Not long ago, I began an new job. The job placed me somewhere I NEVER thought I'd live...Florida. My Midwestern friends might think that statement is crazy, especially considering the very bizarre weather this year, but I figure sunny and warm, every single day will get old eventually.
Anyway, I've met some great people working for a very large school district here in Florida. I am an itinerant teacher for the visually impaired, and I'm getting to know seventeen kids at 8 different schools, plus school faculty and staff.
Recently, I went to one of my new schools to meet a couple of my students who were absent the day I received a tour. I found the appropriate portable building and knocked on the door. Classroom doors are always locked after Sandy Hook.
I was met at the door by a robust black woman. I introduced myself and told her the name of the student I was looking for. She told me everyone was at recess and that she would help me find who I was looking for.
As we began to walk, she said in a dramatic voice, "Lord have mercy it's gettin' hot!" She then launched into a soliloquy the like I have rarely heard. Though I cannot remember her exact words she began with an admission that so many times she will notice the heat, but she should be giving thanks to God for the grass and the flowers and all the beautiful things. She should acknowledge her healthy and healthy children and good food to eat and a breeze to cool her on these hot days.
My entire being started to tingle.
I knew that this woman was tapped in to universal truth. I was hearing spiritual woman from the mouth of a spiritual being...and it was amazing!
I was so stunned at the blessing I was receiving, all I could do was acknowledge her words with a "mmm hmm" here and a "yes m'am" there, like I was bearing witness during a Southern Baptist worship service.
I am most DEFINITELY not Christian.
I am not Christian, and yet I was blessed with a spiritual experience in the words of this Christian woman.
The sure fire way I know, is the tingles. Long ago, someone shared the idea with me that when you feel tingles all over your body in such a manner, that you are experience truth guided by the spiritual realm. I call them "truth tingles." This is not to be confused with the tingles one feels at times when listening to music.
People ask me if I'm religious. I tell them I am spiritual, not religious.
I've experienced truth tingles in different settings with people of different beliefs. I experienced them when talking with a Navajo herbalist, I experienced them when listening to someone describing a past life we lived together with magic and faeries and Atlantis, and I experienced them listening to this humble Christian woman's message of gratitude.
For many years now, I've believed that spiritual beliefs matter less than what a person holds within them.
When I was leaving my first music therapy job, one of the residents of the retirement community I was working at met me in the hall. She often played piano at the weekly hymn sings that was popular with some of the residents. She said to me, "We're going to miss you around here. You're a good Christian."
I thanked her graciously for the kind words, and we parted.
I chuckled to myself later. She assumed that because of the kindness, caring and respect I came to work with every day, I must be like her...I must be Christian.
Let's face it...humans are natural sorters. We like to classify things, and sort them and know where we fit in. Often we try to find others like ourselves...safety in numbers...and it's nice to have friends on this journey.
This comes up now with a post a fellow music therapist made recently. She explored the concept of being a Christian music therapist, or a music therapist who practices music therapy.
I read the post, and read some of the comments about the post. I've had a lot of strong opinions about various aspects of her post, but I guess it all boils down to "who cares?"
Yes, music therapy is a healing art. It is an allied health profession. Keyword being: profession. Does that mean I don't bring my own life experience as a human and spiritual being to my music therapy practice? Of course not! Do I go looking for people like me as part of my practice? Yes! They're called human beings!
In a therapeutic relationship, it is very important to be authentic. When a client inquires about my spiritual beliefs, as some are inclined to do, I will be honest, but not in depth. I will honestly answer questions without being forward with my beliefs.
My last full time MT gig was in a small rural hospital...lots and lots of sweet elderly Christians were patients there. I'll admit something...I got street cred with some of them when they asked me of I go to church and I said that I do. If they asked where, I would tell them it is a Unitarian Universalist church. If they asked me more, I would explain that it's a church where people of many beliefs attend: Christian, Pagan, Buddhist, Atheist, Humanist etc.
I've shared sacred and secular music with clients, from different religions or from the pop charts. I've sung "Jesus Loves Me" and "Amazing Grace" at the bedside of people nearing the end of life, with tears in my eyes, as well as the eyes of their loved ones.
The point is that my spiritual beliefs, or even lack thereof are irrelevant in the therapeutic relationship. I can bring healing work to my clients without bringing doctrine. I speak I universal truth, as opposed to religion specific truth. In a hospital, when people have lived a long time, and have become sick, sometimes these big questions of life and death come up. It doesn't mean I can't address those things. It means my approach is different. I might share with someone a specific belief from Native American or Hindu wisdom, and let the client make their own connections. I may share that belief and I may not, but it doesn't make the sharing of the wisdom any less sincere.
We find common ground in the "namaste" concept. "The light in me, salutes the light in you." I have always taken this to mean when we strip away all the external, all the impermanent things, we're all manifestations of the universal truth...whether we call that truth God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Goddess, Buddha, Allah...whatever.
Let's meet in that place...where we can REALLY be ourselves.
I don't go to businesses that have a Jesus fish next to their business name. I don't solicit businesses that say "American Owned" either. When I am seeking professional services, I am more concerned with the quality of the services and the ethics in the business practice. Never has the thought occurred to me to walk into a place and say "Hey, do you practice Santeria? You do? Great! I'm getting my oil changed HERE!"
I don't literally or figuratively knock on anyone's door wanting to talk about my beliefs, and I expect the same courtesy from other professionals. I don't care if the massage therapist is tracing Sanskrit on my back...as long as that sore spot near my shoulder gets addressed.
A very wise music therapist said, "You start where people are, and go from there."
When the client is leading the session, sometimes universal truth is shared and sometimes it is not. I learned long ago that when I am the therapist, it's not about me...it's about the client.
If we pay attention to the universal wisdom around us, we will see that it is indeed manifesting everywhere...even during recess in a hot day in Florida.