My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean

“Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of my first experiences with imagery and music (and maybe even one of the first musical-emotional ones) was during a high school drama class. Our teacher narrated several scenes, and told us to enter into that world – what we imagined apparently had some symbolic meaning – while a calm, instrumental track set the mood in the background. I ended up writing about my “enchanted forest” in Writer’s Craft (piece is here, if interested). It was quite the journey.

In last week’s class, we discussed the use of guided imagery in music therapy sessions, specifically in regards to the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (BMGIM) – the “use of specially sequenced Western classical music designed to stimulate and sustain a dynamic unfolding of imagery experiences.” (Mardis & Clark, 2008). Basically, it helps one increase their self-understanding and self-transcendence.

A typical BMGIM session consists of four phases:

  1. Opening conversation
  2. Relaxation induction
  3. Music-imagery experience
  4. Return and post-talk

There were two parts to our class’ music-imagery experience. For the first one, we listened to music, taking it in and allowing the mind go wherever it needed to. while simultaneously free-drawing what we felt or saw. The second, we listened to the music first, then drew a mandala reflective of our visualizations that arose from the music.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to react to the music at first: all I had on my mind was a blank void waiting to be filled. It stayed there for a good couple minutes before anything even came to mind. I ended up drawing this wave-like thing with all the blues I had. My thoughts included brief moments of peace interrupted by a huge storm over an angry ocean, falling down a waterfall, isolation in a small dark room, and irritation to the sound of birds… this definitely represented how I felt at the moment, because my mind was not present and inattentive. The second experience was slightly better, with me imagining some nature scenes and drawing up a thin, wavy red “ribbon”.

I actually felt more anxious following the experience… possibly because my mind took me to places I did not feel comfortable going to. I wonder what my experience would have been like if we had done the second phase of relaxation induction/priming, which is supposed to put the client in the right headspace.

TL;DR: my BMGIM experience was not the best because of where my heart and mind were at the time, but I can definitely see the therapeutic benefits of this method.

“Imagination is the active evocation of (inner) images secondum naturam, an authentic feat of thought or ideation, which does not spin aimless and groundless fantasies ‘into the blue’—does not, that is to say, just play with its objects, but tries to grasp the inner facts and portray them in images true to their nature. This activity is an opus, a work.” (C. G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Collected Works, Vol. 12, p. 219)