Music and sounds that help in meditation

March 2012

Music and sounds that help in meditation

Across the globe music holds a special place in peoples lives. They listen to it while they drive, study, eat, entertain guests, read, relax and meditate. In fact music is so common that you may be forgiven for taking it for granted and not recognizing just how it affects you daily. Like-wise certain sounds, such as chanting, ocean waves, and vibrational tones made by Himalayan singing bowls, can have a profound healing effect on your moods and emotions.

If you’ve ever wondered why music and sound can be so powerful you are not alone. Scientists have been studying how the human brain responds when people listen to particular sounds and can now even pinpoint which parts of the brain are stimulated, when sounds are heard.

When listening to music it’s probable that the frontal lobes of your brain are activated. This area of the brain is where higher intelligent thoughts take place and your emotions are generated.

Researchers have discovered that listening to certain types of sound can help people with particular tasks and activities, whether it be drifting off to sleep or cramming for an exam.

When people meditate their prefrontal cortex activity increases, and even if they stop practicing meditation the positive effects continue for some time. The best music or sounds to listen to depend on what you hope to achieve. If your goal is simply to relax, unwind and release tension, calm, gentle music or the sounds of nature, such as the noise a waterfall makes, will be useful.

However, if you want to achieve deep meditation and alter your mental state intensely listening to music which includes binaural beats will help synchronize your brainwaves. Binaural beats are listened to via headphones in order to work their magic. The beats experienced are produced when the different frequencies of sound delivered to each ear combine in the brain to form a single tone, or beat.

Binaural beat music can be generated to help you meet specific needs, and may even be designed to help you learn faster and increase intelligence. The most common effect of listening though tends to be a sense of calmness and serenity, and the ability to leave behind stress and anxiety.

Sometimes binaural beat music is also referred to as alpha wave music, because it is known to help listeners reach an alpha state of consciousness where they are deeply relaxed. Beats are subtly integrated into music so that they aren’t obvious, but their effects are powerful and can alter brainwaves.

Natural sounds, like birdsong, can also be combined with binaural beat music or used to aid meditation on their own. You may find that listening to the sound of the dawn chorus helps you relax and meditate, or that the deep rumbling sound of thunder combined with the sound of heavy rainfall works for you.

Your particular preference for certain sounds can stem from association, thus if you have happy memories about splashing and playing in a stream as a child listening to similar sounds that water makes now is likely to make you feel good. You may associate the sound of gulls crying overhead and waves caressing the shoreline as calming, or the sound of children laughing, or the clinking of the masts of boats in a harbour with entering a state of relaxation.

Mantra meditation is a popular way of achieving relaxation and is also thought of as a healing practice. The idea is that you let go of stress and worry via focusing on a single mantra which you repeat until all of the inner chatter you usually experience disappears and is replaced with relaxation and calm.

Another way to relax can be to listen to classical music. Studies show that certain music, and particularly Mozart’s work, can help people perform better at tests and learn more efficiently too.  Listening to Mozart’s music can improve clarity and creativity by integrating the left and right sides of the brain.

You may also have heard of sound therapy which can be used as a relaxation aid. Instead of listening to music or carefully constructed beats designed to alter brainwaves sound therapy introduces people to simple sounds such as bells, the human voice, drums, gongs, forks, and bowls.

The practice is thought to come from the manner in which healing prayers, meditation, chanting and instruments have been used stretching back through the years in order to help achieve calm and emotional balance.

Sound therapy works on the principle that humans have an individual frequency which can be altered by sound vibrations which will help them re-tune to a healthy state.

There are numerous ways you can utilize sound or music to help you relax, or even to change your brainwaves. Doing so could help you meditate more effectively, learn faster or sleep better.

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