LIFE DOCTOR

PITY ME. As I write I am accompanied by a busker playing "Stairway to Heaven". My office hangs over Leicester Square in London, where "entertainers" compete against one another to be heard.

The noise problem is inflationary. As one bar turns up its volume, the people talk louder, the noise gets louder and the bar next door has to be even louder. But what effect is all this hubbub having on our sacred aura? Our inner silence, the knowing beat of the primordial drum that one relies on to maintain an equilibrium? You know the one. No? Then you're a noise victim.

While we are busy moaning about personal stereos and pneumatic drills, the much derided tie-dye world of complementary therapy is actually doing something about it. It's called sound healing. Sarida Brown, editor of the healing journal Caduceus says: "The task is to evolve ourselves as instruments, to tune ourselves, finely. In Hindu and Sufi cosmologies, the universe is created out of sounds." Illness is about rebalancing energy and music is just the thing.

Ancient Greeks believed that blowing the right note could cure disease. Peter Culshaw, writing in Caduceus says "Part of the West's amnesia about the magical power of music is the vast amount of noise modern man is confronted with - an inevitable desensitivity takes place."

He does not make sound therapy sound all that tempting. "The Dagar brothers are dynastic master musicians who have for at least 14 generations been refining this style [songs to the divine and beauty of nature]. The concert began with at least an hour of singing what seemed to be one note over a tampura drone. Eventually it seemed the entire audience was enchanted." (Is he sure they weren't asleep?)

This produces apparently, a sensation of huge energy and bliss which should last for days, transcending petty everyday concerns. The reason this works, and half an ear on Radio 1 doesn't, is down to personal involvement. Sound therapy should be about connecting, concentrating and exploring your inner self - good and bad - through the sound. You need time and repetition. That's why Gregorian chants and Bach might do the trick but the three-minute pop song won't. Maybe I should try harder with the busker. He's been playing "Stairway to Heaven" for at least half an hour.

DIY sound-healing

1. Don't turn on the TV or radio as soon as you get home. Really listen, or dance in time to music with your eyes closed your eyes (having removed furniture).

2. Start humming, not a tune you know, just something that appeals. Be a composer, not a fan.

3. Wear earmuffs and carry a stick for knocking unconscious offensive noise makers.

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