For the past few years I’ve been steadily growing my vinyl collection.
It all started after a trip to Ojai during which I found myself at the cutest little bar listening to records and drinking wine from a can. A gorgeous bohemian bartender threw on a record by William Onyeabor and I was transported to another place, another time.
Something undeniably and overwhelming nostalgic washed over me as those records spun; I was reminded of my childhood, of listening to Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan while sitting on our living room floor. Of my life before my parents got divorced. Of the first house I’d ever lived in, the apricot tree in the backyard and the jacaranda tree in the front.
The room that housed our record player was floor to ceiling windows, and on Saturday mornings it was my job to wash those windows. I recall this task being made infinitely more bearable when done to the sounds of my father’s record collection.
So, that very same weekend I bought myself a record player and have been growing my vinyl collection ever since. Just recently I picked up Bridge Over Troubled Water and Isaac chose Nevermind. I chose an album from my parent’s time and he from his—this circular nature is one of the reasons I find music to be so impactful on the human condition.
I’ve enjoyed the act of collecting records and digging through stacks at the many independently owned record stores in Los Angeles. I’ve found joy in the nostalgia and in sharing something so special from my childhood with my own son. But what was completely unexpected about this hobby was the profound way in which it has grounded me in my mindfulness practice.
You see, we live in a truly magnificent time—a time in which we can skip instantly download music and skip through songs without any difficulty whatsoever. Our children won’t ever know the patience required to rewind a VHS just to watch The Princess Bride for the millionth time, or what it was like to make a mixed tape by recording songs from the radio.
And yes, this technological age is something to behold; it’s brought with it a convenience and accessibility that has completely changed the landscape of our world.
But in some ways, it’s also made presence and mindfulness a bit harder to access. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lamenting the advent of modern technology—I truly believe this is a magical time to be alive. But I’m also not ignorant to the fact that our modern world makes it easier for us to be out of touch, even when it seems we’re endlessly connected.
We don’t have to wait for anything anymore.
Remember what it was like to dial up to the world wide web? To actually plug in your internet connection and listen to the dial up tone? Remember what it was like to rush home and turn the television on so you could catch your favorite show? To record it on a VHS only to find out one of your family members had recorded over it?
I’ll be the first to admit that I get annoyed when a web page doesn’t load immediately, or Netflix has a glitch when streaming a movies. This is why I’ve enjoyed the process of listening to records so much: It’s forced me to be completely present and patient with the music.
I can’t hit skip and move on to the next track.
I can’t loop back and listen to the same track over and over.
I have to actually flip the record to keep the music going.
I have to listen to the album all the way through, the way the artist intended.
This process has grounded me in a way I didn’t see coming, and it’s taught me a lot about my patterns in the modern world. I’ve found that I can sit with the moment with more patience and more presence as a result, and that’s something I never thought I’d learn from vinyl.