Meditating to EMINƎM. ~ Mark Jordahl

Via elephant journal
on Jul 12, 2012
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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



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7 Responses to “Meditating to EMINƎM. ~ Mark Jordahl”

  1. Eric says:

    I find meditating to any kind of music to be a distraction, unless it's at the end of a yoga class. If meditation is to be "a tool for real life", and if people are coming at you or me with anger, I would hope that I don't come back with the same anger. I would really hope that the meditation I've done would help me detach from the anger so I don't act on theirs OR mine (not to say we don't feel it, but we don't have to react to it).
    I would hope that I don't impute the same delusion that most of us add on to the simplicity of what is really happening at any given moment. Again, that's the whole point for working with our minds and emotions in practice.
    Even the article you linked ('working with energy and emotions') said that when we are reacting strictly from our emotions, then the "emotions are misconstruing intuition".

    Meditate to Eminem? Sure, it will prepare you to pop a cap in somone's *ss, say or do something you will regret, not see through the illusion of separateness and ego. Cultivate some compassion for those who see the world differently than you, rather than "get your angst on".
    Good Luck~

  2. Annie Ory says:

    I like the idea Mark. I understand what you mean, and it came across clearly for me. Excellent thought, to sometimes do something different, challenging. Research shows this keeps the mind young, lessens the risk of dementia and is a regular habit of highly successful people, people who are achieving in all the meaningful areas of life. It's the habit of stepping sometimes out of the comfort of the sound structure you've built for your life and your practice. Enjoy the exploration. Peace.

  3. Mark Jordahl says:

    Eric – I don't think you got what I was saying here. I think you are assuming I meant to use the meditation time to grow the angst and anger. You and I are actually saying the same thing. I am saying that there are advantages to feeling the anger or other forms of angst and working with it in meditation, so that you are equipped to interact with the person from a less emotional place. If you only meditate when you are in a calm environment, then you are mainly preparing yourself to function from a higher place only in calm environments. However, working on your meditation skills when you are feeling strong emotions can help you stop and reflect before you "pop a cap in someone's *ss" as you put it.

  4. Mark Jordahl says:

    Thanks, Annie. It's all about stretching.

  5. […] stores that reside in that area of the body. So imagine my surprise, or better, disdain, when some aggressive rap song starts pumping through the […]

  6. Eric says:

    Thanks for the clarification.

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