There's a common misconception that meditation is all about sitting in absolute silence and breathing. or loudly chanting om. While there is often a lot of sitting, breathing, and chanting involved in most mindfulness practices, some people prefer to listen to the sound of someone's voice or calming music.
In fact, music can enhance meditation, and make it easier for newbies. Like meditation, "music has its own power to calm us down or help us tap into deeper levels of feeling or even consciousness," says Patricia Karpas, co-founder of the app Meditation Studio, which has guided meditations that include musical accompaniment. Music can bring us into the present moment, and help calm your "monkey mind," she says.
Even when you're listening to a spoken meditation, music can help you focus on the practice, says Jeremy Siegel, a composer for Meditation Studio. For example, if there's complete silence during pauses, it can heighten anxiety, because you're so focused on when the instructor is going to talk again, he says. "On the contrary, if the music is there as a cushion to fill the space in between, people may wind up less distracted and more focused," he says.
Choosing the music you want to meditate to is different than, say, crafting an energizing workout playlist. While Lizzo might be your go-to album for literally every other activity in life, meditation requires a different kind of vibe. Everyone's preference is different, but ahead are some Spotify playlists to turn on the next time you want to sit with your thoughts:
Singing bowls are believed to slow your brainwaves down to the same frequency as the sound waves, explains Ann Martin, Meditation Studio singing bowl teacher. "Music from singing bowls help calm the brain and relax the body so the stillness of the present moment can creep in; that's where you'll find pure consciousness for meditation success," she says.
Karpas loves meditating to the cello, because "it has a beautiful deep tone that has the power to deeply soothe," she says. Other classical music that features several instruments at once is also great, because it allows you to focus without getting distracted by your own imagination, adds Chris Aimone, co-founder of Muse.
Music that is simple and soothing can be calming for us, and provide a great context for settling the mind, Aimone says. Ambient music is a great example of this, because it often is wordless. "Music with words can be particularly challenging because words will stimulate storytelling and imagination within our minds," he says. "When we meditate, stepping outside of our stories is a critical part of the practice."