The healing power of art and music has been known throughout history. The first healing practices were music and dance in hunter gatherer cultures. Artists and healers were usually one figure in society – the shaman. This person went inward to the place of creativity and healing. She embodied the original rituals that previously were spontaneous and made them intentional. There was a common belief that there was a healing spirit that could be freed from within a person through music or art and by fully participating in the experience could become whole.
Christian and Buddhist art also works on the principle that meditating on images or listening to certain sounds puts a person in a Sacred state and heals. In Navajo sandpainting the patient was put on the ground and the sand painting was made by a medicine man around them. The sand painting imagery told a traditional Navajo healing story and the healer told the story of the painting to the tribe as it was made. It is believed that the story, and the shapes and colors directly call the spirits to heal the patient.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the sand mandala is an intricate focus of meditation which monks study in depth, sometimes for as long as three years. It is designed to guide those who aspire to enlightenment by purifying and healing their minds, transforming them from an ordinary mind into an enlightened mind.
Traditional cultures believed that art healed the world, not just the individual. It was believed that art and music changed the hunt, fertility, the crops, the weather, the life of the tribe, and the earth. Today many healing artists also believe that their art helps heal the individual, community and the Earth.