Songs that Reconnect: How Singing Heals the Earth

In these distraught times, it is no longer possible for any individual or for any private or public collective to turn a blind eye to the Unravelling that is happening in all ecosystems and in all human societies, affecting all natural phenomena that englobe them. Simultaneously, there is rising awareness that it is not the problem we need to tackle, but the solution and that the solution lies in ourselves. If we are the originators of the cataclysmic chaos that is upon us, if we have the power to create such disruption, we also have the power for positive transformation.

First Nations all have their own unique musical traditions, with many different musical genres and instruments, incorporating with singing and chanting. The voice- used for both singing and chanting- is the most important instrument in First Nations music. Every song had an owner, be that a society, rite, clan, ceremony, or individual. The information available is scarce, for greed and power-driven conquerors forbade the practice of ceremonies across most original cultures.

Tswana women singing

Today, the rediscovery of traditional lyrics and the reconnection to the power of our singing voice are in the zeitgeist, both for professional music and in personal healing practices.

Many facilitators and participants in the Shift of Consciousness – as Joanna Macy coined one of the dimensions of the Great Turning – use creative practices to complement the Work that Reconnects methodology. It helps to use the techniques like painting, doodling, clay work, dance or song to drop out of the head and into the body to better unblock our feelings for the world. Music and song are particularly effective in that sense. In the words of Lydia Violet:

“Music has been cultivated for centuries to help sustain the human spirit and the heart and help us feel expressed and seen. I think we can take for granted the things that nourish and keep us resilient in doing the work of change. I think about the civil rights movement—music was integral. There was no march without music. In that community there was already a thriving intelligence that knew how fundamental music was to keep spirit going.” 

Lydia Violet is a musician and facilitator of the Work that Reconnects in America and has been receiving direct teachings from Joanna Macy for many years. By co-facilitating many of her workshops and regularly engaging with her in deep conversation, she is an honour-bound recipient and sharer of her broad wisdom. Lydia is one of the lead facilitators of a growing generation of facilitators Work that Reconnects, adapting tools and methods to the accelerating unravelling of our current civilisation.

Lydia Violet

“It’s fundamental and valuable to be an artist in the Great Turning. Artists sustain us in internal ways that we forget are a fundamental part of our experience being humans. We have internal landscapes that need nourishment, just like our bodies do. “

“It’s also a fundamental way that I think we metabolize pain. Music is one of the last healthy ways that on a mass level we self-soothe. There’s a lot of unhealthy ways that we on a mass level self-soothe. “

I think it’s also a very natural part of the human experience to want to create beauty in some way, in some form in the world. Someone might create it through a meal, and someone might create it through a phone call. Someone might create it through a painting. Someone creates it through a song. Again, those things aren’t necessarily valued in a culture where engineered productivity is the most valuable resource. 

Singing in a group is a particularly cathartic activity. My co-facilitator Rachael Millson and I organise songs circles every month, under the name Songs That Reconnect. On a physical level, the act of singing and, in general, the vibrations of music produce oxytocin in the body. It also increases oxygen flow in the blood, boosts the immune system and strengthens the diaphragm and the core posture among other health benefits. Additionally, not only does it have social benefits, which are primordial in these times of isolation, but it also has great psychological value, as it responds to our need of belonging, a most essential one.

Indeed, when we project sound or song into a collective space, we create music together, without any need to “know” how to sing. This is deeply fulfilling, as we become part of that song and that song becomes part of the universe. As simple as this may seem, this simple notion has incredible healing powers. The imaginal realm, the domain of music and imagination, powered by the unique qualities of human creativity, is a place where magic can happen, a catalyst for human transformation. And so, to make our personal intention manifest through our singing voice, and to do so with the multiplying strength of the collective, is undeniable medicine for the world.

Further viewing: an interview between Joanna Macy and Lydia Violet.

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