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THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF MUSIC

ECHO, Vol. 10, no. 6
June ‘06
By Erin Johnson

She felt a divine presence around her and repeated “the music is telling me, ‘just be…just be.” This woman had been experiencing a music and imagery experience which brought her a sense of inner peace and inner strength, something she had not experienced in some time as a result of work, health, and marital problems. She had tried talk therapy, and found it somewhat helpful, but felt something was still missing, and she felt stuck. Some may say she was having difficulty hearing the small still voice inside that could provide her with the confidence and the sense of an inner compass she needed to navigate through this difficult time. She was aware of this disconnect in her mind, body and spirit and longed to heal this split. When I proposed using Guided Imagery and Music (The Bonny Method), a music-centered therapeutic approach, that would focus her more deeply on her intention to heal, and provide her a powerful and creative way of accessing her inner world, she was receptive. After several sessions using this method, she felt calmer, more focused, less anxious, and more confident in managing her life circumstances.

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) is deeply rooted in Jungian and Transpersonal approaches, and was developed by Dr. Helen Bonny, a music therapist working with Stan Grof in the early 1970’s. This transformational approach utilizes selections of classical and contemporary music chosen to engage with the particular issues and needs a person presents. By using music rather than scripts to evoke a variety of images, body sensations, emotions, thoughts, memories and inspirations, the GIM experience can help a person reflect more deeply on their life’s journey, and make choices that result in a more meaningful and fulfilling life. This method often stimulates creative and spiritual impulses and promotes a core integration of body, mind and spirit.

Guided Imagery and Music is an interactive approach and is usually accessed with a trained guide. The person experiencing the music and imagery session enters into a discussion with the guide designed to focus them on an intention or a question for inner exploration. The guide then chooses musical selections that match the participant’s intention (2-5 pieces of music totaling 20-30 minutes), and then provides a relaxation induction or guided meditation to encourage the mind to quiet and to open receptivity for connection with the unconscious. When the client is in a more deeply relaxed state, the guide reminds them of their intention, and begins the music selections. As the music is playing, the guide checks in with the person to track their inner journey, and to make invitations to connect more deeply with the wisdom of the unconscious. This interactive process promotes a moment-to-moment engagement of the person with their inner world, and provides rich material for discussion when the music selections have come to a close and the person is invited to complete their experience and reorient to the outer world. Mandalas and journal writing are additional means to connect the music and imagery experience with everyday life and with making choices with greater self-awareness. There are often dramatic shifts in consciousness in those who experience GIM, prompting profound changes in how they live their lives.