(This week is the 28thinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about your soul’s diet. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
EDGAR CAYCE(Twentieth-century American clairvoyant)
“Once you finish reading this poignant little story on page 43, there are some reflection questions for you to answer. Everyone should have enough time to finish this assignment and hand it in before the class ends. On your mark, get set, go.”
And they were off—reading. In theory. In reality, getting twenty-five grade-nine students started is not at all like an Olympic sprint start. It’s more like a baby crawl. A few immediately start out in the right direction. Some wander off in all directions. A few just sit there and cry.
“I don’t have a pen.”
“What page is it on?”
“Oh, were we supposed to bring our textbooks?”
“Can I go to my locker?”
I strolled up and down the rows, checking on the progress of my religion class and trying to keep everyone on task. As I came up behind George, I could faintly hear the monotonous, mind-numbing thud of rap music. I noticed the little white wires of earbuds emerging from his tangled hair, trailing down over his shoulders, and disappearing into the pouch of his hoodie.
“Please take out your earbuds and focus on the assignment, George,” I said.
“But listening to music helps me concentrate,” he said as a justification.
“That’s possible—but not likely.” I glanced at the textbook on his desk. “If you were really concentrating, you’d have your book opened to the right page,” I noted. “It’s not quite that simple. Music definitely affects us—in many ways. For example, learning to play a musical instrument clearly helps develop our brain, particularly the neural connections between the left and right hemispheres. Listening to music, however, mainly affects our mood and state of consciousness. It’s unlikely to help with concentration because the brain cannot learn or concentrate on two things at once. The key to better learning is focused concentration, not distraction.”
As a musician, the last thing I want to say is, “Shut off the music.” But listening to music has gotten completely out of hand.
“The counselor said I should do it—that it would help me,” George said.
“Hmmm . . .” I was reluctant to contradict a colleague. As well, I find there is occasionally some benefit to the practice. But my personal observation is that it’s usually counterproductive. Students using earbuds consistently produce the least work of the lowest quality. The music they listen to is distracting. And the students in question are generally the most distractible.
“Tell you what, George,” I said. “How about today you shut off the music and try to focus on reading quietly without it? Make a sincere effort, and let’s see how that works.”
George was polite enough to acquiesce, but I doubt it had any long-term effect.
What Edgar Cayce said in the opening quote has been known for thousands of years. It’s also been confirmed by recent scientific research12. Different music affects us differently—increasing or decreasing various frequencies of brain waves, activity in various parts of the brain, even changing blood flow in the brain. In short, happy music makes us happy, sad music makes us sad, calm music calms us, and inspiring music inspires us. No surprise here.
We often choose music that reflects and deepens our mood. For example, we listen to sad music when we’re sad. It takes more maturity to consciously choose music that elevates our mood and state of consciousness. But we can be deliberate about it. Choose your music—choose your state of consciousness.
In our society, music has become both ubiquitous and mindless. When I go lane swimming, why am I subjected to the persistent thumping and unintelligible screaming of some kid’s idea of “music” reverberating inside the concrete echo chamber that is a swimming pool? When I go grocery shopping, why am I bombarded with offensive rap “music” I wouldn’t let my kids listen to? I’m convinced that nobody even thinks about it anymore. That’s why I call it “mindless.” No one is using their mind—at least not productively. I dropped by the local stationery store the other day, and the music was so obnoxious I grabbed some pads of paper and beat it out of there as fast as I could.
“Jeez, that noise is terrible,” I said to the checkout girl. She gave me a blank stare.
“That horrible music you’re playing,” I added to clarify.
“Oh,” she said calmly. “I didn’t notice it.”
What’s wrong with this picture? We want to hear the voice of God whispering quietly to our hearts, yet we don’t even notice the terrible noise assaulting our ears? This isn’t going to work. I’m sure you are different, dear reader, but our society as a whole is so numbed by external overstimulation that people cannot possibly perceive the subtle spiritual realm.
Let’s take a step back. It’s obvious the world around us—our external environment—affects us. Music affects us. Advertising affects us. Movies affect us. Other people affect us. Everything that enters our consciousness affects us. We need to ask ourselves, “What consciousness do we want?” That was part 1: preparation.
There is way too much information, way too much noise, and way too many messages, images, sounds, etc., bombarding us to take it all in—even if we wanted to. The reality of our modern world forces us to be vigilant gatekeepers of our consciousness and only allow in what is useful to achieving our vision. Not that we should deny parts of reality, but we cannot absorb it all, and most of it is counterproductive anyway. There are murders every day. There always have been. There are disasters and tragedies every day, somewhere in the world. There always have been. In past generations of humanity, we didn’t have all the world’s bad news dumped into our consciousness on an hourly basis. Ignore it. You can’t change it.
Change yourself by carefully selecting the inputs to your consciousness that will take you toward the “Christ Consciousness,” the kingdom of God (as Jesus called it), that state of consciousness where you know yourself as spirit and live from a place of God-centeredness.
Choose music that uplifts you. Choose information that is spiritually illuminating. Choose books, movies, and videos that help you to love more, forgive more, and be more grateful. Avoid anything that is a vexation to your spirit. Do not admit into your mind and body things that dull your consciousness (like drugs and alcohol). Rather, welcome those foods, thoughts, and practices that lead to greater mental clarity, physical health, and spiritual acuity.
You are the guardian of your consciousness. Take your responsibility seriously. Maybe you have to shut off the TV, shut off the computer, and, yes, even shut off that music.
Consciously choose the inputs to your spirit, mind, and body to create the total “you” you most desire.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.