February 4, 2012

Meditation, the B52s, and Spaciousness. ~ Chad Woodland


Last year I went to Shambhala Mountain Center to attend one week of their summer meditation program.

Its starts at about 6:30 AM and goes to 9 or 10 at night.  Mostly just sitting which is really my passion.  I got there a day early and my friend LaDawn was attending another program at SMC which was ending and invited me to their banquet and dance.

Yes, we Shambhala Buddhist enjoy parties and we love to dance.  So we’re on the dance floor and the B52s Love Shack comes on and its always been one of my favorite tunes.  Great times ensue.

The next day, meditationbegins, we’re all settling down into the routine of the program and the stillness.  Peaceful.  Until my 24 hour per day internal/built in iPod turns up the volume.  “I’m headed down the Atlanta highway…..”  My Mind has decided that todays 24 hour rotation will pick up where last nights revelry left off – Love Shack.


For 7 days it was all Love Shack all the time.  Walking through the forest – Love Shack.  Sitting on the cushion – Love Shack.  Eating Oryoki (formal japanese temple style) – Love Shack.

My Mind spun the virtual disk in a variety of ways.  Believe or not its a beautiful ballad.  Just slow those sultry southern voices down a few beats and Love Shack becomes some type of torch song.  Even the Chrysler thats as big as a whale had some tenderness.

This is not a new trick.  My Mind has played music nearly continuously since I was very young.

When I was in high school there were times in the middle of the night where the music was so loud I couldn’t sleep.  I would literally cry. (Now I’m realizing perhaps I’m one of the final 5 from Battlestar Galatica because thats how they found out they were really Cylons.  Eureka!) I don’t hear it all time exactly.  But just a slight turn on consciousness in  that direction and BOOM – instant commercial free radio.

Its an interesting addition to meditation practice and I think that most people will or do experience it in one way or another.  A friend of mine admits that she use to always hear TV ad jingles when she sat down to meditate.

I never was really too concerned about it but it certainly can be annoying and I had never heard it addressed directly until I was reading Warrior-King of Shambhala by Jeremy Hayward.  At one point in the book Jeremy admits suffering from this same mental instrumentality.  When he asked Chogyam Trungpa about it, Trungpa responded with “You must be very romantic.”  Jeremy is somewhat dumbfounded with the answer but his musical mentation is no longer a problem.  On my being very romantic I will have to tell my partner.  I bet he is surprised!

Romance aside I have found several ways that can help quell the cacophony if it becomes too distracting.

One is I kind of turn my Mindfulness to sound.  I reach out to the environment and let sound become where I place my awareness.  It usually moves the music further to the background. Another method is I attempt not “listen” to the music directly.  It can play all it wants but like distracting thoughts that arise and eventually cease if not attended too the music will become a bit quieter.

There is no method I know of the stops the music just like you can’t stop thoughts.  The music is really just a thought and we shouldn’t try to extinguish it nor should we give it our attention.

Meditation is not about making war with our Mind but learning to work with the Mind.  Even when the Mind wants to play songs you absolutely hate!

This musical meditation muddle really became a lesson in how much space actually exist in our Mind.  By paying real attention to how the music can fade in and then drift off when something else arises, another thought or I actually hit the groove of the meditation,  I began to get a real sense of the spaciousness of the Mind.

And for all that profound wisdom I have to thank a funky song about sexy shack with a tin roof. Rusted.

Edited by Hayley Samuelson.


Chad Woodland has been meditating since he was around 18 years of age and in the Buddhist tradition for the last 17 years. Don’t ask his age, that’s not polite! He attends Phoenix Shambhala Meditation Center and Emaho in Scottsdale and is taking the Lam Rim Chen Mo course through Jamyang Center in London. He and his partner have been together for almost 17 years! If it weren’t for Buddhism he would still be single. You can follow him on Twitter @cwoodland.

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