Music for peace in a hurried world
A lifelong history of anxious thoughts and feelings caused Stanton Lanier to seek distraction in music. His first composition led to a change in career direction and life that has also impacted millions around the world, including countless fitness professionals and their clients.
Here, Lanier and friend, counsellor and exercise professional, Lisa Champion, discuss the profound effect that music can have on everyday mental wellbeing.
Stanton: It was May 2000 and life seemed full. I was a young husband and dad with a lifelong history of feeling worried and striving for perfection. Growing up, the piano had been my refuge from anxious thoughts and feelings. Playing and songwriting helped me relax and de-stress. But with a business career, a three-year-old son and a soon-to-be born daughter, life made it difficult to find the time to turn to my beloved piano. But I still felt the pull and, that very same year, I announced to my wife I had composed my first ever instrumental piano song. Nine more melodies followed while working full-time, and a year and a half later my first of ten albums, Walk in the Light, was completed. When I described the music as ‘soothing melodies to warm the heart and touch the spirit’ I didn’t know listeners from around the world would one day send me stories like this one from Rob in Germany:
‘The music filled my office and I had to stop my phone call. It made me turn my chair to look outside, take a deep breath, and give thanks. Music like this really does touch part of the soul.’
As I look back on my journey from undergraduate chemistry major, to graduate business degree, to fifteen years working in the business world, to pianist-composer, I marvel at how things evolved.
Along the way, someone from Les Mills International heard my music. The next thing you know, one of my songs was used as the final track in a Body Balance release. That was 2009. Over the past nine years, Les Mills International has now licensed 14 of my songs. To imagine that my music would reach people prizing their health and well-being all over the world is quite mind-blowing and humbling.
Lisa: Over the past seven years, I have been on a remarkable journey of moving from working with the body to working with the mind. My long career in the fitness industry was transitioning. My interest in the emotional toll of chronic pain had led me to study counselling. The honour and privilege of walking with people on a journey to better understanding themselves captured me. I decided to make the transition and become a psychotherapist. It was wearing this new hat that I travelled to the USA in 2013 to attend a counselling conference. Having always been interested in the power of music to touch the soul, I approached an exhibitor in the trade show who was selling CD’s of his instrumental piano music. I walked into the booth, put a headset on, and got goose bumps as I listened to this beautiful music. Stanton, with his characteristic smile, approached and we began to talk. I told him a bit of my story and he said, ‘Oh, I have a connection with the fitness industry in New Zealand.’ He told me about Les Mills International licensing his music and I told him about all the various ways Les Mills International and Australian Fitness Network have worked together over the years, and we marvelled at how small the world is. A fast friendship was formed.
I purchased a few CDs and began to listen to Stanton’s music when I was stretching, reading, feeling stressed, meditating, doing yoga – essentially any time that I wanted to rest or connect more deeply with myself. His music continues to be my go-to for restoring a sense of calm in my world. It was my idea to write this article together – to share both some tips for restoring peace to your hurried world and Stanton’s music with you so that after working out, or during a stretch, or a time of yin after yang, you too can feel some peace in your hurried world. I also encourage you to use it with your clients – whether in group classes or PT sessions; give them the gift of slowing down, breathing more deeply and finding peace and stillness after a workout and before they head back into their busy lives. As an added incentive, research shows that relaxation, particularly with music, can benefit us spiritually, mentally and physically.
Below, Stanton shares some key ways he has found to find a sense of peace and restfulness in his busy world. At the end of the article, there is a link to download three of Stanton’s songs to inspire you on your own journey and to use with your clients.
Four ways to bring peace to a hurried world
Take time to do simple things, to see life and the world through a child’s eyes. Remember the first time you climbed a tree? The first time you rode a bicycle? The first time you saw the ocean? The first time you saw the mountains? Care for your soul by filling your heart with remembrance and thanksgiving. Draw a picture with your child. Take a slow walk with a loved one. Sit and listen to a client or friend without a phone nearby. Pause to notice the beauty around you. Nurture simplicity, and take leaps of childlike faith into greater adventure, joy, faith and trust.
Did you know that the average person takes more than 23,000 breaths every day? But how often in our hectic day do we actually stop to catch just a few breaths and truly relax? For me, there is a sense of contentment when I practice silence, usually early in the morning. Caring for our souls happens best when we unplug from technology, distraction and noise. My favorite things to do during this time are reading, praying, meditating, reflecting, and going for a run (without music in my ears). Take time to unplug, be silent, just listen.
Take time to be alone. This exercise grew for me in my late teens and early twenties, through a summer job at a canoe rental. Working outdoors along a river provided lots of seclusion. Many special moments come from solitude – working hard, resting well, creating calmly, and listening closely. Solitude refreshes, renews and revives. A few memories of solitude and current practices of solitude for me are: sitting at the top of my favorite tree when I was ten years old, going on a childhood bicycle ride, driving or camping in open spaces, going for a run, listening to peaceful music, waking up early for a time of quiet and stillness while the world is still sleeping.
Take a position of surrendering control with relationships, work and play. This took the longest and is the hardest for me. Like the first three, this is lifelong practice. Sometimes life’s worst moments offer the best possibility for responding with surrender. Are you holding on to something or someone too tightly? Are you working on an important project or toward a big dream, and you need to let go? One way I describe my shift toward surrender is ‘abiding to receive instead of striving to achieve.’ Another is ‘progress over perfection.’ I experience the most peace when I stand by my convictions and purpose, making progress one day at a time, instead of over-working to accomplish a specific outcome.
To help you find some stillness and peace, download Stanton’s ‘Top Three Songs for Peace’ HERE – www.stantonlanier.com/top-3-songs
Stanton Lanier is the creator of Scripture inspired piano to refresh your spirit® and has released ten albums , six with Grammy® winning producer Will Ackerman, Founder of Windham Hill Records. His music touches five million listeners annually across 140 countries, and can be found on a range of music streaming platforms. In 2014 Stanton founded the non-profit Music to Light the World, which has donated 65,000 CD’s to cancer patients and families for hope and healing. stantonlanier.com
Lisa Champion, MSc (ExScience), M (counselling), Grad. Dip. (Emotion Focused Therapy) is a multi-talented psychotherapist, exercise professional, educator and author. In her role as a director of Australian Fitness Network, she had a positive influence on the fitness industry in Australia for more than 30 years. As an exercise therapist, Lisa specialised in working with people with pain issues and special needs. She now runs a private counselling practice where she works with clients to help them grow, change and heal. champion.net.au