The history of performing arts is as old as humankind itself. And to many, performing arts -- singing, dancing, painting, playing musical instruments, and composing -- seem as essential to life as eating or sleeping. Apart from which they may not literally, but perhaps spiritually, die.
People often speak, anecdotally, of how much happier they are when they are able to perform, and many will tell you how much healthier they have become since beginning to sing, dance, paint, or play an instrument.
© Shen Yun Performing Arts, Flowing Sleeves, 2009.
Interestingly enough, Chinese medicine may be able to explain why this is so. The Chinese have long held the belief that performing arts can actually be healing and nurturing to the body and human life.
Five Organ Systems
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) looks at the human body beyond the (cellular) structural level. It is capable of visualizing and mapping the human body on an energetic level. TCM practitioners can see a connection between the body's organs and how we think, feel, and react to things beyond what modern Western medicine has recognized.
Chinese medicine views the body as an energetic network centered on the five major organs: the liver, heart, spleen, lungs, and kidneys.
Each organ is physically and mentally connected. For example, we know from modern medicine that the liver metabolizes and detoxifies food and medications. However, according to Chinese medicine, it is also in charge of our vision and mood. The liver is responsible for planning, decision-making, and judgment.
We know that the kidneys produce urine and cleanse body fluids, and according to Chinese medicine, they are also in charge of the function of the brain, hearing, bone health, fertility, sexual function, bowel and bladder control, willpower, and motivation.
The spleen is a major organ in charge of digestive and metabolic processes. In TCM, the spleen is also in charge of our ability to analyze, reason, and process information.
Visualized at the energetic level, the human body is an open system that has constant interaction with energy from the environment. Therefore, everything we look at, hear, and feel will have an effect on an organ's health, as well as how we think and function in life.
Sound Affects Health
Interestingly, sound is also said to affect health. And Chinese medicine has identified five major sounds. Each one has a different impact on the organs and their functions. These five sounds are called "gong," "jiao," "shang," "zheng," and "yu."
When the five sounds are composed in a smooth, balanced fashion, they positively affect the five organs. As a result, smooth, balanced sounding music helps to balance the energy of the body and mind.
And it makes sense that the healing power of music has long been recognized throughout history because people can feel its effects. Listen to tension-filled, rock songs and you become tense. Listen to soothing, classical music and you become peaceful.
Today, many hospitals and health and wellness centers are using music as therapy. Elderly patients with depression gain self-esteem and improved mood after undergoing music therapy, as Stanford University scientists found.
Research shows that listening to good music lowers blood pressure, stabilizes heart rate, relieves depression, reduces pre-treatment anxiety, enhances concentration and creativity, lessens the need for sedatives and painkillers (during and after surgery), reduces nausea after chemotherapy, and also improves stability of people with Parkinson's disease.
No wonder that in Chinese the character for music is the center part of the character for medicine. In fact, legend has it that this Chinese character for medicine was based on a historic event involving music. The Yellow Emperor, or Huangdi, defeated a war deity named Chi You by using the powerful beating of his soldiers' war drums. At that time, drums were often played to inspire bravery and gain the advantage in a fight. In this battle, the soldiers' drumming knocked their enemies unconscious.
The merciful Yellow Emperor created a string instrument designed to heal their defeated souls, thus bringing them back to life. Music, therefore, was used for healing. Later, herbs were used as well, thus the characters for music and herbs were combined.
The Importance of Color
Color, transmitted as light, is energy. It speaks to our body, mind, and soul. Color therapy, also called chromo therapy, has been used for healing since ancient times. Clinical evidence suggests that color therapy can alter emotions and even blood pressure.
There are five primary colors recognized in Chinese medicine: green, red, yellow, white, and black. Each color corresponds to a specific organ system:
- Green for the liver
- Red for the heart
- Yellow for the spleen
- White for the lungs
- Black for the kidneys
Sound and color also affect the emotions. The energy of our organs has a tangible link to our emotions. Each organ system pertains to a particular emotion:
- The liver to anger
- The heart to joy
- The spleen to worry
- The lungs to sadness
- The kidneys to fear
Normal human emotions are healthy. However, when emotion becomes excessive and out of one's control, it will have a negative impact on our mind, body, and soul by disturbing the energy of our organ systems.
On the other hand, when the energies of our organ systems are disturbed by other reasons, we tend to manifest these mood problems as well. Therefore, anything that helps people remain an even keel emotionally has a healing effect.
In order to promote good health and natural healing, you might want to take some time to go to performances with soothing and beautiful music and colors.
Shen Yun -- The Perfect Art for Health
Perhaps the very best example of performance art that is both healing and inspiring is Shen Yun Performing Arts. Known as the world's premier classical Chinese dance company, Shen Yun tours the world from December to May of each year, bringing a whole new program to audiences each time they hit the road. The company is widely known for awe-inspiring costumes, uplifting scores and the very finest classical Chinese dancers anywhere.
What is particularly interesting about Shen Yun, however, is the overall impact on the audience. After watching a Shen Yun show, audience members frequently speak of a tremendous calm and joy conveyed through and inspired by the performances.
For those looking to put the principles outlined in this article to the test, Shen Yun may be the perfect place to start.
As part of its annual world tour, Shen Yun is returning to New York City's Lincoln Center this month for a limited six-show engagement, April 18-22: www.ShenYun2012.com/NYC. For their global tour schedule, please visit: www.ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
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