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Podcasts to soothe the spirit

Amrita V Nair | Updated on April 15, 2020 Published on April 14, 2020

In search of calm: WH Auden’s poem The Age of Anxiety is more relevant today than ever before   -  ISTOCK.COM

As pandemic-related anxiety tells on your nerves, here are a few podcasts that shelter you from the chaos of the present

In 1948, WH Auden won the Pulitzer prize for his dirge on modern life, The Age of Anxiety. Over the years, the phrase has grown in popularity, in direct proportion to the new and inventive ways in which the contemporary world has evolved to induce more anxiety than ever before. And now, a rapidly spreading pandemic is upon us — leaving us locked up in our homes, endlessly worrying about our health, our loved ones, and our livelihoods, rendering the expression more relevant than ever.

Self-soothing during times of anxiety, especially in the face of things that are well beyond one’s control, is a difficult exercise. Sometimes, distraction — whether in the form of a good book, a Friends rerun, or a soothing podcast — is the only weapon available to banish those anxious thoughts, at least for a short while. Though these podcasts may not dispel all your fears, I hope that they will provide at least a temporary reprieve in these trying times.

The Anthropocene Reviewed

The term ‘anthropocene’ is a proposed name for the current geological epoch — timed from when human activity significantly began to impact the Earth. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a podcast in which writer John Green discusses various aspects of the world we live in and rates them on a five-star scale. Meticulously researched and beautifully scripted, the podcast provides fascinating insights into a wide variety of topics and serves as a reminder that our planet and the beings we inhabit it with are endless sources of beauty and wonder. Green connects seemingly disparate topics with the practised ease of a good writer, infusing his narration with anecdotes from his own life or with quotes from notable works of literature. An optimistic and educative listen, this podcast is a great way to start your day. Listen at https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/anthropocene-reviewed.

Desert Island Discs

A radio show must be doing something right if it runs for over 75 years, amassing more than 3,000 episodes. First broadcast in 1942 and currently on BBC Radio 4, with radio presenter Lauren Laverne as the host, Desert Island Discs is one of the longest-running radio programmes in the world. Each episode features a guest who tells Laverne about eight recordings, one book, and one item of luxury that they would want to take with them if they were to be cast away on a desert island. Guests include celebrities and dignitaries from a wide range of fields spanning music, the arts, and politics. The conversations themselves are engrossing — deeply moving or hysterically funny — as guests share the stories and experiences that shaped the choices they would make as castaways. The suggestions made have helped me discover books and music that I would not have chanced upon otherwise. The podcast is thus a great way to discover new and interesting things to read or listen to in the time you now save from not having to commute. Listen at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnmr.

Nothing Much Happens

Many of us have trouble sleeping when anxious or stressed out. My favourite thing to do when I have trouble falling asleep is to listen to a bedtime story. Nothing Much Happens is a podcast that presents soothing bedtime stories for adults, narrated in the second person and in the style of a guided meditation. These stories don’t really have a significant plot to distract you as you try to fall asleep, but instead focus on recounting soothing experiences such as baking or drinking a perfect cup of tea. The host, Kathryn Nicolai, is a yoga teacher who also infuses messages of optimism and hope into these stories. Listen at https://www.nothingmuchhappens.com/.

Victoriocity

If you are getting cabin fever cooped up at home for days on end, a flight of fancy to an imagined steampunk London in the company of plucky protagonists trying to solve a murder mystery might be just the thing for you. Victoriocity, set in 1887, follows journalist Clara Entwhistle and inspector Archibald Fleet as they attempt to solve the murder of a scientist and run into a whole host of hilarious characters over the course of their investigation. With stellar voice acting, an intriguing plot, and delightful world-building, the podcast is riveting and hilarious. Listen at https://www.victoriocity.com/.

Mindfulness Meditation

There are numerous meditation podcasts out there and it can be a daunting task to find one that works for you. What sets Mindfulness Meditation apart is the unique way in which it merges art and mindfulness. Hosted by the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, in conjunction with expert meditation practitioners in the city, each episode of the podcast is inspired by a work of art in the museum. The episode begins with an opening talk on what one can learn from the work of art, followed by a 20-minute guided meditation focussed on the themes raised in the talk. As a novice practitioner who often has difficulty meditating, I find this podcast to be exceptionally helpful as the presence of a theme and an image to keep in mind during the meditation helps centre the practice and makes it much easier to concentrate. Listen at https://rubinmuseum.org/page/mindfulness-meditation-podcast.

Amrita V Nair is a freelance writer, public policy specialist and podcast enthusiast

Published on April 14, 2020

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