Enjoy Music Mindfully


This photo is by Dan, from FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Remember when you were young, creating music with friends, classmates or family members? Were you more likely then, to spontaneously write a song, sing along or listen intently? Maybe you found yourself dancing along the sidewalk, in the park or at home, enjoying your internal rhythm along with the music?

As adults we continue to create rhythms- even if we rarely devote ourselves to mindful cultivation or appreciating of music. We drum with our feet and fingers, hum a tune under our breath, and synch our movements with sounds drifting in to our subconscious.

Music and human life are intertwined and this is not a new phenomenon. Ancient Egyptian sculptures include musical instruments. The Ancient Greeks believed all of their deities enjoyed dance and the Hindus represented their divinities as musicians. In our modern world, music accompanies most activities- celebrations and memorials, meals and exercise, car rides, even work.

Perhaps this constant exposure is why music often takes a back seat, relegated to ambiance, background noise, or a tool to block out unwanted sound. There is so much more available to us if we pause and listen.When we devote our attention to music, we are available to hear and feel its message more deeply. We can access and observe the emotions that music inspires in us. We can travel with the notes, feel the rhythm and appreciate each bar’s composition.

A recent study conducted by McGill University, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, observed the human brain’s reaction to music. When participants listened to a piece of favorite music, the brain generated dopamine, a pleasurable neurotransmitter, in the striatum, which is a primitive region deep in the brain. Researchers noted that listening to a favorite piece of music engages the same brain pleasure-reward system that's engaged when we eat, as well as when we do other activities that ensure human survival.

I invite you to mindfully listen to a piece of music. Whether it’s a favorite song you know all the words to, or a new album you’ve been meaning to enjoy, devote your attention to this art form. Enjoy. Remember, just like the food that nourishes us, this sound is the care, hard work and creativity of many people. In it, we can hear the entire cosmos. 

What do you notice when listening mindfully to music? How do you feel?