09/03/2014 03:36 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2014

WHY Music: Dharmony and the Essence of Who We Are

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in complete harmony. -- Mahatma Gandhi

A few weeks ago my dear friend and teacher Kavindra called me from Vancouver, excited to share a new discovery he had made. Jeffrey (Kavindra Rishi) Armstrong is, among other things, a Vedic master, sanskrit scholar, author and poet, who happens to be hard at work on 2 new books: one on etymology and the other on the Bhagavad Gita. He was thrilled to inform me that he had discovered the that word harmony came from the sanskrit root dhri, from which we also derive the word dharma. Now you may already be asking yourself, "why does this matter, and what does it have to do with the greater significance of music and it's impact on our lives?" Though I may not get as geeked out on wordplay as an etymologist, I am deeply interested in and fascinated by the relationship between sound, words and energy, as well as in how the vibrational properties of music affect the development and wellbeing of people and the planet.

Several months ago, I shared the story of a tribe in West Africa in which the mother initiates the conception, birth and identity of her child with an original song that is unique to that child, and which will be associated with them for the rest of their life. The song is a way to encode the essential nature of that child in such a deep and resonant way that they can use it to quickly reconnect to their true identity and to their purpose in life any time they feel the need.

Dhri can be defined as the essential nature of something which, if removed from it, that thing will cease to exist. When we are "holding true to" or "living in alignment with" our essential nature, we are said to be fulfilling our dharma. Anther way to say it is that we are "standing in our truth." The expression of this through sound or music could be as basic as tuning the energy field of our being to the resonant vibration of a note or syllable like Om, or by chanting a mantra, listening to a hymn, or singing a popular song that helps us to reconnect to our heart and to an inner felling of equanimity or a renewed sense of joy.

Harmony, derived from the term dharma, can be described as the resonant accord or melodious relationship between two notes or, more broadly, between two or more vibrating things or beings. In the same way that we appreciate powerful effect of two or more voices singing rich harmonies accompany the melody of a song, we can also recognize and appreciate the feelings we have when we are working in a harmonious relationship with others around us.

You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself. -- Hermann Hesse

Music is a powerful form of alchemy that allows us to connect, on a deeply visceral and emotional level, to who we are and to our sense of belonging and purpose in the world. It even enables us to feel connected to the world we of the great unseen. We can break down cultural barriers and build bridges with others through musical expression and collaboration, when other methods seem to fail us. Whether you are born into a tribe in West Africa or a working class family in Beijing, music is intrinsic to your essential nature, continuing to effect your wellbeing and shape your view of the world, even when you are not paying attention. It is available to all of us whenever we choose to call upon it. Through music, we can find the strength to fulfill our dharma, or purpose in the world, while simultaneously healing ourselves and the planet for the good of all beings.

Jeffrey and I continued our wordplay and philosophical dance around vibration, music and the meaning of life, eventually coming to rest on the word dharmony, which we conveniently defined as "the vibratory force that keeps us in balance, in love and deeply engaged with our life's purpose." Part of my life's purpose, something I recognized years ago as my own dharma, is to create music with others from around the world, and to build bridges to help people better understand and harness the tremendous benefits that music offers in our lives and society. My hope is that, through dharmony, we can all work together to create cooperation, wellbeing, and compassion on an epic scale.

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