A woman going into an MRI machine with headphones on

A New Kind of Therapy

Ok, imagine this: you’re lying on your back, someone puts a steel bucket over your head then bangs on it with a hammer, over and over in rapid, ear-splitting succession.

That’s pretty much what it felt like when I had an MRI recently. Except instead of a bucket, my entire body was slid into a tunnel barely wide enough for my shoulders with only about 10 inches of space between my face and the ceiling.

Yeah. It was a claustrophobe’s nightmare.

A pleasant voice came on in my headphones, “Now try to relax and hold perfectly still. It will all be over in 15 minutes.”

Fifteen minutes? That’s a quarter of an hour!

Trying to go to a happy place

So, I closed my eyes and tried to go to a happy place. But, just as I began picturing a beautiful, white, sandy, Hawaiian beach... bang, bang, bang, my ears swelled to a series of loud pops, firing off at rapid, machine-gun speed.

If you ever have an MRI, I recommend you stuff your ears with something before going in. You’ll still hear the pops but at least they’ll be a bit muffled. The headphones are mostly useless by themselves.

Useless, except for one thing. If you request it, they will pipe music into them. At my location, they play anything you want, jazz, rock and roll, blues, classical… hell, I’d almost listen to rap if it would take my mind out of that coffin.

So, after they got the music playing and I closed my eyes, I was able to relax and even hold still. I chose blues, by the way, not rap. No need to add to my torture.

Using music as a distraction

It made sense. I use music to relax or distract myself a lot. Mundane tasks like doing the dishes are made much more pleasant while listening to golden oldies. It turns out there actually is a discipline called Music Therapy. I first learned of it from Jesus. Maybe I better explain that one.

One day, around Easter time, the brother of one of our parishioners showed up. He was asked to participate with the children in our church Easter program. Most of us hadn’t met him until the night of the play when he entered and slowly made his way towards the stage. It was obvious what part they’d asked him to play.

Tall, well over 6 feet, slim build, long dark hair falling to his shoulders, dark beard, and eastern Mediterranean facial features - yeah, he wasn’t exactly the Easter Bunny. The only props he required were a faded robe and sandals. He was so authentic I felt an overwhelming urge to apologize for using his name in vain the night before.

Later I learned he was a music therapist. He explained how they use active participation and passive listening methods to help cancer patients relax. Music can reduce the tension, anxiety, depression, nausea, and even pain associated with hard-to-tolerate cancer treatments.

So, apparently, Music Therapy is worth looking into. At least that’s what Jesus told me.

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