By Sejal Shah | Updated on: September 07, 2021
Top meditation experts weigh in the pros and cons of meditation with music. Also find some great meditation music and guided meditation.
The idea of with music has been circulating amongst the meditation community for years. But if you are a newbie to meditation, you may be debating, should I listen to music when I meditate? What should I listen to while meditating? Does the use of a mantra or using any other music for meditation have the same effect? You may be wanting to know whether music is helpful or against meditation progress. Just like meditation, music definitely relaxes us, but does it also promise nirvana—the higher purpose of meditation? All these are very genuine questions. I am hoping that this article will find you some of the answers that you are looking for. Moreover, I have also included some great relaxation music that can help you go into meditation.
Before we dive into the topic, let us understand what meditation is:
Meditation is the delicate and effortless . Beyond all the chatter and noise outside and in our minds, there is a silent, peaceful, blissful, beautiful space that exists in all of us, a place that is intact and unbroken. Meditation is turning our attention or getting connected to this space. Ancient yogis practiced this for achieving a state of nirvana or enlightenment. Besides, meditating just for a few minutes in a day brings enormous physical, mental, emotional . also show that it helps seniors to address the issue of cognitive decline. Wanting relief from stress is one of the most sought out ways to explore meditation in modern times. Many use meditation and music for the purpose of relaxation.
To guide our readers and , we researched and also approached some top meditation teachers in the country to give us a better understanding of meditation with music. Here are some interesting insights and perspectives on the advantages and disadvantages of using music for the purpose of meditation.
There is a whole ancient science and tradition called “Nada Yoga” —the yoga of sound— achieving the union or nirvana through sound. So we can safely assume that traditionally, in ancient times too, yogis meditating in the caves or even Buddhists have used music for meditation to find their zen. And the ancient texts on Nada Yoga, give a lot of details about the science of sound to find the absolute union with the cosmos. The Nada Yoga system divides music into two categories: internal music, 'Anahata,' and external music, "Ahata." More details of Nada Yoga can be found on . You will be amazed to know how scientific these ancient yogis were in their approach and observations.
Meditation With Music: Here’s How Experts Weigh the Pros and Cons
“Meditation can make life musical, and music can bring a deep inner peace.” - Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, world-renowned meditation master.
Answering the question: “What is Anahat Naad? How to produce it and what are its benefits?” Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of Art of Living explained: “The very meaning of Anahat Naad is that which cannot be produced from two objects, and arises spontaneously. Go deep in meditation, only in meditation can you hear it sometimes. It is not necessary that everyone should hear it. Some might hear Anahat Naad, some might experience light, some might experience a presence – there are different ways of experiencing.”
“Sound originates from silence and its goal is silence. Silence simply means . When there is total harmony deep within you, then even sound seems like an object, it seems heavy,” says Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Enjoy this guided meditation “ ”.
Yet music, when used as per ancient knowledge, can affect subtle energy centers (chakras) in your body. Explaining the effects of different instruments on the , Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, wrote on his , “The drums affect the Mooladhara (the base chakra or the first chakra). The big and small drums, their effect is from the Mooladhara to Swadishtana (second chakra). The big wind instruments like trumpets affect the second to third chakra (Swadhisthana to the Manipura, or navel). Metallic sounds affect the Manipura to Anahata (the fourth, or heart chakra). The string instrument has its effects from the navel to the heart. Veena and sitar, stringed instruments, affect the Anahata (the heart chakra). Flute music, wind instruments, and sometimes the piano sounds affect the Anahata to Vishudhi (the throat chakra). Bells, sounds of water, bird songs, very soft and subtle sounds have its effects from the throat to the Agna Chakra (in between the eyebrows). Then finally the Sahasrara (the top of the head or the crown chakra) is affected by meditation and all other (of these) instruments put together at once.”
I have personally done this chakra and sound meditation with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar where he combines musical sounds in a specific manner. It is so fascinating to experience the harmonizing effects of different instruments on different chakra and energy moving up to the crown chakra creating a profound sense of peace and bliss. Musical sounds have a natural harmony between them. When combined in a specific manner, they have a dynamic and astounding effect in balancing the energies of the body and invoking different feelings that influence our very DNA. Enjoy this guided meditation:
Music can settle your mind, but it is the silent meditation that will take you very deep:
“Music can settle your mind”, says Pam Brockman, a meditation teacher from Chicago, who has been practicing and teaching meditation for more than 30 years, “It helps to have something to relax and calm down, to focus on, that’s not thoughts, and so it can calm down the mind. If you’re very outward and agitated and you have lots of thoughts, it (music) can help you settle down.” Pam who travels extensively across the USA and other countries to teach a form of mantra-based meditation called as well as Silent Retreats, further adds, “Silent meditation goes deeper than meditation with music. We could consider that there are seven levels to our existence: body, breath, mind, intellect, memory, ego, and Self. At some level, music keeps us at the feeling level, which would be beyond the intellect but it doesn’t take you as deep as the Self. The Sahaj Samadhi Meditation takes you deeply inward to the Self. So during Sahaj Samadhi meditation, using music is not recommended. This helps us to go very deep and transcend all of those six levels and just repose in the Self.”
Most forms of music can be impediments to meditation, however Mantras, Sanskrit chants are very meditative:
Mantra—a charged sound vibration can take you beyond thinking, or cognition. A long-time meditator and meditation expert, Mona Shah Joshi from Atlanta, says, “I don’t usually listen to music when I meditate. I do, however, use a mantra that I received when I took the Sahaj Samadhi Program. Mantras are rhythms of consciousness that affect the subconscious mind. The meaning of every mantra is infinity. It is a sound vibration beyond the cognition of the mind. When the mind is unable to understand or analyze, it simply dissolves and moves into a meditative space.”
Certain types of music have been shown to help grow your grey matter, explaining this, Mona says, “Certain musical forms can help you transcend the chattering mind and lead you to a meditative state. When I’m chanting in Sanskrit or listening to ancient Vedic verses, it’s easy for me to slip effortlessly into meditation. conducted at Spain’s Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language, pundits or practitioners of Sanskrit chants had over 10 percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, and substantial increases in cortical thickness.”
Further explaining the expansive effect of certain types of music (like ancient chants) on our mind, Mona quotes Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Music is that which connects the individual to the universal. The limited mind expands through music and realizes it is already part of the big consciousness or the big mind.”
Mona further clarifies, “Most music, however, can probably be an impediment to meditation. When you’re listening to music, your senses are engaged outward. The mind gallops towards the world of the five senses. Cravings in the mind can stop you from being in the present moment. Only when the mind withdraws from the senses, you can deeply relax into meditation.”
Music can change your mood and uplift you, but know that meditation with music is just a first step:
Ajay Tejasvi, a meditation expert from Washington DC says, “Meditation is about creating harmony in both the inside world and the outside world. You have this whole inside world of thoughts of emotions, of feelings, and you also have the outside world with which you interact every day. And when you don’t feel so nice inside that’s the way you also approach everything outside. So when we take some time every day to meditate, it gives us the opportunity to find out how beautiful you are inside. And also through that, you’re able to see the beauty all around you now, outdoors and in this creation. Every day we brush our teeth for dental hygiene. Like that, for mental hygiene, we have to practice meditation.”
“Music can release your stress, change your mood, and uplift you,” says Ajay who started to meditate as a young kid. Reflecting on how music is natural to us, Ajay adds, “There’s some music everywhere: the song of birds or the music that flowing water brings or the waves that lap on the shore, on the beach, right? Or the wind that blows through the trees, the humming of the bee, right? There’s music in nature, and we’re a part of nature, music is everywhere. So if you look at, when does music happen? When you’re happy, you keep humming. When that energy within you is making that upward jump. Something comes out from within you. And you notice it makes you have some rhythm. Also, if you notice when you’re sad or when you’re stressed out and you listen to some nice music, the mind tends to relax. Music connects us to an ethereal world. Especially soft flute or instrumental music, where there are no words can really help us feel relaxed.”
On answering a question about what kind of music could be helpful, he guides, “For a beginner, I would say, sure, they can have some light flute music. The point of meditation is to let the mind relax, let yourself go inward and find that space of calm, of energy, of light from within. So I wouldn’t recommend music with words, but soft instrumental music should be good.” Enjoy meditating with this is also a great choice if you want to start your day with beautiful meditation music.
The purpose of meditation is to transcend our limiting intellect and emotions. If we listen to music with words that keep our intellect engaged or keep invoking certain emotions, that type of music may not help us settle down or stop the internal chatter.
Ajay, with a fondness for music and satsang (kirtan), explains, “ can take you beyond your intellect. The ancient sages were very intelligent, they noticed that the mind or the intellect tends to catch on and latch on to the meaning of the word. So to transcend the intellect, they would take one word and just keep repeating it in different tunes and different frequencies. In that process of repeating that same word again and again, with different sounds and different frequencies, they transcend the meaning. Then they slip inward into meditation.” What Ajay has shared is so true. I have attended many kirtan events, and this is what exactly I experience in kirtan, the repetitive sounds of chants take you to deep space within you and they can also bring a lot of .
Ajay further guides, “So I’d say yes, you can start with using music for meditation, and then I’d say quickly graduate, move from music-based meditation to guided meditation. (with or without music) could be the second step. There are so many beautiful that can help you go inward. If you’re not in a position to learn the or , which I’d recommend as a teacher, then the next best thing would be to practice guided meditations.”
Ajay, who is also the , says, “Children learn from adults. When they see us meditating, they want to come to us. So that time you just play some veena or some flute, some light stringed instrument, just softly. Close your eyes and sit quietly for a few minutes, 5 to 10 minutes. Even children feel connected to that and they also start quieting down. This is one of the ways, also, to bring somebody into meditation. Some gentle music, you know, just sit for 5 or 10 minutes, just let the mind settle. For children, this is one of the ways that you can bring them to meditation. They also feel the peace and calm with the soothing music.”
What is your experience with using music for the purpose of meditation?
Having heard from the experts, we would also like to hear from you, our readers.
Do you use music while meditating? What kind of meditation music do you listen to binaural beats, brainwave entrainment, soft instrumental, Christian music, natural sounds, piano, jazz, rock, mantra, meditation app, when you meditate? What works for you? What have not?
Whatever has worked for you to find your zen, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to those types of music to help you develop your meditation practice. But if it isn’t working for you, it may be worth giving a try to what these experts have suggested. Meanwhile, let us remain open to the possibility that even metalheads can achieve Samadhi.
For your own peace of mind, is here to help you explore the relaxing, rejuvenating qualities of music and meditation. Give yourself a treat today!
Sejal Shah, E-RYT 500 Sri Sri Yoga Teacher, YACEP, C-IAYT, Meditation Teacher, Happiness expert, NYU Post Graduate Medical School approved Yoga-CME retreat facilitator, Mind-Body Wellness Writer, Homeopath. She can be followed on , , and .