The power of music...
I think I have always intrinsically known how to meditate to music. When I was younger I bought a tape (yeah I know, remember them) called 'Call of the Dolphin' by Ken Davis (insanely cheesy, look it up on Spotify if you must). I remember whenever I wanted to feel deep relaxation I would lie on the floor of my bedroom, close my eyes and listen to this album. No one ever told me that this was a form of meditation, and I can distinctly remember feeling intense emotions and sensations while doing this. It takes a lot to get me to that state these days, mostly because I'm battling with a much busier brain but, on the rare occasion it does happen it can be overwhelming, beautiful and a welcome relief to the day to day battle against anxiety and depression.
Last night I attended 'Songs of the Soul' - A tribute concert to Sri Chinmoy. I only knew a little about Sri before the concert, I knew he was a meditation teacher and he has a centre here in Auckland, and that's about it. The concert consisted of several bands and musicians playing his work interspersed with facts and video footage of Sri himself. I'm so grateful I went. Not only because I now know just how massively influential Sri was, but because throughout the concert I had two or three moments when, genuinely, I had some really powerful emotions flood through my body, without expectation and without trying. Each time, I thought how perfect each of those moments were and at the same time I was surprised at how the music took me somewhere else, when in reality I was sitting in the concert hall of Auckland Girls Grammar School.
The first was an artist called Alap Jetzer. He played the most mesmorising piece of music I think I have ever heard. It was just him, an oboe and a backing track, and I was gone. I found my eyes closing and I drifted quite easily to a memory of being a young kid in Scotland. It was a rare summer when the weather was glorious and I was on a beach in the North, I remember the high cliffs surrounding us, I could see my Mum and Dad and I could smell the salty air and see the long swaying grass grass beyond the sand. In that instant of being transported back I started to cry, the tears were just dropping on to my lap and I tried really hard not to sob out loud for the sake of my fellow concert goers. I wasn't sad, I was just overpowered by memories and taken aback that just one piece of music took me back at least 20 years in time.
The second moment was during an ensemble piece when one of them started to play the flute. My Dad played the flute, and so again I closed my eyes and I was gone. Thinking about him, crying for him and being grateful for the music and the memories meant my brain was incapable of thinking about anything else at that time. I wasn't thinking about anything that usually makes me anxious, I wasn't anxious about my anxiety, I wasn't sad or empty, I was just living in the moment.
The third moment was a Father and Son duo called 'Monk Party'. They played some unusual instruments and their style was more upbeat and Kirtan based. I first discovered Kirtan at a yoga retreat, where I also discovered what it was like to lie in an 'ohm bath'. If you have never taken part in ohm chanting and you are curious I would highly recommend it. It's not for everyone, I understand that but, the highly meditative state and the occasion auditory hallucinations you experience is something else altogether.
I listened to the duo, this time with eyes open and I watched them both in their 'flow' eyes closed, gently playing and singing each note in sync with their breath and each other and my mind was quiet and calm.
The whole evening was magical.
I suppose this post isn't entirely about my experiences with anxiety or depression but it is certainly a dedication post to the power of music. I think we've all experienced it to a certain degree, when a song doesn't just sound good, it FEELS good, it feels like perfection. I have to believe that it is a form of meditation, grounding us and keeping us in the moment. Stopping us from ruminating and getting us to stand/sit still for a moment and just take stock, take pleasure and be distracted from the noise in our heads and appreciate something magical.
At ease soldiers, please don't hunt me down after listening to 'Call of the Dolphin' I apologise in advance, but it worked for me at the time!