Does your brain pester you with endless to-do lists, intrusive thoughts, fears and doubts? Do you have trouble falling asleep because your mind is racing? Has anyone told you that you overanalyze things or you think too much?
This is the curse of a busy mind. Commonly used remedies to escape this condition include healthy options such as prayer, meditation and exercise, and less healthy options such as drugs, tv, and alcohol. Hey, no judgment here. We've all had those nights: "I just want to not think for a while!"
Personally, I've found transcendental meditation to be the remedy. But for me, like many people, meditation didn't come easy at first. How do you "get there"? Try using sound.
Focusing on a specific type of sound is a great way to train your brain to behave itself. You can train it to slow down, just like you train a dog to behave appropriately, by meditating on simple tones. (Sit! Lay down! Good brain.) Voice- guided meditations and relaxing music are nice, but what I'm referring to is less complex: pure tones of one, two, or maybe three notes. An example is Pythagorean Tuning Forks:
These forks are tuned at specific frequencies and played together, sounding intervals (such as, a perfect fifth) which creates sine waves. This is what the musical note "A" looks like:
This is what an A major chord looks like (A, C#, E):
Looks familiar right? Have you ever seen an EEG of brain waves?
Certain types of sound vibration can ease your brain waves down from a Gamma or Beta state (between 15-120 cycles per second) to an Alpha or Theta state (4-12 cycles per second). This is what causes the deeply relaxed, dreamy feeling achieved during a vibrational sound therapy session. (Click here to learn more about vibrational sound therapy.) With practice, you can achieve that same mental state whenever you need to, through sound meditation.
If you haven't had much success quieting your brain in other ways, such as with a mantra or breathwork, then focusing your attention on pure, simple sound may be just the ticket. Tuning forks, singing bowls, chimes, gongs, and the human voice are all good tools to explore. In-person sound waves from the instrument work very well, but listening through a technological device using headphones or good quality speakers with surround sound will do just fine.
As a reminder, relaxing music will not have the same effect. It's a clear, uncomplicated auditory reception of the sine waves that we are seeking. Here is another example, using Theta Forks:
It can take some getting used to. When I introduced one of my teenagers to it he said, "Mom, I feel like the aliens are coming." He gave it a chance though, and after just 2 or 3 minutes he was feeling good and relaxed. His nervous habit of constantly tapping his foot or drumming his fingers ceased. Afterwards, he enjoyed the state of alert lucidity that often follows a sound meditation.
I found his comment insightful. Living in the modern world, our ears have been subjected to a chorus of complex, multi-layered sounds since the day we were born. Being confronted with such pure, simple tones does indeed strike us as an out-of-this-world experience at first. I think it surprises our brain, and that is why it's so effective at achieving a state of completely relaxed awareness.
For younger children, and adults who don't enjoy the sound of tuning forks or singing bowls, here is another way to employ sound as a tool for quieting a busy mind. Find a comfortable place to sit (anywhere is fine, but a peaceful spot in nature is ideal) and close your eyes. Focus your attention on the sounds of birds, crickets, the breeze blowing through trees. If you are hearing cars go by, snippets of conversations... that is ok. Don't try to block them out. Focus even more intently on what you are hearing. Draw the sounds in through your ears and give them undivided attention.
Your brain may start to pester you with the usual stuff: "This is boring. What should we make for dinner? There's a bunch of laundry to do." Just catch it in the act, forgive it, and move its attention back to the sounds. I like to illustrate the idea (especially to kids) with this brief video from the tv show Yo Gabba Gabba:
Like the animation in the video, let your ears be filled with sound. "Listen to the ocean, listen to the forest." With practice, you will find that focusing your attention exclusively on sound quiets your busy brain. The result? Peace.
Wishing you sound spirit, sound mind, sound body.
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