Tuning In - Using Music to Promote Mindfulness
So many of my happiest moments in life feature music. I remember sneaking into our neighbourhood pub at 16 to listen to my friend's band play. Song after song lifted me up to a total state of joy. I remember thinking, "I've heard these songs before, how can these same songs be so beautiful!". I'm sure we can all relate to that at some point in our lives, crammed into a musty concert hall or driving along listening to late night radio. A song comes on and without any conscious effort, we drop into the present moment. Musicians describe it as being "in the flow" when they're performing, and I think it's a pretty apt description on the receiving end of things too. More than just listening, it's the experience of witnessing something with our entire beings.
As I get older, I find myself having fewer of those magic music moments. With all of the distractions of life, the music I play often serves as conversation filler at a dinner party or an excuse to wear headphones and drown out the surrounding conversations at work.
In a concerted effort to shake my languid listening, I've been making music a part of my mindfulness practice. Here's are a couple of things I do to listen to music mindfully:
Clean up the auditory environment
There's a saying that music happens in the space between the notes. Or in other words the silence. That silence has become a scarce commodity with the daily orchestra of radio advertisements, side-conversations, jack-hammers, and whizzing plastic motors demanding our attention at any given moment. The first thing we can do is clean up a lot of the excess noise in our environments. Take a moment to scan the room and turn off any loud appliances, TV, Radio, etc. If that's not possible, grab some good headphones. There are plenty of health benefits in doing this also, including reduced stress, better sleep, and improved cardiovascular health. I came across one study that found that chronic exposure to noise at or above 50-A weighted decibels (the sound of light traffic) was responsible for 3% of Coronary Heart Disease related deaths in Europe. So, next time your friend subjects you to their "eclectic" music, you can opt out for health reasons!
Make time to listen
Clear your schedule, and make time to listen to a song. Maybe it's a song you used to love as a teenager or maybe it's something new that really speaks to you. Get comfortable in a quiet space, take several deep breaths and press play. Continue to breathe, focusing on the song. Try to listen with your heart, consciously experience the music, let the notes reach in and touch you. When your mind wanders take a few deep breaths and bring your attention back to the music. At the end of the song take several deep breaths.
Happy listening friends! Would love to hear how you incorporate music in your day. Let us know in the comment box below.
Fiona McGlynn is a writer, sailor, rock climber and minimalist (except when it comes to chocolate). Follow her adventures as she sails her 35 ft sailboat from Vancouver to the South Pacific. She is also the founder of The Love Letter Project, a community project that publishes letters that address life's greatest challenges.