How level 3 works
A key aspect of mindfulness is learning to recognize and play with the size and scope of one’s focus; to either lean forward and turn attention toward a specific object, or to sit back and cultivate a wide state of awareness, watching all contents of mind come and go equally.
This technique is easily emulated while listening to polyphonic music. Composed of numerous, simultaneous elements, this music proves a powerful object to use in practice. Through narration, we help guide meditators toward states of narrowing and widening focus, asking them to place attention on either individual lines, or the entire music as a whole. Since true mindfulness expands to encompass all contents of mind, we extend the practice further, asking meditators to become aware of thoughts and feelings lurking in the background of their mind in addition to the music itself, and to notice the spatial relationship between sounds, thoughts, and feelings.
One goal of our mindfulness course is for users to recognize distractions at continually deeper and more subtle levels. We work toward this by asking meditators to turn attention to these background contents. We call these lurking thoughts and feelings “the contents of the gaps.” Since they’re distinct from the music in the foreground, targeting these background contents with attention proves easier during a MusicMind session. Building on our established tools, we have users identify the spatial information of these background thoughts relative to their globe and relative to the music they hear overtop/in front of these contents.
To make the practice more sophisticated, we use both musical dynamics (volume increasing/decreasing) and textural changes in the sound to modify the perceived intensity and direction of the music. In other words, the music begins to feel as if it’s either “growing” into or “retreating” out of one’s mind. All the while, we ask meditators to keep their attention turned toward the contents of the gaps, and to notice the impact that growing or shrinking music has on the background layer of thoughts and feelings.(In general, we expect growing music to suppress background contents of mind, and vice versa).
This gives meditators yet another tool with which to observe thoughts; to notice how the size and immediacy of a more intense thought overpowers and “crowds out” a less salient thought/feeling. Achieving this perspective bolsters a meditator’s ability to observe, rather than participate.
In level 3, we use music to establish the relationship between spatial awareness and thought.
We begin by having meditators practice widening and narrowing focus between individual sounds in the music, and the music as a whole.
Next, we help meditators to become aware of the background contents in their mind which sit behind the music, what we call “the contents of the gaps.”
Finally, we decrease and increase the intensity of the music to help meditators practice noticing the growing and shrinking of the background contents of their minds.