What Happens During Music Meditation?

by Andrew Ford

Many people ask me what goes on in my music meditation sessions. Is it just a bunch of people lying down in a dimly lit room with their eyes closed listening to me playing a variety of strange musical instruments? The short answer is yes but allow me to elucidate further.

The meditation begins with some guided relaxation, taking the meditator through the various parts of the body and inviting them to let go of any tension. Once everyone is suitably relaxed, the mindfulness aspect begins. The aim here is to pay close and continuing attention to ones own experience of sound. The sensation of hearing without judgement. There are no good sounds or bad sounds, just sounds. This seemingly simple task is exceedingly difficult and the mind does wander. But that is ok. The practice of mindfulness is noticing when the mind wanders and gently bringing its focus back to the object of meditation. In this case, the music.

But why do we do this? Well firstly, it is very relaxing and a great reliever of stress. But it goes deeper. As we begin to strengthen our power of attention and mindfulness, we begin to notice states of mind as they arise in everyday life. Unfruitful states of mind such as anger, jealousy or hatred often take hold of us and hurtful words are spoken before we have even realised what is happening. Developing mindfulness can give us a little glimmer of awareness, just enough to spot these unfruitful states as they arise, allowing us to take control and act rather than react.

The final part of the meditation often includes a short Metta Bhavana practice which is a Buddhist technique used to cultivate loving kindness and compassion. As the Dalai Lama says “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

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