While guarding an outpost in Baghdad in 2006, I found my first days in a combat zone rife with scenes of violence throughout the city. But in the quiet moments of the morning and night, the mosque across the square from our compound would air calls to prayer by various singers and styles. The sonorous music often calmed my heart in a way that helped me to be mindful of the world around me, and also helped to find peace. Rather than a distraction, music can be a way to help the body and mind focus on peace and happiness, rather than fear or pain of suffering.
In Afghanistan, I had a man in my care who had suffered immeasurably from a mortar blast. The explosion left him with severe wounds and blinded him in both eyes. Daily, we cleaned and dressed his wounds and gave him medical therapy to try to stave off infection. He was depressed and emaciated, having lost the will to survive. But on the recommendation of our doctor, we played soothing music for him while we performed the daily treatments. Miraculously, both his health and his emotional state improved, and in a few weeks, he was smiling and joking with us in a way that astounded his family. For a man without sight, music was a doorway to healing that we could not realize, but was fully realized in him.