Online Class Discussion #9 is open for comments April 3-9. The rubric I’ll be using to grade your participation and a description of these assignments is available here.


 

In class this week, we’re talking about how music is used in religious settings and rituals. One of the things that makes those religious experiences powerful and moving—beyond practitioners’ faith in their religion—is the fact that music can make us feel like we’re in touch with something bigger than ourselves, something otherworldly and often spiritual.

The idea of music having the ability to create transcendent experiences—something beyond the typical human experience, that lifts you out of the physical world and in which you feel a connection with God, the universe, or something equally cosmic—is something that’s found in many different musical styles around the world, so it’s a fitting final topic for our last online discussion this semester.

Flow

Think about a time when you were doing something—anything—and you looked at your clock/watch/phone and realized several hours had passed in what felt like the blink of an eye. Likely whatever you were doing was something that was mentally engrossing, it held your attention, it was enjoyable, it wasn’t so easy that you became bored (and at the same time it was challenging but not frustrating), and it was rewarding in and of itself rather than something you do to make someone else happy (the word for this kind of intrinsically rewarding experience is autotelic).

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist who has studied the ways in which people experience what he calls “flow” while doing activities that meet these criteria: talking to an interesting conversation partner, reading a book, looking at art, playing chess, immersion in religious rituals, athletic competition. Even though these are wildly different activities, they all produce flow, a unique kind of positive sensation for the person engaged in them: they stop thinking about themselves in a self-conscious way and no longer have a running inner monologue, they focus on the activity at hand and ignore other distractions, they lose track of time, they feel as if their decisions or actions are inspired or guided rather than having to directly make them happen (like they’re at one with what they’re doing), they’re often aware that their brain feels different while they’re doing this activity (that the feeling the activity produces is special), and overall they feel really, really good because of the activity. Flow is a heightened state of consciousness (meaning it’s not a mental state that you feel at most points in the day and you have to do something to gain access to it). (Csikszentmihalyi has also done an interesting TEDtalk about how you can use the concept of flow to lead a happier life).

Side note: “Heightened state of consciousness” is not the same as “mood” or “emotion.” Cognitively speaking, “normal” mental states consist of our brain functions throughout the day: having a perception, experiencing a sensation, having a recollection, or thinking about something. There are also mental states in which people are not wholly conscious and experience no emotions, such as pathological states like mania, panic attacks, anxiety attacks, and catatonia; and emotion-less dissociative states like daydreaming, hypnotic trance, and deep meditation. A heightened mental state is a more intense version of a “normal” mental state in which sensations and perceptions are experienced more intensely and vividly.

Flow isn’t an idea that Csikszentmihalyi invented, and he’s not the only one who’s studied it. Frank Putnam and Karen Nesbitt Shanor (1999) call it a “peak experience” or “Nirvana,” and when they describe it the emphasize the peaceful, euphoric feeling that people describe.

“Peak experience states are rewarding because they enable us to just be.  It is not as if they are a means to another end.  They are the end.  The individual does not feel the need to seek something beyond the experience.  There is only the wish to be able to re-experience such a state when it has faded.”

—Frank Putnam and Karen Nesbitt Shanor, “States of Consciousness from Infancy to Nirvana,” in The Emerging Mind, ed. Shanor (Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1999), p. 71

Flow is an enticing feeling. It’s something that I experience on stage performing, at home practicing, while writing, while in front of you guys in the classroom (sometimes!), while cooking, and while having a stimulating discussion with someone whom I find interesting. As a result, these are some of my favorite things to do—they’re enjoyable while they’re happening, they leave me feeling great, and they’re more vivid and inspiring than other things I have to do in my day-to-day life. In turn, I try to do these things as much as possible, since I know that they can put me in a mental state that other activities can’t.

Let’s look at some examples of how people use music to control their mental states and create a flow experience.

Shakuhachi

The shakuhachi is a Japanese flute made out of bamboo. One of the traditional uses of this instrument was by monks in the Fuke-shū sect of Zen Buddhism. Practitioners of this faith work to achieve an ideal mental state they refer to as Zen, which they describe as a physical transformation or sensation similar to that described by musicians of other traditions (and non-musicians that Csikszenmihalyi has studied): loss of ego, transcendence of individuality, weightlessness, time dilation, attentional focus, mental clarity, intense pleasure, and a transformed sense of self. The experience is not necessarily a religious one, but most practitioners do describe a sense of communing with or coming into contact with timeless, universal knowledge (through the ironically impermanent medium of sound) and emerging transformed for the better.

People who play the shakuhachi use the instrument as a means to achieve Zen (players call it suizen, or Zen that comes from blowing). Making a sound on the instrument at all is a difficult task (required intense concentration, one of Csikszentmihalyi’s criteria for flow), and players focus on controlling gradual, subtle changes in the quality of sound they make. Through years of study, they become more in tune with their bodies, become more intimately aware of the feeling of air moving through the instrument, and become more sensitive listeners—the control and awareness they develop are all ways to get closer to a Zen state of mind. Shakuhachi players regard suizen not as a momentary occurrence, instantaneous revelation, or passing goal, but rather as an ongoing process or lifestyle because it causes a permanent transformation of the self.

 

“The biggest joy of all to be found in the shakuhachi, however, is in the actual playing.  To describe it to someone who doesn’t play the shakuhachi is almost impossible, even more so when he plays no musical instrument at all.  For example, how would a bird explain to a human how it feels to fly?  With that in mind, I shall try to describe my feelings while playing any musical instrument.  There are times, rare indeed, when I’m playing along, and suddenly it seems that I’m not playing at all.  That is, everything seems to go on automatic.  My fingers continue to move, my lips adjust themselves properly, but my conscious self seems to be sitting to the side watching it happen, listening to the music with extreme pleasure.  And maybe once or twice during the five years I have played the shakuhachi, even the consciousness of the listener seemed to disappear.  Everything disappeared.  All that remained was the music of the shakuhachi.  Pure, timeless and eternal.  How does it feel to fly?”

—Riley Lee, “An American looks at the shakuhachi of Japan: 1 April 1986,” in The Annals of The International Shakuhachi Society, Vol. 1, ed. Dan Mayers, p. 114

 

This is a kind of music that isn’t intended for any audience—it doesn’t matter if anyone else is around to hear the sounds of the instrument (or even if the sounds are any good!). The purpose of playing is for the shakuhachi player himself (women didn’t traditionally play this instrument) to enter into a heightened mental state and return to the real world a better, more enlightened person. As an added bonus, for those who happen to be listening, the sounds are beautiful, as well!

 

 

Gamelan

Remember how we’ve defined “melody” in class as usually being the highest, most prominent line in a piece of music? This next musical tradition, gamelan, is a good example of why we have to say “usually” in that definition. The highest, most active, most prominent thing you hear in a gamelan piece isn’t the melody—it’s just an elaboration or decorated version of the melody.

IndonesiaGamelan is a percussion ensemble from Indonesia (islands of Java and Bali). The music is constructed out of hypnotic cycles of repetition, with the largest gong marking the beginning of each melodic pattern. Playing gamelan music is an act of group meditation: no instrumental part plays the complete melody—it requires all the parts interlocking to make the music happen—and everyone is locked in mentally and musically to what the other members of the group are doing.

In contrast with shakuhachi music, in gamelan both the players and the audience can have a deep, spiritual experience (a heightened mental state), because anyone who understands how the music is constructed can enter into it and leave themselves behind. This point of entry is the lagu batin (“inner melody”), which is the real melody of the piece, and the special thing in this kind of music is that you never hear this melody out loud in the real world. The inner melody only exists as a feeling shared by everyone involved in the musical experience. Each player focuses on it and mentally travels inward (instead of thinking about the surface) to find the musical “truth,” and the experience of traveling inward, of leaving one’s conscious self behind by becoming ever more deeply engrossed in the music and the music-making process produces a heightened mental state.

In this video, the dancers’ movements are generally slow, because they’re listening to the fundamental pulse of the music (just like the musicians are), not the fast sub-divisions that are played on top. The highest instruments (gambang, bonang) play elaborate and rhythmically fast lines; the leader of the ensemble (who acts like a conductor) plays one of these instruments. Middle instruments (slenthem) play simpler, relaxed lines that form the basic skeleton of the piece. The lowest instruments (saron, gong) play even fewer notes that are more structural, marking the beginning and end of rhythmic cycles. Drums (kendhang) add rhythmic clarity and often improvise new rhythmic ideas. Some gamelan ensembles include non-percussion instruments (flutes: suling, string instruments: rebab, female singers called pesindhèn) that play an improvised version of the slenthems’ melody. – All of this vocabulary is just to acknowledge that every kind of music around the world has as much going on behind-the-scenes or under-the-hood as Western classical music, and musicians everywhere develop vocabulary to talk about what they do with specificity, precision, and respect.

 

Other flow examples from the wide world of music

TOPSHOTS-TURKEY-DANCE-WHIRLING-DERVISH-FEATURE
Dervishes in Turkey

Instances of people becoming another version of themselves because of music are widespread and common across the musical world. In Sufi Islam, practitioners seek out religious ecstasy with the help of music. (Some sects of Islam forbid music entirely, others use sounds that an outsider might consider to be music but practitioners do not, and others, like Sufis, use music extensively). Dervishes perform a whirling dance while focusing on the music being played and their connection to God that allows them to enter a trance (a heightened mental state) and feel closer to God and the center of the universe.

 

Head is swimming on dance floorAttendees at a rave, too, use music (in addition to controlled substances) to feel a heightened sense of euphoria, connection with the people around them, or other non-religious spirituality.

People who attend concerts or listen to music can experience flow, too—as we saw in Online Discussion #3, listening can be just as active and mentally stimulating an experience as dancing or performing. For many lovers of classical music, especially, the feeling of liberation, of no longer having to be yourself, and of feeling a larger power at work (even if it’s not religious) is a big part of the draw and admiration for classical music. Judith Becker (2004) has explored this topic extensively and dubs people who seek out transcendental experiences with music “trancers,” comparing them to yogis and others who are able to control and alter their mental states at will.

hoffman, eta
E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822)

Descriptions of classical music from the 19th century are a gold mine for juicy, transcendental musical experiences. People believed music could offer them entry into unseen worlds and composers tried to deliver. Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (1776–1822), like many other listeners, first felt a connection with things beyond himself when listening to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, and this feeling (even though he doesn’t use the same words as Csikszentmihalyi, since he’s not a 20th-century psychologist), implies that he’s had a flow experience.

 

“Thus Beethoven’s instrumental music opens up to us also the realm of the monstrous and the immeasurable. Burning flashes of light shoot through the deep night of this realm and we become aware of giant shadows that surge back and forth, driving us into narrower and narrower confines until they destroy us—but not the pain of that endless longing in which each joy that has climbed aloft in jubilant song sinks back and is swallowed up, and it is only in this pain, which consumes love, hope, and happiness but does not destroy them, which seeks to burst our breasts with a many-voices consonance of all the passions, that we live on, enchanted beholders of the supernatural!… Beethoven’s music sets in motion the lever of fear, of awe, of horror, of suffering, and wakens just that infinite longing which is the essence of romanticism…”

—E.T.A. Hoffmann, Beethoven’s Instrumental Music (1813)

tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93)

Composers enter flow states, too. When he felt that his creative activity was flowing well and his concentration was high, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93), for example, described his ideal work habits in language that is almost assuredly an example of flow, a peak experience, or a heightened mental state.  His account includes time dilation, attentional focus (“I forget everything”), loss of his own identity which is subsumed by another (“behave like a madman”), and a bodily reaction (“pulsing and quivering”):

 

“I forget everything and behave like a madman.  Everything within me starts pulsing and quivering; hardly have I begun the sketch ere one thought flows [into] another.  In the midst of this magic process it frequently happens that some external interruption wakes me from my somnamubulistic state: a ring at the bell, the entrance of my servant… Dreadful are such interruptions.  Sometimes they break the thread of inspiration for a considerable time, so that I have to seek it again, often in vain.”

—Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, letter to Nadezhda von Meck 17 February 1878 describing his experience writing Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36

 

 

The science of flow

Music, like all disciplines, isn’t self-contained. It intersects with, abuts, and draws upon the other arts, sciences, mathematics, history, language, and sociology. To this discussion of transcendent experiences, music cognition, and the heightened mental state of flow let’s add physiology (pronounced fizzy-all-oh-gee), which is the study of how our bodies normally function: how our cells, biochemicals, and bodily systems all work together, react to the world around us, and keep us alive.

Physiology comes into play in music when we start thinking about how our bodies react to music: things happen when we like the sounds we’re hearing (our eyes dilate, our pulse changes, our body releases dopamine) — we have a physiological reaction to the music that’s involuntary, exciting, sometimes unexpected, and often enjoyable. Our bodies’ reactions help us understand if we want to hear something again (even if we don’t directly say to ourselves, “Wow, my cerebellum became quite active during that song; I’d better listen to it again!”) because we enjoy the way they feel, and we know that listening to music might be one of the only ways to feel those particular (enjoyable) feelings again.

In the following video, musician/researcher Deanna Choi at TEDxQueensU in 2012 (Canada) explains what happens to our bodies when we listen to music:

 

Final thoughts

I enjoy the fact that such disparate kinds of music from all over the world and different points in time are connected by fundamental points of contact: the experience that people hope to get out of engaging with music. In all cases, people are describing gaining access to versions of themselves and secrets of the universe that would otherwise be unreachable, and it’s music that provides that access. Being able to experience a shade of that same sensation in my own life makes me feel even more connected to the wide range of people with whom I share the world.

Despite having a shared end goal, each of the kinds of music in this discussion reaches that goal through completely different means: music that’s meant to be played but not meant to be listened to, music that is an approximation of the music people feel inside of them, music that is meant to be danced to, and music that adheres to the traditional classical model we’ve seen throughout the semester. That’s the fundamental paradox of music for me: that the closer it brings us together, the more clearly it highlights our differences, and this is what makes us human.

-Dr. J.

Questions to get the conversation started:

  • Describe a time that you had a flow experience: what were you doing that triggered it, and how did it feel?
  • If physiological reactions are involuntary, why don’t we all enjoy the same music to the same degree?
  • What kinds of music that can induce a flow-like state for you? What makes this heightened mental state possible for you (e.g., the sound or patterns of the music, the setting, accompanying activities)?

87 thoughts on “Music and transcendent experiences (Online Discussion #9)

  1. Sometimes I use the music to express my feelings for example if l listen to “What I’ve done” by LINKIN PARK, it felt like if someone did something wrong and I’ll forgive them. Another example is “Raging Fire” by Phillip Phillips, it is like I feel want to have my soul into a raging fire because it fills me with courage and strength to fight. Question to all: what music make you feel

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    1. I listen to a lot of music that makes me feel differently. Each song I listen to gives me a certain feeling. For example when I listen to disney music, it usually makes me happy.

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      1. What type of disney songs are your favorite? Also with disney songs there are some that are created on a sense of a happy occasion and some that is created solely for a time of grief or the rise of evil. Is it just disney songs in general because your inner child is glad that you’re still intertwined with Disney?

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        1. To royantilhoo April 8, 2017 at 1:36 am
          when I first thought of Disney music was “Let it go” from “Frozen” which was really popular after it was released!

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      2. i would understand why disney can uplift some one usually, disney music is very happy and upliftings.

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      3. Omg, I agree with you. Disney music make me feel happy too. The best ones are the emotional and sad ones like reflection Mulan.

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      4. When I am in church or listening church music I have goosebumps, and you have this shiver feeling inside. Like the holy spirit came and blessed you. Even non religious people get the same feeling. I think it very cool. You don’t really have to believe in something to know the effect of the church music.

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    2. Here Brandon, you are talking about your emotions which I think are different from being in the flow. In flow, you are absolutely in no control of yourself. You become aware and unaware of the universe around it. It feels like the final bus stop for you. You experience something stronger, better, greater and supernatural than you.

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    3. To me salsa music gets me going I like to be as close to my roots and having that pride of heritage through music is a big part of me. I can listen to the best and immediately start dancing to it. I know each and every time I listen to it I’m in my happy place. (It’s good workout music as well)

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  2. Music is used as one of the most common ways to relax. It is a way of escaping even if it is just for a few minutes. As an artist or a listener we tend to get lost in a song. Blanking out everything else going on around us. Sometimes while driving and listening to the radio I come across a song I like and it makes me feel like I am the only one on the road. Like it is an open road and I’m heading somewhere peaceful to get away from everyday stress.

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    1. Thats true I’m not a big music guy myself but when I’m on a train or bus listening to music make time go by quick because you feel as if you are somewhere else.

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        1. The music could take you anywhere depending on what music you are listening to and what type of music meaning which category of the music (rock, pop, gospel, hip hop, heavy metal, country, heavy rock, jazz, blues, contemporary Christian, classical, rap). And also the lyrics matter for it. For me, music take place where it is out of blue which is out of New York.

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      1. @alymarie97 well the fluent and soft melody creates a calming setting and mood when one is stressed and of course the message behind the song might help control other emotions like anger or sadness theres no specific reason of how but there are a few features that help explain it hope this helped 🙂

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      2. Music can effect people mood, for example, when you focus on one think, like a movie, you will follow what is the tendency of plot, it means it can effect your mind. some psychologist shows that slow music can help people relax, because when people feel stressful, they need something to help them slow down, and music can do it.

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        1. @jinfu9426 Is there any paticular movie that you feel affected your mood? Do you think it was the movie itself that made you feel this way or the music used during the movie that might have set you up to feel a specific feelling? For example in horror films, the creepy, suspensful music might help excite and frighten you. Music is very important in films. It adds depth to a scene and sometimes creates the tone of the film.

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      3. To me not all; music will help me relax. EDM actually gives me anxiety.If im trying to relax i tend to listen to Old rock, old hip hop.

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  3. This is for question one. I know this is not related to music but it is related to the flow experience. There was this one time when I was at Dominican Republic and my grandparents live in like a medium size house just surrounded by nature, when you walk up a hill that leads into a cliff a little deep into the woods you can see a giant forest and other hills while the sun is peaking behind one of the mountains, the sight of that alone felt inspirational and sent chills throughout my body.
    Here a question for you all. What sight that you have seen in person and music that you listen to send chills throughout your body?

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    1. Likewise from your experience, I prefer of nature because I love the greens of plants, mountains, sky with bright.

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  4. I’m a huge music fan, I listen to almost anything it can be pop, latin or rock music. It puts a ease when I ride the bus or when I’m on train going to work or coming from work. Perhaps when I’m a party where they play latin music, my body just reacts without me paying attention, it’s good feeling, but when it’s about rock or just pop it helps me forget about that’s stressful and body doesn’t react as much.

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  5. I love listening to music, I feel very empty if its missing from my daily routine. For example, I listen to music when I am traveling to and from places, I listen to music when I am studying, when I go to the gym, even in the house when I am bored. I even love music in movies, specially when it goes great with an amazing scene it makes the scene even more amazing. For example the movie Kingsman: Secret Service is a “spy” movie, but there is one scene in one of those hate churches and one of the characters was in the church and “attacking” people to the song “Freebird”, like it just made the scene ten times more cool to watch. (off track but I recommend this movie) Also it creates a better flow for the movie when there is an amazing soundtrack or score to it. There is also musicals and broadway shows that use music to tell the story in a different way. Or move the plot along but in a interesting way. Music is just something even if you dont listen to it often or you listen to it a lot, music is everywhere. Even when you go to the doctors office there is music playing while you wait. Music will just continue to grow, its defintely not going anywhere anytime soon.

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    1. I couldn’t agree with you more. Like you said listening to music is part of so many people’s every day routine and without music our every day routine’s would be a drag. Also great example, that scene from that movie was crazy and the music involved with it intensified it even more so. Could you imagine that scene with a slow paced song? I think it wouldn’t have been as intense or as good.

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        1. Maybe create a personal music on your own starting with any lyrics, beats, rhythms, melody and etc. Or just be remain as it is.

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    2. Yes! I agree! Sometimes, the music in movies can express the actor’s thoughts better than words! A simple example is a very popular piece in “Frozen” – ‘Let it go.’ I have to say that song is so popular! At that situation, singing a song can have more resonate with the audience. So I agree with you!

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  6. Describe a time that you had a flow experience what were you doing that triggered it, and how did it feel?
    – there have been quite some events where i have had a flow experience to briefly explain a few i would have to say reading. when I’m on the bus for some reason when i just go through my phone or listen to music it takes forever. for some reason though when i read while in the bus it’s like time speeds up, either time or the bus itself and that is strange and amazing at the same time. however there was a time when i was maybe in high school and it was over the summer when i had gone to Ecuador to visit my family. My aunts and uncles, my cousins and dogs, my family my childhood. back around that time there was no wi fi in Ecuador or atlas there wasn’t where i lived which was a small open spaced country land, any way based on that fact that there were no advanced i phones or wi fi me and my cousins spent most of the time talking and playing. i remember we went to a open spaced land we called “la playa” which means beach but it wasn’t a beach it was and still is a large space full of grass fresh air and tree’s. getting to the point me and my cousins started playing soccer for what seemed like 15 min at the time until someone kicked the ball into river, but that didn’t stop us one of my young cousins had a small rubber like ball that was palm sized maybe a bit bigger, with it we began to play american football (or at least our style of it). we never checked our phones or watches the only sign of time that we had was the sky above us and the weather. being caught up in the action having fun playing doing something i.. we enjoyed nobody needed to tell time nobody would want to because we didn’t want that moment to end at all. Al i remember is that we played for who knows how long and it started to drizzle and then it stopped it began to rain then it stopped the sun came and went it rained and stopped but even as the weather came and went we were still playing. it wasn’t until our bodies gave up of exhaustion that we stopped playing and it wasn’t until i thought back to this moment the i realized how long we had been there but how short the time felt. that is one of the first times i experienced a flow experience. I believe a flow experience mostly occurs when someone is lost in the moment doing something they enjoy something that takes their mind of everything around them and of time itself that we make these memories which we can look back upon things we did things that felt like minutes but lasted hours. It can’t be just me atlas 80% if not 100 of the student here have to have realized how time stands still when you pay attention to it and try to make it go faster but when its of your mind it just fly’s by which is another reason to say enjoy life to the fullest and enjoy these moment so you can have these memories to look back upon when your older.

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  7. a question to all students : it can’t be just me i hope its not anyway the question is the following is it just me or has time gone by faster every year? and what other things can make a flow experience why is it we can’t think about time to make it go faster?

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    1. Well for the question you have is time getting faster, the answer is no. Time can feel like its going by fast when you are enjoying your time, it makes us not notice the amount of time that has went by. However you may think time has slow down if you aren’t as happy because you spend more time focusing on when things are going to be done making you pay a great deal of attention to time. Also you can have a flow experience with any task, you just have to focus on what you’re doing and you’ll be immersed within the task.

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    2. Having full effect of the flow or as I would call it, Divine spiritual encounter demands consistent efforts. This is why you hear that some people retire early and go into the desert to seek self actualization and mastery. So, listening to particular music (or playlist), and (very importantly) knowing what you want, gets you into the flow. And even faster (gradually) each time you listen to the music again. Meditation Can make flow experience too.
      Another beautiful thing that can make a flow experience is being truly one and free in the field with yourself. Not concentrating or thinking to/about anything in particular.

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    3. Well to me time only goes as fast as you are busy. Time seems to fly by us nowadays, but thats just because we fill our days with school, work, social and family life. When you spend all day moving around and doing things it flies by way quicker than it would if you had just been lounging at home all day.

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  8. When listening to music i don’t achieve a flow like state with other activities. Usually when I listen to a song i concentrate more on the activity that I am current;y doing if i’m multitasking. I would usually focus on the activity and keep the song as background noise, I tend to block it out so I don’t have that sense of immersion. The only time I am able to get into a flow experience is when music is the primary objective and i’m more focused on the music. Thats how my mind works, whatever has priority will get the most attention.

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    1. Everyone’s brains work differently, for some music can be used to enhanced the task as if it was a shot of an espresso or something. But either way that’s your special way of how your brain works

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  9. i think many people like me, when we do some interested or busy, we will feel time is run so fast, but on the opposite side, when we do some boring, like biology class( I don’t like biology),i will feel why the time is slow, or when i waiting the bus, i will feel the time is to slow, because i am going to late

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  10. Music is a major part of my life. Without music I wouldn’t be able to connect with the world as much. The mood that different types of music put me in is amazing and at the same time surprising. For example, when I am at the gym listening to music with my headphones I feel energized and motivated. It just sets whatever type of mood that I want. Sometimes time goes by faster than normal when listening to music for me, mostly because of the connection I make with certain songs.

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  11. I think I experience the “flow experience” quite often actually when I’m either out for a jog or cooking at home. I enjoy listening to upbeat energetic music to match my energy and keep me going when I’m doing these activities. Both working out and cooking are activities that are not easy but can be very rewarding, so for me the flow experience helps me when I’m doing these activities. Does anyone else do the same? Aside from professional athletes (not myself) performing well or having a good game (being In the zone) I never really thought about it or labeled it as “flow” but more so as feeling it, really into it, or feeling the good vibes of whatever I may be doing at the moment. Before this discussion has anyone ever used the word “flow” to describe these experiences?

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    1. Not really, I just notice the change I had while performing on stage but never thought of it as something concrete like a psychological or even physiological phenomenon. I just called it my stage-self. I read an article once about how music affects the brain but beyond that never considered the existence of the “flow”

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    2. I can agree, listening to music while doing activities will definitely put you in a flow. It’s like the mixture of music and doing something physical makes your brain run wild. Maybe it’s the happiness in your eyes mixed with the happiness from the activity you’re doing that will almost always bring out a flow experience. Prior to this discussion I never used the word flow to describe these experiences though. In fact I don’t think I ever described these experiences at all prior to this discussion.

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  12. Dr. J refers us to Dianna Choi as an example of how a musician experiences flow when they perform. Can anyone think of an artist who goes as far as saying they become another person (alter ego) while on stage? I can give you one example, Beyoncé claims her alter ego when she performs is “Sasha Fierce” and she even went as far as naming an album “I am Sasha Fierce”.

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  13. I always thought that there were two sides of me as a performer. When I’m rehearsing I just play the notes and keep the tempo, but when I’m on a stage I just leave my body and music takes over. Even if I try, I can’t think about anything or anybody. There’s no audience, no fear, just deep communication between my instrument, my fellow musicians and me. It is really hard to describe but I’ve never been able to play with the same feeling in a rehearsal, the closest thing is when I’m recording but I think knowing that I can make another take diminishes the “flow” a little. Composing also gets me into the “flow” in a deep way but sometimes I get interrupted either by my cats or by my own frustration when I’m not achieving what I want sound wise speaking and it’s really hard to return to that state. I guess that there’s the magic on performing, there’s no redoing it, it’s just one take, one uninterrupted shot whether you like it or not. I wonder if any of you guys have the same, or maybe the opposite reaction to performing? If you have the opposite (entering the realm of the flow without audience), why do you think it is? What’s behind it?

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  14. I personally prefer to call it Divine Ecstasy. I don’t feel okay talking about it here therefore I will try to answer the second and last question.
    Why don’t we enjoy the same music to the same degree?
    It is quite obvious. It depends on our personality, the attention we give to the music and time/location when we are listening to the music. Everybody has a unique nature. And the way we interact and communicate with God is absolutely different. So, people who tend to seek Divine/positive spirituality, always get into the flow. They kinda have a foresight. They sense when something is about to go wrong. This being said, when they listen to a music, their attention in most cases are not drawn to what others’ are drawn to. Rather, they focus on creating connection with God through the music.
    Some other people have different personality as well. Those who do not seek spirituality but have a spiritual nature they are yet to find out. The universe seeks an opportunity to review their through person to them. In most cases, any little encounter with music (music with much vibration, mostly slow played with airy and stringy and instrument, that serve as a gateway to Divine connection), they get a glimpse of the awareness which in most cases leaves them immediately. It makes them long for it and begin to question themselves.

    What do you have in mind when listening to a music?
    What instruments are the music played with?
    What environment and time are you listening the music in?

    All these questions constitute to our being able to enjoy a music.
    You can’t expect to enjoy a music when other music are playing simultaneously. It will create divided attention and distraction. You can’t either try to enjoy a music when you are in danger. For example, when you are in tension that sick relative might give up.
    Being in the flow is absolutely real! You just need to focus. I can’t discuss what I’ve gained from music and meditation here. It is too many. It awakens your spirit of appreciation for nature, foresight and generosity.

    What kind of music?
    As I said earlier, mostly string or air music are best from my own knowledge. That said, does not imply that all other kinda music doesn’t give joy or get you into the flow. As the processed wrote, getting into the flow mustn’t be spiritual. It depends on what you’re looking for. But! Be careful! There are too many forces in the universal that you might jam with if not guided into it. This is why the kind of music matters. Proper manipulation of musical instruments regardless of type, helps to get you in the flow.
    For me, air and string music get in me most of the time. Like, classical, gospel or deep philosophical music.

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  15. we all know that , listening to music has an effect on us. It maybe the lyrics to a song or the singers voice that makes it powerful. Once the lyrics get stuck in your head, images that matches the lyrics will race through your mind. If you know Adele “Hello”, when this song came out i hated this song because i was tired of listening to it . this song was playing on radio all day and in every radio stations . i used to work at rite aid night shift and the store is so quite at night the only sound i would hear is the radio and guess whats playing on the radio? i was so tired of listening to it but however the lyrics got stuck in my head and eventually i ended up liking this song . now If listen to this song i feel like its a good song and the singer has a amazing voice and the lyrics are very powerful, and her voice makes it more powerful. this personal life experience applies to the fact that we all have different musical taste now the question is why? why we all have different musical taste ?
    its because our brains create “musical memory templates” based on past musical experiences we’ve had. Depending on what styles of music your brain has recorded, it will choose to reactivate them or not when listening to a new piece of music. Basically, your brain predicts how you’ll feel from a song based on similar music you’ve heard. If you’ve never heard classical music before, and your brain has no musical template for it, then you will feel bored or disappointed after turning on a new classical piece. This helps to explain why we all have different musical taste because we don’t have the same past musical experiences .i hope you understand the connection between the personal life experience and why we have different musical taste. The point is if i haven’t had the experience of listening to “hello” then i would not like it now.

    here are the links of the videos that i watched to understand why do we have different taste in music?
    1))https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93ydAz6y-Ck
    2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3wzSjKKvf4
    3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDfVsFxJXms
    4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LTusPwrH9E

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    1. I think is because we have the same feeling with the lyrics. Also, some song will teach us some knowledge.

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  16. When I saw “and the special thing in this kind of music is that you never hear this melody out loud in the real world. The inner melody only exists as a feeling shared by everyone involved in the musical experience.” I was thinking.
    What is a really great dancer do? Put themselves into the music. Are they dancing with music or the music follow them? When you see a show and question like that, you are really on a great show. It means that this kind of people is really touching the inner melody of a song. It not only happens to dancer it also can happen to anyone.

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  17. A time I experienced flow was back in 2012-2013 when I use to play Call of Duty and listen to music. The mixture of music and Call of Duty would give me a feeling of flow that I’ve never get anymore. It was usually while I was playing late at night, it would go from 12 a.m to 5 a.m and I wouldn’t notice until I started to see sunlight. In this state I was extremely happy, playing well, and it felt like a huge load was lifted off my back. What’s funny about that is that I had nothing to be stressed about back then so I had no load to carry. When I was in this state I always played good, felt good and the music sounded better. Flow is similar to what the COD community use to call “the zone”. While you’re in the zone you could do no wrong. You play better than usual and you notice every little detail going on in the game. I miss these times because I never feel that happiness or flow like feeling anymore. I guess as you get older you have to find new ways to experience flow.

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  18. This is going to sound weird but my version of “flow” is when I communicate with friends or people with trauma or help them get through dramatic stuff or just using comedy as a way to have a sense of release without any “conscious” the words just come out like wild fire.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more with you, the feeling you receive when interacting with others in need gives you a sense of compassion. It’s good to give then to receive and that flow might make this world a little better.

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  19. can flow allow one to connect with the people around us? Flow seems to be used for countless activities such as music, dance, comedy shows, etc. but can flow help us get to know people or help offer us a greater relationship with the people that we barely know or bring upon a highten companionship with the people we do know.

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    1. @ efer101 I certainly believe flow can allow us to connect with other people. There are times when I’d hang with my old friends (group of 6-10 girls i went to middle school with) and when we’d all talk about life, love, and our new experiences in life compared to those we felt when we were 11-13 years old; I feel like we all have a “flow”. For a moment, we are no longer 21 years old young woman trying to figure ourselves or anyone around us out, instead we are those same little girls laughing at the “better times”. Sure, we’re all still so young but that feeling of reminicsing and laughing and realization of how quickly time has passed, allows us to feel that flow. I forget my current worries and obstacles and simply enjoy their company. i feel blessed to have watched them grow and myself grow. I also find that when we sing old songs from middle school, we all laugh louder and you can sense the joy amongst us all.

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  20. i believe what really heightened my mental state is mainly the sound/patterns and the words that are being spoken. That is what mainly leads to me having an arousal and reaction to a song.

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    1. How might the composer impact your flow? In other words if you meet the composer, would it be different of an approach then your original with sounds/patterns? Why or Why not?

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  21. Describe a time that you had a flow experience: what were you doing that triggered it, and how did it feel?

    A time where I have had a flow experience was the first time ive watched the movie “Frozen” and the song “Love is an open door played”. The whole song put me in this jolly state of mind when I found myself to have stood up and start dancing to it. The instrumental and vocals just played a huge effect on this flow and it just felt uncontrollable to me.

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  22. i try to meditate as often as i can and everytime i do it , is a flow experience. The power of music in meditation is extremely important, for me the music plays a big factor in releasing tension and stress.
    I read in this article that music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slow the pulse and heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease the levels of stress hormones.https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-power-of-music-to-reduce-stress/ In the article, it talks about how even the sound of water ( rain, ocean )can relax some people

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  23. What kinds of music that can induce a flow-like state for you? What makes this heightened mental state possible for you (e.g., the sound or patterns of the music, the setting, accompanying activities)?

    Well disney music has an easy way of getting to me because most disney songs are cheerful and uplifting and those two factors can top any other feeling off you could think of. And most of these songs happen to be children songs and we all know how fun life was as a child so when I hear disney music. The flow it gives off just feels pleasent to the ear.

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  24. can someone separate a flow experience with a religious / spiritual experience? For example, an atheist or agnostic who does not believe in a supernatural being/ beings would be able to have a flow experience?

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    1. @allisonfdzc….An atheist can have a flow experience..remember a flow experience doesn’t have to be religious or spiritual. I’m sure atheists enjoy things in their lives that bring them great pleasure. The flow experience is that pleasure sensation they experience while doing something they love.

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  25. Before I head to work or school every morning I listen to my favorite religious song, preparing my mind for what’s ahead. I get a flow experience when I sing along to that song. It brings me a feeling of calm and without even thinking about it I am singing word for word before I know it I made it to where I have to be. Another flow experience I have is when I am cooking. It is like second nature to prepare a meal. I know all the ingredients I need I know what needs to be done without the use of a recipe and before I know it’s time to eat. In my opinion a flow experience is a trance and it is different for everyone.

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  26. When I saw the movies “Rocky 1-3” the music that had given me this flow of striving for greatness and inspiration was “Eye of The Tiger” because the song and the scene says it all. It defines Rocky Balboa as being intensely motivated and showing others that he’s worked hard to get where he is. Strength doesn’t come the next day, it takes months and years to achieve what he wanted, and that’s what made an impact into me.

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  27. there’s a time in my life when I believed I had a flow moment, this time is when I was younger and loved video games. When I was really interested in a game I used to turn on music in the background to keep me focused, doing that caused me to play for hours without noticing time was flying. Now that I looked back music helped me a lot playing video games.

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  28. @braheem50 You should read @mdonigan’s comment. He talked about feeling flow during video games as well. His game was C.O.D, what is yours?

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  29. I practice yoga and I’ve always heard about how great it was and what it did for your body, but until i actually tried it for myself, I didn’t realize the “Flow” it could provide an individual with. Yoga is all about flow or gradual movements that are continuous. The class i take does not play music. We are a beginner class therefore we try to focus more on breathing and awareness of the body. In these sessions the instructor will tell you to focus on what’s bothering you, and with the exhale of your breath, release those thoughts. The breathing technique is also used to help imgaine the tension or pain in a muscle you’re working, being removed with each release of air. The first class was more me trying to learn the positions and how to stand straight and bend properly. The next classes, when i started to focus more on my breathing, I felt that flow experience. As I laid in savasana (corpse pose), i feel my body becoming heavy, my mind relaxing, my breath creating a rhythm and my mental state heighten. After class I always feel like I’ve worked out and relaxed all at once. I suffer alot from anxiety and there are all kinds of things contributing to the stress and raging thoughts I experience throughout my day. But during yoga, I let go of all those feelings and enjoy the moment.

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    1. I agree. Yoga does tend to help us relieve all the tension we have when you are really focused and into it. I kind of like silence during yoga more than music because it kind of distracts me of breathing. I’ll tend to listen to the music more.

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  30. How do people incorporate music in their everyday lives? Can music be used in a negative way? If so how? What type of music is considered “as ease” for you?

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  31. I’m the type of person who gets bored easily!! I’m always having to do something at the moment if not I will fall asleep in about anywhere. Luckily for me music is the key to my tranquility for say. When I just need an energy boost or some cheering up to do my go to music genre has to be electronic. One of my favorite dj’s being major lazer! Major lazer has written several hits such as lean up, cold water and my personal favorite “light it up.” They use many different cultures in their music video and makes everyone from any country and any race dance to their beats!

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  32. (Part 2 my last post cut of) Electronic music is so diverse with so many sub genres. Some people just like listening to it in the clubs, once the beat drops the party goes insane. Electronic music can also be used at the gym when you are working out. You want your heart pumping to the beat of the song. It’s becoming so popular to a point where it just releases stress that’s why I personally like this music genre.

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  33. Is there something that can always put you in a flow or is a flow experience a rare occasion for you? If there is something that can always put you in a flow, what is it and why is it so powerful that in can always give you a flow experience?

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  34. Describe a time that you had a flow experience: what were you doing that triggered it, and how did it feel?
    I have a flow experience almost everyday. There is this kpop group called Bts or Bangtan Boys, that I had been a fan of for two months and when I listen to them I tend to go into another world and just listen to their voices. I get really excited when I hear them because they are really talented. Even though I don’t know what they are saying, their voices have a lot of emotions in their voices.

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  35. I have a flow experience almost everyday. There is this kpop group called Bts or Bangtan Boys, that I had been a fan of for two months and when I listen to them I tend to go into another world and just listen to their voices. I get really excited when I hear them because they are really talented. Even though I don’t know what they are saying, their voices have a lot of emotions in their voices.

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  36. I really liked the nature picture that Dr. Jones posted in the first page of the title. And I get to another type of Asian flute through this online discussion, it’s sound seem slightly different from Korean Danso . The video musician/researcher Deanna Choi at TEDxQueensU in 2012 (Canada) helps understand more about the music itself. It was a great source in this discussion.

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  37. I was wondering if anyone here use music for each people to memorize any that is an important fact or the study that they need to cover?

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  38. This happened when I was a YMCA counselor for the summer. I was told by almost everyone that I would be great at meditation and that it should be given a chance. So one day while on my break I decided to find the one room that was empty and just give it a shot. So I found a room that was nice and cool and decide the middle of the room is where I would meditate. So I crossed my legs and sat down on the floor. I closed my eyes and rested my hands on my knees as I tried to focus on nothing but my breathing. After a few moments of my mind battling to stay quiet, I was lost in the sound of the rumbling air conditioner and suddenly it was as if I was no longer there. Well, it felt as if I wasn’t there mentally but I could feel my physical form was there sitting straight up with no back support. When I awoke from my trance like state I had felt refreshed and to top it off I had awoken when I wanted to as if my body knew it was time to come back to the real world. This experience was amazing because for once I wasn’t thinking about a single thing and it was a way to relieve some stress. At the same time interesting to that my mind could go to sleep and my body could wake me in the same position without falling over in incredible.

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  39. I’ll never forget, three years ago in the summer. It was my first year as a counselor at a sleep away camp. I had met alot of new people and one in particular was my friend shane. Shane was my co-counselor and also a die hard rock fan. The first time I ever heard Pink Floyd Dark side of the Moon was on visiting day at camp. No one was in the cabin and shane put the album on and i remember just listening and being relaxed so much that we both knocked out for several hours.

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