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Finding My Way Back to Music

Graphic of the Seven Dimensions of Well-Being: Environmental, Physical, Social, Emotional, Occupational, Intellectual, and Spiritual

When I was a kid, music was a big part of my life. Family legend has it that I used to hum in my car seat, which earned me the nickname "Old Weird Harold" from my maternal grandmother. By the time I was in elementary school, I sang in church choir, then Fifth Grade Choir, and then the Indianapolis Children's Choir. I also played the piano, and eventually, the trombone in middle and high school band. I was fortunate that my parents supported my musical education by driving me (as well as my younger brother, Kyle) all over central Indiana for rehearsals, paying for years of private lessons, and buying instruments, sheet music, and uniforms.

By the time I got to undergrad, I was focusing my time and attention on "real" stuff, like classes and work that would help me earn a comfortable living. I still listened to music and would sing along, especially in the shower or car. From time to time, I'd even sit down at the piano and play a little bit. Eventually, I got busy with the demands of life, like we all do... all the stuff we do in order to make a living, have relationships, and care for other beings, like companion animals, aging loved ones, and/or human children.

The Full Catastrophe & Seven Dimensions of Well-Being

As I've written and spoken about, the journey with my dad's pancreatic cancer was transformational for me. During the time we were living with his cancer, the well-being in law movement was starting to really take off, and I became aware of the Dimensions of Well-Being. I like a framework, especially with something as ethereal as "well-being," so beginning to work with and think about these different dimensions really intrigued me. This framework is so supportive to me and others that we continue to teach it, coach it, and build out programming to support each of us working with it.

Along this well-being journey, I'm finding my way back to music. The first niggling at the back of my brain that whispered, "hey, remember when you made music?" was when I attended a sound bath for the first time. I got really intrigued about using sound as an anchor in which to rest awareness in meditation. That led me to studying sound healing, including beginning to play some of the instruments, and eventually facilitating sound baths, for myself and others.

At some point a few years ago, one of Adele's songs was on at the salon as I was walking from the hair washing station to Erin's chair, and I just started singing along. I didn't even realize I was singing loud enough that others noticed until somebody said, "Whoa! I didn't know you could sing!" I remember saying something like, "Oh, I used to sing, but I don't really anymore." Why is it that I minimized my singing? I suppose what I was saying is, "Oh, I sing, but I don't SING... I'm not a SINGER... I don't make my living singing." Where did I pick up that I could only sing if I was making a living singing or otherwise had outside validation that I could SING? When I open my mouth and music comes out, I'm singing. This doesn't have to be complex, Jill.

As I've been exploring my relationship with singing and music and sound, I've realized that several of the dimensions of well-being are at play. Music has been a way I've connected with the environment-- Have you ever noted the acoustics of a place, then stopped, clapped, and then sung a few notes? I have! Have you ever noticed the birds singing when you're on a walk in the woods? Making music certainly puts me in touch with my physical body, and there were so many social aspects of music that connected me to others in choirs, bands, and shows I was in. Music absolutely allows me to connect with my emotional well-being, and I use music quite a bit in my occupational well-being because playlists are one of my love languages and also a really interesting way to get to know each other. Music is a place where my curiosity can run wild, supporting my intellectual well-being. And the one I hadn't thought too much about, spiritual well-being, is the dimension where I've had the most insight over the past couple of weeks.

When Loretta and I are introducing the Dimensions of Well-Being, the final one is Spiritual. Sometimes we're getting to the end of the hour, and also, participants are getting restless. There's a feeling of, "Everybody gets what spiritual well-being is about, right? Can we be finished now, please?"

Then, two things happened last week that gave me a deeper insight into the connection, for me, between music and my spiritual well-being. The first was when Loretta and I were presenting the Seven Dimensions of Well-Being CLE last week when the thought arose that when I'm listening to music or making music with others or immersed in live music, it's so much easier for me to access an embodied sense of interconnection. There's no me and you, only us, experiencing the music together.

Then, on Sunday, Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs performed Fast Car together at the Grammy Awards, and it feels like LOTS of people are having the same kind of WE ARE EXPERIENCING MUSIC TOGETHER feeling, too.

In the introduction to the performance on Sunday evening, Luke told the story of why Fast Car is important to him:

And it turns out, the story of how this performance came to be is also quite interesting and full of intention and interconnection.

I created this video, which is available on this page, because I couldn't find a full-length version of it anywhere else.

This performance deserves to be watched in its entirety, several times. Notice Tracy smiling, especially at the very beginning. How must she be feeling to perform for the first time since 2015? What's she feeling as she stands in front of a room of her peers, performing a song that she released into the world 35 years ago? Notice how Luke looks at her, and how he sings along when it's Tracy's verse. Notice how the audience is singing along... doesn't it look like there's no me and you, only us, experiencing the music together?

Luke Combs is one of many artists who's been influenced by Tracy Chapman. For instance, this performance by Khalid:

How about this one, by Passenger?

I see and feel lots of division in the world right now, so remembering that music helps me access a sense of interconnection, which supports my spiritual well-being is an essential component of my self-care. It helps me access compassion, especially in the midst of personal conflict that feels really unfair. It disrupts my instinct to fight, fly, or freeze so I can stay in the moment rather than going into story and getting ugly, which only adds to our shared suffering.

How might music support your well-being? I'd love to hear from you!

P.S. Joni Mitchell, performing Both Sides Now with friends, deserves her own post, but I've decided this is enough, for now.

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This post has taken me through all the feels. First I got goose bumps hearing Luke Combs explain what Chapman's song means to him. Then a flood of tears watching them both perform it. Wow! I could tell it was a powerful moment from having read about it, but I wasn't planning to investigate further. What a delightful way to be exposed to this soulful experience that I would have otherwise missed.

In 1988 I went to a concert where Tracy Chapman opened for Neil Young. I was primarily interested in hearing Tracy Chapman sing but I was with a bunch of guys who were there to see Neil Young. At the time it felt like an experience of not…

Jill Carnell
Jill Carnell
Feb 13
Replying to

Thank you for reading, Cheri! I'm now thinking about how music is similar to my experience with knitting, writing, and the labyrinth, which are a few ways that I have met and gotten to know people who otherwise, on the surface, appear to have not much in common with me. Music, especially, seems to have this way about it that can reconnect us. Mark and I went to see Yes a few months ago at Brown County Music Center. There was a wide range of ages, and I especially noticed some of the older members of the audience who were clearly transported back to 40 or 50 years ago as they listened to some of the songs.

I love catching…

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