What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the state or practice of being in the present moment, and being aware of your body, your surroundings and thoughts. I’ve noticed this practice has enjoyed a definite increase in popularity. There are mindfulness journals, costly mindfulness seminars, and entire blogs and websites dedicated to being mindful. I’ve even started to see it creep into corporate culture, in a more diluted form. This is no big wonder – Being mindful and engaged has proven benefits to mental health such as reducing stress and emotional reactivity. It also boosts productivity, attention and focus. Obviously, this has led to a boom of businesses trying to cash in on the phenomenon.
But you don’t have to spend a fortune on apps, journals and books to start practising mindfulness. In this series, I’ll be describing simple, quick and free methods you can put into practise everyday.
Music and Mindfulness
Mindful music listening, or music meditation, appears easy on the surface – You’re just listening to music. Easy right? But to truly be mindful and engaged, there is a little bit of concentration and effort needed, as outlined in the steps below:
- Pick a song – Anything will do, but acoustic music with several instruments, such as Classical, is a good shout.
- Earphones in, eyes closed, tune out to the outside world.
- Try to identify each separate instrument or sound playing.
- Try imagining a separate line for each sound, moving with the rhythm and notes of the music.
- If your mind wanders to other thoughts (Why didn’t I come up with a really cool comeback to that bitchy customer complaining about the ice-to-water ratio five years ago? When will I ever find time to strip and re-varnish all the doors in my house? What’s for second breakfast?) don’t get frustrated. Just let the thoughts pass, then gently bring your focus back to the music.
- You might get quite emotional, depending on the song (Try listening mindfully to Fantasia on a Theme By Thomas Tallis from composer Ralph Vaugn and try not to lose your shit). That’s cool, just go with it. Don’t judge yourself.
- Once the song is finished, take a moment to breathe, be present in your body and reflect.
- Do you feel more relaxed? Maybe not – Maybe Slayer wasn’t a good choice, and you could have another go with Mozart.
The trickiest part of this is definitely the wandering mind. You’ll find this is true for most forms of mindfulness practice or meditation. The modern world has tuned our super-fast human brains to be multitasking and juggling different thoughts incessantly. I promise it does become easier with practice, and you’ll find yourself able to “switch on” relaxation at will.
Try giving this a go during your next long commute, or reach for the headphones instead of the tequila after a long, stressful week to wind down. It’ll be far more relaxing.
And you can always have the tequila after.