Dr. B's Blog

Using music

Let me get this out of the way at the beginning of this post: I can’t sing. I can’t play any musical instruments. I have not one whit of musical ability in any of my cells. My 3 year-old son will say “Share my song with you tomorrow, baba” as his polite way of asking me not to sing. 

But I love music. I can’t get enough of it. I can listen to the same song endlessly. I’ll listen to the percussion. Listen to the strings. Listen to the vocals. The ups and downs, highs and lows. I find that each time I listen to a familiar song, really listen, I’m rewarded with something new. 

Not coincidentally, I frequently use music a the focus of my mindfulness practices, both for my personal practice and my groups’. There are few characteristics I try to keep in mind when selecting a song for a practice. Obviously these aren’t essential but they’re a good starting point, at least:

  • Layers. Choose a song with some complexity so your exploration is rewarded.
  • Interesting lyrics. I don’t necessarily mean “understandable” lyrics. Some of my favorite songs for mindfulness are in languages I don’t understand. Some are perfectly understandable.  And some I should understand but are completely unintelligible. I doesn’t matter if you’re looking for story-telling or for another instrument.
  • Length. For group practices, I generally look for songs that are about 4 - 5 minutes in length. For my personal practices, I might select something a little longer.

As I said, these are just guidelines to get you started on your search. When you first use this particular practice, remember to be effective. Make sure you will be uninterrupted and, if possible, use headphones. Pick an instrument and follow it throughout the song. Even when it’s not “there”, see if you can hear it. Remember to follow your breath while listening to the music.

Please post in the comments if you find this practice to be helpful and if there’s a song you like to use. Other suggestions are also welcomed.