Lost and found in music
Psychologies|February 2020
Rachel Chalmers struggled with anxiety until she learned to play an instrument – and found a gateway to mindfulness

My introduction to music was the Spice Girls, whose feel-good song Wannabe blared through my mum’s car stereo just before my seventh birthday and instantly lifted my mood. I was soon playing the band’s songs on repeat, begging my mum to let me try my hand at a musical instrument, so I could work toward my fantasy of one day sharing a stage with Victoria Beckham. Piano teachers were scarce in our area, so I had no choice but to learn from an unsmiling one who instructed me to play cliched beginner’s pieces, scolded me when I struck the wrong key and punished me with extra practice on her basement piano.

Somewhere in my subconscious, my passion for music still flickered and, in my early 20s, it was brought back to life. I was navigating a period of profound anxiety, feeling isolated, agitated and – so I thought – without hope. Reaching for a lifeline, I typed ‘meditation music’ into my laptop search bar and stumbled upon a YouTube video of a harpist playing Ludovico Einaudi’s Fly. As if by magic, I felt my worries escape me. It was unlike any relief I’d experienced, and I watched as the harpist plucked the strings to create one of the most beautiful, moving and healing melodies I’d heard.

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