One of the beautiful things that I’ve discovered about meditation over the decades, is that there are so many ways to do it. In fact, I would challenge you to go Google “Types of meditation” and I can promise you, you’ll get some lists. Some of the best and more prominent examples I can think of include yoga, which is stretching movements that prepare the body for extended periods of sitting for meditation, and Tai Chi, which although a martial art, holds many aspects of moving meditation and almost puts you in a meditative state if you’re practiced enough to go through your movements on muscle memory alone.
But if you look into it, even on its surface, you’ve got moving meditation, sitting meditation, mindfulness meditation, focused meditation… It can become a bit convoluted, especially if you’re a beginner and are looking to TRY meditation and aren’t certain which type would be right for you. In Zen Buddhism, we practice a form of meditation referred to as “Zazen,” which is loosely translated as “seated meditation. Since some different branches of Buddhism describe and define Zazen differently, I won’t muddy the waters by going into deep detail. But there are some really great pages that provide insight on the specifics.
As for myself, meditation can be difficult even if I’ve been doing it for decades, thanks to a lovely batch of medically-defined acronyms that make the inside of my mind feel like it’s hurtling through space on hyperdrive on a constant basis. This is why, through the practice of meditation, I usually try to empty my mind and think of nothing. Depending on your philosophical background, thinking of nothing is still thinking of something so it opens up a whole can of worms. But the practice of “no mindness” is described by the term mushin.
Mushin is translated simply as “no mind” and since thinking about not thinking or “nonthinking” is a part of Zazen, they go very well, hand-in-hand. Confused yet? Got a headache? Need to go do a quick shot of whiskey to get through all my confusing etymology? Go ahead. I’ll wait… Mushin is a term used a lot in karate as well, as the development and practice of our forms, or kata, require us to know them well enough to allow the body to do them on instinct while thinking of nothing. So I’ve been familiar with the term for some time.
But when your mind is as busy as mine, you sometimes need an extra bit of something to help you focus. And this is where music comes in. Although traditional dojos won’t usually play music during training, I’ve found that music can be an excellent addition to your training regiment and adds a certain little something. IN fact, you can read my thoughts on that very topic here. I’m surprised I found that old post, since I wrote it in February of LAST year and after almost 800 posts in just over two years, I’m starting to forget what I’ve written about and what I haven’t. But I digress…
My point is, a little touch of music can go a long way towards making your meditation efforts easier and more effective. For myself, I enjoy having some classical music playing in the background. The complexity of sound and varying tones and volumes occupy my conscious mind, making it possible for my subconscious to stretch its legs and feel around a bit, unhindered. By focusing on one singular aspect of external stimuli, it allows thoughts and ideas to float on by without my getting involved with them, which is a big part of Zazen.
I also have several hundred “spa” type instrumental songs or “meditative music” on my devices, and those are extremely helpful as well. If you meditate frequently but have never tried music, I highly recommend it. Listening to music on its own has been proven to reduce stress, depression and elevate your mood. There are even studies that have shown it helps with heart-health as it improves blood flow. I have no source on that last one, but it’s pretty cool if it’s true. So add music to meditation, and I’d say that’s a pretty calming combination.
Meditation is one of those things I could write about or talk about at length. But in the interest of keeping my posts readable without having y’all fall asleep at the keyboard or on your devices, I’ll call it quits here. But should any of you have questions or curiosities about meditation, I’m always up for a good discussion. Feel free to reach out. Otherwise, settle into a nice seiza, put on some soft music and let your mind think of not thinking… ☯