Music that Raises – or Lowers – the Emotions


Why is it that I get easily moved by some secular music, like soft rock and others, but when I listen to spiritual hymns, chants and kirtans I don't feel very moved by it? Does this mean that I am not really very spiritual?

—Alan, united states


Dear Alan – what an excellent question, and a very important one! The fact that you are wondering if you are spiritual indicates that you have a high degree of spirituality – even to want to know God takes very very very good karma!

As far as spiritual hymns go, I must confess that, growing up in a Presbyterian Church, I never found the music to be as moving for me as it was for many others. As for chanting and kirtan, there is a lot out there, not all of it inspiring.

Do you chant yourself? If not, I’d highly suggest giving it a try. I wasn’t moved by chanting or singing our Ananda music until I started singing it myself.

Music is a tricky thing, though, as it can easily play on our emotions.

I’ll never forget the time I was watching Castaway (Tom Hanks movie) and found myself getting choked up by the the beautiful music, to find that I was crying over the loss of Wilson the volleyball! Wait a minute! Our emotions are so easily manipulated by the composer, the singer, the instrumentalists, and so on.

But just because music moves us doesn’t necessarily mean that it moves us in the right direction of feeling more inwardly inspired.

I’ll never forget during a workshop years ago when someone criticized a favorite song of mine as being “too emotional”. I liked the way it made me feel. It resonated with where I was on the continuum that is the spiritual path.

I must confess that after meditating for 15 years, my musical tastes have shifted towards the more inwardly inspiring. It doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the music that you are referring to, but just that I’m looking at what the music does to my consciousness with a greater discrimination.

So here’s what I’d recommend: get yourself into an uplifted state of consciousness either through yoga, meditation, or whatever spiritual practice might appeal to you. Then keeping your awareness centered within, listen to some music and monitor how it changes your energy. Does it lift your energy? Do you feel an inner upward flow, or does the music lead your energy outward or downward?

I love the quote from Swami Kriyananda:

If music brings your energy down, avoid it like poison!

Pretty strong stuff, but well worh heeding. In the end, it really comes down to what you are looking for. I’ll conclude with another quote from Swami Kriyananda:

Music is not a matter of taste, it is a matter of consciousness.

If you are looking for inspiration through music, it is out there! Just don’t be surprised when it comes upon you unawares.

I’d highly suggest perusing our albums Secrets of Love and Bliss Chants, or check out the Joy Singers and our Ananda Singers on youtube.

Happy Listening,