Writer: Erin Lee
This is a frequently asked question about mindfulness meditation. People often wonder about this because we tend to associate mindfulness with relaxation, and we feel that having soothing music playing in the background might just help us relax more and ease into our practice.
As a Mindfulness Coach, I don't usually use music when I'm guiding a meditation, and the reason is simple and three-fold:
1. Firstly, relaxation is not the intention of mindfulness practice. We practice mindfulness primarily for developing a set of skills and attitudes, and not for feeling relaxed. Therefore, there is no real need for incorporating relaxing music into our practice.
2. Secondly, when we practice mindfulness, we are learning to work with our experience as it is, and this includes cultivating an acceptance of how our natural environment is unfolding in each moment. Deliberately introducing music into our meditation reflects a resistance towards the way things are and a desire to change that experience.
3. Lastly, the presence of music can potentially distract us from our practice. Music tends to invite thoughts and emotions (even in a relaxed state), and the mind may easily get pulled away from the present moment to dwell in memories and fantasies, which doesn't serve the purpose of our practice.
All in all, I would not recommend introducing music into a mindfulness practice for the above reasons. There is of course nothing wrong with listening to music; in fact, music can do wonders for our moods and wellbeing. I would recommend enjoying it as a separate activity from mindfulness meditation.
You may observe a discomfort with silence as you practice. It helps to understand that there is a tendency for the untrained mind to feel bored when it perceives "nothing" to be happening in the experience, and hence seek music as a form of stimulation (or distraction from what it doesn't like).
Learn to work with this discomfort by observing what arises within the body and the mind, one moment at a time. Invite curiosity to the natural ambient sounds (e.g. traffic in the distance, air-conditioner vent, etc.) that may be present in your environment from time to time. Sooner or later, the mind will find ease in the natural soundscape and learn to rest with however the experience presents itself.