Aug 22, 2018
The following short excerpt is from the upcoming 2nd edition of The Essence of Meditation, scheduled to be published later this year. Taught as the first meditation technique in the book, music relaxation is the perfect way to start with meditation for the complete beginner, and a useful tool for the advanced practitioner for calming the thoughts before practice.
“ If you have never done meditation before, you may feel intimidated or unsure where to start. Before jumping right into learning more advanced techniques, it is beneficial to prepare yourself with a simple music relaxation exercise. Preparing for your practice with music will ensure a deeper overall experience, making advanced meditation methods easier to learn and master for the beginner; while for the experienced practitioner, it will help by calming the thoughts and priming the mind for strong focus. Music will also aid your relaxation before practising meditation, which will be easier to achieve and have a more lasting effect when performed as a conscious exercise.
Finding the proper setting is essential. Your office or any place where you usually work or deal with stressful issues might not be the best place for this, as the setting itself could invoke undesirable stress responses, probably without you even being aware of it. If you can, get away from people and noise, turn off all appliances, TV, computer, even your mobile phone, and cut yourself off from the world for a short time. You will not be able to practice meditation if you cannot be with only yourself for the duration of the practice.
If you live in a noisy environment, like near a busy road or in the city centre, where daily noise is unavoidable, you might want to schedule your practice to a later time in the evening, when traffic might be lower, or early in the morning, when others might still be asleep. Just make sure, you find a suitable time and place.
Music can aid your relaxation and, if you cannot find a quiet enough environment, it might also help by giving you something to focus on to block off the background noise. Relaxing with music can quickly get you into the proper mindset to start your usual meditation practice as well. Choose some soothing tunes, preferably classics or relaxation music. Upbeat, popular melodies will not suit this purpose. You need something soothing, slow and relaxing.
If you have limited time, you could set up a gentle, non-intrusive alarm to remind you when it’s time to finish your practice, but you must not forget that there is always a possibility of falling asleep while relaxing. It is probably best to practise in the evening or at a time when you need not worry about timing, as having a tight schedule will in itself defeat the purpose. Having too much to arrange or attend to after your practice will not let go of your mind.
- Schedule your practice at a time when you have already done everything important for the day.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes and find a comfortable position, be it sitting or lying down.
- Turn on the music, and listen to it.
- Don’t just let it be in the background as you would with the radio or your music player in the gym or at work. Listen to the music actively. Try to soak up every note, every movement, every sound. Contemplate the different instruments used, or just go with the flow.
- Let your thoughts flow free. Do not try to suppress them, but do not let them linger either. Just come back to the music any time your thoughts get carried away.
- The important thing is being in the music. Your eventual goal will be to become one with the music, or at least that is how you should feel.
- Continue with this until your alarm goes off, until you fall asleep, or until you feel like you’ve done enough.
Although the terms “music relaxation” and “music meditation” are often used interchangeably, a clear difference between these rather similar practices is the sharpness and intensity of focus while listening to music. If you flow with the music to alleviate stress, it could be called a music relaxation exercise, while if you try to be in or with the music, contemplating it closely, the experience becomes more akin to a meditation practice.
If you have managed to listen actively, and have never been completely distracted from the music itself, you have just been through your first conscious meditation experience, even though it might only have started out as a relaxation exercise. Music meditation is the simplest of all the different methods discussed in this book. It offers all the benefits of meditation while also preparing you for more advanced practices, and it can also be practised as a preparation for all other techniques described in the following chapters. ”