Are you brand-new to meditation? Or maybe you’ve been honing your practice for some time. Either way, you may wonder: Should I use meditation music to meditate?
Why Is Meditation Music So Important?
It’s a common question, and it’s important to note that there is no right, wrong or single answer.
In general, beginners tend to enjoy calming music during meditation. And those who practice regularly may prefer silence. A study asking participants what background sounds they liked during meditation found this to be true.
On the other hand, everyone is different. Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean you have to listen to soft Zen music during meditation. Even if you’ve been meditating for years, this doesn’t mean you should always have to meditate without music.
Science supports music’s positive effects on the brain, whether spiritual meditation music, Tibetan sounds, or the sounds of crashing waves.
A recent study explored this; looking at people listening to their favorite music during fMRI scans, the researchers found that “connections in the brain known to be involved in internally focused thought, empathy and self-awareness” lit up.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you should listen to your favorite pop tracks during meditation (although incorporating your favorite tunes into your practice can have positive effects, too!). Instead, we can appreciate the power that music can have on our brains and awareness in general.
Is There a Specific Type of Meditation Music?
Yes and no.
Yes, because if you’re looking for music made specifically for use during meditation, you can indeed find it. No, because you’re also free to find your ideal meditative music.
Some will claim otherwise, but when it comes to the calming music used during meditation, there is no “right or wrong.”
But let’s talk briefly about some of the unique music for meditation. This might be an excellent place to begin if you're just starting.
This type of relaxation music generally has the following things in common4:
Soft and even: Never spiking with intense or raucous moments
Slow-moving: Never faster than 60 beats per minute
Non-melodic: Doesn’t carry a ”catchy” tune that may distract you
This type of music may or may not incorporate the peaceful sounds of nature as well — for example, the sounds of:
One of our instructors' playlists can be found through this link.
Often, the soft & calm relaxing music you hear during meditation classes is ambient, using electronic instruments. It produces atmospheric music that has no perceivable beat or tempo.
Why Is Music an Important Factor During Meditation?
Some may say that music is unnecessary for successful meditation. Still, playing some calming music (especially when you’re just starting with meditation practice) has several advantages.
1. Silence can be scary.
If you’ve never meditated before and tried it in silence right off the bat, the quiet can sometimes put people on edge.
This may actually be biological, as scientists have found that the cessation of sound can induce the fear response in mammals. Fortunately, some soft peaceful music can help.
2. Music helps you understand the passing of time.
Try to notice how often you check the time in your daily life. Most of us like to know what time it is. We want to know how fast time is passing. And this is never more true when we’re doing a slow, monotonous activity — like meditating.
In this case, some slow relaxing music can be a comfort in that it helps you perceive the passing of time.
3. With music, you can ease into what it feels like to meditate.
Many people will not tell you that meditation can be “boring” — only since it’s not big on stimulation.
That is, it’s not entertaining like a movie. It’s not thrilling like a ride. It doesn’t “take your mind off things” as an engaging book. Quite the contrary, in fact. You sit, don’t speak, don’t move (if it’s not walking meditation), and are alone with your thoughts.
Now, these seemingly “boring” factors can have fantastic and profound effects on your life. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
The “boredom,” though part and parcel of meditation, shouldn’t put you off the practice entirely. It gets more accessible, and there are times when you will grow to appreciate those moments more than you’d ever know at first.
Still, some meditation music can ease the transition. It can make the experience of sitting more palatable and pleasurable. This is especially true for beginners.
4. Meditative music can help you focus.
This one is key. Many practitioners of meditation use a mantra. This could be a sound, word, or phrase. It is repeated mentally to maintain focus on the meditation. Mantra means an instrument of thought in the ancient language of Sanskrit.
Like a mantra, music provides a focus for the mind. This is why, when you are a beginning meditator, music can be a handy tool. Meditation music for kids, for example, is trendy.
5. Sleep meditation can be more effective with relaxing sleep music.
Finally, if you’re hoping to use meditation to help you sleep better, sleep music for meditation can be a fantastic tool. Guided meditations for sleep will often use soothing music at the end of the sequence to help you drift off softly and slowly. This is also excellent for stress relief.
The act of meditation is being spacious.
– Sogyal Rinpoche
ANAHANA MEDITATION RESOURCES
Body Scan Meditation
Guided Meditation For Anxiety
Meditation For Kids
How Meditation Helps With Stress
How Meditation Changes The Brain
How Meditation Works
A pilot study investigating preferred background sounds during mindfulness meditation: What would you like to hear? - IOS Press
Music has powerful (and visible) effects on the brain -- ScienceDaily
How To Organize A Meditative Music Night - Lion's Roar
Music For Meditation by Jon Shore
Silence resulting from the cessation of movement signals danger - ScienceDirect
Prevalence and patterns of use of mantra, mindfulness and spiritual meditation among adults in the United States