When I was about 7 or 8 years old my Mom and I had a bit of a disagreement. I had been studying the piano under Mrs. Thompson, who lived around the corner, for about two or three years and I had got to grade two practical and grade three theory in music. But the problem was that I had now decided that only sissies did music and that I should stop practicing. Also we lived on a 4 acre plot in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe and had no neighbours so there was always something interesting to do outside – riding bikes, exploring the bush, shooting pods with my pellet gun, going for a swim, making wire cars and the about a million other possibilities. Mom said that I would regret it and I said that I didn’t care. Essentially that was the end of that and I didn’t go any further with my formal music training.
But fast forward about 20 years and I found myself learning to meditate in Auckland, New Zealand as a student of Sri Chinmoy. Anyone who has practiced meditation will know that there are days when you feel like a block of wood and hard as you try you feel like you are getting nowhere. What I now discovered is that music is a short cut that can help you at those times and at other times. In my first meditation classes I was quite surprised that we learnt some meditation songs in the classes. Sri Chinmoy composed over 22,000 songs for meditation. Actually in my third meditation class two girls who were students of Sri Chinmoy did a singing performance while we were meditating and suddenly something happened. I felt a deep peace inside for the first time, something so beautiful that I just didn’t want my meditation to stop. I remember being quite sad when the exercise stopped and my friend Jogyata, who was giving the class, started talking again.
What I found out is that you can also sing yourself as a way to soothe your mind and bring your spiritual heart forward and the deep peace that you feel in your heart. Sri Chinmoy’s songs are particularly powerful in that regard. It is almost 20 years since I started to meditate in Auckland and I still love singing Sri Chinmoy’s songs. They are a short cut that can cure me of my mind’s dryness, a way to bring forward the heart and feel your real self. There are some songs that are like old friends, when you sing them it is if you have renewed your deep friendship.
Nowadays I am part of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Johannesburg and I often have the opportunity to teach songs to people who come to our free meditation classes. Sometimes I get the feeling when we encourage people to sing in a meditation class that there is a kind of fear that comes forward – many of us have not sung since we were in assembly at school and quite a few years may have passed since then. But when people get over that hurdle then they find that the music is a like a balm that soothes them and helps to wash away the turmoil of the day. After singing it is easier to meditate and the chances of feeling something in your meditation are significantly improved.
Some of Sri Chinmoy’s students have found such an affinity with music and meditation that they practice singing for a few hours a day. I wish that I could say that I was one of them but somehow it doesn’t always seem to happen. I am just grateful that I love spiritual music and singing and when I have time it is always there to lift me up.
When I came back to South Africa there were no “good” musicians in our Centre at the time so it forced me to resurrect my keyboard skills. I didn’t go back to the piano but started playing the much more portable harmonium. The harmonium is a small hand pump organ like instrument that is quite common in India. As long as it is not too difficult a song I can read it off the music but I could be much better. I should have listened to my Mom all those years ago…
If you are interested in experimenting with music and meditation then one thing that you could try is singing along with Ananda. They are a group of very talented musicians from the UK who did a CD specially to help beginner meditators a few years ago. You can download the sheet music and recordings of them singing each song for free from their website, www.anandamusic.co.uk. There is also all sorts of meditation music on www.radiosrichinmoy.org and www.srichinmoysongs.org.
Or if you live in Johannesburg then you are very welcome to come to one of our free meditation classes – we always cover music and meditation in the classes and give you a chance to have a go yourselves. Info on our current class program can be found at www.johannesburgmeditation.co.za. If you are not from Johannesburg look for a Sri Chinmoy Centre near you. They all do music in their meditation classes!