Nainas Blog

Art for peace

If music wakes you up, makes you heal then music is working – A R Rehman

Let me ask you a question. Why are we all still alive?

Everyday, we hear stories of love and peace inspite of the increase of budgets on weapons. We see, across the world, wars, hate crimes and bombs detonating every day

in Ukraine, Afghanistan and other warring countries.

So what issustaining peace among many other pro-life things that we do?

It is observed, by common people, intellectuals and researchers that through several centuries, it is our engagement with the creative arts that has helped us preserve and sustain peace. For example, in 1985, the Live Aid Concert raised 127 million dollars as relief for famine survivors of Africa. This was the power of a musical event where millions reached out to bring healing.

So how do the creative arts help inbuilding peace?

When we listen to a beautiful piece of music, poem , story or look at a magnificent work of painting , our brain releases what is known as the Angels cocktail. The Angels cocktail are hormones such as Oxytocin, Serotonin, Dopamine and Endorphins that are released in the brain when we engage with the arts..

Oxytocin, known as the love hormone is responsible for sending messages of recognition, trust, romantic attachment and mother–infant bonding.

Serotonin is a hormone and chemical that transmits messages to nerves all over the body. It helps in focusing our mind , regulating mood and giving us a feeling of happiness.

Dopamine which (along with serotonin) is called the „happy hormone,“  because its release in the brain gives us a feeling of well being. Dopamine increaseswhen we experience any pleasure such as working towards the completion of a task.

Endorphins help in reducing pain and discomfort and it regulates our mood and increases self esteem.

As against the Angels cocktail is the Devils cocktail where stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin are released in the event of conflicts, stress and violent incidents.

Cortisol and adrenalin inhibit our immune system and paralyze our rational thinking.

What do the arts really do to us?

Imagine for a moment that you are listeningto the sounds of a singing bowl and the sound stops. What do we experience? We realize that the mind had become still and was focusedon the vibrations. However, even after the sound stopped there was stillness which lasted for sometimeeven after the sounds had stopped.Music poetry storytelling painting or simply listening to the river flow brings a pause and a stillness to the ever chattering mind. This stillness is what we describe as peace and it awakens our higher consciousness where we experience a calm oneness with the universe.

In Japanese the word for such moments of awareness is called ‘satori’.

Research shows that along with practices such as yoga, zen meditation(the zazen sitting still shikantazameditation), the arts such as singing, dancing , painting writing have a magical effect on our mind and body and help in preventing and managing stress.

The aftermath of COVID, prize hike, loss of jobs and several other daily hassles and life events have raised the stress levels in most people.

For example, stresses from daily hassles such as travel stress, workplace conflict or electricity and water cuts can make us angry and we tend to bring out our frustration and anger on our children or spouse. Children learn by modeling their parents that violence is the solution to resolving conflicts or managing anger.

Anger stress and conflict lead to a disturbed mind which can lead to violence when not managed or prevented early on. It is so critical for our mental well being that we channel our negative emotions towards creative activities. When children are trained to do this early on it becomes a habit which they can use without effort when they feel negative emotions.

So the next time you experience a tightening of your muscles, irritation and annoyance over day to day stressors, you may want to turn on your favourite music or practice a few dance steps. When the mind becomes calm, the parasympathetic nervous system gets activated which is important for sustaining peace.

How can we bring peace in our community and neighbourhood?

Outward peace is useless without inner peace – Mahatma Gandhi

We can foster peace in our neighbourhood through small activities.

We can make an effective start by encouraging children to organize small shows of songs, dance, drama, recitations etc and then reach out to adults.

Instead of holding competitions we can hold evenings of sharing music, poetry storytelling.

Having an art exhibition in the neighbourhood such as our housing society will encourage many artists (especially housewives who may be shy) to share their magnificence.

Simple activities such as forming groups from within the neighbourhood to attend an art exhibit will build friendships which is vital in the present times of polarization.

The creative arts have a magic that can build bridges among people irrespective of caste creed, religion or gender.

As we plan our next creative venture, let us meditate on our inner stillness, sittingin the Shanti Mudra, listening to the sounds of AUM within our being.

Let us also acknowledge and accept in this beautiful moment of satori that joy and peace are doable.

Music And Bridges

A song, a story about peace can replace a violent memory and make us feel alive.

People will be seen rejoicing, singing and dancing for each other 

because they are able to survive.

Some choose violence and death over living and this may be their way of life.

But only if we pause to remember, hat peace through music poems and stories are Bridges that help us  keep away from strife.

That voice among those dying in war seem to say, that we breathe without knowing the price we have to pay.

We also breathe without knowing, the price life can make us pay, when we don’t stop to sing songs that say:

 Peace and bridges

Peace and bridges.