Using Music to hear the Holy
O God, the Lover and Creator of all, we come here in the midst of our day to a holy place. We come to open ourselves to the language of heaven that will come to us through the tones of music. Let our hearts be still and available to the wonder of your presence in and among us, and grant us the courage to allow our hearts and souls to be shaped by your grace. We ask this for the sake of your love. Amen.
Music has, throughout the centuries, been a natural form for experiencing communion with God. Nature itself is filled with the musical language of the creation communicating with the Creator. Think of the high-pitched arias of birds on an early spring morn, the deep pounding of waves crashing against a jagged coast, the screeching buzz of a bumblebee flitting from stem to stem, or the cracking of ice crystals on bare trees as the sun begins to warm the day.
In fact, many musical compositions have been based on such musical scores
from nature. Music in its clear and repetitive form as found in nature, and
music that is tonal and mixed by instruments and voice resonates with the human
soul in a way hardly repeatable in other prayer forms. It can touch both the
left brain and the right brain, and it can even go beyond—to a place past words
or visualization. In that place we are open and vulnerable, and unexpectedly God
comes and communion happens.
One of the ways in which we can recognize this openness and vulnerability is to actually feel the response of the body to tonal sound and beat. During a recent offering of live music, a particularly moving piece was sung by the chorale. It had a strong beat and mesmerizing tone. Totally un-self-consciously, a woman in the audience stood up and began to move her body with the rhythm; she had, most assuredly, entered that place of openness and vulnerability. She gave herself fully to what she felt and heard, and through the course of that particular piece of music, she prayed—deeply and fully.
The crucial piece in her prayer was her un-self-consciousness. She allowed her soul and body to be drawn into the music and did not worry about what others would think, if she would be 'out of place,' if she would be 'making a scene.' So, in some sense, her very un-self-consciousness was the first step into vulnerability. It can be difficult to experience the spiritual power of music when we are too guarded, too proper, too controlled. We need to be unconcerned about what others may think in order to give ourselves fully to the music.
In order to use music for meditation, it is important to note that meditation, in all its forms, provides an environment in which we can set aside the thoughts that move so constantly through our minds, and quiet ourselves enough to enter the Divine Presence. What is unique about using music with meditation is that the notes and the tones themselves become the centering point—the mantra that calls us back when we are assailed with thoughts that pull us away from God.
Listening to contemplative music in this attitude of meditation becomes, for us, a way to step into the presence of Divine Love, where we are freely and fully cradled and embraced. Einstein's sister once said that music put Einstein in a peaceful state of mind, which facilitated his reflection. May the beauty and awe-filled wonder of music create a place of hospitality where we can be with God and reflect on God's love for us and all humanity.
Copyright ©2004 Renée Miller