Music for Meditation and Mindfulness

‘Listening to music or playing music can also help us step outside our small sense of self, into a larger, more expansive awareness, just as meditation can.’ Anja Tanhane

By Javier Perez 

By Javier Perez 

Music as a practical tool for meditation and mindfulness is an obvious concept when you stop to consider it. When I even think of music and how I interact with it, I immediately feel more grounded and more centred in my own heart. There are many ways to invite music into our lives, not all of them are mindful although all are certainly joyful and advantageous. Music is often a backdrop to many other things we are currently doing and that is a totally valid expression of our love for music. It soothes and relaxes or invigorates and excites, depending largely on what we are listening to. But music used as a mindfulness practice is something a little different.   

If a musician or student is interacting with their instrument in the act of music making, it is essential to focus fully on playing the piece – present moment engagement comes with the territory and some even liken it to meditation so akin is it to the essence of mindfulness! You can read more about that idea here.

If you are listening to music then you can listen on a superficial level, with the piece playing in the background as you go about your many other activities and that is most definitely a valid way to use music in your life. It is uplifting to envelope ourselves with beauty and it is an appropriate addition to many situations, socially or individually and is how many people generally interact with music – for fun and enjoyment! 

The other way you can listen to music is to engage with it very mindfully, focus on it only, doing nothing other than listening to it, allowing it to engage with us fully and to evoke the emotional responses that allow us to focus on our inner selves. In this article there is great advice about ways to prepare ourselves for this type of interaction with music. Put simply we need to remove possible and real distractions from the physical situation so we are best able to really allow ourselves to feel the music and feel our emotions arise. We may need to look at our physical environment, seeking a quiet place, making sure we are physically comfortable. 

This is not only for adults but using music as an emotional response can be cultivated in children from an early age. In our Seven Day Challenge for Calm Nights eBook available for download here, we suggest listening to music as a path to a better night’s sleep. In this situation music is a calming, relaxing tool, an emotional experience when there is mindful engagement with a piece of music. 

In other ways music can also be used as an evocative method to connect with our emotions as a form of therapy as we allow our emotions to rise, to be held in the safety of the beauty of the music and to let those emotions fade away in the same way as a wave rises and falls. Positive and negative emotions may arise at different times. A physical response can be involved, perhaps the music calls you to move – sometimes in celebration and other times as a physical release for something difficult in your life. It can be incredibly healing and cathartic. 

Music has played a changing role in my own life. I was at one time living a life with so much noise that I felt music was an intrusion into my personal space and psyche. When things changed and my life slowed down and became less chaotic the music joy came back to me, uplifting me as it is so capable of doing. Music soothes me, it entices me to move and when I move, emotions and feelings surface and come to peek out at the world. The world heals us if we let it. Music can heal and restore. I guess the conclusion of this personal observation is to make space in your life for music, set aside some special time for real interaction with it as you use it as a tool for the whole family to move forward into mindfulness.

5 Ways to Re-ground

It’s Monday morning as I write this and I just had a really fun week-end - I played tourist in another city with friends! It was a party week-end and disruptive to my regular routine but you know I have enough self-love to not beat up on myself and to accept that as normal behaviour in the human condition! Seeing new sights, sounds, places, people can be very stimulating, is loads of fun but it can make us feel ungrounded. It’s not how I want to fee all the time but it is part of my life. 

This week’s blog post is about exploring ways to re-ground after a time of excessive fun, however that looks to you. It’s not just a message for adults it’s very much a lesson for families as well – you know a week-end that included maybe a birthday party, a sleep-over, lots of play dates, late nights for whatever reason – it happens, we all know it happens and it can in fact serve as a poignant reminder of how we feel when we are grounded as opposed to how we feel when are ungrounded! 

How do I recognise I have become ungrounded? I tend to l lose my sense of calm and my heart races just a tad more quickly. I don’t notice my surroundings as much but begin looking for the next fun thing to do rather than immersing myself in the current moment and what I’m actually doing so in a way I’m not embracing the current experience. I find my mind starts racing from one thing to another, I feel scattered and don’t sleep all that well! Some people may even suffer from a little or a lot of anxiety or depression, depending on your make-up. 

So there I was on a Monday morning and feeling not as connected to myself as I usually do so here are five things I do to make myself feel more connected and grounded. They work for me, always do and perhaps they’ll resonate with you as well.

 

1. I re-engage with my regular routine and rituals

So to get myself back in touch with myself I make sure I do my regular morning routine. It starts with 20 minutes of meditation, a short 15 minutes of yoga, I pull an oracle card to inspire me for the day, I use my collection of seven crystals to clear my chakras and I write in my journal. That’s just me – think of your own and frame it around your own commitments and life. Some time taken for rituals will enhance your connection with yourself, no matter how long you have to use. You will no doubt recognise those things that work for your children as well but I think it’s well accepted that children need routines in their lives to feel secure and grounded.

 

2. I take a walk in nature

I don’t need to go far, a 30 minute stroll around the close-by riverfront and parkland, down some quiet tree-lined streets, shoes off from to time to really feel the grass and earth beneath me and my real connection to it, will help enormously.

 

3. I engage purposefully in an activity

I take my time making my breakfast, I concentrate on being very focused, careful and purposeful as I cut, mixed, pour, spread and eat. I love feeling the return of the flow in my system

 

4. I listen to some calming music

Find something that works for you – today I listened to some Deval Premal & Miten. I make a little time for myself to do nothing other than listen and to allow myself to react to it with a little movement, allowing the emotions to rise up so I can hold them without judgment for a short time.

 

5. I am very careful about what I eat

After a party week-end I like to be careful and to eat really well! If you listen to your body you’ll know what cleanses you. For me it’s things like lots of vegetables, perhaps some dahl and rice. This type of eating makes me feel calm, the making of it alone makes me feel connected and grounded – it’s worth taking the time and making the effort for the rewards you’ll feel.

 

That’s what I do to re-ground myself after some time of being less careful. We all do this, kids do this, families do this - it’s called being human! Some of my methods may be useful for you and your family but if you have your own fixes we’d love to hear and see them on our social media. (Can you put links here?)

To help keep myself more present and mindful I’m going to be posting this week an experience each day this week that is helping me stay grounded – would you like to join me?

Make Music Together to be Mindful

This weekend was a musical extravaganza for me –on Friday night I went to a ukulele jam session at a local café and then Saturday my choir performed with a number of others in an incredible afternoon of a combined choir experience. It made me feel happy and uplifted for sure as all those endorphins flooded into my body and soul but it also reminded me how mindful making music really is!  I think it’s virtually impossible to not be present when you are making music of any sort!

That’s a gift for any person and any family to embrace! Last week I wrote about the need to share in a simple way our values and passions with our children. My blog told the story of a friend, a dedicated dad who shares his mindfulness passion by engaging his daughter through verbalising what he sees, what he hears, what sensations he’s feeling as they ride his bike together and she reciprocates and the passion grows very organically and without a lot of effort, but with a lot of purpose! 

You can do the same with the children in your life with singing and music! This is not about how musical you are either - there are a myriad of youtube experiences from which you can learn a simple children’s song, the internet is full of them! Or you can choose a song they sing at school or kindy, find it on youtube and use it until you can sing it together alone. If it has actions – even better! You are riveted in the present moment when you sing an action song! How about the Hokey Pokey – you remember ‘You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out…..” Find it here  

When I do workshops with kids, I always include a finger play or action song – you can see a little bit of Incy Wincer Spider below...

You can use musical instruments for mindfulness in a similar way – you don’t need expensive, authentic instruments for this either, although if they are at your place already go right aheadand use them. If you don’t’ you can make music from a myriad of home-made ‘instruments’ – rice filled jars make wonderful maracas! You can also easily make home-made drums with empty cans, sturdy brown paper and rubber bands.   Bells inside whisks are pretty amazing and check this out for a myriad of other ideas -    https://au.pinterest.com/explore/homemade-musical-instruments/?lp=true  Find some music you all like and play along together. Pretty simple isn’t it and there you are sharing the gift of mindfulness with the children in your lives! 

Most of us love listening to music but there is active and passive listening and only one is mindful, although both are highly enjoyable!  Passive listening allows you to go about your business with music playing in the background but active listening through which you can purposefully set aside some time to sit and listen and engage with music, invites us to be mindful. This is something you can easily share with the children in your lives. I favour something that aligns with the emotions so you can feel freely and to let more feelings arise. The point here is to let yourself be reactive to what you hear – it can be through movement and dance or you can sit and let the feelings that arise to just be held withininstead of trying to supress them which is never helpful in the long term.

Caring and sharing are closely linked – we all care about our children, use whatever opportunities that arise to share your passion to be mindful. Music adds such a wonderful, connected opportunity to being mindful so making time to include it in family life makes a whole lot of sense!