Music as a Quest for Quiet

Portable music has never been on the checklist of items I need for my run. In order to benefit from the active meditation that a long run provides me, I need the quiet mind. Letting my thoughts run their course while I work my body through the motions of a long jog, seems like good medicine. Over and over and over again until the repetitive thoughts are tired out and there’s room for mantras and epiphanies or just a sort of acceptance of what is. Whether it’s a day where the elements do not make for incentive to get out there or my body is tired, either physically or mentally – or – I am full of energy and the sun is shining and happy thoughts feel manic, the the quiet mind produced by body work feels necessary.

Similarly, when I walk to wherever I’m off to, which is often, as I walk mostly everywhere I go, I never thought I should listen to music. Whatever the tech was of the day, Walkman, Discman, iPod or iPhone, I am not sure why, but I never took advantage of their uses.

I listen to music in the bath or the car or when I’m cleaning the house, but, not, while exercising.

Part of the reason, I didn’t use my phone for music, in recent years, was because it had long been well past it’s best-before-date and the battery often died within an hour of being unplugged, even if simply idling in my purse. About a month ago, I did one of the things I don’t enjoy doing (shopping), and I visited the Apple store for an upgrade.

With an updated phone in my possession, I started wondering if I should consider using sound as a buffer from both external and internal assaults to my nervous system. Externally, living in a city can be wonderful. It’s easy to walk places. The motion of living, in it’s many forms can be comforting to an urbanite like myself. But, increasingly, distracted and oblivious drivers and pedestrians, numerous construction sites, and other realities of a busy city, have become triggers for me. Internally, the hormonal shifts happening within my body, at this time of advanced perimenopause (I’m not sure “advanced peri” is a clinical term, but I’m not “officially” a year without a period, but I’m well on my way, and do I ever FEEL like I am in menopause) are like assaults to feelings of ease some days, and I am doing all I can to deal with these new feelings. Combine the internal assaults with the external ones and could I ever use some music. Or, some uplifting chatter.

I have also never enjoyed “talk radio” and I have been slow to warm to what often seemed like the formulaic quality of podcasts. However, about a month ago, I started listening to podcasts on my walk to work. I’ve always been worried about safety, if listening to music or similar while walking in the city. I feel as though I need to be alert to cars a lot of the time. But, I figured I could practice both listening to something, and still, paying attention to traffic. I started listening to Julia-Louise Dreyfus’ podcast, Wiser Than Me. I’ve also listened to some episodes of 99% Invisible (and learned a lot about the “Frankfurt Kitchen” and Margarete Schutte-Lihotzky). While being moved by Julia’s discussions with Ruth Reichl and Gloria Von Furstenberg and others, it does seem to help me keep my nerves at bay. Other human beings are not as annoying as they could be. Or, perhaps, I am not as annoying in my anticipation of disturbances to my peace of mind.

So, this Sunday, I decided to try listening to music, while running, for a change. I don’t have AirPods, so I used my iPhone headphones and secured my phone in my running belt. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but this morning’s run hit all the right marks. Early teen Nicole, who left her gym uniform at home and who didn’t like to run across the street, is still amazed that she finds bliss in running. But there it was. The sun was shining. It was early and quiet in the city. There was a lovely breeze. And, I was listening to music. I think the music may have made my stride a bit slower, actually, but who cares?! At one point, I even felt like putting my arms up, in the victory lap way, as one does when they cross a finish line. I wasn’t anywhere near the end of my run, but I felt like lifting my arms and taking in my surroundings, in my stride. I did so, momentarily, and then wondered what other’s might think. Then I thought, don’t make yourself smaller, raise your arms. I did so, a couple more times, briefly, but I think I need to practice that, without feeling self-conscious. I still felt a bit like a nerd. But, a happy one. Also, I like nerds. We could all embrace more of the nerd side of our beings.

A portion of Nicole’s run along Coxwell Avenue. Maybe doesn’t capture the bliss of the weather and the moment but it was perfect. Pictured is the sidewalk ahead, with grass to the right. A blue painted cement wall to the right. A bride/overpass ahead and some trees lining the road. Blue skies above with a couple airy clouds.

I wasn’t sure if I would still need my mantras at a certain part of my run, but about 3/4 of the way through my run, I found myself still saying my mantras to myself, beneath the music. I found that interesting. I can use both the music and the mantras at the same time. Embrace. Thank You. Etc.

One of the reasons I never took up music while running is because I don’t want to become reliant on it. My plan is to still have “music-less” runs. Perhaps, my shorter runs during the week. I’ll experiment. But, I enjoyed my melodic journey this morning. I may need to go shopping and buy some AirPods.

Nicole P. is discovering music as a way of quieting her mind while moving.

3 thoughts on “Music as a Quest for Quiet

  1. I am wondering what you mean by over reliant on music on your runs and what the danger is? Is it the loss of autonomy? Or something else? I have had those same thoughts and have gone back and forth on podcasts/music or not. Currently very much in a podcast or book mode.

    1. I have never felt like I need anything to go for a run. I have heard people say they can’t run without their music. I don’t want to feel like without music I won’t still have a good run. To start out that run that way, psychologically.

    2. I will say, also, one of the things that helped me change my mind about trying it in the first place, was a colleague’s comment about her walking practice. We were talking about things we do that our good for our minds and a number of people said they run/walk/etc. She said that she did walk everywhere but she was starting to wonder if it is really good or efficient use of her time. I do think it is but, also, maybe it’s ok not to be alone with my thoughts the whole time while walking/running. Like it gave me the opportunity to question my assumptions about what makes it a good practice. With or without music or a podcast. Also, I see myself listening to books soon.

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