This blog is inspired by a quote from Lee Harris, a teacher, healer, and channel that I have followed for some time;“Restoration will become the superpower of the coming years.”
I have been aware of the concept of restoration for decades, originally in the context of yoga. When I was young, though, I thought restorative yoga a thing for wimps; I had not yet hit any kind of wall as far as my health was concerned. Lying in corpse pose after asanas as recommended in the classical style I learned, just made me impatient. I thought, I did that when I was asleep! Which is, in part, correct.
Decades, a couple psych degrees, and an anxiety disorder later, I have a deepening respect for this healing mode. Restoration is yin time, dark-of-the-moon time: nourishing and relaxing for the body, the emotions, and the mind. And some yin experiences or functions don’t take place during sleep. For one thing, we don’t learn mindfulness and/or conscious relaxation when we are sleeping! We don’t learn how to relax our perception of life, to drop from the struggle into the no-time-zone, into the yin no-goal space. My society is so psychologically prone to depression in part because depression is that healing yin space begging to happen- and now out of balance because we are so clueless about it.
We don’t learn to employ self inquiry, an inner, yin activity, in our sleep. Self inquiry is an essential form of self support, because otherwise we are dependent upon the outer world to assign worthiness. We, as personality, don’t learn how to reconnect with our essential sacredness, when we are asleep.
Restoration in the physical sense assumedly functions in harmony with the psychological or psychospiritual state of restoration. In other words, when we learn how to pace our busyness and relax our mind and our emotions, the body follows suit and is more efficient at physical restoration. Physically, restoration refers to the fact that when we move through our days at a fair clip, we use up our stores. These can be literal elements such as electrolytes, or other molecular building blocks; phosphorous for bone, iron for hemoglobin, proteins and fats for skin, oxygen for metabolizing nutrients, for example. The word ‘stores’ can also refer to the body’s manufactured hormones and neurotransmitters, blood cells, DNA proteins needed for new cell growth, and, of course, tons more.
Assumedly the body can’t work as efficiently on absorption and/or transportation of some nutrients, when it’s in yang mode. It does some absorption and replacement work best in yin time; relaxation time. That’s one reason why the body stops its busyness when injured or ill and goes into restoration mode, into yin time. The perfect anatomical model for this difference between yin and yang is the autonomic nervous system. There are two ideally balancing branches; the sympathetic nervous system (masculine, yang, active principle, expressive) and the parasympathetic nervous system (feminine, restorative, yin, inward).
Our society is very SNS. We are hyperstimulated, yanged-up, and it shows up in countless ways, including our epidemic rate of psychological distress (like anxiety and its twin, depression). Mindfulness, a restorative behavior, in its many forms is an increasingly popular way to restore psychological and physical balance in Westernized society. Body, mind, and emotions are intertwined in a constant loop of receiving information and then reacting to it- or not. The skill of paying attention to the nature of this circle allows us to notice where we would prefer to react (yang action); and when to watch and/or salve our anxious behaviors with loving self-support (yin restoration).
So that’s my mini lecture on what I mean by restoration. The blog is also about the most enjoyable restoration modality I know- music. I have been a fan of meditative or New Age music for years. At first I eschewed it, as I did the corpse pose in my yoga practice. Who wants to listen to music that kinda goes nowhere? I thought. The common tag “ambient” describes why I considered this genre stupid. Why design music that will be nothing but background, ignorable, basically? I wanted a clear and concise melody and rhythm, as I grew up with. Of course the term “New Age” is now a huge category, with many subgenres.
Then I started using this music for inspiration, basically; for mood alteration that inspires creative expression. It started with writing poetry, in fact, for it took me into psychic spaces that were profound. The type I am promoting here is often much like soundtrack, which is indeed designed to support particular emotional experiences, as simple underwater currents support the complex biome that touches the sky above. And yes, I believe that restoration can be supported by diving deeply and exploring the little universes that we create from our human experiences. The image in the beginning of the blog is a good way to describe this difference between the linear, intellectually governed experience (the straight channel of water), and the deeper internal yin-requiring one (the complex designed by Gaia).
I realized that it’s the intellectual mind that craves a dominant melody, a linear arrangement. Cosmic time has no beginning or end, though. The sort of New Age music I’m talking about here is designed to drop us down into the eternality of heart and soul. One of my first favorite artists is Helen Jane Long, and she does have melodies. But they are so simple, so gentle, they communicate something of the touch of a loving unseen hand, a sort of light snowfall of sound that demands nothing of us.
This one includes a little minor key bit; it moves back and forth between major and minor, as our moods can. It asks us into the soul realm, where both grief and joy are known as human essentials:
Harmony itself is restorative, of course, for everything in our experience is a complex of vibrational harmonics. The body is a multiplex of entangled functions, and works best when it is in harmony, all parties in vibrational agreement, one assumes. Harmony is, I believe, one of the very basic causes for the healing power of music. Long’s chords plus the background strings give us a couple of gentle currents that invite a weaving together, a gentle restoration then, of heart and soul.
Some of my favorite healing and restorative stuff is composed by more or less classical folks. Most recently I bought this one, by Max Richter; it inspired in me tears of gratitude for its beauty, and such tears are also restorative, being yin cleansing water element. On the Nature of Daylight played excellently with the sound of birds outside my window, and brought into the room Gaia’s natural beauty and ease. Here are restorative strings, the iconic sound of the heart, urging us to slow down and relax into inner space;
I suggest you watch this next video while you listen. But turn the sound off first. More impressive in another window; to do that click on the YouTube icon in lower right. Soul and spirit are restored by reconnection to the big picture. Thanks to friend posting these helical models on Facebook:
Another favorite composer of mine is Olafur Arnolds. This one includes voice, but briefly, two phrases. “For now I am winter” is supposedly followed by “lungs debut” according to Metrolyrics, and Arnalds supposedly uploaded the lyrics to that site, but I’m not sure what debuting lungs are about. Anyway the title phrase is an affirmation of unity with Gaia. For Now I Am Winter:
The title is also pointing out that we humans learn many of our states of being from Gaia. I am sure there are many places in the universe where the residents do not know Gaia’s wintry state of being; because their planet does not have winter. Which seems kind of sad for them. Winter in the mid-latitudes where I live is our most soulful and otherwise yin season, the season of restoration, ideally, as opposed to yang growth and expression of spring and summer. I do love winter for that- though all the snow removal and other sheer physical difficulties get wearying at the end; taking the whole yin joke too far. We yearn desperately then to explode out the door and soak up yang warmth and growth into every pore.
There are so many styles of restorative sound, from drumming to crystal bowls and chants to love songs to the Divine. Though it’s far from New Age, I love the Christmas season for its music which often focuses on the human voice raised in harmony and praise. A choir from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.:
They get a little yang-rowdy at the end, but since I had spent a period of editing time getting nowhere finding and posting my original choice, I gave up looking. The original points stand; the restorative properties of religious choir music during the winter months, and finally, encouraging the development of a restoration superpower. Amen.