Today, I'm going to share one of the methods I have developed for working music into my meditation practice. Music isn’t required for meditation of course and I don't always use it (how repetitive that would be!) but I tend to incorporate music into most things I do at least in some small way.
Meditation is about calming the mind. Some people do this by “emptying” their minds of all thoughts, sometimes by counting breaths. Others do it by focusing on a single simple thought or image. For the record, I prefer using
simple pretty images but feeling them rather than seeing them. I tend to get bored when thinking of “nothing,” and counting breaths is too much like work (all that counting explains why musicians
get kind of focused and spacey at the same time while playing) for me to really settle into it.
Music can be added to either the mind-emptying or the focusing approach to meditation. The idea is to allow the music to fill your mind and let the flow of notes become your
thoughts. I’m not talking about imagining a story to fit the music (although that is a useful trick too) but experiencing the music on its own terms. Now there are several books out there that try to pin down exactly what impact different
types of music have on people. They often go so far as to say you should listen to music in certain keys for certain issues (completely ignoring the fact that most Classical pieces modulate quite a bit and some are almost never in the key that is listed in their name). The trouble with this approach is that no two people respond exactly alike to the same music. A piece I think is happy may sound aggressive to someone else. A piece can be thoughtful and calming or sad and depressing depending on who listens to it. What this means is you will have to test out these pieces for yourself. Keep in mind that different
instruments and performers can change a piece wildly. I typically prefer music with overlapping lines and repeating arpeggios that aren’t too fast but some single line or fast pieces work wonderfully. The key is that the
music is enthralling in some fashion.
I haven’t yet figured out how to fully describe the music I like using
for meditation so I’m going to periodically share short lists of pieces and recordings that I find to work well. I've been using a lot of Classical music but other genres work just as well. I find it easier to use instrumental pieces than vocal but some vocal pieces are wonderful (I'll share some of those in later posts). My friends/guinea pigs
who tried these pieces out were generally surprised when the music
ended, even the longer Classical songs, saying they didn't think that much time had gone by. This is one reason I think these pieces are effective as meditation support.
-Dunmore Lassies from “The Long Black Veil” performed by the Chieftains
and Ry Cooder. This
is one of my favorite pieces of music in general. It starts with a
beautiful guitar and flute duo then builds and grows in absolutely
amazing ways. It is about 5 minutes long.
-J. S. Bach’s Sonata in G Major for Two Flutes and Continuo BWV 1039. The flutes and continuo parts weave around each other
in wonderful ways. The third movement is especially hypnotic but the entire piece works. This piece is about 12 minutes long.
-Telemann’s Concerto for Flute, Oboe d'amore,
Viola d'amore, Strings and Continuo in E Major. The second movement may be a bit lively for some but I find its energy fits just fine after the first movement. This piece is about 15 minutes long.
Have fun with this idea. Don't get stuck on my recommended pieces though. If they don't work for you, try something else.