Most mindfulness practices, while enormously helpful and healthy, can seem a bit dry. “When you feel tense or stressed in your day, place attention on your breathing…”
Here are two practices that are anything but dry. One deals with music, the other with dogs.
1. Music Meditation
This isn’t meditating with music playing in the background. Quite the contrary. The music is the meditation.
What you do is find one to three songs that you absolutely love and have some meaning to you. Then get in your meditation chair or on your cushion and press play on your music source (iPhone, computer, whatever).
As with all of these meditation/mindfulness practices, the “what” you do is as simple as can be. Just place all of your attention on the music, as you would on your breathing in a regular meditation. And, as with regular meditation, when you find your attention wandering into thinking, which it probably will, just notice that and come back to the music.
Emotions will flow
Our favorite songs often elicit strong emotions, even when we’re not fully focused on the song. So be ready. The tears may flow when you do this, which is fantastic if you ask me.
If emotions do arise while listening to a song, that’s great. Just be sure to keep your attention on the music.
The magic of Claire de Lune
I just did the practice by listening to a piano solo of Debussy’s Claire de Lune, my favorite piece of classical music. I can’t remember why, but it was something I listened to a lot while my mom was in the hospital for a few months before she died in 2009. Giving it 100 percent attention was deeply moving for me.
The people in my meditation/mindfulness online course who have done this practice have, to a person, found it profoundly satisfying. I think it’s because when we normally listen to music, we’re not totally there with it. We’re washing the dishes or driving around town or talking with a friend over a drink on the patio. The music is always some level of in the background.
Not here. The music is everything. You can’t go wrong with this one. Give it a try.
2. At One With Your Dog
This one is inspired by Eckhart Tolle who often talks about his love for dogs. He makes the point that it is the consciousness of dogs that we love. Not the fur or ears or anything else.
Eckhart’s point is that dogs exhibit pure consciousness. They don’t know how to do anything else. Bucky the beagle doesn’t sit on the couch and think, “Ever since Master got that punk yellow Labrador retriever puppy, he barely notices me. I better up my cuteness game or he may give me away to the pound.”
No. Bucky just sits there, completely present. ALL the time. And that’s why we love dogs so much. It’s that pure presence they constantly exhibit.
What you do
This practice utilizes that pure presence for our benefit. What do we do? We simply get our dog alone somewhere…on a couch, bed, on the floor. Then see if you can get your head close to their head, with your eyes level.
And then? Just place your attention on your dog’s consciousness. Don’t think about it or conceptualize it. Just be there with your dog. Your consciousness mingling with theirs.
For a minute. Three? Five? Ten minutes? Do whatever feels right and works.
Cats are a tougher sell
I know you cat lovers might be thinking, “Hey, what about my precious kitty?” Go ahead and give it a try, but I’ve found cats, as great as they are, to be more skittish and not as present as dogs.
I know this one might seem a bit out there. “Mingling my consciousness with my dog’s? I think Gerken has gone off the deep end this time.” All I ask is that if you have a dog, give it a try. It can be really powerful.
Music and dogs. Both can spice up your meditation and mindfulness practices. Go for it.
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I have a question, you mentioned that it’s okay if emotions arise when hearing a song but to just remain focused on the song. An emotion is still there right? How do you focus on the song and the emotion? Similarly, in meditation a common metaphor is that meditation is you sitting on a busy street just watching cars pass by. The cars being emotions and feeling. But aren’t you supposed to focus on the breath? How does one watch the breath and cars at the same time? My mind tends to be very busy that sometimes I find it hard to focus on my breath bc I have so many thoughts! A lot of the times they’re unimportant thoughts but the need to notice them makes me unable to focus on my breath and be present.
Sorry for the tardy response, Flor. Just saw this. Bottom line is to just do your best to follow your breath or listen to the song, whatever you’ve chosen to place attention on. And when you get taken away into thought, or emotion as with the song, you just notice the thought or emotion and then head back to the present (breath or song). Hope that helps.
Happy New Year.