Music and Spirituality

Good music causes your brain to release dopamine, in the same way it does when you take drugs or have sex. So then what are the determining factors that cause us as human beings to gravitate towards similar music tastes?

The way in which we process music in the brain is in the regions of emotion and memory. Therefore, if a certain song is able to cause an emotional effect the person is most likely applying a type of memory encoding to the song, almost like a reliving of a past moment in which they felt joy, pleasure, excitement or even pain and sadness. What is an amazing song to one person, is not so great to another and this is all to do with their “musical memory templates”. If you have not enjoyed a time in which you listened to classical music in your past for instance, then the chances are that no emotions are going to be stimulated in you when listening to it again.

Music has a nostalgic element to it, that is why songs that you listened to in your distant past can bring a person pleasure in listening to them once more. This is also why we constantly replay music we are familiar with because our brains know that when we listen to the song we like, we will experience that same joyful feeling. The main way that our sense of music style changes is through being introduced to new music, especially those introduced to us by friends or lovers. People will recommend music to you as a way of sharing their own individuality as music is a language. After a while your brain will begin to accept this new music, should it be able to prompt some positive emotions.

So how does music come together with spirituality…

“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” — Ludwig van Beethoven

What makes music spiritual? Maybe Beethoven’s symphony, maybe Rock and Roll ? It does not matter which music you enjoy listening to the most, if it awakens an emotion that is true and deeply rooted, it is reconnecting us to our essence, our inner divine nature.

It seems music transcends all frameworks of religion, culture and even genre. Both music and spirituality do not need to be defined as separate, they are in fact of the same essence. Music is the sound of spirit.

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” — Plato

Music will always be one of the best types of experiences for us and even the best therapy.“Music is the easiest method of meditation. Whoever can let himself dissolve into music has no need to seek anything else to dissolve into.” — Osho

The reason most of us love music and why it is so important for the soul is because like breath, music has rhythm, tension and release. These are the musical expressions of life. Even in the beginning of time, it was sound that brought the universe into existence.

soundhealing-instruments done

Throughout the ages sacred sound (whether it is prayer, music, song mantra or incantation) is a link between humanity and the Divine. This is the oldest form of healing. It permeates the teachings of the Greeks, Chinese, East Indians, Tibetans, Egyptians, American Indians Mayas and Aztecs.
Chinese healers used flat stones that “sang” when struck. They honored an F or F sharp pitch as the tone of creation and nature. The Sufi’s believed that the syllables “hu” was the original creative sound. The Tibetans prized the tones of F#, G and A. Aum, om and amen have been considered sacred sounds.
From around 4000 BC in Baghdad, many musicians remain in sculptures, playing harps and flutes. The ancient Chinese and Egyptians had choruses and orchestras of 600 to 12,000 players. Orpheus, a hierophant of the Dionysian Mysteries, taught people about magic, music and incantations.
Pythagoras taught harmonics and musical theory. The Greek amphitheaters showed a sophisticated understanding of acoustics, blocking out extraneous noise, amplifying speech and preserving the richness of music.
Many societies forbid certain types of music, especially for the formative years of children. Throughout the ages cultures have valued the significance of sound and music and its impact on people. We can bring this knowledge back!


When a woman in one African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose.

When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else. And when children are born into the village, the community gathers and sings its song, one unique melody for each unique child. Later, when children begin their education, the village gathers and chants children’s song. They sing again when each child passes into the initiation of adulthood, and at the time of marriage.
Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the bedside, as they did at birth, and they sing the person to the next life. In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the Villagers sing to the child: If at any time during a person’s life, he or she commits a crime or aberrant social act, that individual is called to stand in the center of a circle formed by all members of the tribe.
And once again the villagers chant the child’s song. The tribe recognizes that the proper correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment, but love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another. A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it.
Those who love you are not fooled by the mistakes you have made or the dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused. You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not.
When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song, and we shall sing it well. You may feel a little wobbly at that moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you’ll find your way home.

~ Dan Millman, 0405 Author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Written by Kim Stanworth