Learn how to live more peacefully


Most of us can probably benefit from learning to be more focused, to listen more deeply, and to be fully present instead of juggling multiple ‘thought projects’ at once. We can practise this skill through meditation, but deepening our music listening can be another intentional way of developing these valuable mind states.

One way of doing this is through a practice called repeated listening. We choose a piece of music about 3 – 5 minutes long. We set aside 20 minutes in a quiet place and take a few moments to steady our mind, perhaps with a few minutes of meditation on the breath. When we feel             ready, we listen to the same piece of music four times, each time focusing on a different aspect.

For example, if we chose Dream 13 by Max Richter from my Mindful Music Listening playlist, our focus may be like this:

1st time – focusing on listening to the piano

2nd time – focusing on the cello

3rd time – imagine yourself as a tree – the cello is the roots reaching deep into the earth, the piano is the leaves rustling in the wind

4th time – feeling the music in your whole body.

The particular areas of the music you focus on will depend, of course, on the music you’ve chosen. Sometimes you might focus on a solo instrument, and the next time on the accompaniment, or the harmony, or the bass, or tone colour. One of the times through can be to simply listen to the piece as a whole. We can feel the music in our body, or harmonise our breath with the music, or notice the shifting of harmonic patterns. 

It is helpful to decide ahead of time which four aspects you will focus on in turn, so the exercise can flow smoothly once you’ve started. After the final listening, allow yourself to sit quietly for a few minutes, noticing how your mind and body are feeling. If you find this practice beneficial, you might like to come back to it regularly, possibly using the same piece of music each time to further deepen your experience of music listening. 

Anja Tanhane