Journal of Contemplative Inquiry


Music listening, a cultural practice most college students have in common, is well suited to mindfulness because music only occurs in linear time as it unfolds moment by moment. When students learn to listen mindfully to music or other external stimuli, they can begin to listen more attentively and objectively to their own thoughts. Cultivating the skill of external listening can help improve the skill of internal listening, thereby encouraging greater self-awareness. This paper describes the contemplative practices and experiences of students enrolled in two undergraduate liberal arts courses integrating music and mindfulness. The intent is to share, with other college faculty in all disciplines, a variety of experiential activities involving music as a tool for meditative practice. These include techniques for listening deeply, structuring appropriate musical activities for non-musicians, and using music to explore the basic attitudes of mindfulness. The most significant theme to emerge in these courses was the fact that humans can use musical experiences to understand life events. Through music, we can practice navigating dissonance, recognizing bias, suspending judgment, and paying attention to silence or to the spaces in-between.