Using Music for Meditation

Richard Pettinger

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In meditation we are trying to quieten the mind. If we can stop the usual thoughts of the mind we can go from our ordinary, mundane consciousness to a more peaceful state. Meditation music can play an important role in helping to calm the mind and enable us to go to a quieter space. Most beginners to meditation feel that it is almost impossible to stop our own thoughts. (Not for nothing has our mind been likened to a mad monkey!) However it is possible through practise, right preparation and various different techniques that will help us.

A particularly useful exercise is to harmonise our breathing; by focusing on our own breathing it enables us to quieten the mind. However there are times when our mind is still very restless; perhaps because of a busy day or a weight of problems. This is where music can be very helpful to our meditation.

Firstly meditative music can help to drown out any extraneous noises that can easily disturb us. We should not feel we have to go to a Himalayan cave to meditate, we can meditate even in the midst of a busy city, yet unfortunately modern life can be noisy. This is beyond our control but meditative music is one thing we can use to overcome this potential problem.

Secondly music can have a big effect on our emotions and state of mind. Obviously for meditation we need to choose music which is composed and performed in a meditative fashion. Rock music is good for energising ourselves, but hopeless for meditation. However the right meditation music will raise our aspirations from the mundane and make ourselves more receptive to the inner poise and peace within. Sri Chinmoy says:

“Each time we hear soulful music, we get inspiration and delight. In the twinkling of an eye, music can elevate our consciousness. "

When meditating to music there are two approaches we can take. The first is to concentrate intensely on the music listening to each note. This is effective because it takes us out of ourselves and gives us something to focus on. However we should make sure we are concentrating with our heart and not the mind. What we mean by this is that we do not listen to music with our intellectual mind to examine and listen for wrong notes. We are merely focusing our a aware and allow ourselves to be absorbed in the meditative flow. The second way of meditating music is to not pay any attention specifically to the music but just feel it as inspiring background music.

There will come a time in our meditation when we wish to meditate in absolute silence and we will not have any need for music. However especially when we are beginners music can be a very useful tool that helps us in our meditation.

It is interesting that many of the great music composers often had experiences that could be described as similar to meditation, even though they did not consciously aim for it. For example when Handel composed the Hallelujah Chorus he stated that.

"Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it, I know not. God knows. "

Richard is an economics teacher in Oxford and is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Richard is a keen cyclist competing in races across the UK he also edits a site about the music of Sri Chinmoy

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