Monday, June 29, 2009

Meditating with music

When you’re moving too fast to sit and be mindful, you can use certain kinds of music to help you tune in to a slower, steadier, less jarring rhythm before you begin meditating. The music you choose depends on your taste — one person’s “aaahh” is another one’s “ouch.” Some people relax to classical or jazz, while others seem to need the intense sounds of heavy metal or the staccato rhythms of rap before their bodies settle down.
By all means, use a favorite CD to soothe your savage beast at the end of a long and stressful day — preferably something that joins you where you are and then gradually lulls you into a quieter space. When you’re breathing a little easier, you can head for your meditation corner. Or you can make listening to music a meditation in itself. Begin by being mindful of the music the way you’d be mindful of your breathing. Instead of thinking or daydreaming, listen with full attention to the sounds as they unfold in your awareness. When your mind wanders off, return to the music. At times, you may even lose yourself in the sound so that you, as the listener, disappear and only the listening remains. Such moments of deep meditation offer a glimpse of your essential being that can’t be understood by the mind, but they have a powerful effect nevertheless.

Keeping good head and shoulders

In Zen, good posture refers to more than how you position your back and legs; it refers to an attitude toward life in general. Attentive yet relaxed, you face each moment and each situation directly, with a bearing that suggests: “I’m open to whatever arises. I’m present and ready to respond.” One of my teachers, the Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, used to call this “keeping good head and shoulders.” If you have an alarm watch, set it to beep every hour for the rest of the day. (If you don’t, just do this exercise at random times.) When your watch beeps, take a moment to pay attention to your body. How am I standing or sitting right now? Am I slouching or slumping? And if so, how would it feel to gently extend my spine and align myself with gravity?
Notice how this subtle shift affects your mood and your outlook on life as you go about your day.

Ten quick steps to prep your body for meditation

This handy list provides a user-friendly summary of the steps described in detail earlier in this chapter:
1. Arrange your legs.
2. Lengthen your spine.
3. Rock your body from side to side like a pendulum.
4. Rock your body from front to back.
5. Tilt your pelvis slightly forward and soften your belly.
6. Tuck your chin gently.
7. Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth and breathe through your nose, if possible.
8. Rest your hands on your thighs or in your lap.
9. Relax your body from head to toe, letting go as much as possible of any tension or discomfort.
10. Begin your meditation.