music

Mindfulness leads to appreciation of entertainment’s little moments

Mary Ellen Wright, Lancaster Online: Everyone seems to be practicing mindfulness these days.

They’re trying to live in the moment — taking time to pay attention to, and be grateful for, the everyday things that can enhance our lives if we let them.

One of my perpetual, unofficial New Year’s resolutions is to practice mindfulness in my consumption of entertainment.

I strive to benefit from the little things others might not notice — and, in the process, squeeze every bit of pleasure possible from a performance or event.

I thought of this concept recently at the end …

Read the original article »

Read More

Spiritual earworms and the Dharma of the Muppets

This morning as I was walking to the office, I had an earworm stuck in my head. In case you’re unfamiliar with this term, it refers to a song or jingle that runs in a repetitive loop in the head. Often it’s only one or two lines from a song. Sometimes it’s not even a song we like. It may even be one we detest.

I have a very effective technique that not only helps get rid of earworms but also turns them into mindfulness triggers should they recur, but this morning it occurred to me that mantras could be regarded as a form of self-induced spiritual earworm.

Mantras are self-induced because we consciously cultivate them. They’re spiritual because they act as reminders of the qualities of awakening (e.g. Om mani padme hum reminds us of the compassionate warmth of Avalokiteshvara). And they’re earworms in that they often take on a life of their own, and present themselves to us unbidden.

I briefly considered invoking the mantra of Padmasambhava, but then I realized that the song I had in my head was actually teaching me something. I’m just back from a long road-trip with my kids, and one of the ways we passed the time in the car was by listening to my six-year-old son’s limited CD collection, which includes some Disney songs. The particular song I had stuck in my head was a Muppet track called “Life’s a Happy Song,” and the specific lyrics that my mind kept turning to over and over were these: “I’ve got everything that I need, right in front of me.”

Those words seem like a perfect invitation to let go of craving for things to be other than they are, and to pay attention to and appreciate the present moment. As often happens, my mind had found a teaching that I hadn’t even been aware, at a conscious level, that I needed. As far as earworms go, this one turned out to be perfect.

Read More

Listening as meditation

listening meditation

I recently wrote a post about how we can use listening as a way to quiet the mind, and how the arising of thoughts can become a “mindfulness bell,” calling us back to mindful attentiveness of the sounds around us. (The post was specifically about persistent thoughts that take the form of music, but the same approach works for all thoughts.)

A commenter on that post directed me to a video featuring the Canadian composer, writer, music educator and environmentalist R. Murray Schafer. In the video, Schafer very cleverly leads us into a form of listening meditation, in which he guides us from being mindful of recorded sounds to the “real” sounds in our personal environment. There’s a clever fake-out toward the end of the video that I didn’t see coming!

Enjoy!

Read More

A cure for earworms in meditation

earworms

Earworms are those tunes that get stuck in your head. Sometimes you’ll be meditating and have a favorite song stuck on replay. Sometimes it’s a song you hate. Either way, earworms aren’t very helpful to our meditation practice. In fact they can be so persistent that they drive us nuts!

Over the years I’ve tried a whole bunch of techniques to try to get rid of ear-worms. I’ve tried just listening to the song, accepting its presence and using it as an object of meditation, but songs can be intoxicating and I’ve found that I don’t develop much mindfulness and end up rocking out.

Sometimes I’ve listened to the lyrics closely to see if they’re trying to teach me anything, and from time to time I’ve been surprised to find that in some way I hadn’t expected the words of the song are deeply meaningful for me at that moment. That hasn’t necessarily made the song go away, but it’s given me something to reflect on.

I’ve tried imagining that I have a volume control in my head. I visualize turning this slowly from 10 down to 0. As I do so, I hear the song fade out. But then a few moments later I hear it fading back in again.

Finally I came up with an effective approach to earworms. It’s really simple: listen. Really listen.

Listen very attentively to the sounds around you. Include them in your meditation practice. In fact paying mindful attention to them becomes your meditation practice. Sounds make as good an object of meditation as anything else, so doing this isn’t a “distraction” from meditation but going deeper into meditation.

See also:

Listen in all directions at once. Listen to sounds in front of you and behind you, to the left and right, above and below. Let your auditory attention feel like it’s being stretched in every direction at once.

Allow all sounds to enter your awareness, rather than focusing on one individual sound, or moving from one sound to another.

Listen 100%.

The thing is that you can’t listen to the external world in this way and also listen to yourself singing internally. When you’re completely listening to the sounds around you, you can’t create an earworm. Listen intensely enough, and your mind becomes silent.

Whenever your attention begins to drift from the sounds outside, you’ll start to notice the earworm again. Now this might seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually wonderful, because now you have a built-in mindfulness meter! When the earworm appears, it’s letting you know that your mindfulness has slipped a little. So now the earworm is actually helping you to meditate, and instead of seeing it as annoying you can now be grateful toward it.

A sense of playfulness around this whole thing is important. Don’t see it as a test: you can’t fail. See it as just a game, so that you enjoy both the times you are able to pay attention to sounds, and the times that the earworm comes along and gently reminds you to come back to mindful awareness.

Read More

Sweet Nirvāna!

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.26.08 PM

I found this sweet hymn in a book by Paul Carus, called Sacred Tunes for the Consecration of Life: Hymns of the Religion of Science. Carus (18 July 1852 – 11 February 1919) was an early German-American translator, compiler, and popularizer of Buddhist texts.

Carus seems to have been fond of hymns, since he published an entire book of settings of Buddhist texts. This is available online, courtesy of archive.org.

Unfortunately my sight-reading skills have atrophied through decades of disuse, and I’m only able to guess at what the tune is.

Here is the rest of the song.

Sweet Nirvāna,
Highest Jhāna!
Rupture sweeter than all pleasures,
Thou the measure of all measures,
O, immortal Buddhahood!

Sweet Nirvāna,
Highest Jhāna!
Balm that all our ailments curest.
Thou alone for aye endurest!
O, immortal Buddhahood!

Sweet Nirvāna,
Highest Jhāna!
State where thoughts are truest, purest;
Where our wisdom is maturest,
And our hearts in love securest,
O, immortal Buddhahood!

Sweet Nirvāna,
Highest Jhāna!
Of all jewels thou the rarest,
Him thou fill’st with radiance fairest,
O, immortal Buddhahood!

Sweet Nirvāna,
Highest Jhāna!
Overcome all selfish clinging,
Let love’s harmonies be ringing,
While all join the chorus, singing:
O, immortal Buddhahood!

Read More

Beth Orton: “The discipline and the focus that I learned in the monastery became the same discipline and focus that I write with.”

Beth Orton on National Public Radio: “When I was 19, my mom passed away very suddenly. … She left [me and my brothers] 2,000 pounds each. It was a bit like a fable — you know, what do we do with our money? I bought a ticket to Thailand with some friends, and then we all kind of peeled off. Me and this girl, she’s like, ‘I know of this place we can go and meditate.’ And I was like, ‘Meditation, what’s that?’ I didn’t know what she was talking about. I went because it sounded like a laugh. After a while I just opened up to it.

“The strangest thing was, it was one of the most profound experiences of my life, and I left there and never meditated again. I was like, ‘I could go do anything now — get my heart broken and just meditate it away, and it’ll be fine.’ And then I started to play guitar and it became much more natural. I think what happened was, the discipline and the focus that I learned in the monastery became the same discipline and focus that I write with.”

Read More

Teenager credits meditation with helping her on way to singing success

Rob Pattinson, Ormskirk Advertiser: A talented teenager has made it through to the regional finals of a national singing contest – with a little help from meditation.

Amy Wilkinson began singing while at primary school at St Michael’s in Aughton.

The 14-year-old, from Narrow Moss Lane, Scarisbrick [West Lancashire], entered Britain’s Got Talent last year but missed out on a chance to sing for the TV judges.

But, undeterred, she entered the Open Mic UK competition and, having performed a version of the Noisettes track Never Forget You, she has successfully made it through to the regional finals on October 14, where she will …

Read the original article »

Read More

How hunks, rap, and booze might save Buddhism in Japan

It can be difficult to get people excited about religion in Japan. No doubt, Japan’s culture and its religions are deeply intertwined, but the vast majority of Japanese people say that aren’t very religious.

With membership in religions across Japan in free fall, many are trying to make themselves more appealing to attract more followers. How do you get people excited about religion? Do you pull a Pope John Paul II and get some sweet-ass breakdancers to get the kids all excited about God?

Japanese Buddhists have found their weapon of choice: hunks. Not just any hunks, but hunky monks. Earlier this year …

Read the original article »

Read More

Red Hot Chili Peppers members ask for meditation room before Romania concert

The famous rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, which will be performing in Romania on August 31, asked for a relaxation room where they can unwind before the Bucharest show on the National Arena. The meditation room should have plenty of natural light, drapes, carpets and many green plants, but should by no means be blue. The band members asked for coffee, still water, non-alcoholic beer, scented candles, fruits and vegetables, cheese and rice cookies.

Two additional, sound proof rooms are also required for practicing before the concert for drummer Chad Smith and singer Anthony Kiedis, according to eMagic, the organizers of the show …

Read the original article »

Read More

Leaving OM: Buddhism’s lost lamas

Before they could even read, they were hailed as reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist legends in the vein of the Dalai Lama. Now young adults, these reluctant would-be spiritual leaders are stepping out of their monk’s robes, becoming rappers and moviemakers, and blowing the whistle on sexual abuse at Buddhist monasteries.

During a break in a mixing session at a recording studio in Milan, Gomo Tulku, a Tibetan-American hip-hop artist, plays the sample he’s inserting into the intro of his debut EP—a group of vocalists singing what sounds eerily like a Tibetan Buddhist chant. One of his Italian producers had it programmed into his …

Read the original article »

Read More
Menu