Huffpost Healthy Living
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dr. Michael Finkelstein Headshot

Singing: The Music of Living

Posted: Updated:

As we enter harvest season and the dog days of summer come to a close, we are naturally reminded of all that we have to be grateful for. Tuning to the landscape, we hear the chorus of nature rejoicing as well -- the crickets seem louder each night and the birds, finally able to catch their breath, emerge from the summer's heat and call to the rising sun each morning. And the air begins to move again, the wind briskly brushes our faces and rustles the leaves on the trees. Indeed, even the trees are singing.

It is here -- on the brink of this powerful seasonal shift -- that we can feel a purposeful movement of air, manifesting in an energy that can be compared in many regards to a joyous and meaningful song. And it happens on every level that is attuned to it. Fittingly, the Celtics knew the new moon in September as the Singing Moon.

In the Jewish religion as well, the special nature of song is also appreciated. Now, at the dawn of the new year, celebrated throughout the Jewish community commencing on this new moon, we are reminded of four different methods of prayer: thought, written, spoken and sung, revealing a natural progression of order from one to the next. To think, to write, to speak and to sing -- each with its own nuance -- allow us to fully express ourselves. But, it is song which is the highest form. What a gift we possess that we can sing!

The wise natives remind us, through their telling reference to the Singing Moon, to appreciate the privileges of expression, that we can take the natural element of air and intentionally pass it through our bodies to create music. This month, nature's chorus is in full harmony, so open your windows, open your heart and open your mouth. The world is singing. Sing along with it!

The Latin philosopher St. Augustine once said, "Singing is praying twice." Apparently, this realization led him to begin the writing of his great work, Confessions. In it, St. Augustine expresses the power of song, going so far as to require us to read his text aloud with that level of purpose and intention. Indeed, this illustrates the power of auditory expression, seeing it clearly as the movement of air with a purpose. For St. Augustine, to reveal his sins in such a way took courage, a necessary component of skillful living.

And here's why. By comparison, we can envision air moving through our bodies like wind moving through the trees. However, unlike trees, humans have the privilege of consciousness, so that we can not only feel the air as it circulates, but we can direct its movement, create resistance and alter its flow, producing intentional sound. Like a conductor, this direction best comes to life in our ability to create music, and through it express our thoughts and feelings beyond words. This ability is not only a gift, but it is also a privilege, and as such carries a sense of responsibility.

Imagine, for a moment, if you were voiceless. Think about how that would drastically change your life. From a sharp objection or a delighted squeal to a subtle sigh or satisfied coo, our sounds, in part, sustain us -- certainly they connect us. Beyond the words, the inflection that we create as we mold ourselves around the air within, deepens all of our relationships. What would you miss and what would others miss of you if you were not capable of this?

During this harvest season, let's take time be grateful for this remarkable gift, and live up to the responsibility of contributing to the symphony of life.

Once again, the spoken and written word, while powerful, are elevated when sung -- essentially spinning art around a subject, making it that much more complex, and essentially, more beautiful. How special it is that we can use our voice to create art.

And when we sing together, the harmony that it creates goes even further. Indeed, the word "ecstatic" is often used when describing the experience of singing in a choir or chanting. We reach another level of consciousness in this practice and it provides those in pain -- all of us -- with immediate relief, truly a powerful medicine.

So, what is the message? Sing, and sing loud, sing often and sing together... another valuable prescription for skillful living.

For more by Dr. Michael Finkelstein, click here.

For more on GPS for the Soul, click here.

From Our Partners