The last few years I have developed a deep meditation practice. I won’t go into all of the benefits of meditation here because there are wonderful narratives on that subject. But suffice it to say that I find meditation a true key to happiness and contentment. Therefore I prioritize it in my day above all else. But sometimes that comes into conflict with my music and guitar playing. There are only so many hours in the day and I’m sure we all can relate to having to slice up 16 waking hours into slots of time for family, work, exercise, music, meditation and fun. And one day it hit me that music and meditation could be done at the same time. I actually did this when I was a teenager when I would play a piece of music until it became a trance-like repetition that I played just for pure enjoyment. Now that I have actual meditation skills and experience I find the two go beautifully hand-in-hand.
Here’s how I approach it…
Clearly the piece of music has to be somewhat simple and repetitive. For me it’s usually just a few chords or a riff with some drone strings that I can play over and over. This is actually great fun and gives you all the benefits of building strength and endurance for your hands and fingers while also working on tone production and getting to the place where you can play without thinking. In meditation, there is no thinking – the whole idea is to forgo thoughts and focus on just one thing. Often this is the breath or image, but it can also be a sound, the sound of the music.
Start by playing something very simple even just a few open strings in DADGAD for instance, then begin to focus on hearing the music and nothing else. Put all your intensity into just hearing and letting the music come into your being. If your mind begins to wander and you find yourself thinking about playing the music better, work you should be doing, the kids in the other room, then gently, like you’re talking to an old friend, tell your mind that there’s no time for thoughts right now and bring yourself back to intense focus on just hearing the music.
Do this without any judgment or any feeling of failure. It’s a very hard thing to control the mind. It controls us every moment of every day and it doesn’t necessarily like it when we try to take control back. So thoughts will come, but every time gently bring yourself back. Even a few seconds of calm are extremely valuable and slowly those seconds will grow into tens of seconds and maybe half a minute and then a full minute and so on.
Studies show that meditation and calming from within is extremely healing and beneficial to the brain. But to me it’s something even more, it’s healing for my soul. I invite you to join me and try meditation, or if you already meditate try it with music and your guitar. Anything we can do to have the guitar in our hands more, put music into the universe, and work on controlling our mind is time will spent.