If It Helps You To Sleep
by John Justice
illustration by Chuck Farmer
I am so overwhelmed by the severity of the situation I now find myself in. It damages my calm so much that I’m running away. Actually, I’m racing away, as fast as my car can take me. Things feel bleak. I analyze the situation from a billion angles, but it’s no use. I can’t figure this one out. I can’t even hear myself think. I have to slow down. I take three deep breaths, put on “Rubber Soul,” and suddenly I realize… I’m already home. And things seem a little less bleak.
Even on my worst days, I’ve proven time and again that music is my most powerful remedy. It is an unshakable mountain ready to bare the weight of my heart at any moment. It can stop me dead in my tracks and transport me through time and space. Even a few seconds of my favorite albums will bring me straight back to the present moment, just as it is; objective and without illusion. I find this connection between mind and sound so incredible, and yet so often unnoticed.
One of my new favorite authors, the Noble Prize-nominated Thich Nhat Hanh, has been known to go into great detail about an extremely powerful mental technique known as “Bell Meditation.” In this traditional practice, Buddhists monks positively exploit the mind’s innate ability to subconsciously recognize and respond to repeated sounds. (Students of science might equate this to Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning. But I believe it goes much deeper than training dogs to salivate on command, or Dwight’s inexplicable desire for a breath-mint.)
Through intimate and continued time spent observing the sound of a bell, even a small bell, accompanied by entering a peaceful state of mind, we can train ourselves to instantaneously return to that place of mental tranquility every time the bell sounds. Again I find this unbelievably miraculous and yet so overlooked in our part of the world. (I wish Western science would spend more time validating these life altering psychological exercises and reduce their time developing far less effective pharmaceutical alternatives.)
If repeated practice can have such a deep affect on our peace, our happiness, and our mental endurance, invoked from only the natural and simplistic sound waves of a pocket-sized bell, how vast are the treasures waiting to be unlocked amid the final “mix-downs” of our favorite recordings? What cerebral riches are yet to be discovered inside their innumerable vibrations and the complexities they create as they collide together through the void between speaker and ear?
I think it’s time we stop overlooking the power of our own mind as well as the phenomenal enhancement of that power available to us through music. How much more content would we be if our great times were even greater and our not-so-great times weren’t really that bad after all?
Music is my immediate alleviation from stress. It is my unwavering calm in constantly changing winds. It boosts my energy faster than any digestive process. It amplifies any activity and accentuates the often unnoticed levels of beauty in my peripheral view. It paints the most enthralling murals in my imagination and it weaves an enveloping tapestry for my mind’s eye. It is truly my daily medication.
“There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway, a song that they sing when they take to the sea, a song that they sing of their home in the sky, maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep, but singing works just fine for me.”