You can fill in the blank in the title. I might say . . . “are miraculous.”
I can remember back in college, I had friends who used to wear their headphones constantly. They told me they couldn’t study without listening to music. And I always found that hard to believe because if I’m listening to music, the only other thing I can do at the same time is dance. And I’m not so great at that either, although I have fun flailing about 🙂
I mean I can’t even go to sleep listening to music. Music just seems to engage some part of my brain that carries me somewhere else completely.
I’ve always been fascinated by how our brains work, and I just came across a study that concluded that people perform better on tests designed to measure their creativity while in silence than they do while listening to various types of background music. Background noise, like the activity going on in a library, had no effect on the subjects’ creative centers. But music, apparently, whisked those participants away to another land where independent creative thought could not reside.
Now I’m not sure if creative activity in our brains is the same as student study activity, but this experiment seems to demonstrate the powerful way music can capture our attention. The cognitive researchers theorized that the reason creativity is stifled when music is playing is that, “People may use their ‘inner voice’ to practice different word combinations in their head, and that voice gets drowned out when music is playing.”
And while the study didn’t go off in this direction, I think it also shows just how powerful our “inner voice” is.
Some call it “self-talk,” but I like the term “internal dialog.”
Not so ironically, the goal of meditation is to shut that non-stop, internal gab-machine off. Our internal dialog may help us with being creative, but it also can mislead us as to what our senses are really registering, and it can drive us crazy with incessant over-analyzing.
So, what’s a good way to turn that internal dialog into something powerful and healing? Drown out its never-ending wanderings with a consistent and harmonious tone. Use a different type of music, perhaps. With a different type of melody.
Simply defined, a Mantra is a sound, a syllable, a word, or a group of words that can help induce an altered state of consciousness. And that alteration can take on different forms ranging from calming the mind and body to making a blissful spiritual connection.
And you can do this by using either your inner voice or you can vocalize it out loud, but you must repeat it over and over until it takes over that jealous and controlling part of our brain that wishes to incessantly dictate the description of the world to us.
There are an infinite number of mantras and you can easily compose your own. My blogging friend, Ilka, often posts mantras that are designed to replace any negative feelings or thoughts you may be having with positive vibrations.
Here’s an example from her blog, Thousand Miles:
I have taken mantras, or created them, and used them in what you might call a practical manner, as opposed to using them motionless, which is fine by itself. I use them to call cadence when I’m hiking.
“Calling cadence” is using a modulation of your voice in a rhythmic fashion to coincide with each step you take. The military regularly uses this method to march its soldiers beyond their normal physical limitations.
And the effect of calling cadence on the mind and body is really quite miraculous.
You can cover much longer distances and endure great physical hardship when separating your mind from body. Your body can do more than you imagine if you eliminate the self-imposed mental limitations you place on it. And calling cadence greatly enhances the natural moving meditation of walking or hiking and can take you to a completely different mental plateau.
My brother called cadence for he and I once when we were hiking out of the Grand Canyon. Essentially mountain climbing in reverse, climbing back out of the canyon is extremely arduous, but with my brother calling cadence, we, with our 45-pound backpacks, flew by other people on the switchbacks carrying nothing more than a canteen.
Not long ago, a dear friend shared a mantra with me that you can apply to yourself or expand to include all of humanity – just choose the noun or pronoun you you wish to apply. I shortened the phrases to fit with my steps while hiking and it works like this:
May I be safe and secure,
(Left, right, left)
May I be free from suffering,
(Left, right, left)
May I be truly at peace,
(Left, right, left)
May I live happily and harmoniously.
(Left, right, left)
I start this mantra whenever I find myself getting tired. But like I say, you can use any combination of words or sounds to do this and you’ll be surprised how the miles fly by. And by how calm your mind will become.
You can also choose words to promote better health, mental or physical, or both, just like Ilka’s words above.
See you on the trail, and I will leave you “in Metta.”
Metta is derived from the Pali language, and it represents the following attributes: loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence.
Photo: I took this shot while hiking in the Southwest about a year and a half ago. I had paused my trek to enjoy the passage of a group of Whitetail Deer, and glanced down to see my shadow. I liked viewing the image with my silenced mind, the product of my internal chanting while I had climbed some 1300 feet in elevation without my body really noticing. The shadow sort of representing my disembodied mind and spirit 🙂
Side Note: Music fascinates me in ways similar to the way words fascinate me. There are only so many musical notes, but there are an infinite number of ways to combine them into songs. Correspondingly, there are only so many letters in the alphabet, but there are an infinite number of words and word-combinations to communicate stories 🙂