The Lifeflow vibe – where music and meditation meet …
Music, like all art, is inner experience brought into form – a form that we can both hear and feel. Music spans the aeons of time going right back to early human evolution and it crosses all cultures.
It’s little wonder then that music has played a key role in Lifeflow’s history. This is especially so given our Director, Graham Williams’ training and early career as one of Australia’s most gifted performers and scholars of 20th century Western classical music. It was clearly a natural starting point to include music when Graham began his journey as a meditation teacher, and what colour and vibrancy it has brought to the life of the Centre since then!
Robyn Walden once told me about her early days in the Centre: ‘I remember when I first became involved in the late 70s most of the young students were musicians. I even lived in the same house with an oboist, classical guitarist, and a violinist… Lots of piano students around too and it really added something to the mix: not only lectures on meditation that at times were quite austere. There was a sense of fun and lightness that came with the music students and lots of opportunities for impromptu concerts and bedside serenades: ah those were the days!’.
Well, the bedside serenades might be confined to streaming from our phones these days, but music has always remained an integral part of the Lifeflow experience — on retreats, at events and concerts, and in our Learn to Meditate course where we still play Ross Edwards’ ‘Dawn Mantras’ every term! It’s a very natural entry point for people who are new to meditation, as being in a meditative state, listening to music is something most people are used to whether they realise it or not.
This was certainly the case for me, and my own journey in meditation was intertwined with music from the beginning – as a professional violinist, I needed to understand better what was happening in musical performance and that path has been both a teacher and a beneficiary of my meditation practice.
The energy that is created in musical expression (whether as a performer or a listener) taps the same forces and energies of life that bring us to love, to long, to lament and everything in between. One of the greatest gifts of Lifeflow for me has been to learn how to understand these energies and to experience them in my own body – so that emotional life is not confined to playing or experiencing music but can be understood and brought into life elsewhere.
The act of giving and receiving musical performance is also a great teacher – when all parties are absorbed in the experience, there can be a direct transmission of energy and vibration, of an embodied state of mind, much like a group meditation. One can only participate and give fully by tuning into the senses and the heart and letting go of defensive emotions.
As time has gone on my meditation practice has given me a greater ability to access this kind of experience. Even now after over 35 years of playing my violin I am finding a deeper connection to the physical vibration of the instrument and, also to the emotional content of the music, helping me to bypass thought and to feel the music even more directly with the heart and body.
Importantly though, this isn’t something that can just be accessed by people with a longstanding musical training. Rhythmic motion, feeling vibration in the body and vocalisation are elements of music that we can all tap into and make part of our daily lives. If we have a meditation practice then we are even better equipped to open our mind to these sensory aspects, and like any meditative discipline it can open us wider and deeper to the realms of mind and body.
As Graham often likes to say, the word ‘perfect’ originally meant whole or complete; so, if we take the old axiom ‘practice makes perfect’ – we can say that as we keep going and opening to our own experience, this too can make us whole.
The combination of music and meditation then is really something quite special – music can help to open us to all the joys and sorrows of our emotional life as well as ground us in the rhythms of life and the body; and meditation more broadly can give us the awareness and understanding to access these rich veins of experience for the benefit of our whole lives.
Top image: Josep Molina Secall on Unsplash