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Classical music as meditation aide

The mind does not want to be quiet

Meet your new meditation partner: Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina
Meet your new meditation partner: Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina

The ideology of woke culture is one thing. Meditating every day and thereby developing the ability to effectively respond to life’s situations instead of merely reacting, is another. Meditation is the path to a consistently happy and healthy life. This fact has been verified over thousands of years by some of the greatest teachers of humanity. Call it prayer or contemplation if you must.

Video:

Sicut Cervus

Happiness and health are the tests of an ideology, in my opinion. If the adherents of an ideology project perennial happiness and health, there is something of substance there. Yet the ideology of meditation is no ideology. The ability to quiet the mind and reap the benefits of that discipline requires no adherence to arbitrary tenets of belief.

Video:

O Magnum Mysterium

The idea of meditating can be quite intimidating. The concept is simple. Quiet your mind. The execution of that concept can feel impossible. The mind does not want to be quiet. This is where classical music can step in to help us. Meditating on a piece of music is an excellent way to begin training the mind. Sitting in complete silence for five minutes with a quiet mind is an advanced technique of meditation. That’s where most people think they need to start. But that’s not the case, in my experience.

Put on some headphones and listen to Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus for just over three minutes. That’s a place to start. Let your mind observe the music as it is happening. When you notice the mind beginning to wander, bring it back to observing the music. When you notice the mind trying to interpret the music, bring it back to observing the music.

Video:

Kyrie

Tomás Luis de Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium is another option for a beginner’s piece. It is almost exactly the same length as the Palestrina. Stay with this short piece of music until you can observe it, without interruption, all the way to the end. Once that is accomplished, you can look to add more time to your observational listening.

Video:

Mass for Four Voices

Finding a four to five-minute piece of contemplative music usually means taking a part of a larger work such as the “Kyrie” from Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli or the “Sanctus” and “Benedictus” from Victoria’s Missa O magnum mysterium. I prefer Palestrina and Victoria because they were writing music for a culture of contemplation during the Renaissance. There are composers such as John Cage, Henryk Górecki, and Arvo Pärt who specifically tried to write meditative music in some of their compositions, but I don’t find these to be as effective. However, Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel is a good piece of music once you are ready to tackle 10 minutes of mediation.

In my experience, being able to observe 10 minutes of music, without my mind wandering, means I can do about two minutes of complete silence. In order to get to the advanced stage of five minutes of silence, I need to do about 20 minutes of music. My go-to piece of music for that is Mass for Four Voices by Thomas Tallis.

Maybe high culture is the true woke culture after all.

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Meet your new meditation partner: Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina
Meet your new meditation partner: Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina

The ideology of woke culture is one thing. Meditating every day and thereby developing the ability to effectively respond to life’s situations instead of merely reacting, is another. Meditation is the path to a consistently happy and healthy life. This fact has been verified over thousands of years by some of the greatest teachers of humanity. Call it prayer or contemplation if you must.

Video:

Sicut Cervus

Happiness and health are the tests of an ideology, in my opinion. If the adherents of an ideology project perennial happiness and health, there is something of substance there. Yet the ideology of meditation is no ideology. The ability to quiet the mind and reap the benefits of that discipline requires no adherence to arbitrary tenets of belief.

Video:

O Magnum Mysterium

The idea of meditating can be quite intimidating. The concept is simple. Quiet your mind. The execution of that concept can feel impossible. The mind does not want to be quiet. This is where classical music can step in to help us. Meditating on a piece of music is an excellent way to begin training the mind. Sitting in complete silence for five minutes with a quiet mind is an advanced technique of meditation. That’s where most people think they need to start. But that’s not the case, in my experience.

Put on some headphones and listen to Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus for just over three minutes. That’s a place to start. Let your mind observe the music as it is happening. When you notice the mind beginning to wander, bring it back to observing the music. When you notice the mind trying to interpret the music, bring it back to observing the music.

Video:

Kyrie

Tomás Luis de Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium is another option for a beginner’s piece. It is almost exactly the same length as the Palestrina. Stay with this short piece of music until you can observe it, without interruption, all the way to the end. Once that is accomplished, you can look to add more time to your observational listening.

Video:

Mass for Four Voices

Finding a four to five-minute piece of contemplative music usually means taking a part of a larger work such as the “Kyrie” from Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli or the “Sanctus” and “Benedictus” from Victoria’s Missa O magnum mysterium. I prefer Palestrina and Victoria because they were writing music for a culture of contemplation during the Renaissance. There are composers such as John Cage, Henryk Górecki, and Arvo Pärt who specifically tried to write meditative music in some of their compositions, but I don’t find these to be as effective. However, Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel is a good piece of music once you are ready to tackle 10 minutes of mediation.

In my experience, being able to observe 10 minutes of music, without my mind wandering, means I can do about two minutes of complete silence. In order to get to the advanced stage of five minutes of silence, I need to do about 20 minutes of music. My go-to piece of music for that is Mass for Four Voices by Thomas Tallis.

Maybe high culture is the true woke culture after all.

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