Musical Meditation

I invited my dear friend Olivia Coleman to contribute regularly to our blog.  She has been appreciating SAVOR and practicing mindfulness as decribed in Savor since its release in 2010.

“Music creates a bridge for people to move out of thinking and into presence.” – Ekhart Tolle

My attention tugs on one note and the whole song unravels, inviting exploration. I trace valleys and peaks of pitch, surprise sharpening my awareness each time a new instrument sounds.  Moving with the voice, piano and harp as they dance together, I become invested in these subtle relationships that push and pull the song along.

Mindful listening is so natural, I’m surprised it took me this long to try it. Music has always moved me deeply but with meditative focus I’ve discovered a new depth of joy.

Songs contain so many layers often left unexplored. Calling awareness to them feels like an opening of the mind. Studies confirm that music releases dopamine in the brain, stimulating feelings of happiness and reward, similar to food and sex. Enjoying a piece of music actually inhibits activity in the amygdala, the part of our brain associated with negative emotions like fear and anxiety. 

Creating music, no matter how “good” or profound, is one of the most mentally stimulating activities. Playing the guitar, for instance, engages eight different regions of the brain across both hemispheres.

I’m curious what neuroscience will discover about the combination of musical and meditative practices. Both are thought to reduce stress and recent studies of meditation cite benefits ranging from improved memory to greater empathy.

For now, I’m happy to share what I know to be true: musical mediation feels wonderful. Not only do I more thoroughly enjoy my favorite songs, I meditate more. A novice practitioner, it’s easier for me to focus on each note intently than to focus solely on my breath. And because I’m often commuting with headphones in, or dancing to Spotify in my living room, the correlation between these activities brings meditation naturally into my daily life. I hear Florence and The Machine and I’m compelled to listen deeply, to relish each moment of this beautiful present.

Blog by Olivia Coleman 
Photo by Lel4nd

Comments

Your first paragraph containing descriptions of musical meditation unraveling mountains and valleys in each pitch and watching musical relationships push and pull the experience along has given me a deepening awareness of those qualities in my mindful eating and mindful living practices. Thank you for enriching and expanding my practices with new possibilities for my own life.

Dear Savor Aficionado,

Firstly, I love your title :) and secondly, thank you for sharing your experience with us here. I would love to hear more about the awareness you bring to mindful eating and living. What do you notice about the qualities of your practice?

All the best,

Olivia

This beautifully describes the concept in music of active listening. Thank you so much for crafting this idea of musical meditation into such incredible words. It can make meditation more fun for us music lovers! :)

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