Prompting the feelings
Using music as a way to tap into my emotions
I meditate daily. I have for years, but it's been even more important since the world changed in ways I never imagined. First, there's the stress and grief we're all feeling from the pandemic. Second, I'm going through personal heartbreak. Third, I miss, and cannot see my family, due to them being out of state, and I have a fractured right foot.
So every day, I'm alone. I'm an introvert, so I figured I'd be fine with this arrangement. As the year wears on, not so much. I'm extremely lucky that I have health insurance, a job where I can work remotely, and I recently got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. All good things. However, I find myself crying out of nowhere, seemingly unprompted. I want to know why that's happening. I see a therapist, sure, and she says it's grief - grief for many situations.
Except, that doesn't really help in the day to day. My meditation time has turned into a time where I lay down, begin to breathe, and hit "play" on the playlist embedded below. I have trouble accessing my more distressing emotions on purpose, but I need to feel them as I go into meditation so I can let the feelings flow through me and maybe, just maybe figure something out or reach some sort of epiphany. Music, for me, is one of the few surefire ways to get my feelings to connect. So I lay down, shut off the lights, close the blinds, and hit "play" on my phone as I start to breathe deeply.
M83 - "Outro"
Sometimes when I listen to music, I don't immediately listen to the lyrics. This song resonates with me. The synth qualities, plus the use of silence, tugs on my heartstrings. There's something melancholic about the music itself that induces the feelings of grief I hold inside. I can't quite make out the lyrics, but there is one that sticks out to me every time, "Facing tempests of dust, I will fight to the end."
The song continues, and even has an uplifting or hopeful quality to it (especially after the first crescendo), and that not only helps me tap into the grief, but it also helps me tap into any shred of hope for a better future that I have.
Majical Cloudz - "Downtown"
I'll admit it. I first heard this song while watching "The OA." After the scene this is played in, I could not get it out of my head. There was this odd beauty to the song that I absolutely wanted to embrace. So I bought a copy of the song, and put it on my "Big feelings" playlist that I use for my morning meditation.
There's something about the reverbs, and the deep tone of the singer's voice, that helps my muscles relax. It's a very mellow song, though the singer does hit some very well-timed belts from time to time. It's still an emotional song, but after starting with M83's "Outro," this helps me stabilize the powerful emotions I feel, and helps me through the first phases of my breathing exercises. At this point, I start thinking about the muscles and bones in my feet, imagine them relaxing, and work all the way up my body by the time the song is done.
Maxence Cyrin - "Where Is My Mind"
So...you might start getting the impression that I watch a decent amount of television. Generally, I don't, but since the pandemic, it's pretty much all I have. I was watching "Mr. Robot," and when this cover of The Pixies began, my jaw dropped. The original song itself is artful, in my opinion, and evokes emotions and memories for many (especially anyone who's seen "Trainspotting"). Then Maxence Cyrin adapted the song for piano, and it became something that hit me straight in the gut.
Now, I realize that for those of you who do chakra work, that I do this in a nonsensical order. That's okay. Everyone has their own process, and this is my own personal way of getting past my noisy brain and into the feelings that live in my body.
After the song begins by hitting me in the gut, the overall melodies and beauty cause a sensation in my lungs. It reminds me not only of the pervasive melancholy I experience, but also of the beauty in my life. As I relax my muscles upwards and breathe deeply in and out, I think of my mother. My sisters. My brother-in-law (who is also a dear friend of mine). I also think of friends who have loved me throughout the years, despite all the messy and chaotic versions they've met while I've been on my journey through emotional maturity. After the gut punch, the sensation I get in my lungs is a relief. It brings me a step closer to catharsis.
Maxence Cyrin - "No Cars Go"
This cover of the Arcade Fire original is in a slower tempo, and to be honest, it helps me slow my breathing after feeling intense emotions from the first few songs of the playlist. My breathing slows, and I work on relaxing the muscles in my arms. My heart and lungs take refuge in the slowed down version of this song as a piano cover, and I calm down ever so slightly. I still feel everything I did before, but I put this song in the playlist as a stabilizer. The beginning of the cover also reminds me of the beginning of "Claire de lune," which is nice.
It's at this point in the beginning of my mediation that the intense emotions I feel start spreading throughout my body instead of being locked in various places. This song is like slowly dipping oneself into a warm bath. I soak in the feelings. I remember from the earlier stages of this exercise that people love me, and I'm going to be okay. The melody continues, and reminds me to breathe in and out, nice and slow. It also holds a tinge of hope, which I don't normally get from the original version of the song. The simplicity of the piano cover gives this song a new resonance.
Ed Sheeran - "Give Me Love"
When I was at the beginning of the crossroads of my life that I find myself in, I was visiting my mother. She lives next to a prairie and many walking paths. I would put my headphones in, and listen to this song. Part of the grief that I'm feeling is from a breakdown in my marriage. Before I moved out from our home, I visited my mother to have some peace and quiet so that I could work through my tangled feelings.
I truly do want love. So, Mr. Sheeran singing, "Give me love!" brings me to tears in normal circumstances. In mediation, it reminds me that much of what I'm dealing with is loss of love, and a gain of loneliness. The song itself is chill enough that it doesn't interrupt my muscle relaxing. At this point, I'm relaxing the muscles of my neck and shoulders, and thinking about all the tight muscles around my skull. My breathing starts to include sighs of relief. Yes, I still feel awful, but at this point, I'm reminded why. This is good, since the previous songs reminded me of the love that I do have, and receive, from my lovely friends and family.
At this point, the muscles in my body are relaxed. I hit pause on the playlist after this particular song finishes. I then let my mind drift and empty out (if it feels like it), and instead of focusing on my feelings, I can feel the softness of my mattress, the fluffiness of my pillows, the sweet sensation of the breeze coming through my bedroom window. It doesn't always happen in my mediation sessions, but it's usually at this point that I find myself simply being, taking in the moment as it is.
Fault Lines - "Just Like My Heart"
I have to thank one of my sisters, and probably "Welcome to Night Vale" for this song. The last time I was with my sister, she played this while she made bao and we danced in the kitchen. Naturally, I don't play this song during the meat of my mediation session. Once time has passed and it's the moment I need to come back an re-engage with the world, I hit "play" on my playlist again, and this song is the last one.
It's a little more uptempo than the other songs on this playlist, and it mixes a message of tiredness and strength that I feel all the way into my bones. The talent of the singers, and the percussive beat of the song help motivate me to slowly stand up from my mediation session. I'm ready to go make a pot of coffee, and be both strong and vulnerable. Just like my heart.