This is the second article in a series about how to use music to enhance whatever you’re doing, whenever you’re doing it. See also: Two Meditative States that are Best with Music and 5 Lush Soundtracks to Inspire Your Practice
I don’t think there is such a thing as background music.
All music in your life should be consciously integrated. This is at the core of raga, a concept from Indian classical music: the idea that there is a mood, a quality of the morning, or of the noon, or the sunset time, that is enhanced with the right music. You can learn to be sensitive to this effect of music and to consciously apply “sonic nutrition” to all aspects of your life. (Listen: Saharan Sunset Radio)
To start, be aware of the music you are just tolerating. Instead, give yourself what you know you totally love and heightens your experience. Musical vibration is not just a subtle force that doesn’t effect the tangible; it has incredible untapped potential to enhance our lives.
For instance, one of the things I learned in Africa is that when it comes to music there is no audience. Everyone is a participant. In Ghana I studied funerals, and grieving is a sonic process, because the sound is helping to move that heaviness and release the sadness. Then, on the other hand, there is the roar of a soccer stadium: All that chanting is this collective force being given to whomever is on the court of life. (Listen: Essential West African Sounds Radio)
As another example, I was doing development work in central Kenya, trying to build water catchers. I was so frustrated because everything was going in circles. Then I became a member of this women’s dance troupe—and learned that nothing of any real importance to the community happened without first this particular ritual of music and movement. Development agencies were focused on building the end product and missed the importance of musical ritual to set the stage.
In terms of my everyday life, if I have to wake up by an alarm I use music that provides a slow and peaceful rhythm to come into the world. I have a whole array of acoustic music that facilitates creative writing. I’m a mom, so for those flow-of-the-day times — cooking, getting things together — music that’s stimulating, but always keeps a constant, steady rhythm is really helpful. But then for 5 or 10 minutes I will turn on some super jamming tribal house or electronic music and full-on dance. It’s better than anything. Some people like espresso, but I just shake it out and I’m ready. (Listen: Downtempo Soundscapes Radio / Global Cafe Radio / Today’s EDM House Hits Radio)
We must never forget that we are rhythmic beings: Our heartbeat, our breath, the cellular pulse—this is our inner rhythmic universe. Music has an incredible power in the way it tunes us, not just to ourselves, but to our community and to life.
So let’s not just be tolerant of background music. Let’s really inspire ourselves. I hope that as the world becomes more musically attuned, music will be integrated more consciously into schools, hospitals, airports… And that it’s a way we are elevating our consciousness.
Shiva Rea, global yoga teacher, energy activist, and movement alchemist has collaborated with musicians, DJ’s, and movers and shakers from around the world for positive change. As the founder of Prana Vinyasa and Samdura Global School for Living Yoga, she offers online classes, workshops, retreats and trainings for living flow.
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