Episode 332 | August 22, 2023

Let Music Heal You with Tim Ringgold

A Personal Note From Orion

Welcome to another enchanting episode of the Stella Life podcast! In this episode, the brilliant Tim Ringgold joins me in an exciting exploration of music’s amazing healing powers. 

Music has always held a special place in my heart, as I believe in its profound ability to touch our souls and bring about transformation. In this week’s episode, we dive deep into the therapeutic wonders of music and explore how music can be a guiding light on our journey to self-discovery and empowerment.

Tim Ringgold is a board-certified music therapist, author, and internationally acclaimed speaker. His expertise and passion for using music as a tool for healing are truly awe-inspiring. Tim has shared his profound wisdom alongside luminaries like Tony Robbins, and is a trailblazer in music therapy. In 2012, he notably delivered the first-ever music therapy TEDx talk.

This podcast episode is an invitation to embark on a soul-stirring journey to unlock the secrets of music’s therapeutic effects and its remarkable ability to reshape our well-being. Let the soothing melodies of our conversation lead you toward a path of healing, growth, and self-discovery. Without further ado, let’s dive into the show!

In This Episode

  • [01:43] – Tim Ringgold speaks about becoming the multifaceted person he is today.
  • [08:07] – Orion asks Tim about his favorite bands.
  • [12:57] – Tim describes how he learned about music therapy and how it transformed his life.
  • [20:23] – Tim talks about his first four years in the 12 Step program and what he learned along the way.
  • [22:14] – Tim discusses how music affects the brain and the body.
  • [24:57] – What do music therapists do?
  • [27:28] – Tim emphasizes creativity as a component of problem-solving for humans and elaborates how music is a part of it.
  • [30:02] – Tim explains the four-step formula to overcome everything.
  • [41:08] – Tim enumerates his top three tips for living a stellar life.

Jump to Links and Resources

About Today’s Show

Hi, Tim. Welcome to Stellar Life podcast. Thank you so much for being here. 

Thanks for having me, Orion. It’s great to be here. 

Can you share your incredible origin story with us? How did you become the multifaceted person that you are today?

It all started when my parents met. I won’t go back that far. 

It was a very long time ago.

In a galaxy far, far away, it’s another year further every year. I am a kid who’s still a kid. First, let’s be very clear; I am an 8-year-old in a 50-year-old body. It’s easy for me to go back. 

As a kid, two things never occurred like work—music and sports. You never had to encourage me or entice me. There was no extrinsic reward or motivation necessary in those two worlds. 

My little one gets a lollipop after every gymnastics class. 

Most people already have a positive, personal, and powerful relationship with music. Music is our mutual friend as it helps each of us to heal and grow. Click To Tweet

I didn’t need a lollipop to get there. You had to drag me off the baseball or soccer field. And the same with music. I remember being a vocalist on stage for my first solo when I was four. It never occurred like work; it always was fun, so I leaned into it. 

Many years later, I understood why. But as a kid, I only noticed that I had endless energy and curiosity about sports and music, so I followed both. 

I was a vocalist, my main instrument, and I played soccer—my main sport as a kid, baseball, soccer, and rugby. I quickly did well, if you will, for lack of a better phrase. I sang in St. Peter’s Square by the time I was 16. I was raised Catholic, so I got the honor of singing solo at the papal audience during Holy Week in Rome in front of 13,000 Catholic pilgrims worldwide. 

That was the height of growing up in that religion. I was active in that religion. My mom was the director of religious education at our little country parish. That was a deeply moving experience to hear my voice reverberating around the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square as a 16-year-old. 

As you get squeezed into the grist mill of college, “What will you major in, and what will you do for work?” That kind of sausage grinder was tough because I didn’t see myself as singing opera.

When you said that, I was reminded of the clip, ‘We don’t need no education.’ 

Yeah, in the video, they have the meat grinder. Pink Floyd was one of my high school-identifying imprinting bands, so I love that you just shouted out Pink Floyd. I didn’t fit the mold because I wasn’t interested in music education. I wasn’t interested in musical theater or opera, so I didn’t know what to do with my love and talent for music. 

So I wandered through the wilderness until I had a rough defining moment. People have different types of defining moments. They’re not worth comparing. You just have yours. It’s 1995. While at a concert shouting my head off, having a great time, my five best friends have just been murdered.

I come from a small town in Connecticut. That doesn’t happen where I’m from. I ended up going to five funerals in four days. 

I’d get up, bury a friend, get as hammered as possible, pass out, wake up, and do the same thing over the next day and the following day. They don’t write scripts like that because you can’t relate. It doesn’t make any sense. 

When I went to my friends’ memorials and funerals, I sang a song I had written for them a few years earlier. I sang it to them on open mic night at our local roadhouse. It was my way of saying goodbye. I noticed that my community just embraced the song and embraced me. It was so healing for them, but it tore me up to do it. 

The night of the last funeral, a friend said, “You want to see some live music?” I was like, “Yeah.” We went to a show, and I found peace for the first time since I got the news. No amount of drugs, alcohol, porn, or food numbed that pain all week. I stacked every substance and behavior I knew to numb that pain. I did everything I could, and it didn’t work. 

Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Amy Newmark

At the concert’s end, I realized, “This is what everyone else felt when I sang my song goodbye. I could be that for others. That’s it,  I’m in. I’m sold. I’ll figure it out along the way.”

I dedicated my life at that moment to helping others in their toughest times with music because that was what music did for me. Since it was received through a live concert, I said, “That’s what I’ll do. I will go out into the music business. I’ll be a recording artist, start or join a band. It’ll look like that because it won’t be on Broadway. That’s not me.” 

I just went into the music industry and tried to figure it out. I learned that they say sex, drugs, and rock and roll, in that order for a reason. 

The culture within the music entertainment industry, especially because I’m a headbanger, I was playing heavy music, hard rock, and heavy metal. 

What were your favorite bands? 

When I was coming up as a musician, I was listening to Metallica, Megadeth, and Queensrÿche

Me, too, Metallica and Megadeth. I don’t know the third one.

Certified headbanging status right there. Then it got heavier. I got introduced to bands like Machine Head and then Korn, and it was like, “This is my jam.” What I realized in that world was the game was to maximize the amount of sex you could have and drugs you could take by making the least amount of music required to get it. 

Let’s say you practice two hours a day. You’re left with 22 hours minus whatever passed out sleep. Then when you’re playing shows, your set is anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 to an hour. You are now left with 23 hours of a void. I found that environment, the cultural current you just fell into.

It makes sense. It’s neural mirroring. You come around, people think in a certain way and your brain just models. It’s on a subconscious level. 

Humans are pack animals. 

You still carry all the trauma from that terrible incident, so it’s a perfect fruit salad. 

Yeah, there you go. As I stumbled through that industry, I could tell this was unsustainable. I met my wife, and we dated for 4½ years, but I was never going to propose because I wasn’t faithful then.

I could quit weed. I could stop drinking for a month. There were lots of drugs I just never did, to begin with. I was like, “No, that’s a terrible idea.” The one thing that was like a kryptonite I was powerless around was women and pornography. I relied on your integrity to keep me safe because I had no personal power around me. It was just gone. 

Let’s say you had boundaries; great. Then I’d be okay. But if you were just as whacked out as I was, it was like chickens running at each other. I got myself into all kinds of trouble. 

I was in a transformational leadership program called the Introduction Leaders Program through Landmark Education.

Creativity is a coping skill. It isn’t just about creating art: Creativity is a problem-solver. Click To Tweet

I did a bit of Landmark myself, too. 

In that training was where I realized this impasse I was stuck in. I was hiding all of this. It was this double life again, this duplicity. I’m hiding that I’ve been unfaithful, and I don’t want to tell my girlfriend because if I tell her, she will dump me. We were stuck in this limbo. 

At the time, if you wanted to become an introduction leader, which I wanted to because I wanted to help many people, you got to work this out. You got to clean up your integrity. 

I sat down with my girlfriend, disclosed, and we began a healing journey. During the healing journey, we both took responsibility for our part in the relationship and the way the relationship had been built. We completed the relationship and started a new one. That was some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had along the way because she could have played the victim card easily and chose not to. 

When everything’s easy, your character doesn’t get revealed. It’s when things get tough, and something’s on the line.

It was incredible, and that was the type of woman I wanted to be with. I walked into a 12-step meeting and promptly jumped right into my recovery. She said, “That’s the type of person I want to be with.” When we were in the midst of the biggest storm of adversity, who showed up was exactly who the other person would hope would and would want. We realized that was a really good litmus test. When everything’s easy, your character doesn’t get revealed. It’s when things get tough, and something’s on the line. 

It reminds me of a video I saw of a woman walking a dog, and then there’s a bear coming. The dog is like, “I’m out here,” running away.

It’s easy to do. I’m gone. What she said was so powerful. She said I could dump you and play the victim card, but I would just bring that victim mentality into my next relationship. I don’t want that for me. 

Awesome. I like your wife a lot. 

She’s a keeper. 

That’s a powerful woman. 

She’s a very powerful woman. I wanted to give up on myself because I was struggling with a lot of shame, but I didn’t want to give up on her because of the power she exuded in this tough time. I was so impressed and so inspired. 

One of the great things about Angelique is she never asked me to change, but I’ve changed by being around her because of who she is. We turned the corner in our relationship, and we’re engaged. Fast forward, things are going well, and someone buys us this book called The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do.”

All humans are creative. That’s what makes us human.

There’s a chapter on career: what do you see yourself doing 1 year, 5 years, 10 years from now? My wife had her MBA at that time. She was like a corporate raider, so she had pie charts and graphs. She could see her future. It was clear to her.

I saw the black hole of the music industry, and I just shook my head. I said, “I can’t see a path forward in that culture wanting to honor.” Because if we start a family, I won’t want to miss a minute. But to be a successful recording artist, I have to go out on the road. In heavy music, you’ve got many tours because you won’t get a lot of radio. You live and die by being away from home. You want to be out on the road, pick up another tour. Then you want to hop on another tour. You want to leave in one year and come back two years later. That’s good business. I was like, “That’s a terrible family.” I couldn’t see how to do both, and I was stuck.

She said, “If you want to return to school, we can afford it.” I listened and went on our local university’s website that night. I scrolled through the index of majors from A to Z. That was my willingness. When I hit M, I hit music therapy. 

I had never heard those words put together. Now, the athlete side of me had been a physical therapy patient and was so enamored by that field that I became a physical therapy aid and was considering a career in physical therapy years earlier, but it’s very protocol-based, and it wasn’t like soul and mental. It was just physical. I needed something that touched the soul and the mental side of the equation. 

The Hard Questions by Susan Piver

I wrote a paper in college called Music versus Medicine. I thought I had to choose one or the other. Then I bumped into this thing called music therapy. There was a webpage with a paragraph about the type of work a music therapist does and the type of person a music therapist is.

The first paragraph reads like my dream job. The second paragraph reads like an autobiography. I was like, “I could get a degree in being myself?” That’s really what it felt like. At that moment, I filled out my college application on that computer. I filled out my FAFSA, and I immediately turned towards that. 

When you’re in a four-degree program or four-year school, your first two years, you’re taking gen ed, math, science, English, and history. But at some point, you must declare your major. I always thought that was funny. 

I didn’t know this. You have to audition to be a music major. I declared I’m a music therapy major, and they’re like, “No, it doesn’t work that way. You have to audition.” “Okay, what do I need to do?” “You need to perform in front of us.” 

Orion, it had been 12 years, a million bong hits, and thousands of beers since I had sung anything to anybody. My voice was in no shape. I auditioned, and I got rejected. I thought I just found this new thing for me, and they slammed the door. 

Then I got a coach, we worked, and I auditioned again—a year of daily coaching. I rehearse every single day of the year. I got rejected again. I was like, “Come on, this is so not cool. You cannot stand in the way of my future. I refuse.” 

I used to live in Phoenix, Arizona. The school in question is Arizona State, which has a super competitive music school. But there was this tiny liberal arts college out in Orange County, where my wife did her MBA, a private school called Chapman University. They also had a music therapy program. It was ten times the tuition. 

Just because you declare something in the world doesn’t mean it will necessarily happen with the amount of effort you estimate.

We lived in Phoenix, but I drove for six hours, sang a 60-second song during my audition, got in my car and drove home. Because no one was going to stand in the way of my future, not only did I get in, I got in with a scholarship.

Beautiful. That’s determination.

That was some determination. Just because you declare something in the world doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to happen with the amount of effort you estimate or in the time you estimate. One of the big lessons for me has been to pick a destination but don’t expect to get it right. You will probably be off target regarding how much time, effort, energy and money it will take to reach that destination. 

Don’t make that mean anything. I stuck with it. We moved to Southern California. I had many conversations with God about this. I was slightly like, “Dude, we own a home in Phoenix. I’m 10 minutes away from ASU. The tuition is 1/10. What are you doing to me?”

He said, “Tim, when you were growing up, you liked skiing. When you would pull up to a mountain to go skiing in the morning and get to the parking lot, could you see where the lift would start?” “Yeah.” “Could you see where the lift ended?” “No, because the lift always usually goes over a bit of a turn, then it opens way up. The weather at the bottom of the mountain is rarely the same as the weather at the top of the mountain.” 

He said, “Now I just want you to imagine I’m above the mountain looking down on the whole thing. From what I can see, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. You just got to trust me and get on the lift.” The conversation was so clear, Orion. “Get on the lift.” I was like, “All right, dude, but only because we’re friends. I’ve trusted you before. He’s gotten me out of some tough times. I’ll get on the lift, so we relocated here.

How was your recovery throughout this whole story?

Recovery is a process of reconnection. But you don’t do it by yourself. It’s a communal process.

The first four years were terrible. I believed in Tony Robbins. I believed in personal power. I thought that I could do it on my own. What I noticed was that I couldn’t. I can’t speak to anybody else’s experience but mine and everyone else I met in 12 Steps. What I found by going into 12 Steps, I found that recovery is a ‘we’ thing, and addiction is very much a ‘me’ thing. 

Addiction is a disease of disconnection. Recovery is a process of reconnection. But you don’t do it by yourself. It’s a communal process. What I learned along the way is that being human is a shared experience. Humans are pack animals. We are not wired to be like bears, independent when we hit 18. It’s not how it works. We’re interdependent. I had been relying solely on my independence to do it independently. 

I can put on my clothes by myself. I can fill out job applications. I can study for a test. There are things I can do by myself. The one thing I figured out I couldn’t do by myself was recover. 

It took four solid years of crashing and burning hard before I finally had to lick my wounds, eat some humble pie, and try on some humility. I don’t have all the answers, and maybe it isn’t designed that way in the first place. When I was open to that, I started to get a foothold into what it meant to recover.

I like the image of a humble pie. It sounds good. Amazing. You became a music therapist. You’re not the everyday common music therapist. You do something very different.

As a music therapist, using music as a clinical tool is really cool. We all know music is good for the mind, mood, and spirit. My degree was honing in on how music affects the brain and body. 

What’s great is that most people already have a positive, personal, powerful relationship with music. I’ve never introduced it to anybody. It’s like a mutual friend between me and anybody I meet. Because what your music does for you, my music does for me. It does the same thing. It doesn’t matter. 

The thing that people get hooked on is that your music should do for me, too. What you love, what comforts you in the way it does, is exactly what the music I love that comforts me does for me. Because of that relationship, it’s such a personal friend that I leverage that in my treatment. 

We met through your husband. We have a mutual friend. It’s the reason why you said yes to this interview without question. It was like an automatic reply. “Yes, no problem. Let’s do it.” I don’t say yes to every podcast request that comes into my inbox from a stranger. 

Leveraging that fellow shared trust, affinity, and connection allows us to join together today. That’s exactly how I think about my relationship with music with anybody I work with.  

Everybody has used music therapeutically. We’ve all prescribed ourselves playlists; that’s what they’re there for.

Then my job is to teach them how to reach for music based on what they’re struggling with and how to watch out for music based on what they’re struggling with. Because music can produce therapeutic effects, but it can also have harmful effects depending on how you use it, when you use it, and what you use—just helping people navigate it. 

Everybody has used music therapeutically. We’ve all prescribed ourselves playlists; that’s what they’re there for. They help us in some way do something else. There’s this intuitive understanding that music has utility. It’s not just entertainment or education; it has utility. So helping people to understand that’s legitimate. It’s evidence-based. We’ve researched what everyone’s already experienced just to validate it. But it allows people to reach for it confidently and reliably as a part of their toolkit to get through their day.

What do music therapists do when they work one-on-one with people?

We work in a lot of different settings and in a lot of different ways. First of all, we work across the lifespan, with anyone from a preterm infant in the neonatal intensive care unit to elderly who are struggling with dementia, someone who is actively dying, and anywhere in between. Of course, that can be at any time across the lifespan. From the cradle to the grave, music can be used as a therapeutic tool. 

Your avatar is everyone, everywhere, at any age.

Oh, not mine personally, but music therapy can. Yes, music therapists work with different populations across the lifespan, depending on what they’re called to do. Then some work one-on-one, some work in groups, depending on what they want to do. 

Addiction is usually an attempt to self-soothe underlying mental health or trauma.

I enjoy and have come to specialize in working with people in recovery. Working with people struggling with mental health issues because those go hand in hand, and addiction is usually an attempt to self-soothe that’s gone awry. 

Some underlying mental health or trauma is triggering that in the first place because it’s not the behavior or the substance in and of itself. It’s not enough because everyone who ever experimented would get addicted, but they don’t.  There are underlying issues which are usually trauma and untreated mental health. 

The most gratifying work for me is to work with and have my company work with teens, young adults, and adults who are struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, and that world and teaching people to reach for music as a tool that’s really for me where I find great satisfaction on my journey right now.

For example, in mental health, I use an acronym called S.O.B.E.R. It stands for five benefits that music therapy helps a person in mental health so it helps them to stay present. When you make music, it forces your brain to focus on the present moment. That’s great practice for someone who’s struggling with mental health issues. 

Many of those issues are issues with being out of time. Anxiety is being out of time, preoccupied with the future. Depression is being out of time and preoccupied with the past. Pulling people out of those head states back into the present moment, using music-making as the tool. 

Stay present, and open up about expressing your emotions without talking about them. We live in a talk-centric culture. It’s not required for healing. In fact, for trauma, the research in the literature is clear that you need more than talk therapy if you want to heal trauma. It’s a great tool for expressing buried emotion. 

We need to feel connected to things outside of ourselves.

The B is to be creative. Creativity is a coping skill. Its main function in humans is problem-solving, not art. Art is just an abstract expression of creativity. All humans are creative. That’s what makes us human. We’re not reactive to the environment, internal or external. We imagine things and then make them, so we’re all creative. 

Adulting jokes are hard. Adulting comes with problems every day. The muscle you use to solve those problems is creativity. When you have a creative hobby, you strengthen the problem-solving part of your brain, and recovery is one big activity of creativity. You’re just creating a new lifestyle that doesn’t involve drinking or drugging. 

The E is for escape stressors. How do you manage your nervous system? How do you turn stress off? If you don’t, it turns cravings on. But you can turn stress off quite easily and quite quickly using music. It shuts off the stress response in the nervous system, being able to reach for it to reset when we’re stressed. 

The R is for reconnection. As I alluded to earlier, we need to feel connected to things outside of ourselves as human beings. We can connect with the lyrics. We can connect with the beat. We can connect with the baseline, the melody, and all the different ways we can connect with music one-on-one while trying to figure out which humans around us are safe to connect with.

Art is just an abstract expression of creativity.

Do you also work with different frequencies for healing?

I don’t. In the music therapy field, we don’t work with frequencies that fall under the sound therapy and sound healing field because they are focused on individual sounds and frequencies. Music therapy is interested in the gestalt of music, the totality of the music itself, not its elements. 

That’s not to say that if you extract its elements and just use those, that’s not effective because music therapy just uses rhythm to help neurologic rehabilitation. But in music therapy, we don’t explore the world of frequency, although I have friends who do great work in that space.

Can you explain the four-step formula to overcome everything?

Sure, I can explain that. Angelique and I got married and had our first kid. We envision having a family and are lucky enough to have our first daughter, Allie. What you’re alluding to is the acronym VERO. I love acronyms. They make remembering things easy. VERO is this formula and explains where it came from and what it is. 

Our second kid, named Bella, was born in 2009. She died in 2010 from a rare genetic disease. I was on stage a month to the day after she died, raising money for a cure. The stage I was on was shared that day by Jack Canfield, who wrote the success principles and was co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul

When you have a creative hobby, you strengthen the problem-solving part of your brain, and recovery is one big activity of creativity.

During his presentation, he had a slide up on the screen, saying, “E+R=O where E=events, R=response, and O=outcome.” His point was it’s not the events in life. It’s how you respond to them. It’s very empowering. However, when I saw that slide, I realized it was like a formula, almost like a math formula, for how I had just lived through Bella’s life. It wasn’t what happened to Bella or what Bella did or anything. It was how we responded. 

I blogged about her whole journey and our response to the conditions and situations that she went through. It was inspiring to a lot of other people. They couldn’t believe how we could maintain our marriage, family, and faith through that journey, such that when she died, 30,000 people visited her blog that day in 2010 from all over the world, and we did a memorial for her. We livestream it. This is in 2010. We had 700 people from all around the world attend her memorial. 

It was bizarre. It was weird because the blogosphere was in this space in 2009–2010. Around that time, blogs were huge. They were passed around. They were like the podcast of today. I wrote a blog that got picked up in the special needs kid, medically fragile kid family world and followed worldwide. 

I realized that when Jack put that slide up, he had given a formula to what I had lived, meaning he had codified it. It told me it wasn’t just me. I was excited about that. Because I didn’t like the idea that people kept telling me, “I could never do that.” I was like, “You can. I’m not special. We have the same chromosomes like it’s not me, I’m not special, you can do this, too.”

But the equation was missing something, which is this creativity piece. As humans, we create the world we live in, unless we don’t. What I mean by that is many of us forget that we have this creative power to make the world around us. We just inherit the world we’re in. We inherit our parents, teachers, coaches, spouses, and spouses’ families’ world. 

It’s not the events in life but how you respond to them.

It’s important to remember that if you can envision, have a vision for something that triggers your creativity. So I added the V to the equation. This tells the whole story because you can envision something, and then life happens. It deviates quickly from your vision. Now you are charged with what you are going to do. Will you just like to take it and make it so that there’s some meaning, or will you respond? 

What I found is that humans always get the last word. Something happens, you get to interpret what just happened. We judge what happens. The things don’t have any meaning in and of themselves, save the meaning we give them. When you realize you’re the one who makes up the meaning, you can make up anything you want. 

That’s incredibly empowering in any adverse situation. It turns negative stress into positive stress instantly. The human body will respond differently if it thinks the stressor it’s engaged with is healthy or positive versus unhealthy or negative.

But how do you overcome something so terrible? 

No, not at all. See, this is the thing. When you’re in it the human body, brain, and spirit activate when you’re in it. When you consider it, you’re only thinking from your mind. You don’t have access to your strength and superpowers because this happens to everybody. 

Many forget that we have this creative power to make the world around us.

We hear someone else’s situation, and our mind says, “I don’t know how you did what you did.” It’s like, “Of course not because I wasn’t operating from my mind. I was operating from the whole of me who was in the situation. The whole of me is my mind, body, spirit, and community, all co-creating in the present moment.” But if you’re not in the present moment, you can’t. It doesn’t work because you don’t have it. You just don’t have access to all of that simultaneously. 

Thank God, you had so much support.

You have to. We all do. Again, this is so important. In the 20th century, we created this thing called the nuclear family. It was a disaster. Throughout history, we did not exist as independent pods of mother, father and 2.5 kids. This was not done anywhere.

Now 1.5 is going to zero. People don’t procreate anymore.

That’s right. The higher the degrees of the parents, the fewer kids they have. There’s a real issue with this. Why do you think that divorce went through the roof once we moved away from our families of origin? Because we’re not meant to be everything but for that other person. We can’t possibly be. You can’t fill the role because the two biological parents never raised the family independently. This was never done.

Yeah. I’m from Israel. I’m an Israeli-American. This is my home as well. But what I’m missing here, with the culture, is that it’s very hard to get a real sense of community. In Israel, it’s just so easy. You’re always surrounded by people who will be there for you and talk to you. 

Choose the destination of your journey, but don’t expect to get there on a straight, obstacle-free path.

I don’t know. It’s just culturally, almost like every man for themselves, every family for themselves. It’s very different. I still cannot wrap my head around it. That’s why a lot of people are suffering.

100%. I’ll briefly explain why it happened in the United States. The United States geographically is massive. After World War II, we invented the interstate freeway system, commercial air travel, and suburbs. These are all post–World War II inventions, which allowed the family to move away, logistically, rather easily from their family of origin and relocate to anywhere they wanted. 

At that same time, the idea of the nuclear family as a self-sufficient construct was theorized that this is a self-sufficient model for raising a family. If you now look 70 years later, it was a disaster because divorce has gone through the roof, and physical health has gone down terribly. Life expectancy started to drop in the United States before COVID for the first time since the Spanish flu because of mental health issues, suicides, and drug overdoses. All the key performance indicators show that physical and mental health has suffered greatly since we split up.

If you look at Blue Zones, like Okinawa, and the women that live to be 100 or even more, and at 90, they still climb trees and harvest their crops, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren surround them. It’s all about, of course, eating healthy and all that. But mostly, I think it’s community. It’s the feeling like you belong somewhere.

You’re not meant to be independent as a human; you’re meant to be interdependent.

100%. One of the mistakes of the United States is this culture of self-determinism. It’s nice to be independent of tyranny, but you’re not meant to be independent as a human. You’re meant to be interdependent as a human. I lean on you, and you lean on me. We don’t keep score. I take care of myself for you so that when you’re down and dependent, I can take care of you in addition to me. 

All you have to do is just look back through human history. How did we survive under much worse conditions than we have now? Well, we relied on more than Mom and Dad for our needs. As soon as we broke away from that, the results were disastrous.

You have to have strong social bonds, which is like family. You need weak social bonds, which are your neighbors in your community. Do you know who lives two doors down in the United States in suburbia? You might know who lives next door and not hang out with them. But even know who lives two doors down? The answer is shocking, how few people know who lives just two doors down.

Well, everybody’s in your business, and everybody knows who lives. That can be extreme, too.

100%. But if you pull it out to like a macro scale, that is a cost worth the pain. Because what you see in the absence of that is depression. You see substance abuse, behavioral abuse, spousal and child abuse, anxiety, addiction, overdose, cancer, stress levels through the roof, and heart disease.

It’s not like you have to look far to see the wreckage that this idea has promoted. All along the way, one of the things that I’ve always been good at since 12 Steps was what taught me is I can’t do this on my own. I learned to be humble enough to lean back and have others catch me when I’m too tired to stay on my own.

I love that. But before we say goodbye, what are your three tips for living a stellar life? And where can people find you?

When you create music, it forces your brain to focus on the present. Click To Tweet

Find me online at timringgold.com or on Instagram or Facebook. I have a useful podcast. If you’re struggling with stress, just look up Reduce Your Stress with Tim Ringgold. It’s an entire library of relaxation, music, and interviews with stress experts. That’s a free resource out on Apple Music and Spotify. 

If I could narrow it down, I’ve been beating the drum on this, which is like a community. You’re not meant to do this alone and don’t have to. Don’t keep score. I got your back today because you’ll have my back tomorrow. We don’t know what’s coming around the corner. You can’t predict. Create the world you want. Otherwise, you’re going to inherit the world someone else created.

When they say man was created in God’s image, that’s not a biped on two feet. We can create. That’s what makes us human. That’s a gift you’ve been given. Use that muscle; it feels great. 

To close the loop from the beginning, my verb is play. What you can count on from me is that what I’m doing in anything is playing. That’s why I am a music therapist and a professional pickleball player because my two worlds are my verb and both of them. I play music, and I play pickleball. Find your verb. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re not meant to play anymore.

Thank you so much, Tim. This was incredible.

Thanks for having me.

It was very pleasurable. Thank you so much. 

My pleasure. 

And thank you, listeners. Remember to live in a community, don’t keep score, create the world you want to play, and have a stellar life. This is Orion, till next time.

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓}Cultivate trust and affinity through music. Treat music as a friend that understands and supports you. 

{✓}Apply the VERO formula (Vision, Event, Response, Outcome) to navigate challenges and adversity. Recognize your creative power to shape the meaning of events and responses.

{✓}Embrace the concept of “play” as an essential aspect of being human. Find your own verb — a passion or activity that brings joy and a sense of playfulness into your life.

{✓}Recognize the therapeutic potential of music to heal your mind, mood, and spirit. Embrace the idea that your relationship with music can be a powerful tool for transformation.

{✓}Learn to choose music that resonates with your emotions and aids in therapeutic effects. Be mindful of how certain types of music can either support or hinder your healing process.

{✓}Use music as a tool to manage stress and reset your nervous system. Incorporate music into your routine for quick and effective stress relief and relaxation.

{✓}Foster healing and connection by sharing your creative expressions with a supportive community. Recognize that healing is a shared experience and that seeking help is a sign of strength.

{✓}Embrace the healing journey and avoid placing rigid expectations on its timeline. Focus on the progress you’ve made rather than solely fixating on the destination.

{✓}Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that your journey is unique and valid. Cultivate trust in the process of healing and personal growth, even when faced with uncertainty. 

{✓}Visit Tim Ringgold’s website for more information about his music therapy services, blogs, and other amazing resources.

Links and Resources

Connect with Tim Ringgold


YouTube Videos

Further Resources

About Tim Ringgold

Tim Ringgold is a board-certified music therapist, author, and award-winning international speaker, having shared the stage with some of the top minds on music, the brain, and personal development, including Tony Robbins. Tim was the first person to give a TEDx talk on music therapy in 2012.


Disclaimer: The medical, fitness, psychological, mindset, lifestyle, and nutritional information provided on this website and through any materials, downloads, videos, webinars, podcasts, or emails are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical/fitness/nutritional advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek the help of your physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, certified trainer, or dietitian with any questions regarding starting any new programs or treatments or stopping any current programs or treatments. This website is for information purposes only, and the creators and editors, including Orion Talmay, accept no liability for any injury or illness arising out of the use of the material contained herein, and make no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the contents of this website and affiliated materials.

Facebook Comments