• June 2012

Dr. Celia Im Helps Us Light the Creative Spark

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Founder and Publisher
Be Inandescent magazine

Dr. Celia Im started playing the piano at age 4. By the time she was a teenager, she was winning awards for her classical music performances and orchestrating concerts for audiences around the world.

Today, she uses that talent to help others heal through the power of music.

Why did she want to go from being center stage to working one-on-one with clients and small groups?

Im says she had an inkling of what her future might hold back in 1982, during her senior year at the prestigious music school Oberlin College & Conservatory, when she won the competitive concerto competition.

“I remember that I played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, and right before we performed, I was incredibly nervous,” Im recalls. “So before the dress rehearsal, I decided to go outside and sit by the pond, and just be with the music. I internalized it. I heard it and felt it and moved with it.

“For that brief period before the concert, I felt as if I had become the music. When I went into the dress rehearsal, something had transformed inside me—and in the rest of the musicians performing with me. I truly felt that we are all connected. We played so well that we won, which was very nice. But that feeling of connection with the other musicians, and later the audience, was much more powerful than winning. We were connecting.”

Im realized that what she was passionate about was the transformative power of music.

“For many people, music is usually in the background of our lives,” she realizes. “It’s the wallpaper to what we do—while driving in the car, sitting in the office, cooking dinner, or shopping in a store. But the magic comes in the silence between the notes.”

Im realized the importance of this insight when she entertained an audience, because, she says, “after a while it’s not how you play the notes that matters most. It’s figuring out how the audience listens to the performer.”

Increasingly, Im started looking for the silence between the notes, what she calls, “that moment when the music stops and you can hear a pin drop.”

She carried that perspective to the work she did as a teacher at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University—where she received a Doctorate of Musical Arts, and to the University of Maryland—and George Mason University, where she also taught.

It wasn’t until 1996, when her mother was dying of a brain tumor, that Im changed the course of her career—and her life.

“After I graduated from Oberlin, I taught at various universities, did some choral work, and was making a good living as a performer,” she shares. “But my mother knew I wasn’t happy. I remember that we were at a stoplight one day and she said to me, ‘Before I go, I want to make sure that if you decide you want to do something else with your life, it’s okay with me. I want you to be happy. So think about what you truly want.”

Im says that conversation was the impetus for a period of tremendous soul-searching. She knew then that she wanted to be part of a movement that uses music as a tool to transform and heal people. She studied music therapy for a while, before embarking on a certification training course with the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music.

Founded in 1988 by Dr. Helen Bonny, a violinist who was also an Oberlin alumni, the program combined her hands-on experience with the unique understanding of music learned at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in the early 1970s. There, Bonny combined relaxation techniques and classical music selections to elicit responses from patients. She went on to research her findings and develop The Bonny Method.

“What I loved about the Bonny Method was the use of music as a healing tool,” Im notes. “And I saw that there were a lot of practical applications for it in terms of helping clients find ways to use the music to calm their minds, and let their psyche unlock and release the ideas and stresses that were causing them emotional pain.”

In 1999, Im began creating her own program, with Bonny’s blessing, and in the last decade this unique 7-step process has helped thousands of her clients who were struggling with stresses ranging from fear of flying and fear of success to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Im calls her process “Harmonic Resonance Process.”

Here’s how it works:

“The sound itself is the harmony that resonates with brain waves to calm the mind, and slow it down,” Im explains. “This is very useful for those who have trouble meditating, for as they focus the mind on the sounds they are hearing, they can pay attention to what they are really feeling inside.”

Based on her depth of experience, Im knows that many of us walk around not really aware of what is actually creating a struggle in us deep down.

“That’s the power of the music—it helps us relax, so we can get in touch with our inner selves and see what’s holding us back, and what we need to do to be truly free. Once that happens, there’s a brilliance that begins to emerge. Suddenly, the client knows what they need to do to answer a burning question about a job situation, loved one, or goal they have been struggling to achieve. It’s not magic. Like the sculptor finds the statue that has been locked inside the marble, my clients use this process to unlock the answers that have always been inside them.”

To help clients find this inner peace, she has created a series of seven CDs of her own piano music.

Rather than reaching a “goal” of accomplishing inner knowing by the seventh CD, Im has found that the path to finding self-knowledge happens in stages, and continues to evolve throughout our lives.

Stage I

  • Step 1. Wellness: Stress to Relaxation
  • Step 2. Creativity: Limitation to Freedom
  • Step 3. Empowerment: Fear to Courage

Stage II

  • Step 4. Intuition: Separation to Connection
  • Step 5. Vision: Inside to Outside

Stage III

  • Step 6. Wholeness: Duality to Oneness
  • Step 7. Expression: Vision to Action

In fact, the newest CD, “Expression: Vision to Action,” is incredibly timely for many people that she has been working with in recent months—especially those who are out of work, or still losing their jobs and businesses.

“The music in this 7th CD helps people unlock their genius,” Im says. “It’s vital for more people to find innovative solutions, especially in tumultuous times, so that they can tap into their internal creative resources. Using the seven tools in the stages, it is possible to stop being driven by fear and doubt, and let joy and creative expression guide us. I believe it is a trend that is vital for our country to embody as we recover from the economic crisis. That will be the ultimate transformation.”

The power comes from moving through the seven stages of the process, Im insists.

“In my experience, the process works because it breaks down the barriers of fear—something that motivates us all. Along with self-doubt and anger, it’s the fear of success, fear of commitment, and quite often the fear of death, that holds us all back.

“To be the people we wish to be, though, requires an expansion of ourselves, and a letting go of the fear. Once people get to the last CD—Vision to Action in Step 7 of Stage III—they get a taste of it, and suddenly they feel as if they are living in a whole new world.”

Without fear as a motivator, she asks, who would you be?

“You’d be the creative force you want to be,” Im knows. “And that’s the great knowing. We are here to create from our core selves. It’s so exciting, because once my clients get to this point, they report that their finances pull together and the people they need in their lives to help them grow their ideas and companies start to show up. There are still challenges, of course, but suddenly negative thoughts and beliefs are replaced with positive ones. It’s an amazing place to be, and one that everyone can attain if they have the determination.”


Dr. Celia Im’s Guide to Accessing More Happiness and Creativity in Your Daily Life

1. When I work with a client, we begin by being quiet. You can lie down or sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes.

2. Gently silence the noise and voices in your head that may be telling you that you aren’t good enough or perfect enough. Just be still. Take a deep breath and sit for a few moments.

3. Slowly, begin to feel what is happening inside your body. Does your back hurt? Your knees? Your neck. If so, give those places a little rub, but continue to relax and simply notice what you are feeling.

4. Turn on some music. For my clients, I use a CD that I’ve recorded, which is tailored to helping them push from limitation to freedom.

5. As you sit listening to the music, let images pop up. It’s somewhat like being awake while you are dreaming—but it will happen. What do you see? What do you feel? If an uncomfortable image arises, think about where you feel it in your body. What color is the sensation?

6. Let the music resonate with what you find in these blocked places. The images you are seeing will shift and change—and before you know it something will shift, free up, and allow you to be open and flow again.

As you work with this process over time, you will begin to realize you are moving through life differently. You will begin to approach it from the genius of your creative sense instead of the chatter in your mind. Based on experience, I’m willing to bet that you will surprise yourself with new solutions you never thought possible. When you do, you will have officially moved from limitation to freedom—and that’s a bigger place to live from.

For more information, visit www.celiaim.com.

To read more of Celia Im’s ideas on Lighting the Creative Spark, click here to check out her articles on Transformation.