It happened in 2011.
I was living in India and struggling with a bad episode of depression. I thought I had my depression and panic attacks under control, but I felt completely alone, even though I was surrounded by people. I was missing my family on the other side of the world. I was also feeling inadequate and regretted everything I had done in my life up to that point.
I was disappointed in my existence.
I did not know what to do, except eat crazy amounts of chocolate, drink lots of herbal tea, and read online articles about depression. Many pieces mentioned the wonders of meditation. Apparently, if I meditated daily, my depression would simply wend its way out of my body.
I felt in my heart that I wanted to meditate—but did not know how. A few attempts to follow some online guided meditations failed, and I ended up anxious, depressed, and frustrated. I tried to reason that perhaps meditation wasn’t really for me. I couldn’t just sit still and do it so I should probably try something else.
I was also busy. I thought keeping myself occupied was the key to warding off my illness. The old saying “an empty mind is the devil’s workshop,” kept drumming inside my head, and it would get louder whenever I found myself doing nothing. So I carried on with work and my chores. I was anxious, depressed, frustrated, and high functioning.
But, the idea of meditating was still appealing, even though the mere thought of sitting still for more than 30 seconds made me feel conflicted. It’s like I wanted it—I really did—but my body resisted going there with all its might. My mind would reason that it wasn’t doable. Then, as if trying to console me, it would tell me that it just didn’t feel right. In the heights of my frustration, it would whisper, “It’s wrong…you shouldn’t do it.”
So, I struggled, both with wanting to meditate, and the voice that kept on telling me that I shouldn’t. The pattern continued until the day I gave up.
And in that space of complete surrender to my ineptitude, meditation happened to me.
I came across an album and remembered it had been a long time since I’d last allowed myself the freedom to just sit idle and listen to an album from beginning to end.
My story of listening to music goes back to my childhood. I remember the lazy Sunday afternoons I spent in the company of my father. I remember how nice it felt to just lie down and listen to music with him. Sometimes, he would pause and teach me the “story” behind an album. Or, its impact on the world. Those moments spent with Dad evoke a sense of comfort and familiarity that warms my heart. Now, as I look back, it’s kinda sad that I did not continue with the habit as I grew up.
In fact, I’d become so impatient, that listening to a whole album didn’t make sense anymore. I would download only the songs I wanted. I had playlists of different artists. I felt that was the cool thing to do. I no longer needed to engage with a whole story. I could just pick the bits that best suited me. I could discard the songs I did not enjoy thoroughly. I guess I became a clear example of the fragmentation of modern living.
Somehow, that album felt so compelling I could not stop going back to it, time and time again. Whenever I felt like I was becoming too anxious, depressed, frustrated, or judgmental of myself, I would pick up my headphones, sit down comfortably, and give myself permission to soak in the story of that album for approximately 42 minutes.
It wasn’t a daily practice—but a playful one. I did it as often as I could, whenever I felt things were getting out of control in my head, and all without the awareness that in the mindfulness of staying with that album, I had found meditation. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the existence of that artist, and slowly began to feel less anxious, less depressed, less disconnected.
I now had music to resort to—and life no longer seemed so chaotic.
The journey hasn’t been easy. I moved countries twice, I had a few different jobs, and my personal life didn’t suddenly become a never-ending smile. I still struggle with depression and anxiety. Meditation has helped and continues to help me get through all of that. I try to do at least 30 minutes every day. I also completed a few meditation courses. Now, I enjoy sitting still, paying attention to my breath, and watching the thoughts as they come and go without trying to engage with them in any way.
And, I come back to that album whenever I get a chance.
I bow to the universe in gratitude for allowing me to find that music. I am also grateful I could finally begin to grasp something so complex, yet so simple, while doing a rather ordinary activity.
So, if like me you want to start a meditation practice but haven’t found your “beginning” yet, or if you struggle with finding a mindfulness exercise that suits you, then I suggest you try the following:
Sit comfortably, somewhere you know you will not be interrupted or disturbed.
Sit, instead of lying down, as you may fall asleep while doing it.
Find an album, preferably something soothing and relaxing, but more importantly, something that speaks to you.
Give yourself the time to listen to it from beginning to end, without skipping a song. Observe the music—be really present. Try to feel each note that’s being played. Pay close attention to the lyrics—savor the textures in the sequence of sounds.
See how your body reacts while you stay present and alert with the music.
Try to keep your eyes closed for the duration of the album.
It’s simple—like any mindfulness exercise should be. Yet, it can be powerful, and I dare say, transformative.
It won’t cost a thing, as you probably already have an album in mind that you would like to revisit. Or, if you like trying new things, you might end up finding some awesome music out there that really makes you feel connected to the depths of your being—a place where words come and go—but don’t really stay.
In case you are wondering which album began my journey, it’s Kate Bush’s “Aerial—A(n endless) Sky of Honey.” I highly recommend it. But, I know you will find something amazing too. In which case, please feel free to share it with me, as I love discovering new music.
Author: Flavia Simas
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Social Editor: Leah Sugerman