Nov. 28, 2014

Vol. 9, Num. 3

Kalimba Magic NEWS

Countering Diathesis-Stress!
Walking with the Kalimba

One of the keys to modern psychology is an understanding of how nature and nurture interact to result in various psychological outcomes - it's called the diathesis-stress model. The diathesis is a genetic vulnerability or predisposition toward a psychological illness. (The diathesis is rarely just a single gene, but is usually versions of several different genes that interact to form susceptibility to disease in complex ways that are generally not yet understood in detail.)

Psychological illness is not completely determined by your genetic makeup. If you live a good life, if you are nurtured and loved, if you get enough sleep, if you get your vitamins, if you limit your exposure to stress, or you have good strategies for coping with stress to minimize the negative affects of those stresses - then illness does not develop. There are, of course, "resilient individuals" whose robust genetic makeup permits them to be subjected to negative environments and pull through successfully. But for the rest of us mortals, if you have a stressful life, if you do not feel supported by family and friends around you, if you don't get exercise and sleep and good nutrition, then the interaction of negative environment with genetic vulnerability can result in psychological and other types of illness.

The secret to wellness? Live in a positive environment if you can, and when you have stressors, look for health-giving resources to help you deal with that stress.

Mark Holdaway takes a walk with his kalimba

One of my favorite activities is to go walking while playing kalimba. This combines my physical maintenance activity of walking with my psychological maintenance activity of creating and being moved by kalimba music.

On a good day, it seems as if I am taking dictation from the ancestral spirits, that I am picking up the notes and melodies from the wind, and I am almost surprised to hear what comes out of the kalimba, as if the music were a gift that is coming through me. What a positive feeling, that the spirits bring me beautiful gifts that amaze and delight.

Often, I don't feel like moving very fast. I can either accept that and play a slow and beautiful song while swaying down the street, or I can tap into a fast song that makes my thumbs jump... and without even thinking about it, my legs are moving fast to keep up with the music, and my heart and lungs get their workout too.

Sometimes when I play, I feel as if I am bathed in a glowing golden light that shines into my mind, my heart, and my body. I don't attribute any special healing properties to this imagined light, but hey, it sure makes me feel good!

Duke Ellington used to say of music: "If music sounds good, it is good." Simple. Trust your ear. I would go a bit further and say "If music feels good, it is good for you."

Playing kalimba each day helps me deal with stress and makes stressful situations seem far away or less demanding, or at least not as immediate as the music. When I emerge, I still have the music within me, and I can hear its echos even as I deal with the complexities of Arizona tax law or an irritated customer who got the wrong book with their order. Playing kalimba just helps me put everything in perspective. We can play today - hooray!

Mark Holdaway walks with his kalimba

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