Episode 2: Larry Dossey, M.D. - The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things: Fourteen Natural Steps to Health and Happiness

Listen Now
RSS: Subscribe
RSS: iTunes
In this program with Larry Dossey we dialogue about a number of ways not normally associated in our culture with "medicine" or "going to the doctor" that we can use to be and stay healthy, vital, optimistic and curious in our life, including the role of music in healing and our experience of joy. I conclude the dialogue by quoting an intoxicatingly celebratory poem quite a propos of this entitled "The Music We Are" by the 13th century poet Rumi, which begins "Have you heard? Winter is over". Bridging seemingly very different worlds in space and time, leaping ahead more than eight centuries and spanning all the way around the globe, Rumi is today simultaneously the most-listened to and revered poet in Afghanistan -- where he was born -- and the most-published poet in America, thanks to Coleman Barks' translations and Deepak Chopra's CD of Rumi’s poetry. This amazing phenomenon, as I say in the program, gives us grounds to believe that a new, evolutionary "planetary consciousness" and sensibility is indeed emerging beyond national and ideological differences, and that we are all co-creators and midwives of this emergence as we engage in true dialogue with one another.


The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things: Fourteen Natural Steps to Health and Happiness

announcer 1: This program is brought to you by Personal Life Media.com.

Dr. Larry Dossey: I'm Dr. Larry Dossey. One of the most important things we can do for our health is to cultivate a community of rich social connections. Living Dialogues with Duncan Campbell is one of the best ways I know to cultivate community without leaving your home.

Risk taking, getting out of ruts, routines and habits, experiencing new things are also valuable. That's what living dialogs is all about. Get healthier. Join in Living Dialogues with Duncan Campbell.


Duncan Campbell: Throughout history, from indigenous councils to the work of western visionaries such Plato, Galileo and quantum physicist David Bohm, mutual participatory dialog has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking a flow of meaning, of dialogos, beyond what any one individual can bring through alone.

So join us now and engage in Living Dialogue.


David Campbell: Welcome once again to Living Dialogues. I'm your host Duncan Campbell and with me for this particular dialogue I'm truly delighted to have my friend and author Larry Dossey M.D. as my guest.

The author, most recently, of an amazing book "The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things - 14 Natural Steps to Health and Happiness", in which he amplifies and actually goes beyond his prior New York Time best selling work entitled "Healing Words" and his ground-breaking book in the year 2000 "Reinventing Medicine" bringing the world of quantum physics into it's medical and health-related applications.

So Larry, again, it's just a delight to have you here on Living Dialogs and to be able to engage in these kinds of conversations together.

Dr. Larry Dossey: Well it is a delight and I'm happy that you asked me. Thanks Duncan.

Duncan Campbell: One of the things, by the way, before we get into our topic for this particular dialog which is the role of music in healing, is just to pick up, as a transition, the conversations we've had on other topics in your other book.

Things such as optimism, the role of unhappiness and how we can realize that the emotions that we experience, the full range of emotions and being open to them, is so important for healing. 

But to come out with a fundamentally positive outlook is also the result and cause of good health. One little topic that I wanted to bring up and that I know has been brought up with you before, is that people wonder, "Well, in terms of how I relate to my own health, have I inherited certain health issues from my parents or my ancestors?"

In one of your prior responses you mentioned that while genes are real, they and DNA are not destiny. Now DNA is very important and we're going to talk about that in terms of music as well, but you point out that only about one third of our propensity for illness is genetically related and there's a real danger if we think that we're susceptible to inheriting diseases from our parents or our lineages.

That we might consider our family history as a curse or spell that we're destined to live out no matter what. As you point out, if we believe this we're a grave risk for, "Living into the curse by cooperating with it."

Perhaps we could just open with some remarks on that and then we'll lead into the rejuvenative and healing power of music. 

Dr. Larry Dossey: You know we have a huge problem, I think, in people's belief systems because genetic descriptions of the human genome have been completed now. We are really in danger of giving everything over to our DNA and nothing could be more inappropriate.

Certainly, inherited diseases are a fact of life and no one should deny that, but for most people most of the time we are not subject to biological determinism by virtue of what our genes look like. Fully 75 percent or so of our health is going to be determined not by genetics, but by the decisions and choices we make and the behaviors that we choose to engage in.

It's really important to keep our eye on the ball here. If we don't we're going to get into a situation where we think that our choices and our consciousness really don't make all that much difference. Nothing, from a health point of view, could be more disastrous.

Duncan Campbell: Exactly. I wanted to set the ground for this particular discussion with that because on the other side of the coin, the fact is that we have inherited a tremendously harmonious and beautiful sense of connection with who we are in our essence and it comes through often in the form of music. That music is actually encoded in our DNA.

In a way we want to just point out that DNA is not a negative destiny but it is a possibility that we're now awakening to. You've told a very interesting story about how when you first came across this literature, you appeared at an AIDS conference.

But before we go into that story I just want to let our listeners know that in your chapter on music in your book, it's led off with a Chinese proverb that says, "A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song."

It reminds me of that wonderful poem of Rumi's, the 13th century Persian poet, he says, "When we awake each morning, empty and frightened, do not go into the study." In other words don't go into your head, don't go into ideology, don't go looking for answers.

He then goes on to say, "Take down a musical instrument. There are hundreds of ways to kiss the earth. There's a field out there beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing. I'll meet you there."

What we're about to go into is a beautiful discussion that's in your book about how we have the possibility of finding our way into that field that's beyond ideas, beyond the conceptual mind that's broken down into the bifurcation of right and wrong, good and bad, into a place of deeper harmony.

You point out that on the Internet, there are numerous websites that are devoted to music. The most amazing discovery that I found in reading your book, which I was not aware of, was that there has been scientific "discoveries" about how music is deeply related to our DNA.

So perhaps let's begin this dialog with your discussion of the work of Susumu Ohno, Linda Long and others that have led the field.

Dr. Larry Dossey: Well let me set the background for this. Dr. Susumu Ohno was one of the world's great geneticists before he died just a few years ago. He was at a research institution in Duarte, California called the City of Hope.

He was a very cultured man who had a life-long interest in music. He decided to look at the relationship between DNA and music. What he did was to take the DNA of not just humans but also of different species and string it out.

It is made up of what are called nucleotides of various sorts. He decided to assign, according to a particular strategy, certain musical notes to these nucleotides as they appeared. And if you stretch them out after doing that, what you have is a musical score.

His wife, Midori, was a professional violinist. He would code the DNA of these various species with musical notes, give it her and she would play it. The recordings are astonishing. Some of them are indistinguishable from Bach or Mozart.

I was floored by this. When I came across this music I actually contacted him and he sent me audio cassette tapes of the recordings, the DNA music. Not long after that I had an opportunity to address a group at a healing conference where at least half of the audience was made up of patients with severe AIDS.

This was in the early days of AIDS therapy. At that time there was not an effective medication and these AIDS patients were very sick. Some came in wheelchairs. They very often had these grotesque images of their body as rotting, diseased and doomed.

I decided to play the DNA music for them and to let them know that there is another way to image your body. Your DNA has not changed just because you have AIDS. At core, fundamentally, it can be seen as something beautiful and here is a way to image that.

I described to them about how the music was made and so on and then I played it for them. They began to weep. Not just people with AIDS but the whole audience was in tears. This was the first positive image that many of these people had of their bodies since being diagnosed with AIDS.

After the music was played, there was this silence where the only sounds from the audience was sobbing. Then one of them said, "Could you play that again". So we did. And by golly the same sort of thing happened all over again.

I was stunned by this more than they I think, because it was a great example of a lot of things including the healing power of music. It brought home to me also that we really do have ways now of creating new images of the body, even in the midst of horrible illness.

This was just a vivid example of that Duncan.

Duncan Campbell: And so the people may be wondering, if they are, about how this can be that our DNA could actually have a musical expression. You pointed out that Dr. Ono was the first scientist, who beginning in the 1980's, began to explore the musicality of the structure of genes by assigning musical notes to them according to their molecular weights.

Dr. Larry Dossey: I must say that this field has exploded over the last ten years. There are thousands of web sites now. If people will Google "DNA music", they'll come up with any number of sites where you can actually download, for free, much of this music.

So if you want a good dose of this DNA music, it's really easy to get. There are web sites which I go into in the book.

Duncan Campbell: You mentioned four or five web sites about how this has been extended in the book, and so the question is if people go to Google "DNA music", do you think that they'll pick up all these web sites? You mentioned four or five, or should we ...

Dr. Larry Dossey: Yes I do in the book. These are just some of the cream of the crop.

Duncan Campbell: And I highly recommend the book for this because ... I'll just pick up again with a quotation there where you say that, "Dr. Ono's goal was to discover a basic pattern or melody that governs all of life". That is really the key.

Is there a melody that governs all of life which could be, really, the re-patterning of our evolution as conscious beings, as a species, which I believe is actually happening which shows a very profound commonality, a global commonality.

I believe myself that a planetary consciousness is emerging. As we might say a third consciousness beyond the early indigenous consciousness of the species which was very much embedded in a live sense of nature, mystery and wonder.

Almost as an adolescent needs to push away from the mother and the matrix of childhood and the family to empower and individuate itself, so that it can eventually be independent enough to mate itself, make new life, and to create a new matrix.

There was a second kind of human consciousness which sometimes we call the "modern mind",that is primarily invested in individuating or separating oneself from the other in order to become self-empowered and not dependant on or subject to the vicissitudes of nature.

I think that what we're all being called back to at this time is a way of going back, almost alchemically, and recapitulating our psychic and DNA history to reawaken, from our DNA, that deep profound patterning of commonality that resides within each of us and then bring it forth in a way that in this third consciousness there can be an appreciation of the commonality and the deep connectedness in all of life.

At the same time and appreciation, simultaneously, for the unique diversity that each one of us possesses. That it's as if we are all individual as a snowflake. Each one of us has a very particular unique song to sing, we might say in life.

The "scientific research" that's been spawned here from Dr. Ono's work just gives us tremendous conformation of these fundamental insights. We might, as we go forth in this dialog together Larry, if you could talk about the work of Linda Long, Susan Alexander and others before we get into other aspects of music that confirm these viewpoints.

Dr. Larry Dossey: Let me just summerize the contribution that I think all of these musicians have made who have explored DNA music. All DNA is different except in identical twins. If you think about it, if you can assign musical notes to people's DNA and play it, what you can imagine is that we each have our individual song.

It's unique, it's different, it's original for each of us. What if we played those together? If we could play the songs, the harmonies of each individual together, we would have a chorus. This is a new way of revisioning community.

Not as isolated individuals, but as people coming together with their own musical contribution in a way that is quite concrete. You talked earlier of Jim Nomand, the naturalist, who would go out and record songs from certain streams up in the mountains at certain times of the day.

This music isn't just limited to human beings. This is innate in nature. About three or four years ago, astrophysicists recorded a particular musical note coming from a spot in the cosmos. This was B flat. These astrophysicists, whom we usually think of a people who are just in their heads, really aren't always.

One of them hypothesized that if we could record and amplify all of the notes that were coming from all of the galaxies in the universe, we would have a universal song. One wonders what it might sound like. As I said in the book, I'm betting on Bach.


Duncan Campbell: You did say that in the book. That's right. This is very interesting that you said that all DNA is unique except for that between identical twins. You mentioned in a prior dialogue that you have a twin. Are you identical twins?

Dr. Larry Dossey: Yes indeed. My brother and I are identical and he's a dentist. He's one of the most gifted and brilliant dentists that I've ever known in my life. My brother and I are extraordinarily close. One of the great pleasures of my life is bouncing ideas that go into my books off my brother. 

He's one of my greatest supporters and also one of my best critics. I have a living dialog with him several times a week, Duncan.

Duncan Campbell: Well I think that's very beautiful that in a way, you're "uniquely" situated to see the power of the kind of dialog that can take place. The power of dialog when we approach life as a dialog rather than as a situation to be conquered or to assert our individuality within.

We could take it from that point of view and talk about ways in which we can, in a sense, talk within ourselves to our own essence as you might be talking with your brother. We have a way of conducting an inner dialogue through sound.

One of the things that's been shown in a number of instances in the literature is that the healing sound of the human voice, particularly our own voice when we hum or when we make certain kinds of chanting sounds like "Om" or if we sing Christmas carols, whatever it is.

We talked earlier about singing your heart out. Let's talk now about the power of our own vocalization to be self-healing as well as provide a healing environment for others.

Dr. Larry Dossey: You know, one of the great constants in the Eastern meditative traditions is chanting, particularly the sounds of "Om". If you think about what that might be like for people who simply do that outside of religious tradition, it's not that different from humming.

There are humming studies now which show that people who just simply go inside and allow this sound, a hum, to arise naturally have healthful physiological changes. It's been particularly interesting to look at what happens in research in ear, nose and throat territory.

We know now that humming increases the concentration of particular chemical called nitric oxide in the area of the skull around the sinuses. It has the effect of opening up the sinuses. Now there are case reports on record where people with chronic sinusitis have found out that the cure for their chronic sinusitis is to hum.

I have had patients who have actually reported this to me on their own. Now this has been confirmed by medical research. One of the great breakthroughs that I think is colorful, humane and is certainly beautiful science has been in pediatric and intensive care units where premature infants who have not yet developed the ability to suckle have been given what is called a "musical pacifier".

As long as they suckle on the pacifier, this activates a kind of music which is a lullaby. One of the lullabies that is activated by this is Brahms "Beautiful Lullaby". This has been a way of teaching these premature infants with this immature suckle reflex to learn, in just a matter of minutes, to do this.

It can be life-sustaining for them because if they don't suckle, then they're stuck on IV's. The musical pacifier is a feed-back device that's being commercially tested now and you'll be able to see this on the market sometime soon.

It's one of those connections with music and the innate music, the power of music, to sustain life that is rooted even in the awareness of these little preemies. I just think it's a beautiful breakthrough in research that unites the power of music with human need.

For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell