As a public school employee, I have to be careful about how I introduce meditation in the classroom. Thankfully, mindfulness practices have been accepted into public education by focusing on improving awareness and paying attention, bypassing religious dogmas and debates.
But is there a point when meditation crosses a line and becomes “spiritual”? And is there a point when the practice of music becomes a “spiritual practice”?
Let’s start with music. We know that sound is simply vibration. On the physical level, neuroscientists are studying the effect of music on our brains, hoping to answer the mystery of how music moves us to bliss. Science has shown how music stimulates many parts of the brain, activating hormones, accessing memories, inducing movement and awakening emotions. This is fabulous!
But yet today’s science does not yet have the tools to measure how music can bypass the mind and emotions to strike a chord deep within us. It has not yet been able to satisfactorily (for me) explain how music can lift me into something deeply existential. (The answers I have found through the teachings of yoga, however, satisfies me completely. It’s consciousness and energetically based, and I love it.)
I will readily admit that I spend too much time dwelling on how to bridge this gap between the provable and the not-yet provable, instead of dealing directly with this more pressing question:
How can we bring musicians and listeners into deeper experience and awareness?
Yes, play in tune. Keep a steady rhythm. Blend your sound. All of these improve the musical experience for everyone involved. Teachers, youtubes and apps abound.
But now, more then ever, we also need teachers who can help improve focus, absorption, wholeness, and connection within and without. Meditation, in combination with the musical experience, gives a tangible inner response that does all of the above. It’s the quickest shortcut I know into a heightened state of flow and joy.
But is this tangible inner response necessarily “spiritual”?
Not at all. You can think of it as a response of something not yet scientifically measurable. The study of quantum energy leads deeper and deeper into the realm of consciousness. It’s not as important to define it, as it is to experience it.
I’m a musician raised as a Christian who now studies Yoga. I have had many mystical experiences that have left me in awe. I can’t talk about Spirit, chakras, energy centers, or God in public school. But I can talk about wholeness, connection, center, peace, love and joy. I think people are ready for those.