Cello Meditation: mixing mindfulness with music through an emotional journey

When I was invited to join a Cello Meditation I was immediately intrigued. I was curious to experience music with a mindfulness purpose and the effect it would have on my emotions. 

I enjoy meditation and I’m aware of its benefits on my overall wellbeing, but I’ve never been able to meditate for a long time. So when I saw that it was an hour long meditation I got a little nervous. I dove in anyway, and I can tell you that it’s been one of my favorite meditation experiences. The way the musician and instructor took us through the meditation was dynamic, interactive and deep. It was certainly an emotional ride, where I cried, smiled and came out feeling recharged and with a lighter mindset. 

Let’s start by telling you a little about who’s behind this experience. The artist is called The Wong Janice, and she’s an Australian-born music producer, cellist and meditation teacher. She performs virtual cello meditation concerts live from her living room with her cello and her effect pedals and loop machine — to make it sound like a larger concert instead of sounding like just one person with an instrument. She has also recorded some albums you can enjoy by yourself. I now listen to her Spotify channel regularly to enjoy longer meditations. 

What makes her live cello music good for meditating is that she uses deep cello vibrations, sweeping cello melodies and moments of silence that help you get into a meditative state. Music has a direct effect on our emotions and our body. Different types of music can make you feel happy, upbeat, alert, calm and even focused. And, although there’s still a lot to find out, scientists have even noticed that listening to music can change brain functioning. They’ve particularly found that music can help reduce stress. 

Stanford researchers released a study about how music and other rhythmic stimuli can alter mental states. Here, they state that “slow beats encourage the slow brain waves that are associated with hypnotic or meditative states. Faster beats may encourage more alert and concentrated thinking.” 

The experience

So, now that I shared with you what cello meditation is and why music can have an important influence in meditation as a stress reliever, I’ll take you through the step-by-step of this experience, so you get to know what it’s like to be in a cello meditation. 

For starters, you need to get comfortable. I started the meditation sitting down, but since it’s pretty long and you reach deep levels of relaxation I eventually lay down. So look for the best spot for you, get a blanket or even have a cup of tea before the experience. 

We started with a regular guided meditation to relax and place ourselves in the present moment. We connected with our breath and did a body scan to raise awareness of our body, our tension spots and our emotional state. Then Janice explained that we would go through four music pieces of her own composition. Each piece connected with a theme (or emotion) that would lead the meditation. This was great for me because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stay in a meditative state for a complete hour. This way we would meditate for one musical piece and then get into the next with a brief pause in between. The silence between pieces is also a moment to reconnect with the present moment and focus on our breath. Breath work is very important in this meditation. Janice even explains that you can either use your breath or the music to bring your mind back into the present when your thoughts start to move away from the meditation.

The first theme was a piece of gratitude. The objective was to have a mindset change through feeling gratitude. Here, Janice had us think about all the things/people we were grateful for while she played. She said that it doesn’t have to be big things, even small things counted. The point was to change our perspective and build up a sense of gratitude. I think this was the most emotional piece for me. I’m not sure how long the piece lasted, perhaps 5 minutes, but spending that time thinking about everything and everyone that surrounds me and I’m grateful for was very moving. By the time the music was over I noticed tears running down my face. 

The second one was about self-empowerment. We tend to put ourselves down and, instead of thinking about what we’re good for, we always think about what we could improve and what we can’t be, have or do. This was an opportunity to change that. Janice highlighted that, especially when things get tough, it’s easy to go down a spiral feeling down and expecting others to make us feel better. So the idea here was to remind ourselves of the greatness we have. During the piece we got to think about what makes us unique, what we’re good at, and all of our qualities. The mantra was “I am…” and we had to complete the sentence. I have to say that at first it’s a little hard to find adjectives and the ideas can even come out shallow, but as time passed my thoughts began to go deeper. I guess we’re not used to telling ourselves good things about ourselves. We try to be humble and not show off, and that’s an invisible barrier we must break. 

The third piece was about love. Janice explained that when things are overwhelming the best medicine is to think about someone you currently love or loved in the past. Thinking about things like how they made you smile nurture your soul and give you the strength to pull through hard times. The idea here was to think about that someone and fill our hearts with the joy and warmth of their love. It was such a beautiful experience going down memory lane and bringing back small things that I don’t give myself time to remember. When the music stopped I had such a big smile on my face.

The fourth, and last, theme was surrender. This was a powerful way to end the meditation, thinking about all the things that don’t serve you and surrendering them. Letting go is one of the hardest things to do, but raising awareness about what it is that you have to let go is an important first step. Here, we had to breathe in and think about that thing we needed to surrender and then sigh as we breathed out and release it. 

At the end of the experience we stayed still for a little while and then opened our eyes. I felt lighter and calmer, and my thoughts felt clearer and energized.

Below is an example of The Wong Janice’s pieces. This one, from her YouTube channel, is aimed for overall relaxation.

Picture: Pexels

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