A recent study published in the Harvard Gazette put forward the idea that mediation before a high-stress activity can improve performance and focus. Catherine Kerr of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School (HMS), wrote, “Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.”
How does this pertain to high-performance audio? I’ve long maintained that “serious listening,” when audiophiles sit down, close their eyes, and just listen intently to music, is a form of meditation. As a longtime meditator I’ve noticed the similarities between my mental state after several minutes of serious listening and several minutes of meditating. In both instances my ability to focus on minute details without distraction is vastly improved.
According to the Harvard article, “Brain cells use particular frequencies, or waves, to regulate the flow of information in much the same way that radio stations broadcast at specific frequencies. One frequency, the alpha rhythm, is particularly active in the cells that process touch, sight, and sound in the brain’s outmost layer, called the cortex, where it helps to suppress irrelevant or distracting sensations and regulate the flow of sensory information between brain regions.” Meditating (and serious listening) increases the brain’s ability to focus on the alpha rhythm.
Unfortunately, multi-tasking, that modern mental skill that’s learned at an early age and then practiced continuously until death, is the very antitheses of meditation. And multi-tasking has become the standard mode of operation for most modern humans, especially adolescent humans. Given this current state of human mental affairs, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the thought-pendulum swing back towards meditation and focused single-tasking as a counter-balance to our increasingly distracting modern environment.
The next time you sit down for some serious music listening, compare your ability to focus and center yourself before and after your listening session. Chances are that you will be more aware after several minutes of listening than when you started. That’s the power of meditation and alpha waves…