Music As An Entry Point to Happiness
Imagine growing up without music in your life? I did. My parents never really made music a priority or something fun to do together, and I had a love and thirst for it. Of course, I listened to the radio and choreographed dances; heck I had a whole film or music video play out in my head, and many times I’d act it out, in the drive way, to the passersby.
As a child and young girl, I never took any music classes or workshops. I was a Brownie, and a Girl Scout. We sang songs, but that wasn’t the same as creating, playing, exploring with music and my voice. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I discovered I could sing and play guitar. I was elated and played every single day. I wrote songs and even performed. I wasn’t that great at first, but I didn’t care. All I wanted was to play. It brought a joy out in me that I didn’t know was possible. Music became a channel to my happy place. It also took me to the raw places that needed to open up and heal. It still does.
We all have an entry point to our happy place, and there’s many practices available to helping us get there. What I really find is that happiness is already inherent in us. We are simply being guided to turn our attention to it time and time again. Perhaps much of our culture is in this bad habit of complaining/gossiping, looking at our sorrow, and falling into “victim mode.” We know of the Dalai Lama and his teachings to awaken us to our truth. There are many American teachers of yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices, and so on. We have Americanized gurus, like Dr. Wayne Dyer, and we have heard of Indian gurus who have come to the United States to spread love, light and help awaken us. Awaken us from what? These gurus are considered “realized awakened beings.” Basically, we are all awakened. We just don’t realize it, and they do, so what’s keeping us from realizing it? Our minds.
Sometimes it’s hard to digest the teachings of these wise ones, and then applying them is another feat. Our society has not been colored with this way of life. As long as we have a perceived notion of reality, the truth will always be skewed. The truth of what actually is rather than what we think it to be. We may be close to it, or far from it. There is a spectrum, and we are all unique in this way. On the other hand, we are all the same in that we all have our own way of seeing things. The premise is when we awaken to our “truth,” we come to understand the permanence of who we really are, which is love. We have the ability to discern between our own definitions of reality and reality as it is. With that there is a deeper sense of wellbeing, an underlying state of happiness, joy, and compassion, and an acceptance of what is in each moment. This is what people are coming to awaken to through practices like yoga, meditation, and music.
In addition to teaching children’s music and movement, yoga and meditation, I teach a Buddhist Meditation course at Temple University, Ambler campus. I see time and time again, the challenge that arises for each participant to incorporate meditation on their own time at home. After taking the course, they realize the importance of meditation, but they worry that they will not be able to discipline themselves to continue practicing on their own. We are very much an individualistic society, where we have lost a sense of community. This is where community is your support. In this case, I suggest finding or creating a community where you can do this practice with likeminded people or any practice together for that matter, such as music!
Like yoga and meditation fosters the development of bringing you into the present moment, out of your head and into your heart, so does music. Every time you engage in it, you are coming home to the moment. While the intellectual and educational aspect of learning music is important, so is the aspect of educating the heart and the emotional being. This is something referred to as Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and is considered to be as equally important as IQ for life success.
When I began teaching preschool and parent/child classes in 1999, I was trained to teach early childhood music education to facilitate the process, in which children develop basic music competence. The key to their development is not only my role in the class, but the preschool teachers’ and/or caregivers/parents’ participation, which ultimately assists in laying the foundation for music in their child’s life. This experience through consistent attendance supports a strong musical base where their child learns basic rhythm and how to sing in tune. Studies show that they are already born this way; we are just holding the structure in place and nurturing their natural abilities to continue into adolescence and adulthood, and we are nurturing their heart and emotional being, as well.
In my program, Children’s Music Express, we teach early childhood music, yoga and meditation through conscious teaching where we see the child as a whole being, and not just an intellectual being. As we facilitate the process of learning music, we hold space from a deep sense of love, trust and creative expression. Holding space for children, and their families in this way, gives them permission to let go, come out of their head and into their heart. Through conscious teaching, this occurs naturally. It’s the ultimate gift that keeps us wanting more of this experience. We gather in our classes as a community. Yes, parents’ see their child developing musically, socially, cognitively, but what shines the most is when they see their child happy, and that breeds happiness.
One of our longtime families said it best, “It’s pure magic, and the smiles on my children’s faces say it all.” ~ Amy Blum, Elkins Park, Pa
Music can absolutely lead to your happy place, a calm mind, and a healthy heart. When you’re happy, your child’s happy. When your child’s happy, you’re happy. It’s a perpetuating cycle of joy!
Even Plato understood the mechanics of music, “I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” This learning also includes, educating the heart. Check out this article, Educating the Heart – One Song at a Time from The Dalai Lama Center for Peace & Education.
I encourage families with young children everywhere to take time and explore music with their little loves. I find that parent and child music and movement classes are a great precursor to taking kids yoga classes too. There’s actually a yoga practice, called Bhakti Yoga, which is the Path of Devotional Love. This very much involves music, specifically in the genre of Kirtan. For more information about Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan, watch this short interview with Kirtan artist David Newman (Durga Das), founder of Yoga On Main, one of the first yoga studios in Philadelphia.
Find a music class that your child loves in your area, and commit to it. Stay consistent. When it comes to young children exploring music, it can sometimes not seem that they are connecting with it or participating at first. This is normal. It’s new to them. It’s stimulating. There are multiple learning styles. They may just want to watch and observe for a while, act it out at home, and after some time, you will see them begin to blossom in this way in and out of class. One parent shared with me that she noticed her daughter had a new heightened sense of confidence in her dance classes that she hadn’t had before after she began attending music classes. Some children will show immediate and obvious signs of joy at the first exposure to music. Either way, be patient and trust the process. Just like exercising and dieting, we will not see the results if we do not commit to a consistent, ongoing schedule. Same with music, and not only does the child begin to learn basic music competence and present moment awareness, but parents do too. Bonding with your bundle of joy through music truly is a beautiful practice and experience to share with one another.
May music bring you joy in someway today!
Peace, love, and music,
Photo by Melissa Hassey at www.melissahassey.com
Music for Your Little Loves