Music as meditation

jamming in the hallway

jamming in the hallway at Wintergrass

No one would call me mindful.  I forget where I set my reading glasses, have returned empty envelopes to Comcast and others while leaving the payment checks in my checkbook, and once left my cell phone on an outdoor bench in Haarlem, The Netherlands. (After a complicated series of events I received it in the mail after we’d returned home.)

I’m not looking for miracles, but would like to make some improvements. I know, I know, just shut my eyes, count my breaths, dismiss distractions, and my blood pressure will drop, I will no longer stew over the state of our country, and soon will be floating in a Nirvana-like state. In fact, there is a great deal of research on the effectiveness of meditation in relieving stress and improving health, but I haven’t put in the amount of time needed to improve anything. I work my fifteen minutes in before bedtime and immediately return to reading my library book, which is a lot more fun.

more jamming

more jamming

However, something that happened recently gave me an idea of a new approach to achieving some level of mindfulness. For four glorious days my husband and I attended a music festival called Wintergrass.  This year’s theme was “Bach to Blue Grass.” We heard fourteen different musical groups, playing about 45 minutes apiece.  (Yes, sitting that long does take its toll, but there are three venues, so you get a little exercise walking between rooms.)

By day three I found my mind wandering less. By day four I was able to banish many random thoughts and found the music completely absorbing. Also, I attended Sunday church services and found myself completely absorbed in chanting, and listening to the entire congregation chant, when normally I think about my grocery list for the week.

I’ve decided to try music meditation. It’s been thirty years since I listened to classical music. A good starter would be a record (my husband has saved plenty of vinyl from the old days) by British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams, preferably one of his pieces described as tranquil, even mystical. If, after a few weeks, I’m still putting eggs in the freezer or forgetting where I left the cat, at least I will have broadened my musical horizons.

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About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness.
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4 Responses to Music as meditation

  1. Marilyn Pedersen says:

    BRAVO, Ann! Mix up Vaughn Williams with Aaron Copland, Vivaldi, Mozart & Bach. I’ve been listening to Villa-Lobos recently…so good for the soul.

  2. ann oxrieder says:

    I looked for you at Wintergrass. i remember seeing you once here. They had the the best lineup ever.

  3. Joan Tritchler says:

    Loved this post. Thank you. You might want to add to your music meditation list the theme song from the movie Arrival…it is by Max Richter (the rest of the soundtrack for the movie was by Johann Johannsson). The Max Richter CD is called The Blue Notebooks and the Arrival theme song is On the Nature of Daylight. Achingly beautiful! I have listened to the CD countless times now and I am still losing my keys – but I do forget about alternative facts and impending doom for a while. A reviewer said of the Blue Notebooks, “He closes in on reflecting the glowing consciousness of the composer, who is using music to keep alive the idea that there is somewhere else to go next, a new place to think, and a new way to listen.” I guess we could meditate on that for a while! Hope to see you soon.

  4. Shirley Shimada says:

    I like your idea of using music to soothe the wandering beast-y brain! I’m hoping that this weekend’s meditation training at Seattle U will help a little.

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