In the summer of 2014 I sat waiting in an airport terminal for a twice-delayed flight. My ears were being assaulted by the blaring news station barking out social conditioning and barely veiled biased news that would test even the most well-meditated mind.
Thankfully, there is some technology that can be controlled, so I created a personal sacred space…and pressed play on my iPod.
The angelic sound of a divine string quartet swelled gently, calming my auditory consciousness, and the tension from the sensory manipulation of the airport began to immediately dissipate. Sweet relief.
I was further grounded by having a physical memory to connect with, since I had attended a live performance of this piece in London at St. Martin of the Fields during the Christmas of 2012.
Four songs played, each one more beautiful than its neighbor. The last song began to play, ordered in the setlist exactly as it was when my husband and I sat in the front row of St. Martin’s in Trafalgar Square. Oblivion.
Then, the familiar phenomenon began.
The Dopamine Surge
Anyone who gets the “chills” from listening to music, known as a dopamine dump or surge in professional music therapy, will also know this phenomenon.
It is healing, transforming, and oh yes, addictive.
The sensation is conducted by the ebb and flow of the music. The body responds to the music without voluntary action…a familiar kinesthetic dance that invites a person to respond in a zen-like syncopated movement.
“But wait, I can’t dance, I’m in the airport!”, my inner voice reminded me.
No matter, I responded with a micro-dance, allowing the first few fingers of my left hand to express a tiny, slow, smoldering tango, a reflection of my internal energy.
The transformative sensory extravaganza continued…
Have you Had Your Dopamine Surge Lately?
The physical response to this violin piece resonated from heart to crown, and began inside my skull, like a spontaneous spark. Pulsing like an electrical current, my brain and scalp began to tingle in syncopation with the song’s swell. With a rise and spread, it moved from the base of my brain and covered my entire head – my face, skull, and scalp, until the whole cranium was like an orb lit by the lightening-like synapse of each symphonic note. The feeling forced me to close my eyes, so strong, like some kind of ecstatic ice cream headache.
But I don’t move, because I know from experience, the sensory volcanic eruption was not over…
The electrical pulse peaked at the crown of my skull where I felt the inside of the top of my skull lifting away, like it could expose the cortex. My body followed the cue of the music’s pulse…In tempo…Down and through…over my arms, torso, and legs, until finally, my entire mind, body, and soul are physically resonating, from the inside out.
That is music’s power. Powerful enough to cause a physical and hormonal reaction in your body that can numb pain and even bring a damaged brain back from the brink of ruin.
But this could also be Mother Nature’s power.
Or Slow Food.
Or watching children play.
Or hearing a choir of voices swell and pulse in unity.
Harnessing the Courage to Find Freedom
But, here I sit. In the airport, an adult, with the social knowledge, er, conditioning, that grown adults aren’t allowed to be too happy, too sad, or too much of anything without catching a raised, suspect eyebrow from those nearby.
So I restrain my want to get up and dance through the airport, and instead, I close my eyes, and allow myself to be taken by the music.
I let my eyes close and roll back and ride out the ether-driven tsunami of soul-shuddering lucidity. It is a lightness of being that, I swear, dispels any brain fog, creative roadblock, pain, or dreary mindset.
Finding freedom in the beauty of art is liberating. And my reaction to this incredible violin concerto by Piazzolla is real, raw, and fortunately for me, frequent and easy to access.
But what about you?
How do you find freedom? Creative liberation? Inspiration? How do you reinvent your motivation and passion for being human?
How do you allow yourself to react when life is so beautiful that you cannot stand it?
Do you suppress that joy? Or do you free it – and let it fly?
And if we suppress ourselves too often, do we forget how to embrace joy?
Some of the most joyful moments I remember were playing jazz gigs where I was the only white person in the bunch, or singing with an international choir, 250 members strong, so quietly, a capella, that I could hear my own, barely perceptible, inhale.
The other truly joyful moment I recall is watching children play. Children don’t hold themselves back – they are truly open to creativity and the wonder the world offers.
We can always learn from other cultures, other belief systems, and always, always, from children.
I am a white woman that sings jazz and longs to go to an African American church and just let loose singing, hands in the air. I am a white woman that is also Native American and somewhere, down deep, when I see a beautiful thing, I want it to be set free.
So I ask myself on a regular basis, am I holding myself back from true freedom, suppressing myself just because I’m a “grown up” and that’s what is expected of me?
Perhaps we can make 2015 the year we lose our self to find freedom?
Perhaps we can look at the world through the eyes of a child, and remember what it is that makes us come alive?
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