August 14, 2012

Music & Mindfulness: Marrying your Meditation & your Muse. ~ Paul Russell

“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~ Leonard Cohen

Music is ideally born from the marriage between a musician and a muse. Without the muse, both the music and musician are inanimate objects—idols. Real music will take you in its jaws like a chew toy and whip you around until you don’t know who you are anymore. And you won’t care because you’ll be left with naught but a longing to open up to the profound beauty, deep meaning and exquisite delight of inspiration, and in turn to be gradually invested with the power to convey these very qualities.

Forget the musician! That’s what a real musician wants anyway: to forget one thing and remember another. Regrettably we live immersed among idols—the living dead. We need great clarity to uncover the ancient pattern of our innate integrity, the vessel in which to receive the muses’ blessings that evoke the power to shatter these goddess-damned and dull-eyed iDolls—in ourselves first of all. This is the essence of what I call the beautiful crime.

Can meditation be similarly born from the marriage between a meditator and a muse? What brings meditation and more importantly the meditator vividly to life? What forces need conspire to raise inhalation to inspiration? What environment provides the hospitality suitable for a muse of meditation to enter and inspire us to the embodiment of compassion and loving kindness, the most excellent of human qualities?

As a musician I’ve spent countless hours learning the theoretical and technical foundations of conveying musical expression. The result is a fluid network of connections that serves to integrate what I hear and imagine with what I play and express. Into this prepared space, in moments of grace, I experience inspiration.

As a meditator I’ve devoted many hours to Dharma study and meditation practice. It seems to me that in the process of aligning our bodies, detangling our emotions, focusing our minds and guiding our attention toward the basis of universal love and compassion, we prepare a space for receiving inspiration from of one of the myriad of boddhisattvas said to infuse our atmosphere like a subtle perfume. Muses of the mahayana!

I sit before an image of Avalokiteshvara adorning a small Tibetan thangka mounted before an altar that my beautiful beloved built for me. This jewel of a sacred space abides in the context of a culture thick with commercial materialism that tends, like a veil, to obscure influences from the realms of boddhisattvas and creative muses. This can make it awfully challenging to get grounded in what is deep and true, and I fervently hope that these words will serve to help inspire us to be up to and even enjoy these challenges in this precious human life!

I’ll conclude with a quote from the venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche:

“Although I live in the slime and muck of the dark age, I still aspire to see your face!

Although I stumble in the thick, black fog of materialism, I still aspire to see your face!”


Paul Russell is a musician who plays homegrown, handcrafted and heartfelt folk music to provoke beauty, meaning and delight in the hearts of those who listen. You can discover his music at www.paulrussellmusic.com. He also meditates and practices qigong.




Editor: Alexandra Grace

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