LISTENING BEYOND HEARING
From the time we were babies drifting off to sleep to lullabies, to teenagers with headphones on jamming to the latest music, to last week when we were stuck on a call with customer service enduring hold music, at any point in our lives, at any given time, there's music and sound. Even our daily routine is marked by sounds: the buzz of early morning traffic, the sound of email notifications throughout our workday, the soft rustling of leaves during our afternoon walks - our environment is filled with different rhythms and melodies.
When we pay attention to certain sounds, we sometimes find that they stir something within us - evoking a feeling or an emotion, a thought, or a memory. The impact of sound on our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being is significant.
Exposure to certain types of music has been found to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, and even improve cognitive function. There is even a famous study that suggests that listening to classical music enhances focus and memory retrieval. But even before these studies, vibrations and frequencies have been used for centuries in various cultures for healing and spiritual practices. Throughout time, vocalization, mantras, songs, or hymns have been instrumental for people seeking to feel more grounded and connected with themselves, with one another, and with nature.
These findings may come as little surprise as even today, many of us instinctively play a particular song or find comfort in the sound of a loved one's voice in times of stress.
At Equinimity, we recently explored how sound enables us to find a deeper connection to ourselves. At our last EqU class, Sound and Rhythm for Wellness, participants received a sound bath - an immersive, full-body listening experience that nourishes the mind and the body using sound waves produced by healing instruments such as singing bowls, percussion, and chimes. It was a relaxing, meditative experience that reminds us of the restorative power of sound.
What is wonderful is that full-body listening or embodied listening is not exclusive to sound baths. It is something that we can integrate into our everyday lives. Embodied listening is the process of tuning in and becoming aware of the physical sensations and movements that arise in our body in response to sound. It is a way of engaging with sound that is more than just hearing - it's about being present with the experience of sound and feeling it in our body. For example, when we listen to the sounds of nature, we might notice that we breathe more deeply and slowly.
Whether we are taking a break in the office or winding down at the end of the day listening to our favorite record, we can practice embodied listening to check in with ourselves and experience the sensations that arise in our body. Through this process, we can improve our understanding of ourselves and become immersed in the present moment.
Embodied listening allows us to balance our energy - improving our mind-body connection and expanding our consciousness.
A few ways to ease into embodied listening:
1. Start by finding a quiet place where you can sit without distractions.
2. Choose a sound to focus on, such as your favorite song or the sound of birds outside.
3. Take a few deep breaths to calm your mind and body.
4. Notice any sensations that arise in your body in response to the sound. These could be feelings of relaxation, tension, or anything in between. Do you feel energy in your arms as if you’d like to sway to the sound? Do you feel your shoulders drop or the space between your eyebrows relax as you breathe?
5. Take your time and allow yourself to fully experience the sound and the physical sensations it evokes.