The Discovery Approach to Music Practice (part 3): Simple meditations

Part 1 of this series is available here and part 2 is available here. Please make sure to read those first if you haven’t yet. To recap, this approach is essentially a “hidden in plain sight” simple way of practicing music slowly, that allows for both enjoyment and results in music practice. In part 1 and 2, we covered what the Discovery Approach is, why we might want to use it and how it might be effective and helpful.

This approach assumes you have something somewhat specific that you want to practice, like a line or piece of music, raga, chord progression etc. as a music student or practitioner. If you want to utilize music to realize your real nature itself (Enlightenment, Self Realization etc), please see Naada Yoga for Total Liberation (multi-post series in progress.) It’s all the same in the end, but the focus is a bit different.

Now let’s dive into some simple meditations or visualizations to help enter or access this natural approach for practicing music.

1. Turn off the lights, turn off the mind, awaken natural attention

Relax. Breathe. Visualize sitting in a classroom or lecture hall or perhaps a large sports stadium at your favorite match. Or maybe a concert with your favorite artist. Choose whatever appeals to you. You are engaged in whatever is taking place and there appears to be quite a bit of activity.

Now, suddenly, all the lights are switched off at once. Notice and watch carefully what happens. Immediately, pure wakeful attention comes forward and distractedness and thoughts fade into the background. If fear arises, simply notice it and allow it to subside as it is not necessary right now.

Rest in silence briefly or as long as you like. Begin to feel the sensations of holding your instrument again or, if you are a vocalist, just notice the body itself and its sensations. Slowly begin your warmup for your practice session. You will notice the intensity of your awareness and attention will be many times more than what it was before this. With practice, dropping into this space will be quicker, easier and deeper.

2. When this step is all there is, you go beyond time and enjoy vivid awareness

Relax. Breathe. Visualize that you are standing alone on top of a very tall tower. It is dark and you cannot see anything. However, you can sense that there are no protective rails or anything to prevent you from falling. From the tower is a walkway leading back down. You begin try to move in that direction but you have no idea which way it is. How will you walk?  First, relax again. Set aside any fear, knowing that there is no external factor that could interrupt you. You would move extremely slowly, feeling with the sensations of your feet touching the floor and perhaps reaching around you to see what is in front of you. Move too quickly and you may fall. Relax. The moment you notice your feet touching the edge, you would naturally pull back and proceed in a different direction, unhurriedly. Simply go as SLOW as needed. This recognition is liberating as you know that with this kind of undisturbed attention and plenty of time, there will be no “fatal” mistakes.

Relaxing into this state of natural focus and vivid awareness, come back to your instrument (or body itself for vocals) and begin playing. This works especially well for working on a piece or phrase line by line. You move through the line the same way you would feel with your feet and senses in this example… Unhurried, going way slower than you normally would, and thus noticing and digesting more than you ever normally would about the music and about what you are doing. Even a few minutes of practice this way is very beneficial.

Just enjoy…

Once you slide into the natural attention through either of these two techniques, simply enjoy the music here and now. Enjoy the sound, the entire experience of playing music. Your awareness is now ALIVE and simply noticing all that happens. Playing is easier and more fun this way. This is the flow and this is the natural way. Mistakes are both less in number and less frustrating. “Mistakes” become a friend that points the way. Simply keep returning to whatever you are doing again and again.

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The Discovery Approach to Music Practice (part 2): What you want is already here when you SEE.

Part 1 of this series is available here. In part 1, there is an overview of what this approach is about.

The Discovery Approach to practice essentially comes from the realization that what IS is inherently complete and perfect. That perfection can grow and change, but it is inherently full as it is. The practice is then to discover that. This can be successfully utilized in music…or anything.

Let us look into the first analogy: uncovering a fossil or perhaps a lost city. Paleontology, archaeology, etc. Remember, all analogies break down. This is just to convey a perspective-essence that you can utilize in your practice.

If you were going to uncover a large dinosaur or perhaps an ancient city, what would be your approach? Everyone has seen a clip or photo of paleontologists in action. If you come at it roughly, the precious treasure will be damaged. Notice the delicate tools being used, crouched on the earth.

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What will you find? (photo courtesy kenosha.org)

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The goal is already here, so there’s no hurry. (photo courtesy answersingenesis.org)

The approach is wide open seeing, gently pressing onward to uncover that which you want to find. There is no hurry, no clock. There is a great deal of sensitivity in the work. The team or worker will take as long as it needs to properly expose the dinosaur’s remains. Days, months or years. There is a touch of reverence for what may be discovered. The goal is available right at the fingertips to the point that it can even be touched, yet such care is taken. It is already complete and finished and does not need to be created. It simply awaits discovery. (I will go into how this relates to composing and improvising music another time…this still applies.)

Looking at a phrase, line, piece of music or even a single note in this way might change your entire relationship to it. It ceases to be an item to be completed or scale to get through. You are no longer marking off checklists of completing a number of krithis, scales or compositions. You are not buying groceries here or taking a standardized test or collecting accomplishments.

You become aware of what you are doing in a natural way. You are noticing everything about your experience. You return to just being, which is quite similar to vividly aware FEELing. You notice the entire symphony of body sensations. For example, how does the body posture feel? How do your hands feel on the instrument? Or if you are a vocalist, explore the feeling of the body itself, particularly the chest, head, belly and throat. Now when you go to play, it is not an unconscious “get this done” experience. It is very different. And this is where the analogy ends, because the line of music that initially was like a dinosaur bone, is now ALIVE. Every note comes alive, every breath comes alive. The entire experience reverberates with the sound and feeling of the music. Whatever arises is full and complete in itself. This allows you to actually PLAY music and not do music.

You do not need to wait to enjoy playing music until you have mastered it or even become reasonably good at it. You don’t need to hobble through the initial learning stage or struggle through the advanced and/or professional stages where you run on a treadmill to get infinitely “better,” more skilled and more amazing or impressive as a musician. I’m not saying not to do that. That is a real path. But look at it. The total bliss and enjoyment of music is available now for all. It is THIS note, THIS song that has it. Even a cracked note, HAS it. Most of us cannot see this. But when you approach music with this wide open seeing, the same way a child approaches a flower, you will definitely see.

What happens then, is the hidden fear aspect associated with failing or playing something wrong is either completely destroyed or significantly subdued. This frees up incredible amounts of clarity and vital energy for doing what you really need to do. There is a relaxation as well. Free of the concept of “mistakes,” you end up making less of them.

In the next posts, I will introduce a few more analogy/scenarios that apply to the actual practice process itself. They can be used as brief visualizations or meditations. Feel free to contemplate these first posts, try them out and let me know if it helps.

 

 

Here You Are

Wake up in the morning, lying in bed. Here you are.

Making breakfast and enjoying some coffee. Here you are.

A quick grocery run. Here you are.

Sitting in traffic. Here you are.

Out having a picnic. Here you are.

Gazing at the sky. Here you are.

Responding to emails. Here you are.

The latest calamity in the news. Here you are.

Before anything and everything. Here you are.

Just being you. Here you are.

After everything and nothing goes. Here you are.

Just enjoy.

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What you cannot find must be found

Have you ever picked up a cable or cord from an electronic device and couldn’t find where it’s plugged in or even what device it came from? It is tangled up in so many other cables and cords that it seems an almost impossible task to untangle it, get behind the desk and then find where it’s actually plugged in! Move even a tiny amount and there are other cables blocking the way. Often times, you might just shrug your shoulders and forget about it. But if it is really important, you will need to sit down and look and sort it out. If your child wants to watch her favorite show and the internet stops working you’ll have to sit down and look. Or you have a term paper or major work project due and the printer isn’t connected. Is the cable I’m looking for even in this mess? Maybe it’s not even here.

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“This is too messy, I’ll just figure it out later…”

This is a bit like attempting to find the root of the mind. Just when you notice that everything is just a thought, a whole group of other thoughts distract you from this seeing. You attempt to look for the mind but you can’t find it. It hides behind so many other thoughts, experiences and temporary states. Yet there is still the feeling of having a mind that often gives you a hard time. Sorting out all of these thoughts, memories and concepts can feel tedious and painful. “This is just too messy,” you might say.

But when you finally get to the point that you absolutely must find out what is happening, something changes. You see that you have to get to the bottom of this. This cannot go on any longer. You slow down and become patient as the task becomes very important. You realize you need all your attention for this task. It’s like the lion on the hunt. Like the person who diffuses a dangerous bomb. Like the tightrope walker. You become totally still and just LOOK. All these thoughts and experiences come back to you. Notice each experience arising. Who is watching? What is the same and what is different? Keep looking and seeing where it comes from, setting aside whatever thoughts arise to interrupt your task. You cannot ignore these thoughts. Similar to sorting the cables, you cannot ignore the tangled cables, you will have to carefully inspect each one using full awareness.

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The mind keeps you identified with the whole mess, but actually it is just a bunch of separate strings that happen to be bundled together.

When a thought arises, something catches hold of it and claims it. Keep going, keep going, keep tracing back every single thought to its source. Follow the trail. Don’t lose the scent. See where it goes.

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The tree branch is like an experience or thought. The monkey is the I-thought, the root of the mind. Catch him when he tries to grab the next experience! Catch him in the act or he will hide in those branches again.

Don’t sleep! LOOK. Suddenly, you catch it. I had this experience, I had this thought. This feeling I is arising in you as well. It is not the real you. Now the real lion, Awareness, is on the hunt and has identified the prey. Now it is only a matter of time until everything gets sorted out. The mind is becoming clear and transparent. The cables are getting untangled and loosening up.

At last you find the main cable and strip away all the other cables. You go to plug it in and realize that it’s already plugged in! It always was. This is like exposing the I-thought and watching it dissolve in the Self, or pure Awareness with nothing to cling to. Similarly, you already are free and always were. Awareness has always been free. But you had to sort everything out to see it.

Now you feel it.


Download Prasant’s meditation music and visit his YouTube Channel.

This a response to the wordpress prompt: Elusive

Does it take time to be who you are?

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The human body plays on the stage of time and space.
Your real nature, the source, is beyond all notions of time and space.

In the morning, the mind arises and creates the sense of time.
In deep sleep there is no time, no space and no world.

Thoughts about the past and future solidify a sense of time.
The infinite now is beyond past, present and future and free of time.

When the mind wants something, even 24 hours a day is not enough.
Dissolved in its source, that which is eternal enjoys Itself before time was created.

The human being has evolved over a long time.
Unblemished Being simply IS, wanting nothing.

When the suffering of the mind is noticed long enough, you want to be free.
The Infinite Self is already ever free and peaceful.

Sadhana (spiritual practice) to purify the mind takes much time and hard work.
The source of the mind is already the essence of effortless ultimate purity.

As sadhana matures, the fortress the mind has built comes crashing down.
The unlimited Self is the very dust that made the bricks and the ground on which it falls.

Repeated glimpses of your real nature seem to come and go as you mature over time.
You may wish this process went faster.
The Eternal Witness looks on with compassionate pristine impartiality. It alone is responsible for the glimpses and the ability to practice.

Many, many experiences of all kinds come and go as Silence deepens, effortlessly.
Imperturbable Presence remains as it always was, perfect.

When you see that time arises from the source that is beyond time and they have no conflict whatsoever, then YOU are beyond time.

Relaxing completely and totally into the effortless purity of liberation, all conflicts are resolved and life carries on without a hitch.


This post is in response to the wordpress daily prompt: Slowly

Visit Prasant’s Youtube Channel for music. You can download his albums too, some are free.

 

Who has all these worries?

 

Looking around today, it is easy to be swept up in a whirlwind of worries and problems happening in the world.  On top of this, there is the day to day matter of completing your work and taking care of your needs and that of your family, or if you are a student, getting into the best school or doing well on your exams.

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What am I going to do? What are WE going to do??

Many of us want to be free of this. We want to be peaceful and happy. Naturally, if you are to do your work and possibly help others, it would not help to be overwhelmed by the problems of your life and the world. Some feel they must maintain some level of stability and peace to fend off stress and get their work done. This is difficult to do and you may become frustrated. The alternative of being angry at the world and pointing out everyone’s mistakes doesn’t always work either. It is equally frustrating.

The direct way is to look and see: who has all these worries and problems? Examine even one thought, emotion or situation and you will see that it is you that is experiencing it. Even the you that is trying to maintain a peaceful, calm state is the same you. This you is not the real you, but the mind.

In simply seeing that, the part of you that was not visible to you before, that is already always free, peaceful and happy with no effort comes forward.

That part of you is totally unaffected by whatever the mind interprets and seems to experience. That is free of any worries or cares, buoyant and open, with no reference points of any kind that can be found or measured.

Feeling this, all worries fall away and all doubts fall away. True freedom dawns and you see that what you are doing right now at this very moment is perfectly ok. It is just as it is. You can relax and be yourself.

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The clear sky doesn’t mind a few clouds and birds. It’s still the sky.

You see that everything is already taken care of and there are no worries. There are no problems. There is peace. Now you can do your work again, in peace. And if you like, you can help others more than you ever thought possible.


This post is in response to the wordpress daily prompt: Carefree

Send all your desires back to their source to taste real peace

The appearance of the world and the universe provide endless things and experiences to enjoy and chase. The next delicious meal, the next tech gadget, the next movie, the next website, the next relationship, a great career move, the next house, car, book, so on and so forth. The kind of immersive entertainment available for the senses is only becoming more and more astounding.

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Plenty of things to chase after, but there may be a cost…your peace! 😉

These are all natural things, not a problem. It is all part of the Infinite play, the Infinite Self, the universal dance. But when this infinity feels limited to a mind and body and then identifying with this limitation, chases after separate objects in the world for happiness, it creates a problem.

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Are you the infinite ocean or the just the wave?

It is a problem because in order to do this, you have to leave your undivided pure perfection as Infinite Being to arise as the mind within the appearance of the body. This creates separation. Once there is separation, there is suffering. Once there is suffering you attempt to remedy it with an object and the cycle continues on and on. It imprisons you.

Rather than you enjoying the food, the foods eats you. Instead of possessing beautiful things, those things possess you.

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Very enticing, but what IS it really?

The mind is always on the hunt in an illusory world of its own making for the next hit. The next rush. Of course, once a desire is fulfilled, it only brings temporary happiness because both the mind and the object rest for a moment and enjoy their Source. But the mind does not want you to know that. It will immediately rise again to seek another object once the previous one seems insufficient. The objects become more and more complex, more grand and seem to never end. More often than not, the intense desire for objects and experiences ends up causing more harm than good.

The mind also has this habit because it does not want you to be HERE and NOW. If you did stay HERE and NOW, then you will know what it is up to. You will discover and liberate all the hidden thoughts and concepts you have that it does not want you to see and examine. It is too embarrassed of them and would rather keep them in the dark.

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Don’t look in here, it’s dark and scary. Too dangerous. It’s also embarrassing…says the mind.

How then do you reverse the process and discover lasting happiness and peace? See that all the thoughts and desires are only arising in you and appearing to you. Inquire into the source of each and every desire, especially when you see its pattern. You will have to see that nothing in this world will give you lasting peace, happiness and freedom. Only your own Self, your very own Being can give you that, because you are That.

When you trace the experience of the object back to its Source in pure awareness then it is no longer another thing or experience. It dissolves in being. The illusory string of attachment is cut. Even doing this one time is extremely powerful and liberating. You will taste peace uncaused by any experience or thing. After all, in deep sleep you are perfectly peaceful and happy without any objects at all.

Having done this the mind will kick and scream, but with practice it will slowly relax and breathe. This present moment becomes quite inviting with its peace, rest and contentment. Then, all the hidden content comes to light and dissolves as you continue to stay right here, without the slightest need to leave THIS.

Now you have the entire kingdom and you are free of it all. You can have all the riches, cars, houses, food or not and it wont make any difference. All experiences purified and completely liberated, you enjoy your Self as your Self.

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Free to be, just to be yourself. Like the sky or the ocean.

This post is a response to the daily wordpress prompt: Feast