Meditation and the Pachelbel Kanon

This post is about my experience with guided imagery, meditation and the Pachelbel Kanon in D, and HOPE Attitudinal Healing support group work. When I was introduced to support groups in 1986, one of the first humans I met in the field was Bernie Siegel M.D., a cancer surgeon at Yale University. Bernie had started support groups in his practice for cancer patients and used what was known then as “guided imagery” to help them create healing images. I knew that I was to learn the method. As I was already a practitioner of silent meditation, I could see that both meditation and guided imagery took place in an internal environment of altered consciousness that was essentially the same in both.

As I studied and practiced the art, I began to see that the particular piece of music that Bernie used had a certain structure which induced an altered state of consciousness. It was easy to see that meditation was a condition of deeper alteration in consciousness than guided imagery was. As I began to use it in H.O.P.E. Group meetings as a part of the closing, I learned that some people went into states of deeply altered consciousness for the duration of the guided imagery… much like what I was used to experiencing in deep meditation.

I was very much aware of how the physiology of the body changed with deep meditation; for I always returned with a powerful sense of inner peace. I also was shown that background music had a demonstrable effect on the quality of the guided imagery. The work of Helen Bonny in choosing specific music to match the quality of her guided imagery is a beautiful example of that. As I listened to Bernie Siegel’s guided imageries, the background music that he chose for all of them, Daniel Kobialka’s extended Version of the Pachelbel Kanon in D, had very specific qualities that lent themselves beautifully to the induction of these beneficial altered states of consciousness.

First of all, it must be established that Kobialka extended the nine minute Kanon to 24 minutes, thus providing the practitioner of guided imagery and/or meditation with quality time in the beneficial altered state of consciousness. Secondly, Kobialka did not simply repeat the Kanon twice to get the longer version, he danced with the original Kanon, keeping it in the key of D and at a tempo of 70 beats a minute.

I would like to add here that I have experienced the original Kanon in a beautiful exercise conducted by a healing master, Richard Moss, M.D. Moss had us pair off and extend our arms out to the side, all the while looking our partner squarely in the eye and repeating to the four/four rhythm of the Kanon, the four words, “How I love you,” all the while holding your partner’s arms up with nothing but your love! (While the Kanon played over and over!) Talk about inducing an altered state of consciousness! Thrilling!

To return to the qualities of the extended Version of the Kanon, there are three components that comprise it: the induction, the body, and the closing… all comprising a very well-done work with altered states of consciousness. The induction of this piece consists of single notes from a synthesizer in a regular pattern lasting a few minutes, during which one can get the sense that they are ringing in every cell of the body. Suddenly, gentle chords (in D) appear, accompanied by two grace notes four beats apart, thus establishing the rhythm for the rest of the piece. It has been my experience that the listener’s own heartbeat quickly synchronizes with the beat of the music, and it is strikingly important to know that this is the heart beat rate of your mother when she was carrying you in her womb! Kobialka maintains this melodic phase for about 15 minutes, which allows you to adjust your breathing rate to the rhythm of the piece… all in time with your heart beat!

Now give yourself permission to know that you have let the music of this lovely work adjust your rhythmical bodily functions to the most peaceful rhythm of all for both heart and lungs. You are now at about 20 minutes into the experience, and the quality of the music begins to gently change in such a graceful way that it draws you back to a state of being peacefully alert. Now you can give yourself permission to carry that peacefulness with you for the rest of your day

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Laurie September 18, 2015, 3:43 pm

    Ken, it’s so nice to hear about the specifics of the wonderful music you use for guided imagery meditation. I always thought that it was your voice that brought us in and out of the meditation (which I frequently experienced in a very deep state!), but now I see that the music also aided in the guiding of the meditation. How grateful I am for those many HOPE group meetings where we ended with the guided imagery and went off for the week supported by a knowing that we were/are part of our healing process. And I love how this writing turned into having a guided imagery feel as we were guided to now carrying peacefulness for the rest of the day! Blessings, Laurie

    • Ken Hamilton September 19, 2015, 3:43 am

      Thank you, my friend. It has been a fine journey. I’m happy to have done a chunk of it with you. Loving thoughts come… Ken

  • Stephen September 24, 2015, 12:47 am

    Not to downplay talk — talk is talk and talk certainly leads to new knowledge, understanding others and knowing that you aren’t alone. The conversations were wonderful, but for me it was both the music and the guided imagery that led me to my healing process. As the guided imagery would start I would always wait for that note — that note that brought me home.

    • Ken Hamilton September 24, 2015, 3:07 am

      Thank you, Steve. It’s right alongside Laurie’s thoughts about the use of guided imagery in H.O.P.E. Group work. I enjoy giving it to the group.

  • Bob October 1, 2015, 11:05 pm

    Lovely reflection, Ken, a reminder of the deep transformational potential of music, especially when combined with the practice of meditation and/or guided imagery. Your remembrances brought me back to my own fond remembrances of early workshops (oh, gee, almost 35 years ago!) with Brugh Joy and Richard Moss, who both used the Kanon in their work… a transformational time for me, deepening my understanding of healing, and bringing me that all-important sense of inner peace. As you’ve pointed out, this is such an effective antidote against the turbulence of our outer world… and an essential tool for our inner Mystic and Rebel. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Elaine G. McGillicuddy October 9, 2015, 2:58 am

    I’m reminded by your presentation, Ken, and the responses here, of what Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz discovered years ago when he was a journalist. A two part questionnaire revealed that people were in agreement when it came to responses to a particular question. But the second part of the questionnaire which had to do with actions revealed to him that people don’t change because of convincing ideas. They change when they’ve been moved in a way that engages the body, the way the Dances of Universal Peace do. I recently learned from my mentor in the Dances of Universal Peace, a very simple “circle dance” (read – “spiritual practice”) with simple movements added to the hymn “Love one another as I have loved you. Care for each other. I have cared for you. Bear each other’s burdens, heal each other’s wounds, and so, you will know, my return.” The effect on participants is palpable. This “dance” in reminding us of Jesus’ words, seems to create deeper love among the participants.

    • Ken Hamilton October 9, 2015, 11:55 am

      And they also change when in altered states of consciousness, as in listening to music or following a guided imagery…. Why? because the mind can’t distinguish between imagining an action and actually doing it. Isn’t it really all about imagination (making images) rather than exercising intellectual thought processes. And let us remember that Goebbels said that if he repeated a lie often enough the listener would believe it. So, with all due respect to Dr. Klotz, there are exceptions to his single conclusion… one that is quite accurate in the run-of-the-mill situation, and which involves the actual kinesthetic experience of the dance coupled with the kinesthetic/auditory experience of singing.

  • Maryann March 4, 2016, 8:05 pm

    I found your blog today thanks to Norm Shealy, and I recognized and appreciate our like-mindedness. 🙂 Then, another of your posts sent me to searching for the extended Canon, and I found Daniel had done two versions on separate albums. One version is just under 23 minutes, while the other is almost 31. Although I’m sure they’re both excellent, I’d love to know which one you were citing. Thanks!

    • Ken Hamilton March 8, 2016, 1:08 pm

      The “Extended Version” of the Pachelbel Kanon that I have used forever is the 23 minute version in the Timeless Motion CD

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