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Can Meditation Music Soothe the Hurricane in My Mind?

For the new meditator, musical meditation can provide an easier entry into the world of mindfulness

If you’re not a violent fireball of angst after 2020’s unrelenting rage, well, aren’t you a level-headed chap? Me? I’ve had more midlife crises than the entire Boomer generation, and I’m only 28. 

Longing to unwind, I slipped on my headphones and tuned into peaceful meditation music by MindTravel. Did it help? Sorta!

The advantage of meditation music for anxiety, as opposed to either meditation or music, is that it provides a two-pronged approach to mindfulness: The benefits of music, such as improved concentration and contentment, and the perks of meditation, which are much the same. In particular, meditation music — which typically has a slow tempo, preferably without lyrics — has been scientifically proven to lessen depression and anxiety by engaging key areas of the brain related to mood.

MindTravel offers all sorts of musical meditations — some purely musical, some accompanied by a voice and some designed to be played while walking. But all of them involve meditation-style music, including calming binaural beats, by composer, pianist and MindTravel founder, Murray Hidary. (You can also find all sorts of meditation music on YouTube.) “I create the music in real time, improvising at the piano,” he says. “Creating it is my own meditation practice. I use the music, that first note, to anchor me to the present moment. It focuses me, coming into a relationship of deep listening with the music note by note. Everything else falls away.”

For me, the listener and meditator, it’s the music that makes meditation more accessible. As a guy who’s tried and failed to keep pace with non-musical guided meditations, the music helps to push aside the incessant, distracting inner chatter, providing a lifeline to the present moment. For instance, non-musical guided meditations can sometimes make me get caught up in following along and doing it “right,” whereas musical meditation allows my mind to latch onto the sounds and just be. “Most meditation is done in silence, and it can be hard for people to stay focused,” Hidary says. “Music meditation makes it so much easier to stay ‘in it,’ and since music is the language of emotions, it opens us up much faster and allows any issues we’re dealing with to be released in the meditation.”

Plus, the piano-based ambient tunes make you feel like your soul is being uploaded to some heavenly matrix, where nothing in the material world exists nor matters, which is pretty damn chill.

Meditation music for anxiety isn’t for everyone, though, and some people may prefer silent or non-musical mediations. A 2019 study from the U.S. Army Research Lab, for instance, found that veteran meditators preferred silence, whereas noobs liked music without a distinct melody, possibly because they have a harder time being present with their thoughts without some kind of background noise — music can sometimes prompt memories and introspection, which can stray from the sort of present mindfulness that you ideally want during meditation. Likewise, a 2013 study by University of Zurich researchers concluded that it didn’t really matter mentally or emotionally whether participants listened to music before doing something stressful, so whether you prefer musical or silent meditations is more of a preference thing.

If you’re an unpredictable grenade of turmoil like I am and enjoy a little music with your meditation, give peaceful meditation music a try. It might not fix everything, but it’s pretty sweet here in the matrix, bro.