Thursday December 18, 2009: I have to admit that yesterday I failed to make my daily meditation enough of a priority. As a result, I ended up meditating after seeing a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Kennedy Center and a long dinner over a bottle of wine with my mother and my husband.
Although our home was not particularly religious, my mother loved classical music and I grew up listening to her play the Messiah on our record player during the holidays. Even as a child, for reasons I cannot really explain, it resonated with me. But, that did not translate into a greater appreciation for classical music and I don’t go to operas or the symphony often. However, this year, I had the opportunity to get tickets to the Messiah and to take my mother. I hoped it would be magical for her and I was curious about the power of a live performance since I had only ever heard recordings. Listening intently to a 2.5 hour performance of that magnitude is sort of like learning to meditate. Sitting in the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center, with the entire National Symphony Orchestra arrayed before me, I wanted to be transported, to feel ecstatic. I was ready to be a good and attentive listener. But my body and mind sometimes rebelled! I would focus at times but then my attention would drift. Different emotions washed over me. At times, I was genuinely delighted by something I heard. But, there were also moments when my mind got bossy and insisted there was something I “should” be feeling or noticing or appreciating and I kind of stopped hearing the music. When my mind was quiet, my body would grow restless. Like my early meditation practice, I felt the effort more than the experience.
After the performance, we went for dinner and shared a bottle of wine. I thought that perhaps the combined effects of music on such a scale and a few glasses of wine would make for a colorful meditation! But, I think instead I was just kind of depleted from the concert and dulled from the wine. As a result, the meditation was sort of flat. I didn’t feel a lot of energy moving and what I did feel was much less vivid and powerful. I was grateful to have the bija mantra practice as a structure to work with. And, although I wasn’t “transported”, the meditation has become less of an effort and more of a familiar and comforting ritual.