Monday, December 22, 2008

The Power of Music and Meditation #1

Lately I've been on something of a Robert Fripp and Peter Gabriel. I think it started when the TV show "" TARGET="meditation">Life on Mars, based on the British Life on Mars, of course, turned me onto the David Bowie song, "Life on Mars."

Going on over to Youtube, I would play "Life on Mars." From there, I moved onto playing a whole bunch of other stuff that I used to really like listening to, from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon to Robert Fripp's frippertronic masterpieces, team ups like Robert Fripp's and David Sylvian to the combo of Robert Fripp's "Water Music I" and "Water Music II" with one of Peter Gabriel's minimalistic yet passionate renditions of "Here Comes the Flood." I remember listening to a lot of the above during the summer of 2000 when I live in Cambridge, MA.

I even went so far as to purchase Peter Gabriel's album, Passion, and Robert Fripp's album, Exposure, which had "Water Music"(s) and Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood."

The other day after listening to all this stuff for weeks on end, fairly mellow, ambient, passionate stuff, someone at work asked if I had made some kind of turning point. She had been having some hard times at work, so I e-mailed her two prayers: The Serenity Prayer and The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. After receiving the latter prayer, she asked me what had changed about me. I basically told her that I had found myself missing a part of me that had been left at the wayside, and I was working to acquaint myself with that old self of mine again.

Along with listening to more ambient music and Fripp-centered music, I've been yearning to engage once again in yoga and meditation. I have yet to take a yoga class since making this commitment to follow this more soulful, spiritual search for contentment and one day engaging in service, but meditation hasn't proved so hard to try doing again. After all, it's something that you can do sitting in a chair or lying down in bed.

I meditated a lot back as an adolescent, in the hopes of gaining strange super powers like lucid dreaming or astral projection. After trying many techniques of meditation (from counting my breaths, counting from 1 to 10, clenching and relaxing my muscles, visual meditations, trying to feel every nerve in my body, trying to focus my attention on individual nerves in my body, guided meditations. . .you name it, I probably tried it), I had minimal accomplishment in getting super powers.

The most I can verify is gaining momentary lucidity in a dream. Apparently, a couple friends and I apparently shared a dream, but I also don't know if they were yanking my chain. I had some weird friends then and remain friends with some of them still.

During my college years, I did some independent research into Buddhism and the arts of meditation. One of the books I read went on about people meditating and following Buddhist practices because they wanted to get those super powers, but that was the wrong reason for meditating and following Buddhist practices. I forget the exact wording of the right goal, but I think it had to do with finding contentment, reducing suffering in the world and following the Right Path, the "" TARGET="meditation">Middle Way. This idea really stuck with me.

So, anyway. . .

I decided to meditate a little last night. I focused on my breathing, not counting it or anything, just focused on the act of breathing and trying to deep breathing as a yoga teacher once taught me. Breath through the nose, with the air going down the back of my throat, deep down into my lungs, so that it fills up the bottom of my abdomen to the top of my chest, just under my rib cage.

In the meanwhile, I observed my thoughts and acknowledged them. The same yoga teacher who taught me the breathing technique also instructed a different class on on observing the thoughts and letting them go. Before that class, I thought the goal was to try focusing on nothing. That is unfortunately one of the most frustrating things in the world to do, because in focusing on nothing, you end up focusing on the idea of nothing and start trying to examining the idea of nothing. . .then the mind goes on some other tangent or another thought pops into the brain. The money mind doesn't shut up.

A good way around the frustrations of the mind, though, is to just go with the natural flow. Think of something, observe it, settle on it for a little bit, acknowledge it then somehow it just goes away. A new thought will replace it, either through a natural tangent or just something random. Just acknowledge these thoughts and let them naturally fall away. After following this practice, the thoughts will peel away like an onion.

Maybe you'll even find yourself having nothing going on in your mind after a bit of this acknowledging and letting go. Really, nothing, and that can be a good and contented thing. Sure, of course, you'll have to deal with the small sensations around the body, from itches on your nose or your cheek or the desire to move your arm or leg, whether to stretch a muscle or just because its an urge. You can also work at acknowledging and letting go of these sensations without following through on the urges.

This type of meditation can also do a great job of working on self control. You can acknowledge your desire but you don't necessarily have to cave into it. Didn't really think of that point until just now.

Last night, though, I made some good progress meditating this way. I stripped away a lot of layers of money mind and had reached a good level of contentment. I even turned off my need to associate with the outside world, even though I would acknowledge the things around me.

My limbs however felt the need to move, so just letting go of that urge proved difficult. I probably could have handled that well enough if I had continued at the meditating.

Something weird happened, though. The money mind had all become silent when I suddenly felt this great anxiety and fright. It didn't fixate on anything. I just triggered my sympathetic system, my breathing quickened, my heart probably could've started beating faster, the muscles in my head and on my face clenched, my fight or flight system had turned on. It just felt extremely uncomfortable.

I stopped meditating at that point, turned to my side and just let my mind fall into sleep.

I don't know what that anxiety and fright was about. It came from some irrational part of me. I could probably examine my life and find plenty of things to get frightened and anxious about, but nothing articulate came to mind at that point. It certainly made for an interesting experience, and I'm still unsure what to think about it.

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