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Tuning In to the Universe

by E. McAuley 10 months ago in list

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"Tuning In to the Universe" by E. McAuley

It's Monday, 3 a.m. I'm drifting in the dark, eyes burning as I swipe up to look at just one more post. Then one more. And one more after that. I want to sleep, but I can't stop. Something restless and immense is prowling at the back of my mind. If I set my phone down and close my eyes, I'll have to face this existential dread.

That's too deep to go at 3 a.m. on a weeknight, so I keep scrolling.

Future me is gonna be really irritated when my alarm goes off in the morning. But that's their problem, not mine.

More scrolling and the minutes peel away, one by one, later and later. There doesn't seem to be any off-ramp for this digital Möbius strip.

Not until a singing monk wearing headphones comes sliding into view.

The unexpected silliness of the image draws me in, bubbles up as a laugh that doesn't get past my lips. The letters L O L float through my brain, but fade away into the fog of insomnia. I push play.

All My Loving (Beatles Cover) - Rev. Kossan

There's something entrancing about the raw sincerity of the performance. Is Rev. Kossan a professional singer? Maybe not, but the way he slides from performance into silence is effortless—it's the way I wish I could fall asleep. And the quiet pause for meditation is long enough to hit the reset button on my brain.

But truth to be told, it's the smile at the end that really does it. The warmth of his relatable, self-aware expression relaxes me completely.

I breathe deep, set my phone down, fall asleep.

* + .

Tuesday, 3 a.m. Habit brings me back to the unsettled glow of my screen.

If I really want to sleep, I should meditate. It would work. Last night was proof enough of that. Watching someone else meditate put me out like a light.

But my mind is Rilke's panther turning circles around a cage. That thing in the back of my head? The dangerous thought I keep circling? Here's what it is: I'm afraid of the stillness and the quiet. Even if I could get my brain to shut up for ten minutes, what if silence only makes more room for the monsters lurking in the corners of my awareness? Or even worse than that—what if the emptiness proves to be truly empty? Irrefutable proof I'm disconnected from the universe, and I'm too tired to be that broken.

My thumb taps the screen. Pauses.

But Rev. Kossan's smile. Okay? It's still in my brain. The universe is looking out from behind that smile, telling me meditation doesn't have to be performed with sterile solemnity. It doesn't have to be intimidating.

What if I follow his example? Why not let music shape the silence, like tidying up a room before making myself comfy? Kossan's video is like a love song from the universe, and it would only be polite to sing one back. I know just the one, and I hit play.

Cosmic Love - Florence + The Machine

My voice is rusty. I have a snowball's chance in hell of capturing the powerful nuance of Florence's voice. How does she convey “accusatory” and “loving” tones all at once? I don't know, but I vibe with it and it's a pleasure to simply try.

My heart is glittering by the time the last note falls.

I breathe long, deep, and slow.

In my mind, I curl around this spark of contentment, breathe on the tiny coal—and beg for it to stay by my side.

* + .

Wednesday, 3 a.m. Back again, but I already have another song in mind. I'm starting to think my phone could be my friend and not my enemy.

Last night I vented some angst, so tonight's selection is an apology for starting off this meditation thing grumpy. It's time for something a little more upbeat, a love song for the universe without any reservations.

Bella Luna - Jason Mraz

I sing off key and jumble the playful tongue-twisters, but that doesn't matter. My voice feels better for being used, and by the end of the song my lungs are ready to take in a long, deep breath before I close my eyes. I[m getting the hang of it. It's easier now to set the phone aside and vibe to the feedback of my body.

I drift in the cheerful memory of the music before plunging without a ripple into dreaming.

* + .

Thursday, 3 a.m. Look, staying up late is a hard habit to break. Maybe it's just who I am. I'm not prepared to sing karaoke every night, but if meditation is going to compete with the siren song of scrolling, I need something a little oddball to keep my interest.

I find an old favorite, one I first heard performed live as the violinist danced across the stage in bare feet.

Nocturne / Bohemian Rhapsody (Medley) - Lucia Micarelli

Micarelli's violin is soulful and yearning, a musical needle and thread stitching together abstract images in my mind. I flow with the melody, breathing alongside the strokes of the bow. I know what's coming, but I can't help but laugh as the music coyly shifts, rises, and explodes into the familiar rock rhapsody.

It's a kind of catharsis. My soul feels lighter by the end. My breathing is steady and slow. This dark space before sleep feels more friendly than it ever has before.

* + .

Friday, 3 a.m. No more drama. It's almost the weekend, after all. Freedom is a spark on the horizon, and before I tumble off to dreamland I want to have some real joy in my heart.

All the Stars (Kendric Lamar Cover) - DSharp

I feel the vibrations in my bones. DSharp's violin is emotion and life. I close my eyes and thump my hands against my body in time to the beat. Even if my mind wanted to wallow in misery, this music would obliterate demons on contact.

Silence doesn't seem so scary when I've got songs like this one on my side. The echoes stay with me as I settle, breathing in deep, breathing out slow.

* + .

Saturday, 3 a.m. I've finally found something Present Me and Future Me can agree on: Musical meditation is fun. My body clock is starting to remember the nightly ritual. It's getting easier to slide from social media over to my music, pick a song, and let the sounds carry me away from the immediacy of my stress.

Laughter Lines - Bastille

Tonight I'm traveling through space and time with a smile around my eyes. There's hope in the strange theremin warbling and bittersweet lyrics of this song. I hum along—sometimes following the words, sometimes the instrumentals—and the reverberations in my chest assure me there's a time for everything. All these splitting branches of time are connected to the same tree.

I'm rooted and nourished by the sounds, soaking in the time-stream of the universe, ready to grow into whatever happy stories may be waiting.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat, as always.

When sleep arrives, it's an old and long-missed friend.

* + .

Sunday, 3 a.m. One more sleep before the weekly cycle starts again, one more song to break through the clouds in my mind. Now I'm riding the thermals into the sky instead of beating my thoughts against a perpetual storm.

Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World (Medley) - Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo’ole

I float on the currents of music, held aloft by the smooth charm of Kamakawiwo'ole's voice. The upbeat tune is sunshine in my mind, and the verses are waves, washing away every grain of negativity. When the embrace of silence floats down around me, I feel safe and loved in its arms.

No, the world may not be perfect (and neither am I), but I'm starting to feel less and less like I have to control it. I mean, hey, I might still be up at 3 a.m., but now I know how go to sleep when I want to.

My own little bedtime meditation ritual, it's simple: All I do is jam a bit with my friend the universe. Remember to breathe, deep and slow. Then settle into the night with a smile.

* + .

list

E. McAuley

Musings from a wandering mind.

Read next: 7 IMPRESSIVE BENEFITS OF MUSIC: A COMPLETE GUIDE

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