music and meditation
Mindfulness may seem like an individual, solitary pursuit, a retreat into the private self and its veiled nature, but the consideration of the self does not, cannot, end confined to the conventional bounds of the self. Mindfulness is the study of thee self in all the ways that it dissolves, its many masks, the way it is permeated by the phenomenal world and the way it reciprocally colors and shapes that world, until distinctions soften and eventually slough away. The question ‘What am I?’ leads to the question ‘What am I in relation to others?’ A famous series of Zen pictures, called the Ox-Herding pictures, analogizes this search for self-nature as the story of a boy searching for a lost ox. The ox is tracked, found, tamed, and transcended. The final image is entitled ‘Return to the Marketplace.’ We seek the self so that we can return to others; to live well in the world we must first learn to live well in ourselves. Here at APV we begin each day with practice in both areas; we meditate, standing observing nature then sitting with eyes closed, alone together, and we play group music, a practice in being simultaneously mindful of the self and the community. Led by Anandji on the harmonium, for an hour every morning we sing spiritual songs composed by Anandji and others in the APV community. Group music is a practice and a celebration of the understanding required to live mindfully in a community. To play and enjoy music together, we must simultaneously be aware of ourselves, our own playing, whether we are on beat and in tune, and aware of the larger community of which we compose a small part, the music as a whole, the synthesis of each individual contribution. In group music we must be both the star and the constellation; soon we realize that awareness of one facilitates awareness of the other.