Music as the object of meditation

posted Sep 26, 2009, 9:30 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎
There have been a few articles published on this subject in recent days and I felt that it was time to weigh in on this topic.

Music is a particularly powerful source of stimuli. Music is very effective at surfacing emotions. I know through my own experiences that many songs have had a profound effect on me. I know that occasionally when driving with music in the car I will hear an 80’s song. That song will take me back to that moment. I then instantly recall my relationships, my emotions and even my behaviour at that time in my life.

There is no doubt that music is a great source for contemplation, but contemplation itself is not meditation. Meditation is about developing the mind. The goal of meditation is to know the mind, shape the mind and free the mind.

Indeed music can be used to help one know their mind. In such instances music can be used as the primary object of focus in meditation. However, this is a very difficult exercise. Let me explain.

When we follow the insight meditation process we prepare the body, prepare the mind, prepare the point of focus, monitor the point of focus and then experience change. This process is centred on the present. The present mind moment is noting and experiencing the process and state changes in the primary object of focus and the associated problems and distractions. The present mind moment is not dwelling on the past or planning your future.

Music takes an untrained mind away from the present mind moment. That’s okay for a short period of time. The instant we hear a tune or a lyric it initiates a thought stream. That music thought stream could be used to progress the meditation practice if we were able to inspect our ego and then return back to the present moment. At that moment of inspection we must note some attributes of that thought stream. We note what the thought was, how intense it was, how long it lasted. Inevitably we would also note whether the experience was pleasant, unpleasant, good or bad. At this point an experienced meditator would be able to detach from the ego’s conditioning and return back to the primary object of meditation. However, most of us would be trapped and continue with a flood of more memories that feed our desire for those pleasant or good or rejection of those unpleasant or bad experiences.

Meditation is challenging. A practice that works for one may not work for another. However, the best advice I have followed is to make the practice as simple as possible. The first step to making meditation simple is to choose a simple, ever present object of meditation. Hence, music may help with contemplation, but if you really want to free your mind, I recommend a simpler path.

Please direct all comments to the guided meditation instruction blog.

1. Music and Meditation