A clear mind more important than listening to music

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:59 pm

convivium wrote:there is an argument which goes like something as follows:
mantras, music, chants, etc. are artificial vibrations.
artificial vibrations obscure discernment of natural vibrations (we need to see things as they are, not how we want them to be)
mindfulness of natural vibrations (vedena, in some sense isolated from sankara) is necessary to achieve heightened discernment of phenomena.
heightened discernment of phenomena is necessary for enlightenment, etc.
this argument is great for more advanced practitioners, or monks.
however, sankara is always clouding or smoking up vedana in one way or another.
it seems better and healthier to condition a calm (albeit fabricated) form of sankara to cloud or smoke up vedena qua vedana, rather than letting a neurotic, crazed, stressed one do so out of our control. this is why people do what people do (seek ways to escape). we should at least then choose more skillful ways to escape (great art, music, heightened thinking, etc) when we are at the borderline of otherwise choosing unskillful ways to cope, and cannot establish sati, etc.
Now, if you could just say this a bit more clearly. . . .
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:09 pm

Now, if you could just say this a bit more clearly. . . .
the first or second argument or both?
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:11 pm

the metaphor of smoke or clouds is how i describe viewing mental formations of all kinds from the frame of reference of vedena.
"And how does a monk remain focused on feelings in & of themselves? There is the case where a monk, when feeling a painful feeling, discerns, 'I am feeling a painful feeling.' When feeling a pleasant feeling, he discerns, 'I am feeling a pleasant feeling.' When feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he discerns, 'I am feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.'

"When feeling a painful feeling of the flesh, he discerns, 'I am feeling a painful feeling of the flesh.' When feeling a painful feeling not of the flesh, he discerns, 'I am feeling a painful feeling not of the flesh.' When feeling a pleasant feeling of the flesh, he discerns, 'I am feeling a pleasant feeling of the flesh.' When feeling a pleasant feeling not of the flesh, he discerns, 'I am feeling a pleasant feeling not of the flesh.' When feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling of the flesh, he discerns, 'I am feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling of the flesh.' When feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling not of the flesh, he discerns, 'I am feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling not of the flesh.'

"In this way he remains focused internally on feelings in & of themselves, or externally on feelings in & of themselves, or both internally & externally on feelings in & of themselves. Or he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to feelings, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to feelings, or on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to feelings. Or his mindfulness that 'There are feelings' is maintained to the extent of knowledge & remembrance. And he remains independent, unsustained by (not clinging to) anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on feelings in & of themselves.
...
the metaphor of the artificial is something i am quoting from goenka...
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby manas » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:38 pm

tiltbillings wrote:I am sorry for offending you with what i wrote, which certainly was not my intention. I think, however, you might want to go back and look at what you wrote.
"music running in my head a lot of the time has become a burden" Also, you might want to consider what else I said.

Given that music has been an important thing in your life, your stopping listening to music is not going to make the unwanted earworms go away. Stopping listening to music may be, for any number of reasons, what you need to do. Maybe, but far more importantly, learning to pay attention, with lightness, to your mind's functioning is even more directly to the point, particularly since you cannot always control your envirnment, nor can one necessarily control what pops up in the mind, but we can cultivate the mindfulnees, the attention, that allows us to let go of, not by force of will but by arising insight, those things that are distractions and our negative responses to them. Probably the best thing posted in this thread is this: viewtopic.php?f=42&t=16603&start=20#p236621

Again, my apologies.


Apology accepted, no worries. :anjali:

Actually I agree that ultimately the 'burden' is my holding on to either the physical sound, or the recollection of it. Yes, I can see how there is a process going on here. But it's going to be easier to learn how to deal with the earworms in a skilful way, if there is more silence around me.
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:45 pm

manas wrote: But it's going to be easier to learn how to deal with the earworms in a skilful way, if there is more silence around me.
And no one -- at least I -- would not deny that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby manas » Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:20 pm

I should also have mentioned, that although my years as a young man and adult were often filled with the study of music, and learning and honing skill on the piano in particular, that a gradual process of letting go of the admittedly great and often sublime Western Classical Music tradition, has been going on since my early twenties. I am now 44. I still play the piano sometimes, but it has got to the stage where it is either for work purposes (teaching) or as a gift (if I'm asked to play somewhere). Music can give joy to people, and I do still enjoy sharing the skills I learned years ago. But something has happened. It did not happen all of a sudden, but I find at the age of 44 the piano sits there unplayed, except maybe once a month. I have not been forbidding myself from practicing, quite the opposite. Sometimes I ask myself "why don't you finally do a full length recital?" Because I know I could, and yes it would be interesting. But I just don't have the spark of interest and enthusiasm anymore for music as I once did. I can't fake it or bring it back. It's just sort of faded away gradually.

So no, it's no huge sacrifice for me to stop listening to music. It is a little bit challenging, but really, if I'm honest, I was turning on the radio to distract myself, from having to face unpleasant tasks (by 'face the task' I mean 'do it mindfully, and not with the mind half here, half somewhere else') such as washing dishes for example, or mundane tasks such as driving the car, etc etc. I was more using music to distract myself from having to really be present with the mundane things of life, that nevertheless need to get done, and what's more, the Buddha advises us to do with awareness. And I can't imbue my activites with sati-sampajanna if I'm distracted by the catchy beat of music on the radio. I've got to train myself to be present at all times, not just when engaging in 'the good stuff', but also when just hanging out the washing. That way, it can all be Dhamma, from the sublime to the mundane.

Hope that clarifies things a bit more.

:anjali:
Last edited by manas on Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:20 pm

Now, if you could just say this a bit more clearly. . . .
i take it you're satisfied then? or maybe you don't like my use of the term sankara.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 13, 2013 6:59 pm

manas wrote:it has become apparent to me, in the course of trying to be 'mindful in everyday life', i.e. when doing even mundane tasks such as cooking, washing dishes etc, and even sometimes during sitting meditation, that the music often playing in the background of my awareness, like a soundtrack in my head, has got to go. I have tried so many other ways to cleanse it from my mind, but as an ex-musician who spent years training and developing his 'inner ear' to hear melody and harmony in his head, it has now become a burden to the point where, I think I just need to stop listening to music. I find that having 'earworms' hinders being really present with the body in the here-and-now, it kind of sucks or drags awareness in the direction of obsessive thoughts, and away from the body and it's current task.

I feel I am at an interesting time, a juncture where having a clear mind is becoming more important than allowing myself to listen to music. It will involve some sacrifice, but it's really not such a big deal; I'm a lay person and music is not forbidden in any way, so it's purely voluntary, and I can always 'go back' again. But it's like, music running in my head a lot of the time has become a burden, a real burden! So if by giving up the 'pleasure' of listening to it, I can get free from the burden (of 'earworms') then I voluntarily choose giving it up. In any case, I am giving this a 'trial run' and seeing if it works.

NB: there are some kinds of music, that are actually very soothing or calming, and don't seem to get 'stuck in my head' like faster, catchier music does. I might keep listening to such relaxing music, while abandoning the music that is the cause of the 'earworms' (virtually all of popular music, and much of Classical as well).


I had a similar problem, and at first, I would probably have formulated it much in the way you do.

Bluntly giving up music didn't exactly work - it didn't go away from my mind. Then I was fortunate enough to actually begin to listen to the earworms and try to discern the emotions I was feeling and the thoughts I was having when hearing this or that music. It also included intently listening to music; either from an audio device or in my mind
That turned out to be extremely revealing! .

Even as those songs or classical pieces seemed at first like just sticky stupid earworms, actually listening to them, actually paying attention to them made me see that they were dealing with issues I was stuck on anyway. And that it was those issues I was going to have to address. The earworms were just pointing at those issues.

By now, I have lost interest to listen to music deliberately; it's too boring to me now to put on a cd or to listen to the radio. I still have earworms occasionally, but I now see them as pointers to my issues. That also tends to make the songs cease in my mind.
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:06 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
manas wrote: But it's going to be easier to learn how to deal with the earworms in a skilful way, if there is more silence around me.
And no one -- at least I -- would not deny that.


Heh.
I've heard that a traditional music school in Thailand looks like this: A big room. In it are compartments, but not separate rooms. In each compartment, a student practices their instrument or sings. All students at once. There is noise all over the place. And in this noise, each student has to be able to pay attention to the instrument they are practicing or to their singing, they have to be able to hear themselves out of all those sounds.

Now that's some training for a fine ear and self-reliance!
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby Sadge » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:20 pm

Accept the music in your head and turn your mind towards finding metta for it?
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby Aloka » Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:22 pm

I used to be married to a musician and music had always played a big part in my life. However I found that when I was no longer so influenced by others and continued practising, music ceased to have any importance to me and my desire to listen to it just disappeared naturally. I prefer silence (or natural sounds) now.

I do listen to it very occasionally out of curiosity - for example if someone has said "Have you heard....?" but there's not the need to keep repeating the experience.

So I would say relax - and just keep practising. If you don't make it an issue maybe it will go automatically.
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby Samma » Sat Apr 13, 2013 10:22 pm

I've noticed I listen to less than I used to, but still still keep up with other entertainments (shows).
No harm in giving it a trial and seeing how it goes, and sharing any conclusions.

Where no song is sung,
where no music is played,
alone in the wilderness:
the forest-dwelling sage.
This looks amazing to me —
that you live alone in the forest
with rapturous mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

As to the question of the Buddhist attitude to music, it is recorded that the Buddha has spoken quite appreciatively of music on one occasion.[50] When Pañcasikha the divine musician sang a song while playing the lute in front of the Buddha, the Buddha praised his musical ability saying that the instrumental music blended well with his song. Again, the remark of an Arahant that the joy of seeing the real nature of things is far more exquisite than orchestral music[51] shows the recognition that music affords a certain amount of pleasure even if it is inferior to higher kinds of pleasure. But it is stressed that the ear is a powerful sensory channel through which man gets addicted to sense pleasures. Therefore, to dissuade monks from getting addicted to melodious sounds, the monastic discipline describes music as a lament.[52]
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... itude.html


A Thanissaro Interview from 2004:
Many people see Buddhism as anti-pleasure: no drinking, no drugs, no debauchery. These are a few of my favorite things. Do you ever miss them?
The biggest loss for me was classical music. I was hooked on classical music. When I got stoned and listened all those years ago, that was my idea of a good time.
When I began to meditate, I'd start getting into these states where I felt the same sense of rapture I got from a really good performance of classical music. I thought, "Oh my gosh, I can get this sensation just by sitting here and breathing." In the past I had to worry about my stereo and if my records would get scratched. I needed all that stuff around just to get a pleasure fix.
Do you ever listen to classical music?
It's against the rules. When I go home, Dad has it on all the time, so I hear it then. Occasionally Brahms or Mahler goes through my head. But it gets so that you don't miss it.
http://www.dhammatalks.net/Articles/Bhi ... erview.htm
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby Kamran » Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:14 pm

I think the problem is that a clear mind is not realistic, or achievable for lay people that have to work, deal with unpleasant people or stressful situations. Maybe if you are on retreat, but for normal life you need many tools.

I think music can be a useful method for breaking the chain of some persistent unskillful thoughts.

If somebody at work is trying to push your buttons, humming a cheerful tune may be a helpful way of avoiding anger.

Another option is to listen to audio recordings of the suttas, like from the http://www.auditp.org. After awhile, useful phrases from Suttas will come to you when defilements arise.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby manas » Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:35 pm

An update - since my original post, after being initially rather strict about keeping the radio turned off, I've become a bit more moderate now. I still think that the ideal is to stop intentionally putting musical ideas in to my mind, but when I try to totally abstain from all music at present, it ends up feeling like 'pushing myself too far'. So I'm disentangling myself from non-Dhammic music gradually instead. Between two pieces of music, I choose the one that is the more soothing, wholesome or peaceful, upon consideration; and above all if I sense it's a 'sticky' piece of music I turn it off right away.

By bringing in whatever sati and panna I can, I also ask sometimes: why do I feel the need to put the radio on anyway? Why isn't 'just driving' enough?' (Or 'just washing dishes' - these are the two instances where I am most likely to turn music on). I take a look at the mind that is bored, seeking distraction from 'the mundane'. I challenge myself sometimes to make more of an effort, and to just pay closer attention to the task at hand, and stop being so greedy for entertainment (which is really discontent, laziness and aversion manifesting, imo).

Earworms are manifesting less often now, but when they do, I do agree that it's better to not get aversive about them. After all, that would just multiply the defilements even more. I note the music in my head, note any irritation I might have with it, and try to move on to the task at hand - whatever that may be.

As for my long-term aspiration, well yes ultimately if we want to get in to deep enough samadhi to be able to break through delusion, then not just mental but also some physical seclusion from distracting sense objects is not only going to be helpful, but from my reading of the suttas, is actually recommended and prescribed by the Buddha himself:

"Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, this noble restraint over the sense faculties, this noble mindfulness and alertness, and this noble contentment, he seeks out a secluded dwelling: a forest, the shade of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a jungle grove, the open air, a heap of straw. After his meal, returning from his alms round, he sits down, crosses his legs, holds his body erect, and brings mindfulness to the fore.


An adept might well be able to practice anywhere at all, but as far as general guidelines go, the places mentioned above are all where you would reasonably expect to be alone and undisturbed by other people, for a while anyway. They are *more likely* to be places where one will find some peace and quiet. So although I can not live that lifestyle perfectly at present, it would be best to move gradually in that direction, gradually giving up whatever is an obstacle for samma samadhi; and intentionally turning on music that is unconnected with Dhamma, or is sensually stimulating and not peaceful - is that not obviously unskilful, in an ultimate sense? So when and as I'm ready, I'll let go of it, gradually. I don't think I'm being extreme about this.

Thanks to all for their replies, interest and advice thus far.

:anjali:
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby binocular » Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:41 am

manas wrote:By bringing in whatever sati and panna I can, I also ask sometimes: why do I feel the need to put the radio on anyway? Why isn't 'just driving' enough?' (Or 'just washing dishes' - these are the two instances where I am most likely to turn music on). I take a look at the mind that is bored, seeking distraction from 'the mundane'. I challenge myself sometimes to make more of an effort, and to just pay closer attention to the task at hand, and stop being so greedy for entertainment (which is really discontent, laziness and aversion manifesting, imo).


Or there may be something more.

Perhaps "just driving" in fact isn't enough. It might be enough for someone like Bahiya. But for the rest of us?


As for my long-term aspiration, well yes ultimately if we want to get in to deep enough samadhi to be able to break through delusion, then not just mental but also some physical seclusion from distracting sense objects is not only going to be helpful, but from my reading of the suttas, is actually recommended and prescribed by the Buddha himself:


Sure, nobody's disputing that.
It's just that if one's mind is racing, external peace and quiet might not be able to calm it down. In fact, the racing might get even worse when one is secluded.
Many people insist in a noisy, busy lifestyle because that way they don't have to notice what a mess their mind is - and they don't have the means to cope with that mess.
And sooner or later, under the pressure of aging, illness and death, one will have to show composure under fire; that is, if one is to make an end to suffering.
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby manas » Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:28 pm

binocular wrote:Perhaps "just driving" in fact isn't enough. It might be enough for someone like Bahiya. But for the rest of us?


Hi binocular,
I think you are reading too much into what I wrote. When I said that just driving the car is enough, I was not implying any kind of momentary samadhi or grand insight would go along with that, just that it might be a good training for me to just focus on the task at hand, in a relaxed way, rather than seek distraction by turning on the radio. It is nothing more special than just that. Lots of even non-Buddhists drive in silence. It's not an extraordinary thing.

binocular wrote:And sooner or later, under the pressure of aging, illness and death, one will have to show composure under fire; that is, if one is to make an end to suffering.


Agreed. If we want to be able to show composure under fire, the best way to prepare for that is to just practice the N8FP and the other Teachings that aim at awakening, right now, to the best of our ability, well before that day comes. But, as householders, busy or hectic situations will naturally be encountered often, so it's not like we have to seek them out especially. It's seclusion that we ought to seek out, while we still can; for householders, that is what is harder to find. So while we still have a body fit and able enough to go where we like, find a secluded place to sit, and practice meditation, regularly and often, we should do so. Once we are very old, on our deathbed, being fed by tubes and watched over by loved ones, it will be all the practice we did beforehand that will ensure things go well for us.

"Monks, these five future dangers are just enough, when considered, for a monk — heedful, ardent, and resolute — to live for the attaining of the as-yet-unattained, the reaching of the as-yet-unreached, the realization of the as-yet-unrealized. Which five?

"There is the case where a monk reminds himself of this: At present I am young, black-haired, endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life. The time will come, though, when this body is beset by old age. When one is overcome with old age and decay, it is not easy to pay attention to the Buddha's teachings. It is not easy to reside in isolated forest or wilderness dwellings. Before this unwelcome, disagreeable, displeasing thing happens, let me first make an effort for the attaining of the as-yet-unattained, the reaching of the as-yet-unreached, the realization of the as-yet-unrealized, so that — endowed with that Dhamma — I will live in peace even when old.
...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Kind regards :anjali:
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby reflection » Sun Apr 14, 2013 10:23 pm

I haven't read all replies, but awesome topic.

On a long retreat I really noticed the value of sense restraint and promised to keep it up in lay life. But it's hard, with music just at the press of a button. And while my love for music came and went over the years, overall I've been a pretty big music fan, so that makes it extra hard. Good to see somebody else trying it, it makes me want to give it another serious shot as well. Although I now usually get quite restless after listening to music for more than, say, 10 or 15 minutes, I want to lessen it more. The peace of sense restraint is just too nice to ignore.

With love, :buddha2:
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby binocular » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:07 am

manas wrote:I think you are reading too much into what I wrote.
When I said that just driving the car is enough, I was not implying any kind of momentary samadhi or grand insight would go along with that, just that it might be a good training for me to just focus on the task at hand, in a relaxed way, rather than seek distraction by turning on the radio. It is nothing more special than just that. Lots of even non-Buddhists drive in silence. It's not an extraordinary thing.


My comment that "just driving" might not be enough is in reference to the bigger picture; and that the bigger picture that one currently has may be lacking.

Sure, one can compose one's life philosophy on "When hungry, eat; when tired sleep. And when carrying water, just carry water." Which is all fine and well as long as these just-actions are part of a bigger framework that is is purposefully directed toward a goal that one really values.

But I am wary of the case when one's life philosophy comes down to "just breathing," "just driving," "just eating," "just working" etc. - all of them just-actions that seem to go nowhere.

In the suttas, there is often this theme:

"Reflecting appropriately, he uses almsfood, not playfully, nor for intoxication, nor for putting on bulk, nor for beautification; but simply for the survival & continuance of this body, for ending its afflictions, for the support of the holy life, thinking, 'Thus will I destroy old feelings [of hunger] and not create new feelings [from overeating]. I will maintain myself, be blameless, & live in comfort.'

Note the for the support of the holy life.
It's about the proper use of the requisites, using them for the right purpose, namely, for the support of the holy life.

I find that sometimes, when people advocate to "just breathe," "just eat," "just drive" etc., they do so without reference to this being done for the support of the holy life; but instead, those just-actions simply seem to be a way to pass the time and to get things done, even as one is not sure why one does them or what they are supposed to lead to.


I'm not saying you have this kind of philosophy; I don't know that. I'm just clarifying my earlier comment.
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby manas » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:30 am

binocular wrote:I find that sometimes, when people advocate to "just breathe," "just eat," "just drive" etc., they do so without reference to this being done for the support of the holy life; but instead, those just-actions simply seem to be a way to pass the time and to get things done, even as one is not sure why one does them or what they are supposed to lead to.


I'm not saying you have this kind of philosophy; I don't know that. I'm just clarifying my earlier comment.


No worries, binocular. Thanks for the clarification.

metta :anjali:
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Re: A clear mind more important than listening to music

Postby alan » Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:30 pm

Musicians will always have music in their heads. Can't be helped. Artists will see beauty, or light, or compositions all day long. Can't be helped. And why should it?

There is music all around us. Waves on the beach are music to me. Birds in the morning or the sound of rain can be your music. Tuning in to these sublime sounds that can help you on your quest for a more concentrated mind.
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