Music for Meditation: Finding the Sounds That Resonate With You
There has been a noticeable societal shift—accelerated by the global experience of the pandemic—towards a desire to live authentically and intentionally. Many people have come to a deeper understanding of the need for work-life balance and for prioritizing their mental and emotional health and wellbeing. In this environment, interest in meditation in its many forms is on the rise. Meditation apps are flourishing and proliferating as users experiment with some of the different approaches to meditation and the variety of ways to incorporate meditation into their lifestyles. Relaxing meditation music can be a useful tool to help new meditators get into the flow.
How Music Can Support a Meditation Practice
When people think about meditation, they may envision people sitting in silence, but in fact, meditation is a broad category that encompasses many diverse practices: meditation can involve movement or sitting still; it can be silent or involve chanting or listening to music; it can be spiritual or secular; it can be focused on sensations in the body or the focus can be on a mantra or an image in the mind. For beginning meditators who are developing their meditation skills, music for meditation can serve as a bridge to help them make the transition from their hectic day-to-day life to a more introspective and focused state.
Meditation music may take the form of relaxing music to help the meditator calm down from the day and prepare to begin meditation, or it may be music that the meditator plays in the room or on headphones while meditating. Music for meditation may be a component of one of the more active forms of meditation—also known as “moving meditation”—that incorporates walking, dancing, or shaking. Sometimes meditation music, calming and steady, is the focus of the meditation, as meditators center their attention on the resonant sounds of gongs or singing bowls, or drawn-out synth pads.
The Best Music for Meditation
Generally, the best music for meditation is less complex and more amorphous than the music you might otherwise choose to listen to. Music that is especially lively and engaging will most likely distract the listener from their meditation practice. Good meditation music is repetitive, with little variation, and with a steady, slow rhythm, if any. Melodies and harmonies, if present, should be simple; an example of this would be drones in Indian classical music. Meditation music for anxiety and stress should be especially peaceful and soothing.
Mindfulness meditation is a specific type of meditation in which the practitioner endeavors to observe the present moment without judgment, releasing both attachments and aversions. Any music played during meditation of this type should be carefully chosen so that it does not stimulate affective responses in the listener. For example, music that is familiar and triggers an emotional response would not be helpful; music that sparks feelings of pleasure would also be less than optimal. The best music for this type of meditation would be unfamiliar and unobtrusive.
Essentially, the best music for meditation is not so much music as a soundscape that allows the meditator to focus on the meditation process. One of the functions served by this type of musical soundscape is that of helping to drown out distracting noises in the meditator’s environment. Another important function is that of giving structure to the meditation practice, setting the stage for meditation, and providing a consistent background for developing meditation skills. Some new meditators find that with music, meditation becomes less intimidating.
Music and Meditation Apps
Meditation apps are generally designed to appeal to novice meditators who are seeking support and structure for learning how to meditate and how to fit a new meditation practice into their busy days. Many meditation apps specialize in guided meditations and meditation instruction, often with musical accompaniments. Meditation apps may also have a library of music to choose from for use as a background for independent meditation.
Meditation apps can be a rich resource for discovering meditative music that works for your practice. Meditation music that fits the parameters discussed above can still take a wide variety of forms and may be categorized in apps such as sleep meditation music, meditation sounds, nature sounds, or soundscapes. Instruments may include gongs, singing bowls, didgeridoo, synthesizers, and more.
Explore Soothing Meditation Music that Helps You Stay Focused
Just as there are many types of meditation practice, there are many types of meditators, and what works for one person may not work for another. For those who tend to become easily drawn into the music, with accompanying strong emotional responses, music may not be compatible with meditation. For others, music may be a perfect companion for their journey into meditation as a regular practice. Keep in mind the general principles for meditating with music: choose simple, repetitive, calming music that helps to focus your attention on meditation and not on the music itself.
If you’re curious about how to harness the power of music to enhance wellness, read on for more on the science behind the sounds.