***This is from a handout given at the drone meditations to give people some suggested methods and guidelines for experiencing the sound meditation.
Please find a comfortable seat or lying position. You will find blankets near the back of the room. Below are some explanations of certain things you may hear and some suggested ways of deepening your experience and developing new techniques of using sound as a method of meditation. Participate as you like: lay down, sit, meditate, watch etc. There is, of course, no right or wrong way of participating or experiencing. In support of a focused and collective energy, we politely ask that you turn your phones to airplane mode or off, be aware and respectful of other friends and participants around you, and not talk in a framework outside of the sound cloud.
Notes on Intentional Sound
Before singing or playing, take 1-3 deep breaths. You can focus on the area between your nostrils and upper lip; you can scan the body from the tip of your head to the tip of your toes; you can hear the gross and subtle arising and passing of the sounds around you to bring you back into the present moment and be reminded of the impermanent nature of reality. All of these methods, and others, work.
After you’re relaxed, place in your mind some sort of wholesome intention; it could be for yourself, a friend or loved one, the world, animals etc. This could be a singlular word, “Love”, a phrase, such as “May my Mother be healed and whole”, “May I be peaceful”, or anything that comes to your mind of benefit. Then play or sing with that intention clearly focused in your mind. Listen or feel the vibration of the sound; imagine the intention is embedded within the mechanical energy of the emitting sound waves, and it carries with it your intention off into the realm of physical space.
This is not just magical thinking!
If we reflect on our own speech or the impact of the music we love, we know, scientifically speaking, that when we talk, we make distortions to the air pressure around us through the muscles of our body in order to communicate psychological phenomena that we take for granted as “words”. “Words” are nothing but encoded packets of sound we convert into “thought” by sending back and forth our own little patterns of sound through the air that allows us to communicate with each other. Similarly with music. The miracle of music is that a musician uses his/her body as an instrument to oscillate the air pressure in the environment (again, the physics of sound). Your mind decodes some sort of hard-to-describe emotional or preferential connection with this sound. You know the music you “like” and you “dis-like”. The musician, sometimes knowingly or unknowingly, has encoded intentions within these distortions of air pressure, and we have a special experience because of it. This truly is a miracle! These examples show us there is some sort of way in which the sound that you play is encoded with consciousness. Yes, very deep, keep reflecting on it! Please experiment with this idea, both here and within your day to day life and see if you sense some sort of movement of conciousness through intent interaction with the physical world.
Notes on Conscious Listening
Sound is a universal phenomenon that allows us to be in touch with the subtle reality of nature. This is one reason why we love music so much. However, sound can also cause negative reactions. Like any technology, it in itself is neutral; our past impressions influence our present reactions to sounds we “label” as good or bad. The practice here, and one that can be used as a meditation, is to lie in a “savasana” or a comfortable lying position, or sit up in a meditative posture, close our eyes and listen to the sounds around us. If we pay close attention, we will hear sounds are constantly arising and passing. They come into existence, they last awhile and they pass. Some last longer, others very short. There are the infinitessimal tiny sounds of atoms and their elementary particles arising and passing at trillions of times a second, and there are the epic and seemingly endless sounds emitted from the planets and the solar system that last for billions of years! In between, we experience a vast variety of sounds: some loud, some quiet, some long, some short, some pleasant, some unpleasant. In truly conscious listening, we notice the sounds; we may notice they create a relaxed feeling in our heart or our forehead, or an unpleasant tension in our jaw, or our back. If we look really closely and really listen, we’ll see each sound causes a sensation on the body. However, if we listen to that sound or watch the sensation, we’ll see it is constantly in the process of changing and never stays the same. Even the drone going on throughout this workshop, if you listen closely, is constantly changing, all the time! Many sages of many traditions have spoken about how awareness of the impermanent nature of reality is a key to an understanding our own nature, and sound, as well as breath, is one of the greatest allies towards bringing you this realization. Sound is always present, even if we can’t hear it; therefore, it is always available as an object of meditation for us. Much like the breath, which as long as we’re alive, we always carry with us. That is why almost all meditative traditions have some sort of focus on the breath; sound, being just as universal, is also a great method!
In the spirit of Non-Judgement
An important ingredient to creativity is a space to experiment and to feel free to express without a feeling of judgement. For students of many traditions, non-clinging, non-grasping, a release of preferences is an important step in developing a pure mind. Sound and music can again be helpful allies in developing these qualities. Try to practice experiencing the sound or music around you and observing the sensations on the body, the arousal of thoughts (which are always accompanied by a sensation on the body if we look deeply). Then practice allowing them to come and go without clinging, craving or aversion. Our sound practice, and particularly the practice of improvisation, is a wonderful way to gain deep insight into the benefit of this quality of freedom. Within the sound, within the music we can have direct experience where we see this method working in our own lives. Within this spirit, please try not to fuel any negative thoughts or mental patterns of judgment towards any of the friends around you as they may be making a very special and fragile attempt to explore aspects of their creative selves, vulnerable to a collective influence. Please, encourage their journey with thoughts of support and loving-kindness.
Basic Suggested Method of Sitting from Thich Nhat Hanh
• When you sit, keep your spinal column quite straight, while allowing your body to be relaxed. Relax every muscle in your body, including the muscles in your face. Consider smiling slightly, a natural smile. Your smile relaxes all your facial muscles.
• Notice your breathing. As you breathe in, be aware that you are breathing in. As you breathe out, notice that you are breathing out. As soon as we pay attention to our breath, body, breath and mind come together. Every in-breath can bring joy; every out-breath can bring calm and relaxation. This is a good enough reason to sit.
• When you breathe in mindfully and joyfully, don’t worry about what your sitting looks like from the outside. Sit in such a way that you feel you have already arrived.
• It’s wonderful to have a quiet place to sit in your home or workplace. If you are able to find a cushion that fits your body well, you can sit for a long time without feeling tired. But you can practice mindful sitting wherever you are. If you ride the bus or the train to work, use your time to nourish and heal yourself.
• If you sit regularly, it will become a habit. Even the Buddha still practiced sitting every day after his enlightenment. Consider daily sitting practice to be a kind of spiritual food. Don’t deprive yourself and the world of it.
Instruments Around You
You will find around the room a few instruments available. Play them with special intent! We only ask, again, please be conscious of the friends around you and allow them to experiment with the instruments as well.
- Microphone- You are welcome to come and sing any of the suggested mantras or any personal intuited sound into the Microphone. Christopher will process and adjust your volume live to unite with the rest of the sound field.
- Crystal Bowl- You will find a mallet next to the bowl; please experiment with gently but firmly rubbing the mallet in a smooth fashion around the rim of the bowl. With the proper patience, you will find it sings with you very easily and you will physically feel its vibrations.
- Shruti Box- A simple harmonium; feel free to experiment and play along.
4) Some other instruments will be passed around spontaneously. Feel free to experiment with them placing them around various parts of the body and trying to feel the subtle vibrations of the sound making contact with your body and mind.
Seed sounds and mantras you may hear, and are welcome to experiment with :
2) Ah-oo-(O)m- OM Variation
4) Any other vowels or sounds that inspire you
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu- (Sanskrit)
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” - Translation and interpretation by Sharon Gannon
Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam- (Pali language)
"May all beings be happy”
From S.N. Goenka:
“I say this because it makes me feel good. When we say "May all beings be happy", it fills our mind with happiness. If we generate ill will for others and wish them unhappiness, we will be miserable from within. If instead of generating ill will, we generate goodwill for all, we will feel happy. With purity of mind, if you also say these words of well-being with the feeling that your meditation may benefit one and all, you will find that your mind is filled with happiness. On the contrary, if you abuse someone in a state of anger, your mind will be disturbed and agitated. Who likes having such a state of mind? Everyone wishes to remain calm and happy. So to attain serenity and happiness of mind, these words of well being for others are said.”
Asato mā sad gamaya,
Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya,
Mṛtyor mā amṛtaṃ gamaya,
Om shanti, shanti, shanti - (Sanskrit)
“Lead me from falsehood to truth,
Lead me from darkness to light,
Lead me from death to the immortality
Om peace peace peace.”
The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation: As Taught by S. N. Goenka- William Hart
The Mysticism of Sound and Music- Hazrat Inayat Kanh
Thich Nhat Hanh- No Death, No Fear (or any Thich Nhat Hanh Book!)
Human Tuning- John Beaulieu