Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mindful Musicians, Mindful Music

In my first blog for YogiTunes, I wrote about how it is possible that music is able to quiet the chatter of mind, although this seems like a paradox on the surface. In the second I explored one widely held theory, that certain frequencies of sound put us in touch with a deeper level of consciousness in and of themselves. Both these posts are still up on the site if readers would like to check them out. In this post I would like to look at a couple of more ideas about how it is music helps us to be mindful in yoga class and elsewhere.

Another answer I like a lot is that the source of awakening comes from within highly developed musicians, who have established themselves deeply in spiritual practice. Through various methods such as meditating, listening to the words of master teachers, studying texts, hatha yoga, etc. these individuals have transformed themselves into clear, pure instruments. They have become very present and have become grounded in source, to use different words to say the same thing. Then when they play music, they communicate or transmit this same connectedness to their listeners. An artist like this might well be able to improvise, as the energy from their deep sense of connectedness is inspiring them in the moment they play, and that deeper creativity might even be said to be playing through the artist. In this case the mind is quiet and has no thoughts about what is being played or that there is even a player or listener.

Besides just the tone or frequency of a sound, the element of rhythm in music seems to also affect us spiritually. Thinking about this in terms of quieting the mind, I realize clarity can happen in the listener’s act of moving awareness from the thought process and mind matter (Chitta) or chatter to the inner processes of the body. As the listener tunes into the rhythms of music that may not even be New Age or Yoga Beat, but say just the average rock concert or dance, consciousness shifts and the body begins to speak silently, moving gracefully to the rhythm. There is a pleasure inherent in this, which also explains the joy of dance. It is not just that the body is having fun moving around, but the mind is no longer bothersome. The listener or dancer switches out of everyday mind and lays their burden down for a while. That is, they no longer allow themselves to be dominated by a thought process that generally produces a convincing stream of problems into one’s awareness. These thoughts produce negative emotions in a kind of package deal that keeps the average human a bit anxious or worse if we give them too much credibility. It isn’t entirely that dancing or listening to music makes one feel good, but that one feels good in the absence of the largely negative thought stream.

We say listening to music releases us from our problems, but probably in one way or another it frees us from thinking about our problems. However, at the end of the music or concert or dance (or yoga class) the mind usually starts up again, though it doesn’t necessarily have to, and one can tune into this same meditative state while involved in any activity. It is probably a good thing to sit in silence for a while after the music ends and absorb the effect before going on to the next thing. As in chanting the syllable OM, it is said that following the three parts of a-u-m comes the silent moment of presence, the fourth, Turiya. 

Written by Bodhiron

Thanks so much for reading this blog and please check out my music on this site if you get a chance, or my website at

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