It’s the middle of November and school is in full swing as we are preparing for concerts, events, and performances. To add to their schedule of rehearsals and academics, students are in the midst of a week-long MAP testing. Thoughts and actions are being whisked in every direction as we are thinking about events in the next three months. To help refocus and relax students while being mindful in music, students listen while I play for them.
I have students sit quietly, turn on their listening ears, and watch as I play the handbells, boomwackers, guitar, or the piano, depending on the class. They use their whole body in listening and it is wonderful to hear the stillness in the room. Sometimes I sing and sometimes I ask students the name of the song I played, demonstrating their listening skills, attention skills, and song knowledge.
I read an article by Patrick Groneman, a mindfulness coach, who provides a list of suggestions for mindful music appreciation practice (listed below). I try to follow most of the suggestions to help provide a mindful listening time for my students. I find that students are calmer, are more in tune with the environment, and will echo or sway with the music I play. Click here to read the full article. These are some things to try at home for mindful music listening.
Suggestions for Mindful Music Appreciation Practice
— Clear your schedule for the length of the time it takes to listen to the piece of music.
— Find a comfortable place where you feel able to fully commit your attention to the music. Set the space as your own private concert hall. Consider the lighting, air circulation (important!), fire exits, aromas and cleanliness.
— Turn off your phone, close the extra windows on your computer, let anyone else in your living space know that you are engaged for the period of time you’ve chosen.
— Consider if your body has been sufficiently nourished, so you might not get hungry or thirsty in the middle of the piece. For longer sessions, consider a small snack or supportive beverage to help regulate your energy.
— Sit or lay down in a comfortable posture — one that helps you remain attentive and alert, but one where you also do not need to strain or exert too much energy.
— Once you feel settled, take a moment to contemplate all that went into the making of the music — the training, composing, performing, recording and sharing of it. It is quite a special opportunity to be able to listen to musical art in this way. Allow any thoughts and images associated with this contemplation rise and fall through your awareness.
— Take a few deep breaths and relax into the sensations of your body breathing. Rest with your breath for a minute or two.
— Press play and bring your attention to the sensations of sound and feeling as the piece begins.
— If while listening to the music, your attention does wander, just gently remind yourself to return to the sounds and sensations of the music.
— If listening to the music stirs your emotions or thoughts, you can include those inner experiences as an extension of the music and appreciation practice.
— As the piece comes to a close, thank yourself for taking the time to listen. As it is customary at any musical performance to thank the musicians and composer for their efforts, even in privacy, find some way to do this which feels meaningful to you (bowing, applause and cheering, even in solitude, are quite acceptable.)
— Take a few minutes to digest the experience. You can do this by doing a breathing meditation or just relaxing. You can also write or journal about the experience if you’d like.