Friday, October 24, 2008

Music meditation

When I was a teenager, my bedroom was on the third floor of my family's fixer-upper house. I didn't care that it was the coldest (and hottest) bedroom in the house, and had the worst-peeling of the wallpaper and paint: mine was the only bedroom up there, and I had the roof.

The third floor was smaller than the second floor, which meant there was a gently-sloped expanse of roof outside my bedroom window. Many nights, before going to bed, I would climb out my window to sit out on the roof and commune with the trees and the stars (and try to ignore the streetlights from the apartment house parking lot next door).

One year, for birthday or holiday, I don't remember which, an aunt gave me a walkman tape player. I had a friend with a good stereo who would make me mix tapes (and sometimes let me make them myself). So then I could climb out on the roof, commune with nature, and listen to music. Which I did, sometimes for hours on end.

Meditating out on the roof would, as Madeleine L'Engle's character Vicky Austin would say, bring me back into perspective, back into myself, and at the same time, beyond and outside of myself. My word for it was be-ing. I didn't have to think, I didn't have to be smart (I was the smart kid), I didn't have to do anything right, I didn't have to figure things out, I didn't have to know what to say to my family or teachers or school-mates. I could simply be, me and the trees and the stars, and whoever or whatever the Divine might be.

The woods, the moon, the stars, the seasons -- they have always been how I have most keenly felt the Divine. But in high school, I discovered music.

I realized recently that meditating to music is a spiritual practice that hasn't changed much for me in the last twenty-four years. (Although the technology has.)

Last winter into spring was a lonely and challenging time for me, but it was filled with much spiritual growth, discernment, and music. And one of the things that I found myself doing a lot was listening to music on the headset in the velvet darkness. Inside, this time: it was a snowy Michigan winter this year.

Beloved Wife was away, doing research in England for the semester. I was working and taking classes (trying to decide which to keep and which to drop: I kept music theory, and decided four years was too long after taking orgo I to be taking orgo II); trying to make decisions with Beloved Wife about our next move, her next job, and grad school for me; asking myself many hard questions about who I am and what I am led to do; learning a lot about music; discovering community I hadn't realized I'd had; and learning how to dance again, with deep gratitude to my physical therapy team.

Meditating to music helped ground me and center me, helped me worship, helped me re-connect with who I am and what's important to me, reminded me both of the things that have been constant and of the things I've been learning. The two have been very intertwined this year.

I asked a clearness committee to meet with me at Mid-Winter Gathering. It really helped, but it was also pretty scary: when Friends help you see what you're really being asked to do, it's a lot harder to hide from it. :)

It's fall now, and here we are in Seattle for the year.

During a break yesterday afternoon, I decided to download two songs I've had stuck in my head for the last few weeks, but didn't own copies of (except I have a copy of one of them on tape, in storage for the year). Did I mention the technology has changed?

We don't have a stereo with us, and the external computer speakers are good, but they're small; and this one song has rich vocal harmonies. So I plugged in the headphones so I could better listen to it.

I found myself drawn to just sitting on the sofa and listening to the entire mix I'd added the two new songs to. It was daytime, so it was light out, and I was sitting on the sofa, looking out at the greenery in front of our house and at the hummingbird that comes to our feeder. I was listening to a mix that's been growing since January, one I listened to a lot last winter, with some new additions.

And it turned out, this was exactly what I needed. During that time, I got re-grounded in me. I didn't have to be smart or wise, I didn't have to be a seasoned Friend or experienced thealogian, I didn't even have to ask how I'm led; all I had to do was be me, as the Goddess made/grew me. Carving out that time and space, and the change of perspective and consciousness that came with it, was a huge relief.

And isn't that what magic is?

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