Who came up with the rule that we have to meditate to airy music with no words or, if there are words, they need to have been written at least two thousand years ago?
I recently had a revelation about meditation music.
I was going about my day and Eminem’s song, The Way I Am, came on the radio. The song is filled with anger, injustice and the plight of urban America. Listening to it, I felt guilty, defensive and consumed with a righteous rage against our unfair society. I didn’t feel calm at all.
But what’s meditation about if not working with energy and emotions? I immediately downloaded the song and sat to it.
Soon after, I decided to look online to see what comes up when you search “choosing meditation music.” Most of the sites had some version of the sentiment found as the first recommendation on Holistic Webworks:
Make sure that it doesn’t have lyrics. In choosing meditation music, it is always best to choose music that has no lyrics because it can only distract your concentration.
Meditation should be a tool for real life.
Apart from you monks out there, most of us don’t live our lives in tranquility, spending our days sitting on a soft cushion surrounded by calming incense and quiet music. We are not always interacting with people who are trying to cultivate “loving kindness” in every situation.
Sometimes people come at us with anger. Sometimes we are confronted with injustice. Frequently we find ourselves in conversations with people who see the world very differently than we do.
To be a useful tool in the modern world, meditation needs to prepare us for these moments.
Sure, it’s good to develop your meditation muscles in a controlled environment. Most of us learned to ride a bike on a perfectly smooth sidewalk that gave us the best chance of experiencing success early on. But biking on a sidewalk only gets you where the sidewalks go. At some point, most of us chose to head into the unlimited potential of the open road or, better yet, the demanding off-road challenges of the slickrock in Moab.
At some point, you have to take the training wheels off.
So go. Get your angst on. And sit.
Mark Jordahl is a writer, naturalist, educator and trip leader with degrees in Buddhist Studies and Conservation Education, which really aren’t as different as you might think. He blogs at Wild Thoughts from Uganda and leads trips to Uganda through his company Conservation Concepts. Email him at [email protected].
Editor: Cassandra Smith
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