My personal experiences regarding music, healing, and spirituality
In my own life experience music has been a primary force, a lifeline and a connection to the deeper parts of my being and my spirit. I have experienced physical and emotional healing and incredible natural ecstatic highs through music. Music is an energy with the power to unite each of us with our own source and with each other. It is an essential ingredient, if not the principal ingredient necessary to realize the hope of a humankind united in the goal of peace and well-being for all beings, all creatures, all creation. My story is a tiny paragraph in the great book of the music of life, and one which I happily share with any who would find benefit in the listening.
My connection with music during my childhood was deep though not extraordinary, I am sure. I loved our radio and the popular songs of the day. I loved record players, speakers, wires, tape recorders, our slightly out of tune piano and guitars! I did not love the trumpet, which was the instrument chosen for me when our grade school offered band as a class. Though it is actually a wonderful instrument, to me it seemed cold and not very expressive, and you couldn't sing and play it at the same time! I found out early that I had at least a modicum of talent. I could go to the piano and pick out any tune in a matter of a few minutes. I also found out that my voice was at least listenable. When our music teacher decided to have us put on a play they needed a singer for the leading male role. I'm sure I got the part mostly because I was nearly the only one with enough nerve or audacity to get up in front of the class and "audition". In fact, I may have been the only one who got up. At any rate, I had the exhilarating, terrifying and mortifying experience of singing love songs to a girl about a foot taller than I was, in front of an audience of all my schoolmates and their parents.
I lived through the experience and realized I wanted to play music for and with as many people as possible. I had wanted a guitar since the beginning of time and had managed to procure a plastic ukulele and a plastic Elvis Presley guitar along the way. I finally got a real guitar, a decent little Harmony guitar, for my birthday at age 14 or so. I refused to have a teacher and immediately began figuring out songs and found I could tune it easily using our piano. I was soon organizing musical events at school and playing and singing whenever and wherever I could. It was the first time I felt connected to who I was, to something in me that was of value. It was the first time I really felt the joy of emotional expression.
I will not elaborate here on my overall experiences as a boy growing up. I had many wonderful and fulfilling experiences that I will always be grateful for. I also had excruciating experiences as most of us do, and experiences I had no preparation or guidance for that I was completely incapable of processing in a healthy way. I know now that some of those experiences manifested themselves physically. I had chronic asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and a collapsed lung. At the ripe old age of 16 I was turned down for life insurance because of my health history!
When I began college I was not yet 18. I studied psychology and played music as much as possible. Along the way I learned about psychosomatic illnesses and somewhere inside recognized my respiratory problems as having their basis in some unresolved emotional issues from childhood. I could feel that I was innately channeling a lot of this unresolved "stuff" through my music and knew that I was no longer going to carry it with me. During my 19th year all respiratory ailments left me, aside from occasional sneezing during pollen season. I no longer needed the aspirator, the medicine or the annual hospitalization for severe bronchitis. Somewhere inside I knew what had happened and what role music had played.
My awe and fascination for life and the world around me lead me to Eastern philosophy around this same time. Every thing I read just seemed to ring a bell, and seemed much more like remembering than learning. Music was a natural part of this expression and exploration into the mystical realm of spirit and the intellectual realm of philosophy. I also soon found myself in the presence of a wonderful yoga teacher, a man from India named Raj Mangathrai. Besides the wisdom and knowledge of yoga and meditation, he guided me to my spiritual teacher Srimata Gayatri Devi (Mataji). She was at that time spiritual leader of the Vedanta Centre in Cohasset, MA, and also Ananda Ashrama in LaCrescenta, CA.
Mataji drew me in and enfolded me in an atmosphere of love, spiritual awareness, and exalted music that I shall ever be humbly grateful for. The songs and chants from Mataji's lips came directly from a place so deep and pure that anyone close enough to hear was transported there. She gave me a new spiritual name, Jaidev (Victory to God), encouraged my music and appointed me "Music Director", a position I gladly experienced for twenty years. Without calculation or intent, her being only responded to music that came directly from our souls. Our egos, seeking gratification and bolstering found little to flatter them in an atmosphere where true singers were not performers, but open clear channels for something larger than themselves. Our hearts, when they came flying out through our songs and chants found nourishment fit for the gods. Mataji's approval of our music came mostly in the form of her own ecstatic moods during and after the songs, moods that were tangible and that healed and lifted one's heart and soul on the wings of the deepest truth and joy. Her name, Gayatri, meant "one who attains through song". Her gift to us all was the ethereal song that was her whole life. It was her, and her song that taught me and gave me the direct experience of how deeply healing and spiritually uplifting music can be.