Native American flute - Spirituality and Healing
Purpose of this article
The amount of information concerning the healing potential of the Native American flute is rather limited. I rather suspect this is due to the subjectivity of spirituality, for spirituality is an individual manner. No one can you what do, be or say in regards to your spiritual journey. Only your heart and the Spirit can lead the way. Your job is to merely follow.
There are those who will tell you the flute heals. To a certain degree this may be true, however experience has shown the flute calms the mind enabling the essence, or the Spirit on ones true identity to restore harmony in the body, hence healing.
Hours have been spent searching the web for information that substantiates the healing potential of the flute and and this article is designed to condense, consolidate and share these findings.
In addition, recent content from other scientists is being presented which allows one to explore for themselves, the healing potential of heart, mind, and body making it simple to draw conclusions of just how listening and playing the flute intersects with their scientific perspective.
In just the last twenty to thirty years science appears to be rewriting and correcting what has been taught about how life works and the influence of human potential in creating our lives through our thoughts and emotions.
If you use youtube.com and search for these men, Dr. Bruce Lipton, Dr. Joe Dispenza and Greg Braden you will gain considerable information about how life works, how our thoughts and emotions create ones current experience, along with the tools to discover more about, “Who you are.”
Once you have a basic understanding of the presenters mentioned above, there will be two studies presented which demonstrate the impact upon the body for those who listen to and play the Native American style flute.
In closing I will share some stories from individuals that have crossed my path. They share their experience with the flute and their views on healing.
Introduction - What is healing?
One definition of healing is – to make whole. Our culture focuses upon the body mind connection. Very little is presented through media about our connection to the spiritual aspects of our identity and the impact of spirituality upon our lives. In simple words everyone knows they are a human being. Most likely they are quite familiar with the human aspect, but what about our being, the other half of our identity?
To be whole might better defined when the body, mind, spirit and emotions are functioning in harmony. Imagine a wheel with the perimeter of the wheel divided into four equal parts. One part is body, one mind, one spirit and the last one emotion. If you draw a line from each part to the opposite side you will have two intersecting spokes. The center of the wheel would be considered peace. If one of these qualities is missing or flat, the wheel does not roll smoothly and peace, no longer centered, is unstable and wobbly.
This is a good place to insert the definition of spirituality. Spirituality is the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to a world of form. This shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way. What is our identity beyond our perception? Usually spirituality is practiced by an individual. Some confuse spirituality with religion. Religion is usually focused around groups of people and involves various rules and the acceptance of specified beliefs. Whereas spirituality is much more open allowing the individual to be led by Spirit and the plethora of life experiences. Who am I, becomes a much more challenging question when one identifies their Spirit.
Recent scientific information about healing
I would encourage you to listen to some youtube videos by the two doctors, Bruce Lipton and Joe Dispenza, along with the scientist Gregg Braden. Each have a different focus with their work and yet they blend perfectly providing a wonderful overview of how we each create our lives through our thoughts, actions, and emotions.
Dr. Bruce Lipton is a cellular biologist, author and public speaker. His research in cellular growth and healing demonstrates how our thoughts and emotions affect the chemistry of the body, how we become addicted to that chemistry and the resulting affects upon our life span and physical experience. His book “Biology of Belief” is a must read (or listen through Audible) to anyone interested in understanding how cellular growth, aging, and how important it is to identify and eliminate stress in our lives.
Dr. Joe Dispenza focuses is upon how the mind works and the impact upon the body. His research of the influence of meditation with thousands of people in his workshops clearly illustrate how the mind heals the body and how through lifestyle changes and meditation it is possible for anyone to reduce stress and create lives of greater joy, happiness and peace.
Gregg Braden a scientist of earth sciences, and an author of many books, has studied numerous ancient civilizations and has become somewhat of a bridge between the wisdom of the ages and the science of today. His focus is the blending of science with spirituality. Gregg is also actively involved with Heart Math which is researching consciousness and how we can connect our hearts to our minds. This process is called heart coherence and is measured by monitoring heart rate variability. Heart coherence increases a persons resilience to stress, synchronizing various systems in the body such as the heart, respiratory system and blood-pressure rhythms So when difficult situations present themselves our ability to recover from them is much faster.
Quick Coherence can be used to calm reactive emotions, reduce feelings of worry and fear, lessen feelings of overwhelm and stress, prepare for sleep and quiet an overactive mind. It leads us to a state when our thoughts, intentions, and actions seamlessly align.
Question, “Can the Native American flute heal?”
There must be some correlation to the Native American flute and healing. There are hundreds of music CD's and streamed music that references the healing quality of the Native American flute music.
In the last few years music therapy has expanded greatly. There are VA organizations that are using the flute to assist veterans dealing with PTSD.
Certainly the flute is entertaining, fun and easy to play. However, it also has a transcendent voice that quiets the mind and can induce calm, relaxation and emotional healing. Anyone deeply involved with the flute probably has encountered situations of physical and/or emotional healing.
It has been shown scientifically to the importance of slowing down the brain waves from beta to alpha, and sometimes to theta. The importance of which is illustrated by the works of Dr. Dispenza and Dr. Lipton. Though they don't speak of the flute directly, I have found two resources which do. One is a research project by Eric B. Miller and Clinton F. Goss, Montclaire State University. The other is “The Effects of Sacred/Shamanic Flute Music on Trauma and States of Consciousness” by Lenore L. Wiand, Ph.D. an abstract from Cornell University.
The Miller Goss study - This small group pilot study explored physiological responses to playing and listening to the Native American flute. Autonomic, electroencephalographic (EEG), and heart rate variability (HRV) metrics were recorded while participants played flutes and listened to several styles of music.
Flute playing was accompanied by an 84% increase in HRV (heart rate variability). Theta and alpha brainwaves increased and beta waves decreased.
The findings of increased HRV, increasing slow-wave rhythms, and decreased beta support the hypothesis that Native American flutes, particularly those with lower pitches, may have a role in music therapy contexts. We conclude that the Native American flute may merit a more prominent role in music therapy and that a study of the effects of flute playing on clinical conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hypertension, anxiety, and major depressive disorder, is warranted.
This study has been presented in two forms. The more scientific version pdf can be downloaded here.
The second version is an easier condensed version called – Your Brain on Flute which is available in Clint and Vera's Native Flute Handbook page 175. Register and get the free handbook (approximately 550 pages) or, go to Clint's flutopeida site here - Your Brain On Flute
Lenore L. Wiand, Ph.D. - This research investigated the effects of listening to a particular music played on a Native American flute upon self reports of anxiety and perceptions of interconnectedness with individuals diagnosed with a trauma related disorder. It was a combined statistical and qualitative study. Note interconnectedness is when all aspects heart, mind, body and spirit are working harmoniously. Dissociation is when one or more aspects are not in harmony. For example a person suffers a trauma and for a long time they are unable to face that trauma with out feeling, or reliving, the experience again and again. PTSD is one example.
I. An important preliminary finding showed that participants with Dissociative Disorders held significantly weaker perceptions of interconnectedness than the Normal group.
II. While both types of music reduced anxiety, it was found that participants hearing the NA flute music showed a greater decrease in anxiety, than the placebo music, for both groups.
III. As expected, the experience of hearing NA flute music did lead to a significantly greater increase in perceptions of interconnectedness, for both the Dissociative Disorder group and the normal group, than the experience of hearing placebo music.
IV. As expected, the NA flute music did lead to a decrease in anxiety, which then led to a greater increase in perceptions of interconnectedness, for both groups.
V. Unexpectedly, it was also found that listening to the flute music resulted in increased perceptions of interconnectedness, which then led to a decrease in anxiety. Analysis showed that there was a non-significant mediating effect for both music-anxiety and music-interconnectedness relationships.
This paper is not an easy read for the lay person. However with a little patience it supports the healing qualities of Native American flute music.
Music used in the study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4R8e015d08
Music for the control group was Sedonna Suite