There’s no doubt that music can create some of our strongest memories, though those songs don’t have to be sad. Some of my most powerful memories are associated with music; some of them are happy and others are less so.
When I was in high school, one of my very Irish great aunts died in an accident. Before we left her graveside, one of the cousins began an a cappella version of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” There wasn’t a dry eye left by the time the song was done. For me, that song is now forever associated with that aunt and that funeral.
Likewise, at my daughter’s memorial service, we played “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" by Billy Joel. Though I love it, I cannot listen to that song without breaking down into tears within the first few measures. It transports me back to that raw and painful time around her death.
My high school’s song is another that brings to mind many memories. It’s more of an anthem than a pep cheer, and the woman who wrote it was attempting to make the “Star Spangled Banner” look like it required a narrow vocal range. Twenty-three years after I graduated, there is one point in the school song that I still can hear my fellow students screeching the high note because it just begged for such treatment. None of us felt much love for that song, but the memories bring smiles to my face.
Music on religious retreats also has powerful memories associated with it for me. When I was in high school, I attended a TEC retreat, which was an incredibly powerful experience for me and many others. Very late one night, we were traipsing through the building holding hands as part of the planned activities. The Taizé-style chant that we sang still echoes in my mind.
On another retreat during grad school, we had an evening of social activity. The group was at a rural retreat center in Massachusetts, and the outside world was cold and filled with snow. Someone had brought a guitar, and so we spent the evening inside by a fire singing all kinds of popular songs. Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” is the one that got stuck in my brain permanently from that evening because of the laughter and joy that filled the room as we sang. It’s not exactly the type of song one would usually associate with a Catholic retreat, but such is life!
We can intentionally create memories that become a part of our body by using music. One way to do this is using a particular song or album to meditate to. Our bodies and minds will then associate that album with relaxation. Then at a later time of stress, if you turn on that music, your body will (hopefully) automatically relax as much as it can. Likewise, if you play a song frequently during a time of joy and happiness in your life, listening to that song again at a later date can bring back those same positive feelings. Using music we have pre-programmed into our bodies and minds can be a great way to shift one’s mood at times when we need to find a different outlook on life.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance