Stemming from personal and family experiences, author and musician, Steve Malski Niles embarked on a journey illustrating how down-through-the-ages, art, in its myriad forms, has served as a powerful source of healing. While analyzing and comparing the function of the Shaman in ancient and contemporary societies to the works of therapists, analysts, medical doctors, priests, teachers, and architects, Steve shows how, in a variety of ways, art strongly impacts the human healing process. He is a musician and composer who has performed in the U.S. and in Europe. A prolific writer, he also has a number of books in development and looks to expand the “Power of Art” into a series including “The Power of Art in Education and Learning”, and ”The Power of Art in Politics and Diplomacy.”
I have been fascinated with holistic health for years and was drawn to this concept. What inspired you to write this book?
After returning from a year of travel around the world, I came home to find my sister was suffering from bi-polar disorder, something which did not emerge until her early adulthood. This led me on a journey of exploration of the causes, and cures, for such problems. I extended the frontiers of my research beyond just mental imbalances to physical disease, having been led by the great amount of information on alternative - or what are often socially based ritualistic cures - around the world throughout the history of many civilizations. I felt that, particularly in our time of very science - oriented approach to healing, that we are not using all our powers to cure. I don't mean to put aside allopathic medicine by any means, but only to suggest ways to enhance it. This of course is a wholistic approach to healing.
Chronic diseases are not being cured but rather managed by harmful medications. How do you feel that different art forms can become the cure?
I agree that many medications have severe side effects and must be used with caution. However I feel for some this is the only solution. For those who wish, and have the power to explore other options, there are a myriad of ways to do so. Again I feel such help can come without rejecting allopathic medicine, but by complimenting it. For a clear eye-view of ways to go, one would have to read my book and others like it which detail methods of shamanistic healing, healing through movement, visual arts, etc. How it works remains something of a mystery, for it is a subjective, inexact, but often powerful science or art. If I were to try to sum it up in a few words, I would say that by breaking down barriers within the self, positive healing energies are released.
Shamans have been using holistic healing methods since the beginning of time. How can these rituals be put into practice today?
I don't believe shamanism ever stopped happening, I think it just took on different forms and names in different cultures. Actors, musicians, DJ's, Rappers, circus performers, story - tellers and many other artists in their own right are shamans, or perform activities which are similar in power and effect to those of the ancient shamans. This in fact is a central point of my book, and one of the reasons I choose to write it - to put into public awareness the role and the importance of the artist in society. I feel very strongly that a society which marginalizes it's artists and does not properly support them does so at its own peril. In short the arts are the mirror by which society measures itself. Without this we are left staring into a void with no meaning, leading in many cases to social and individual ill mental and physical health.
China has the least access to ‘Western Medicine”, yet they have the longest life-span on average. Why do you think American's have not adopted their practices?
I think slowly we are learning from the Chinese. My chiropractor offers acupuncture, though insurance doesn't cover it. I think the Chinese are somewhat more in touch with nature. I was surprised that in their very number system that after every certain number of characters there is a character which refers to a season of the year. The movement of the earth through the seasons is ingrained in their consciousness as much as counting 1 2 3 4 is in ours. In the chapter on architecture in my book, I talk quite a bit about the Chinese adaptation and development of green architecture.
You include architecture as a healing power. Will you explain the necessity of sustainable architecture and how it affects our day to day life?
We live in an age where fiscal expediency must be balanced with the ecological and practical aspects of construction and housing. Quite often the fiscal outweighs the other aspects of the project, and when this happens, there may a sacrifice of health - giving standards in the design. Whether for short - term goals of environmentally sound day to day living standards, or more long term goals of green - house gas
emissions and energy usage, cutting corners will result in decreased health and longevity of a people and the procreation of future generations.
Bauhaus works great for office structures and high rise condos, but when you use the same design concept without the money for proper air conditioning, window quality, day care centers, doormen, parking lots, gyms and shopping centers, you are no more than housing humans in boxes. This leads to the obvious problems of violence, drug - use, ill health and high infant mortality and gang related activities. There are great strides in having corrected some of these problems, some of which I have outlined in my book.
In an ideal world, we would have systems set up to renew themselves as opposed to running until no longer able to run and then being discarded. Nothing would be manufactured without its proper ecological disposal factored into the design. As opposed to open systems where the end destination of a product is not in the design, we would know where everything would end up, how much energy it used to get there, and how much energy it produced. By having control of our resources, and having them not be a victim of economic expedience, but rather a producer of economic advantage, we could better control the effects of uneven distribution of wealth, i.e. poverty.
The Power of Art in Healing and Transformation, illustrates how, since prehistoric times, art (including visual, musical and theatrical art) has served as a healing modality across cultures for mental and physical illness. This book, which features breathtaking artwork, takes readers on a journey covering the healing power of painting, music, dance, literature, architecture, and other art forms.