable movement, bending, not breaking your will.

Here's a healing music meditation for your self compassion:

So when it's time to leave my computer - when I have set a limit with my heart, and my mind says: "Just one more thing...", instead of responding in a contest of wills, I ask my heart if it is ok or not. I check in with how it feels in my heart.

If I get an open pliable response, I may just check that "one more thing", which quiets my mind. Then I leave. It makes me feel good about myself. If my heart reinforces the limit - at that point I am already conscious of having a conscious choice to make - contest of wills, or being kind to myself.

I choose being kind to myself.

Each day is a chance to learn a little bit more.
How do you set limits with yourself? Or not? What is the difference to you between setting limits with your heart? What do you notice?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Holiday Stress - Guided Meditation from Ancient Israel

Frantic? Rushed? In a hurry? Take two minutes to relax with this guided meditation and you'll be as good as new.

If you like it, there is more at: