Is Sound Meditation Really True Meditation?
I often get asked by people who have been studying meditation for a while if we should meditate in silence, which seems more traditional, rather than using sound and music which is very popular at the moment. Is one right or better than the other?
As so many of us lean into meditation during these challenging times this is definitely something worth discussing for those really into the path of meditation as a tool for self-discovery.
THE SHORT ANSWER
The very essence or core of meditation is traditionally practised in silence. It’s about leaning into that silence so deeply that secrets of the universe become known to you. So the very short answer to the question is silence is the ultimate. Sound, however, is a powerful preparation for silence, almost like a tool so that we can perceive the silence. For example, you notice light more easily when you compare it to dark. Sound allows us to be more aware of silence. But if sound is always present it’s obscuring something deeper for you to tune into.
Silence underlies everything in the Universe, and it’s silence that is a gateway for deep meditation and self-discovery.
SO WHY DO WE USE SOUND?
Sound is extremely useful and important in helping us to prepare for meditation. Therefore we use sound when we are practising meditation techniques such as breathing or mindful movement.
Often there is confusion between ‘meditation’ and the ‘meditation techniques’. So for example, breathing is a wonderful meditation technique to help us to find calm and come into a different state, but when you are in deep meditation you let go of all the technique and just be, stilling in relaxed awareness.
Meditation techniques are of course amazing, wonderful and very necessary, but they are just the preparation for the ‘main course’ of sitting with yourself in silence. The reason why we use sound with many meditation techniques is that sounds have an extremely powerful effect on our bodies. This has really caught people’s attention in the last few years with a huge rise in sound baths and sound therapies. Just as sound as the ability to make us jump up and down and lose it on a dance floor, the right sounds have the ability to calm us, help us slow down and feel more relaxed.
Pretty much all cultures use sound in ceremonies before spiritual rituals and meditation. It’s an important preparation, a gateway. Very few people can just leave their day and sit and meditate with zero preparation, it takes a long time of practising to do that. However, to sit and breathe with relaxing music first, makes sitting in silence so much more achievable.
UNDERSTANDING THE POWER OF ENTRAINMENT
The way that sound works is through a process called entrainment. What’s that? When you hear a song you like and you start tapping your foot to the beat, that’s entrainment. The energy of the song is affecting your own energy and rhythm. When we hear a dance track we often want to ‘go out and dance’ and then a relaxing track can make us want to sleep. Many cultures use shamanic drumming to create trance-like states, as the drumming happens in such regularity that it impacts our brainwaves.
I use this principle in my Electronic Music Meditation classes where we actually start with techno that has a shamanic beat to move and shake too. This faster rhythm is what I call ‘meeting people where they are at’ after a stressful day. When your mind is busy and you’re stressed and then someone plays some calm music, often it’s such a different frequency from where you’re at you want to punch them in the face!
If your mind is busy sometimes, it can be really good to start with a faster rhythm and frequency to process or let go of stress and frustration, and then slowly bring the energy down which is what I do in my Electronic Music Meditation Classes.
MEDITATION MUSIC WITH A TWIST – ELECTRONIC MUSIC MEDITATION
The beats and bass in electronic music are very tribal and rhythmic and particular tracks can help to entrain our brainwaves into a gamma state. Pairing this with breathing techniques helps us to stay focused and present and prepare ourselves to sit still afterwards.
Ambient electronic music can be a wonderful follow on to calm us and relax the body into a parasympathetic state. When the body and mind are relaxed then it’s so much easier to glide into the meditation bandwidth. What I love about pairing meditation techniques with electronic music is that it makes meditation super accessible and fun for everyone. So many people who’ve never been able to meditate before often find this really helps them to connect and ‘drop-in’.
Over the years, as well as continuing my own research and playing with different sounds and meditation, I’ve studied sound therapy and how music affects the brain and I began to understand why electronic music and meditation worked together so well.
Meditation is about connecting with our being, the aspect of us that is eternal, unlimited and full of potential. We are human beings but are only ever really taught to connect with our human aspects like our mind, thoughts and emotions. Meditation helps us to connect to the more subtle ‘being’ aspect of us. The meditation techniques prepare us to slow down, relax and become more aware all at the same time. This is sometimes referred to as tuning into the meditation bandwidth – the place where you access that sweet spot of your being and meditation just flows. I find electronic music can really help prepare us to get into that meditation bandwidth and prepare us to be more receptive to silence and stillness.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN AN ELECTRONIC MUSIC MEDITATION CLASS
I pair the faster electronic tracks like techno or electro with shaking the body. This may sound odd at first but it’s honestly amazing. It is a quick fix to get rid of frustrations, negative energy and all the stresses of the day and really come into our own energy. It’s liberating, refreshing and has a very natural yet surreal relaxing effect when you stop. It’s brilliant if you need to shift energy quickly and don’t have time for 90 minutes of yoga.
Belinda Matwali is a meditation teacher and electronic music enthusiast who is passionate about making meditation accessible and fun for all.
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