Last year I was on a sabbatical leave and spent 5 months in Kauai, Hawaii. It was an amazing place where I experienced a very powerful inner journey. The outer beauty affected me and helped me (re)discover my inner beauty. The need to give expression to both inner and outer beauty was tremendous, but I didn't have a piano or any other musical instrument there, so I couldn't really express myself through playing.
One day I went to the beach and felt a calling to paint this tree with huge leaves that was there. I only had my journal and a pen, and started to draw the tree. I then rushed into the store, bought myself brushes and water paints and painted the tree. It was not the first time I have been painting, but this was the first time that painting became my main source to express myself in a non-verbal way. I also had the need to express myself via words, and every morning, after I would wake up to the birds singing and the light that was gradually coming outside my window, I would write in my writing journal. Painting and journal writing became my main means to express my impressions, feelings, sensations, reactions, and ideas. I couldn't play music in the "real" sense, but I felt that I have so much music both inside and outside. I also felt that my listening changed. I listened much more intently in a focused way to the music both inside and outside. I became familiar with the singing of the birds and could identify many of their melodic phrases, timing and pacing. I became aware of the way they communicated with each other - it often had the structure of question and answer, almost always in the same way, with very slight, delicate changes in the tone they sang it. I listened to the wind and its various sounds when it touches the various trees - the willing willow tree made a very delicate sound when the wind touched him in comparison to the coconut tree, whose sound was louder and sharper. I would sit hours by the pacific sea and listen to the music of its waves - it varied in different beaches and times of the day. Sometimes the waves were huge and their sound fortissimo, while other times they were very small and quiet, playing pianissimo. And in between, there were lots of playing between small waves and big waves, crescendos and de-crescendos, sforsandos and markatos. And above and under them, were the surfers, big and small, men and women who added a visual dimension to the music.
I also listened a lot to classical and Hawaiian music. I found that my experience listening to music in this beautiful place was different. I was in a quiet and relaxed state of mind, and I let the sounds enter my body and touch me in a deeper way. My listening was more focused. I fell in love with the Hawaiian music. It strengthened my sense of belonging to the place. Many of the songs talk about the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands and the special connection that the natives feel to the earth, to the sea, to nature in general and to other people. They talk about the soul and the spirit of life. I resonated very deeply with most of these songs. They touched my soul. While listening to classical music, I found that I was able to listen to the sounds and to the connections among them in a different, more heightened way. I became aware of the music in a new way. It was as if I devoted all of myself in a very focused way to the listening.
And then I came back home. To the other extreme: Three weeks after I got back the Intifada started again, and the tension started to increase. I came from the most quiet, peaceful place to the most tense, hectic place. And that wasn't easy for me. My big challenge was how to stay calm, focused and quiet in such a violent and tense environment, how to keep my inner beauty without the support of living in beautiful surroundings, how to let the music within me take over the outside noise of cars, army planes, and news on the radio and television. In other words, how to bring the "Hawaiian experience" into my life here?
My office, where I see my clients, is at my home. It is a small, cozy room, with lots of instruments placed on the walls, on shelves and on the floor. My beloved piano stands there, on one of the walls. I love this room, it has warmth. It has such a rich history with so many clients I had worked with during so many years. The room contains so many experiences, sounds, emotions and feelings, laughing and crying...
But after coming back from Kauai, I needed something else. I needed to create a space that will be my own, not shared with others, a place where I can nurture myself. So, I decided to create one for myself. My son got older and moved out, and I re-organized his room. I painted the walls, covered the wall unit with white paper and put in a new window. It became my "Kauai room"- I put my Hawaiian paintings on the shelves and on the walls, put my collection of Hawaiian music that I brought with me there, a yoga mattress on the floor and one chair that converts into a sofa, in blue and green, like the colors of the pacific. In this room I do yoga while listening to Hawaiian music and meditating. It became my quiet room. The place where I can go inside myself, touch and re-discover my own beauty and continue my vast and rich inner journey.
The connection between Kauai and Israel has changed for me. While at the beginning, Kauai served as a place to run away from my life here, in Israel, wishing to be there instead of here, I now feel that the two places are more integrated: I use Kauai in order to help myself live my life more fully here, instead of wanting to run away. And only when I started to have this feeling, I started to see clients again in my office. I can give again. I have something to offer. Right after I came back and created the room for myself, I felt that I first had to nurture myself, to give myself before seeing clients. By creating this room and surrounding myself with my Hawaiian music, art and beauty I could both fill and feel myself again. And only then did I feel that I have something to offer to clients, who, surprisingly (or not!) started to come.
What have I learned from this? Lots of things. I will just mention a few, and let you find the rest. I learned that taking a break from playing was a blessing for me: it allowed me to find that I have a need and cannot live without expressing myself in a non verbal way; it sharpened my listening skills and changed the way I approach and perceive music, and it brought painting into my life. I discovered the power of colors, especially
watercolors, discovered my own creativity in a new fun and meaningful way. I felt a lot of joy in playing with painting. I also found that it changed my piano playing later when I came back. Today I keep playing and improvising with both music and painting. I learned that beautiful surroundings help me get in touch with and nurture my own inner beauty, and that I can create beautiful environment for myself, inside my home even when the
outside atmosphere has nothing to do with beauty. I learned that I need to feel connected to the place where I live in a complete, holistic way without resisting it in order to be able to give others. I also learned that life and therapy can be exactly like playing the piano: when I listen inside and let my fingers paint what I hear, without judgment, there are moments when everything falls into place and the sounds dance and scream out of joy: yes! This is it!
And what does that have to do with music therapy? I guess everyone will find his/her own answers.
Amir, Dorit (2001) How Do We Nurture Ourselves? . Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 13, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2001-how-do-we-nurture-ourselves