Song Medicine

The other day I received a remarkable note from my friend, Janet Bergman. Janet has been a long-time member of The Morning Star Singers, a volunteer comfort choir that has been bringing song to people facing health challenges. She generously and enthusiastically gave me permission to share her story here.

Here is what she wrote:

How I experienced the power of singing a song –

Recently, I had to have an injection in my foot. The doctor told me it was going to take about fifteen seconds to administer the medicine. I had had this procedure done on another occasion, so I knew how much pain and discomfort I might experience.  During the first injection, I did some deep breathing and counted out loud from 10 to 0 – and then on to minus 3. It really hurt!

 This time the doctor encouraged me to go to my “happy place,” which for me is along the shore of Lake Superior on a warm, sunlit day.

And then – I spontaneously starting to sing your song “Promise.” After quietly singing two verses with my eyes closed, the doctor told me he was finished with the injection. I had not felt a thing!



This story moved me deeply. First and foremost, I was grateful that my friend didn’t have to experience intense pain. I was also amazed how Janet accessed such powerful healing through the simple act of singing.

The song Janet sang – “Promise” — came to me as I drove through a Minnesota blizzard. Singing it over and over that night provided peace and breath as I navigated scary country roads in heavy snow.

It has become a favorite of the Morning Star Singers and we sing it often at the bedsides of people who are living through some of the most difficult days of their lives. One of my mentors told me that the song’s message is spoken in the voice of the Divine Feminine. Whatever its source, the song creates a palpable field of peace and sacredness whenever it is sung.

I have a hunch that Janet’s powerful healing experience was enhanced by the context in which she sings “Promise.” Perhaps she used the song to tap into the loving presence and sense of community that emerges every time the Morning Star Singers gather. Through our singing and listening, we create a field of healing for each other and for the people to whom we bring our songs. Our singing has become a form of prayer and blessing. When Janet sang the song, it became an invocation of compassion, love and community.

Just days after I received Janet’s note, a voice coaching client shared a similar tale with me. She was suffering from an excruciating migraine, the kind that makes her take to her bed for hours. As an experiment, she put on a YouTube video a sound healing meditation by Tom Kenyon. The focus of the musical meditation was Mary Magdalene, an archetype with whom my client has a strong affinity. Her migraine completely disappeared by the time the 30-minute video was finished. I am struck once again by the way meaning may have helped amplify the healing power of the music.

Tell me, do you have a story about how combining music, meaning, memory and mystery opened the way to healing in your own life?

About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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