Lots of people will charge themselves up for a workout with music. They’ll plug in their earbuds and play their era’s version of Eye of the Tiger. The associations your brain makes to that music lead you to react chemically, which in turn gets you physically aroused and you feel stronger. You can choose music to stir an emotion but that system works both ways. That’s why Rene Zellweger is playing All By Myself at the start of Bridget Jones Diary. We can musically incite emotions or, emotions can incite our musical choices.
So if you’ve loaded some angry music up on your player it’s to match your tone. And that holds for whether you feel happy, energetic, tired or contemplative. That’s why Songza is divided up by mood. So people are already sound-tracking their lives. And more and more that’s what they’re doing. They’re not listening to music as many will argue. They have morphed into sound-tracking their thoughts.
In a previous blog I mentioned a test where I pulled out a bunch of people’s earbuds as an experiment and I asked them each what they hearing. Shockingly few had any idea what song they were just listening to. They were lost in thought. So we gotta get you un-lost. That way you can enjoy life more fully by living it more consciously and deeply.
Think of your emotions like you would think of listening to your song choice. You choose them from playlists of possible thoughts that fit into various genres. So you have happy songs or sad songs or angry songs or victim songs or worry songs or blame songs and you go through your day and you keep choosing a song for the current moment. You either say it to yourself or you say it to other people but unless you’ve practiced being internally quiet and open, you always have something playing on your emotional tuner. It’s only a matter of whether or not you’re aware of what kind of song you chose.
Fortunately you have the perfect feedback mechanism: you can check in with how you feel. Make that simple thing a habit: every 15 minutes check in with how you feel. Know that you chose that playlist out of countless. Yes, your boss or lover or whoever might have highlighted some tracks they strongly suggested you play, but that was then this is now. You’re an adult. You can run with scissors. You get to be truly powerful as a person when you know that the choice is always yours despite whatever apparent pressures appear to exist.
Whether you pay attention to it or not you’re listening to music all day. You feel emotions all day. Stop putting more time into your musical choices than you do your emotional ones. Because you can blame others for how you feel. You can blame a situation, a diagnosis, a parent, a disease or any other thing and that’s fine for a time. But eventually you have to explain Stephen Hawking. You can use your personal thinking to crush yourself out of existence or you can expand yourself to the ends of the universe. The choice is yours.
You are the universe’s HP3 Player. The Human Potential Player. You sit in potentiality, with the world suggesting a song and you choosing one, the world suggesting one and you choosing one. And you cycle through life like that one moment, one song, one feeling at a time. You never have to worry about the future because you have all of those choices in between. And you can forget the past because those are songs already played. The band cannot take them back once they have graced your ears. You can play the same song again, but you can never hear it again for the first time.
If you pick some angry or sad music every now and then there is nothing wrong with that. But don’t dwell unnecessarily for too long in any emotional state you’re not finding genuinely rewarding. To surrender that choice is to deny the legitimacy of your own music, your own song. And that’s a big deal. Because the universe created you with no other purpose than to sing it. So go sing. Confidently and aware of your choices. You are loved.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.