Music, Meaning and Meditation
On one side there's music, and on the other, there's meditation. I aspired to a meditation practice long before I got one. The first technique I learned was a zen listening meditation. It's a good one, opens up a lot of space. But what about music? It has always held an importance, in my life as with many others, that is hardly justifiable by any normal measure. I always wondered what it meant that some of us absolutely suffocate if we can't play an instrument, write a song, or sing. Or even just listen.
I spent all of 2012 caring for my dying parents. There was a lot of whiskey around and not much room. I felt much of the time as if I were dying along with them. It was hard to get away from the house so I spent many hours a day playing guitar. I had wished one day that I would be rich enough to take the time to play the blues several hours a day and really get it; now, even if my parents didn't need me, I was as broke as any blues guy ever was, and I was playing for my life. Which is pretty much the only thing that gets you all the way there.
Yeah, I thought if I ever got to do play like that, it would be a luxury, but it came as a refuge--particularly from the blaring Kardashians, and I mean ear-splitting. I shut myself in the garage and played over them, trying to lull myself into a meditative state, listening to the sound ot the guitar strings without judging it, and finding the notes without searching for them. That just sounds so corny, 1970s that I want to puke, but I don't know how else to describe it.
I spent many hours contemplating the value of this sound I was making, and I learned that if I set my intention so that the sound be healing for those who were suffering. Then it seemed to soothe not only my own mind but that of others too. I played a lot to soothe my mother, and I noticed a difference if I set my intention before I started playing. I'd been on the Buddhist path for a few years already, and things started coming together and making sense. I found meaning in music again; or more to the point, I learned to trust the meaning in the music as a tangible force for good. There's a whole place in Buddhist cosmology about this that is really fascinating but not necessary to take in right at the moment. But it will convince you of the power of sound, of the blues, of the transmission of energy through these things when you hook it into meditation.
I'd always been an incorrigible songwriter, but that's more about the frame work than the sound, and this intense and ravenous guitar playing was something new.
Anyway, I learned to play more intuitively while really winging it and giving others something to hang their ears on that has a good effect on their minds, and I try to teach others how to start listening for something meaningful again. Because that's the problem, we start thinking nothing's meaningful and after awhile, it isn't, and we've forgotten. "Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones," is what somebody his own self said. So let's just start with sound. Do some Guitar Yoga, talk about the stretches, the shifts, the sound waves. Just try to get into a really smooth space.
Stories are good, too. I've got a lot of stories about how I changed my view of things, and a lot of them are pretty damn funny, and a few will make you cry. You can tell by this site where I'm going with this. So some stories, some poetry--I've seen lives change just from hearing a couple of poems from Rumi, the 13th Sufi mystic and poet. Then I like to use the blues as a metaphor for meditation and how the mind works. I talk some about Buddhism, because most people have a sense that Buddhists aren't out get in anybody's faces. (Or at least we shouldn't be, normally).