Mindful Moments at a Metal Concert

December 6, 2016 Mackenzie Chapman

Sigh. Not one of those bah-humbug sighs. I’m talking one of those deep life is not perfect, but hey I made it! I’m here right now! sighs. That’s what I felt when the lights flickered and the first smashes of the drum echoed through the Shoreline Amphitheater. My head started nodding and my boots tapped the concrete as Rob Zombie bounced on stage and rolled through his latest songs. I couldn’t contain the massive grin across my face. To me, this is mindfulness.

I was surprised to find that Rob Zombie was on to what I was feeling. No, I didn’t get to meet him backstage or as he humbly walked through the crowd. Rather, halfway through his set, as the crowd jumped and screamed in excitement, he made a simple request. He called for everyone to put down our phones, stop recording videos and posting photos. Just be here. “Do you remember how to rock? Do you remember how to rock?!!” I roared with over 10,000 fans, raw energy ripping through the amphitheater. Yes! Of course! That, I can do!

Sure, I’ve always loved heavy metal, along with other genres of music that would make most of the crowd that night cringe (bluegrass anyone?). But I wasn’t merely excited for my favorite songs. I felt energized. I experienced relief. I had a sense of grounding.

Studies have recently shown that listening to extreme music, such as heavy metal, helps listeners regulate anger “as effectively as sitting in silence.” I haven’t had my brain scanned or heart monitored lately, but listening to music that matches what I’m experiencing has been more effective in processing those feelings lately.

Have you ever had to sit in silence waiting for a call from the Intensive Care Unit? Have you tried to take a quiet, restful moment in the midst of life’s tragedies? Silence is the space where the waves of frustration, impatience, outrage, irritation and grief flood in. Pushing those sensations away is impossible, but it’s also difficult to feel fully without identifying with them.

Almost all day, every day, I manage competing priorities and versions of myself. Daughter, sister, friend, partner, co-worker, employee, manager, caregiver… who isn’t ten different things to hundreds of people? It’s easy to forget that within all those commitments and roles, there is me. And everything I feel is part of what makes me who I am. That’s what the energy of heavy metal reminds me: I are not alone with these feelings. Good, bad and ugly simply equals human.

So one way or another, we need to experience the tough feelings, to be able to work through them. And one of the ways I like to do it is by throwing the sign of the horns with fellow fans, listening to the best metal artists in existence. It’s cool to know science supports this approach.

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