Why I jam out to Hindu Spiritual Folk Music all day!
Posted on January 26, 2018
I have a great friend named Ryan Berry. He is one of those friends who if we talk for more than 15 minutes the conversation gets deep and philosophical. During one of our in-depth explorations of the universe, Ryan said something very profound that continues to affect how I live my life in a variety of ways.
What I term the Berry Principle states that we become what we surround ourselves in our everyday life. At the time, we were discussing our shared love for video games and wondering about the effects of the violent games we play on our overall mental state and health. Soon, I started being mindful of other choices in my life.
There is some science to support the Berry Principle. Through the processes of homeostasis, we develop traits that allow us to survive or thrive in our environment. In other words, our biology is continuously adapting to the stimulus in our environment.
Research demonstrates that for those without a tendency towards violence, listening to aggressive music or playing violent video games does not lead to outwardly aggressive behavior (playing these games can have small positive results for those without these tendencies). What is less evident in the research are the little changes to our biology resulting from hours of playing Call of Duty or listening to Metallica’s Ride the Lighting at full volume.
For those that know me, violence is not a trait I possess in any meaningful way! However, I started to pay attention to the stimulus I chose to surround myself with and started asking, “Does this music/video game/sporting event reflect the emotional health I want to create within myself?” Here is where the Berry Principle started changing my life.
My Xbox! I love video games. The older I get, the cooler the technology, and the more I like playing. I spent entire afternoons playing Halo and Call of Duty. The hours, and sometimes days, would slip away while I kept the world safe from Aliens or Nazis. Applying the Berry Principle, I realized that not only was I exposing myself to hours of killing, but with the time spent playing video games I could have been reading, out in nature, or engaging in activities that better matched the energy I wanted to incorporate into my life. Thanks to the Berry Principle, I no longer have an Xbox.
Music was another area where the Berry Principle changed my behavior. For most of my life, I have mixed hard rock, Nine Inch Nails and Tool, with Americana, Johnny Cash and Widespread Panic. When I work from home, I will listen to music for eight-plus hours a day. As I applied the Berry Principle to my listening habits, I realized that I was exposing myself to hours of music about violence, addiction, and anger. The person I was striving to become was just opposed to the music I was exposing myself to in large amounts every day.
Thanks to Spotify, I was able to search the libraries of world music and found this great collection of Hindu Spiritual Folk Music (also got into Jazz and Opera as well). Instead of rage and drinking, I could get a heavy dose of love and compassion. David Newman replaced Metallica, Jai Uttal replaced Felice Brothers, and Ben Leinbach replaced Tool. Immediately, I noticed a change in my mood and, also, found I could concentrate for longer around tasks.
I made other smaller changes to my television watching and the sports I followed. Collectively it is hard to quantify the effects of the Berry Principle on my overall well-being and happiness. Subjectively, I do recognize a difference in my moods. I find I do not get agitated as much and am more patient with myself, others, and the dogs! I hope that, collectively, these short-term changes result in long-term improvement in my mental and emotional health.
Over the years, I have cursed Ryan many times as the insight the Berry Principle provide has challenged me to replace many things I enjoy. However, these changes opened new doors and new types of music. As with any change worth making, the positives far outweigh the negative. Funny how a short conversation over a beer can drastically change how you live your life!
I just updated my Spotify list to include these suggestions! Thanks Matt for this very good reminder to surround ourselves with the energy we want in the world and look for ways to replace violence and anger with more Joy and Peace.
Good music for my Yogi friend!!
I highly recommend gypsy guitar jazz (particularly Charlie Byrd and Django Rinehart of course)–Pandora’s Hot Club Jazz Radio station is very good for keeping me energetic and optimistic.
Listening to some Charlie now, love his version of the Girl from Ipanema!!! Thanks for the suggestions my friend!
I powerfully experienced the “Berry Principle” this past year. I live in the Denver Metro area, I clench my jaw, that was my reality. Then I hiked the Colorado Trail August – September. I spent all day every day for weeks in the peaceful surroundings of nature. I stopped consistently clenching my jaw for the first time in over 10 years. As SOON as I returned to the city, the habit was back. I truly fill that I channel the constant motion and stress of a city in this habit. I am subconsciously absorbing and acting on the stress within my environment. I have tried to make changes since my return to make my home a more peaceful place (i.e candles, fun music, etc.). I am definitely going to check out the artists you mentioned in your post as well. Thank you for this post. It points to a true self-care wisdom that is sometimes hard to put into words.
Thanks, Alex! There is a concept I love in the Buddhist tradition called returning to the marketplace. It speaks to your experience perfectly. The monks realized that enlightenment found in an isolated mountain cave was not true enlightenment. The real challenge was to take the peace found in a place where it was easier to find and bring it back into the chaos of the marketplace (Denver for us!). I found a similar challenge moving from the mountains back to the city. Like you, I have challenged myself to find the same peace walking through a park as I felt hiking on an isolated path. Over time, I almost find more peace know in a park in the busy city than a trail I hiked every day in the mountains. It did take some time though! To the journey my friend!!