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Generally, meditation is something practiced in the quiet of the mind to get back in touch with your essential nature. Whether by following the breath or repeating a mantra, the standard way that it's taught is in silence. But there are many ways to enhance the experience depending on your goals and intentions for each meditation, and what kind of meditation you do. Some people enjoy meditating by a river or waterfall or even joining a crystal bowl group session. Sound can be a wonderful aid because it gives you an island of sensation to float to and from.
Not everyone has easy access to the outdoors and those who live in busy cities have to deal with the distracting sounds of traffic. No matter what your situation is, there's something really easy you can use at home in your practice: music and soundscapes.
Why is music helpful?
Most ambient meditation music is designed to be incredibly relaxing. Putting on a short track that fades out is very helpful for those who need just a little help in the beginning of their meditation to help them wind down and get into the right state. If you need something to last the whole meditation, find slow music that isn't too distracting. Even the repetition of a slow singing bowl with a mantra can be hugely beneficial for tapping into the silence within.
You also may have heard of binaural music or binaural beats. This is a type of music with specific vibrations designed to help you in many ways. Some beats are soothing, others are energizing, and some are made specifically to nourish creativity. Binaural music requires wearing headphones, so a lot of people do them as quick pick-me-up meditations on lunch breaks.
What about soundscapes? How do they differ from meditation music? Some soundscapes certainly have music in them, but what sets them apart is that they're intended to evoke a feeling of being in a different space. A koi pond soundscape may have sounds of water and wind chimes, or the gentle patter of footsteps as someone passes to tend to the garden. Other soundscapes may have the occasional chirping bird or the sound of a breeze. There are even more specific soundscapes, like a library with a crackling fireplace, or the sound of rain in the city at night. Everyone has different sounds they associate with feeling not only relaxed, but safe and warm.
Whichever kind of music or soundscape resonates with you, know that there's no wrong way to use them in your meditation practice. Take the time to listen to some and see which sounds make your chest feel lighter. Anxiety and stress tend to wind us up so tightly that we don't take deep enough breaths. Any sound that makes you breathe deeply is going to be beneficial during meditation. There are even soundscape generators online so that you can fine-tune your experience to your exact needs. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad meditation.