How to Meditate on the Meaning of a Song
Sing with your heart!
"Meditating the meaning of a song" is like singing with your heart in silence, that is, opening up your heart, allowing the meaning and melody of the song to sink in and be internalized.
Yet, before going deeper into "the how" of it and for better understanding, let us first clarify some terminology that are involved in the process, that is, "song" and "meditation".
As we all know, a “song” is a set of words, like a poem, set to music or meant to be sung. It is a brief composition adapted for singing (from the free online dictionary). On the other hand, “meditation” is the action or the practice of meditating which is to engage in an act of reflection or contemplation.
At a deeper level, Jon Kabat-Zinn, describes what meditation is all about " . . . the systematic and intentional cultivation of mindful presence, and through it, of wisdom, compassion, and other qualities of mind and heart conducive to breaking free from the fetters of our own persistent blindness and delusions.”
In general, we all know and can easily agree on what a song is all about and therefore, no misunderstanding about it is expected. Yet, there are various depth and shades of perception about the idea of what a "meditation" is all about, which largely depends on our background and orientation. That's the area where we have to be reminded that (a) there are numerous ways on how to meditate; (b) there is no one right way to do it. To this I add- choose the way that suit you best and the one that will best work for you. What will be presented here are mere suggestions.
To start with, why meditate? Human beings may have become "out of touch" or "separated" from their own reality, thus, the need to meditate - to come home to what is real and fundamental in themselves. From the point of view of this writer, and borrowing from Buddhist tradition where meditation originally came from, meditation is getting "in touch" with what is going on by paying attention and staying awake with whatever comes up at the moment, as is, without any judgment. With that in mind, let us explore certain suggested ways on "meditating the meaning of a song".
Two ways are suggested in doing the meditation: (1) informal; and (2) formal. The informal way is doing it whenever and wherever you find yourself able to listen, perhaps, through your headset and grab few minutes to be present with the song, and with your body senses just be aware of what's going on at the moment, how the lyrics of the song comfort or disturb you at the moment, etc.; a very real way of practicing mindfulness.
For example: before going to sleep at night or upon waking up in the morning; you can be travelling in a bus, train, airplane, etc., or you may be waiting for a meeting to start or some people to arrive, or you may be waiting at a bus station, waiting while your car is being washed, waiting in line in a grocery store or in an internet cafe or in a post office, waiting for the water to boil, or the frozen meat to thaw, waiting in your car to fetch your children from school, etc.. The occasion is endless if we desire to be at it. Few minutes of practice may spell a huge difference in our life, especially, if done more often daily. The formal way is setting aside special time for it in a regular basis, It is going to be outlined in quite a more detailed fashion below.
A step by step guide on "how to meditate the meaning of a song"
(1) Choose a song with a rather slow instrumental accompaniment and with meaning that is most appealing to you, meaning that will be positive and will encourage peace and tranquility within and without. Initially, any meditation practice has an object of attention, like the in-breath and out-breath, a flower, a lighted candle, etc.. For our purposes, the object of your attention is the "song" of your choice. As an example, I chose the song "Somebody Loved" originally by the Weepies. My chosen cover of this song is done by favorite artist MIchelle Chamuel.
The lyrics of this particular son may bring to mind the people in our lives that have made us feel so much loved. They may include our loved ones, such as our parents, siblings, relatives or friends. Perhaps. from time to time, these are the same people that can cause us worries, but, most of the time, these are the same people who accept us for who we really are as we are; have showered us with genuine affections, and have provided for our physical comforts, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. They are the most likely people who can make us feel as somebody loved- as the song goes.
The lyrics can also direct us to contemplate on the beauty of nature all around us: the rain, the stars, the sun, the flowers, the trees, etc. Peace, balance and joy abide in nature. Looking at the blue sky up above, we can feel peace deep within and we can smile back. Basking under the warmth of the early morning sun, we feel the kiss of sunlight on our face and in our hands. They remind us of how much we are nourished and provided by the basic necessities of life like oxygen and light day in and day out without us asking for it. The earth is ever steady for our every step, supporting and not letting us fall. The imagination can be led by the song in so many wonderful directions if we are open and sincerely desire to be tagged along. So here it goes . . .
My favorite cover of "Somebody Loved" by Michelle Chamuel (The Voice Season 4)
(2) Choose a quiet place where you can be alone to do your meditation.
(3) It is better to play the music or the song to listen quietly; or, you may just read the lyrics slowly like reading a poem; or you may want to watch a music video of your favorite artist as I often do with the above video on "Somebody Loved". If you are familiar with the method of a guided meditation, the same follows with this meditation; the only difference is that it is the song that serves as guide
(4) Assume a meditation posture that you are most comfortable with, e.g., sitting on the cushion on the floor, sitting on a chair, or, lying down (but stay alert or awake).
(5) If you are just listening to a song or to a music, you may want close your eyes, or half close them, whichever way is comfortable with you and will help you focus and stay awake..
(6) Pay attention to your body senses (eyes, ears, skin, tongue, and nose) and sensations. What's going on? No label, no resistance and no denial. Just accept and surrender.
(7) Pay attention to the lyrics of the song and its meaning. Just notice the content (or the lyrics) with the same unattached attitude. Navigate to and from your senses and the song. If there are feelings evoked (positive or negative), just watch it and let it pass. It is more important and vital to stay in the all abiding peace in the background, like the ocean, no matter what turmoil happens at the surface of the ocean, the ocean remains tranquil at its depth. And like the blue sky, it is always there undisturbed while beneath it, clouds come and go.
If you are watching a music video, stay connected with the melody, the sounds and the lyrics; watch all the colors and the movement in the video; feel the aliveness from the inside you and from the outside.
(8) Experiment, experiment . . . experiment! Go with the one method that works for you best . .. the one that gives peace, joy and wholeness. Only you can determine for yourself which door opens up, that one way through a song that will connect you to your inner self and to the oneness of life.
“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
I know, this is easier said than done. And it is a process for me. It would be easier if good vibes are evoked by the song and by the beautiful voice of the vocalist, however, if the lyrics and melody bring out more discomforts in the mind and emotion . . . the odds are great for an untrained person to be dragged by these dis-ease to depression instead of liberation, which is the ideal destination or goal. If this happens more often, get help from a trusted friend or better from a professional psychological and/or spiritual coach or practitioner.
Going back to the lyrics of the song "Somebody Loved", the first time I kind of meditated on this, though, informally, it made me so lonely because I missed my mother who's passed away.
But now, there's a huge difference in my attitude toward the song. It led me to accept and embrace "what is", no resistance and no judgment . .. just accept and surrender to the reality of the present moment. . . that she's gone physically but the spirit of her love remains. That to me brings freedom from the sadness that I felt before. The loneliness was transformed into peace and tranquility. The song lyrics reminded me of the loving memories when my mother was still with me. This directed me to experience the greater love of the God I know. I realized that the meditation practice is helping me greatly to be in that state of calm awareness. The daily challenges are never ending. Thus, the feeling of being embraced in love can also go on and on and on. . . until I and love become one.
As any seasoned meditation practitioner will tell you: meditation practice is open to everyone, but it is not for the faint-hearted. Only the meek yet brave ones can accept the challenge to just be their true self and to be slowly liberated in the process through ups and downs of life. And if you have gone this far in reading, there's a great chance that you are among the few brave and daring ones. So, let me congratulate you . .. and let our one heart sings out the song of love yet silently. . . into the world.
Let your song take you to deeper peace and greater love.