In his book, “In Tune: Music as the Bridge to Mindfulness”, Richard Wolf likens practising a musical instrument to meditation practice – each builds our capacity for inner harmony. He maintains that playing music draws our attention to vibration, sound, feelings and silence. Meditation, too, can take the form of a focus on sounds, tuning into feelings, making space for silence and noticing vibrations within and without.
Richard argues that when a musician is in the zone, they experience a perfect harmony between their mind, body and feelings – everything is in unison with the beat and rhythm of the music. The musician loses this sense of harmony if they overthink the music – they need to maintain their focus to remain “in the flow”. So, too, with meditation, when you can sustain your meditation practice, you can achieve an inner harmony whereby “your whole body is experienced as an organ of awareness”.
Music, too, sometimes involves alternating dissonance with harmony. Dissonance in music can also lead to what is termed “harmonic resolution”. Dissonance is an integral part of life – experienced within meditation as “unpleasant thoughts or emotions”. This dissonance can be acknowledged, named and integrated into your acceptance of “what is” – surfing the waves of life. Meditation enables us to experience ease amid the turbulence.
A harmonising practice – breathing in tune with room tone
Richard Wolf, an Emmy-Award winning composer and producer, states that every room has its own “room tone” – acknowledged by sound engineers who attempt to integrate room tone into a soundtrack for the purpose of achieving a sense of authenticity when someone hears the music. He suggests that you can harmonise with room tone by first focusing on the sounds within a room – sounds emitted by computers, air conditioning, digital devices or the vibration resulting from wind on the walls. Then when you are paying attention to the room tone, you can harmonise your breathing with it.
The analogy of music as a bridge to mindfulness can open our awareness to the sounds, vibrations and silence that surround us. As we grow in mindfulness through meditation, we can learn to harmonise our breathing with sounds beyond our bodies, e.g. the room tone. We can achieve inner harmony through sustained musical practice and/or meditation practice. Harmonising our breathing with room tone can deepen our awareness and provide an anchor to experience calm and ease when we are buffeted by demands, challenges, dilemmas and urgent tasks. Tuning in to ourselves through meditation enables us to become more aware of “the ambient clutter of daily life”.
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)
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