Was feeling down in the dumps the last few days… I even went home early from work a couple of days ago claiming I was “sick”. I’m starting to come out of it now though. I feel quite a bit better today.
In such times, mindfulness meditation really does help. Even though you can practice mindfulness at any time, if you’re feeling stressed, depressed or just feeling completely f-ed up emotionally, this is an especially ideal time to practice exercises like these. Here’s a great one that I practice often in a variety of ways and I’ll tell you how I do it.
First, let me ask you this? Have you ever just stopped what you are doing and enveloped yourself in a world of pleasant sound.
Or, have you ever just stopped, closed your eyes, and listened to the ambient hum of the world. If so, you will already know that this has many healing effects. If not, here we go!
Here are some things to try:
Ambient sound at home – The point of this exercise is to listen out for ambient sound. I’m talking about all those sounds that you normally drown out. In doing so you will want to turn off the TV, music and all other noise that is in your power to shut off… and within reason… don’t unplug your fridge, please…. or your air conditioner… especially if you live in a hot and humid place like Florida!
Now, if you live in a quiet place you may want to open a window so that there is some kind of ambient sound that’s still going on… or perhaps you’ll want to head to a patio or balcony. Sit or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes and listen. Listen to the sounds… notice how it’s nearly impossible to not have any kind of sound at all. You may still hear the hum of the fridge or the air conditioner or other people in the house rustling about. You may hear the sound of neighbors…. your neighbor’s TV perhaps or a lawn mower or people talking.
Even if you live in the middle of nowhere, you may still be able hear the sounds of nature. Birds, small animals scurrying about. Thunder from a storm, perhaps.
I live in the city so it’s not hard to experience ambient sound. I don’t hear it so much inside, but going to sit outside I can usually hear cars going by. When I close my eyes I marvel at how specific vehicles have their own associated sounds. Small cars sound different than big cars. Pickups sound different than cars. And, there are always people who blast their music because… well, I guess they think it’s cool and pleasing somehow for them. Remember to try and not judge anything as bad or good. Only declare it to exist.
There are also buses… they tend to have their own unique sounds, too. And then there are the big trucks. I can usually tell the difference between a smaller big truck and a bigger big truck. Semi trucks tend to have distinctive braking systems that involve a lot of sound.
Keep your eyes closed and listen to all of these things. Do not let your mind wander…. if it does… gently steer your mind back to sound. Only concentrate on sounds and things associated with those sounds. For instance, if you hear bus sounds you may think about people getting off and on that bus. Where they may be going. What they may be doing with their lives at this moment in time.
Ambient sound outside of home – Perhaps you don’t feel like staying at home. Choose a place where you may be able to experience a variety of more or less pleasing ambient sounds. Parks are great for this but really you could experience this any place… a coffee shop for instance.
Do the same as above. Close your eyes and listen for sounds… sounds… sounds… the whirl of coffee being grinded… people chatting… kids playing… birds… squirrels or other animals scurrying about… the point is to just listen.
Musical therapy – This is probably the easiest and most enjoyable sound exercise. All you have to do is choose a playlist of pleasing music to listen to. Sit or lie down comforatably and listen to the music.
Sounds simple, however, if you think about it, usually when we are listening to music we are almost always doing other things, too. Driving, cleaning, studying, reading. In this instance you will not do any of those things. Just listen to the music. Enjoy the music in it’s entirety. Listen out for the sounds of various instruments… guitars, drums, paino, violins, voices. Lose yourself for a little while in the music… just don’t forget to come back!
You can practice this for five minutes, ten minutes or fifteen minutes. Whatever works for you.
Why does this work? For one thing, isolating our senses down to just one allows us to practice shutting off inner voices. Often, those voices can be negative and judgmental or focused on saddness and everything that is going wrong. Replacing all of that with something more positive works to halt all those feelings for a while so that our minds can soothe and rest. Our minds are amazing and powerful tools, but they too need rest and care, just like the rest of the body.
Second, this allows us to step outside of ourselves for a while. There’s a whole wide world around us. We do not need to have the weight of that world on our shoulders. We do not need to obsess over ourselves and our problems.
I hope you find that this exercise works for you! Living in pain and mental anguish is no way to live.
Good mental health to you!
P.S. Check out the cool video below… the music is so lovely and relaxing!
More on mindfulness from Midnight Harmony: