Here's another one, Ben
It's Australian, too - deserves a kookaburra stamp just for that.
I have the discs and think they are great, and it's exactly the secularised-Buddhist meditation you were after. This detailed review isn't available online so I'll post the whole thing.
Joy of Being: guided meditations and music
Graham Williams and the Lifeflow Meditation Centre with music of Ross Edwards.
ABC Atmospheres 476 6800
This beautiful four-disc set from ABC Classics’ ambient label comprises three discs of guided meditations and one of music: a short extract from music by leading Australian composer Ross Edwards introduces and closes each meditation and the last CD presents that music in full.
Graham Williams left Adelaide to study music in France but studied Tibetan Buddhism there as well, going on to ordain as a Tibetan lama and to study in the Burmese tradition. He set up the Lifeflow Meditation Centre in Adelaide on his return to Australia but the meditations he presents here show no trace of Buddhism as such, focusing entirely on the relaxation techniques.
The first three discs present a series of nine ‘spot meditations’, brief exercises which can be done anywhere in about half a minute, and a sequence of longer meditations (12 to 26 minutes). The spot meditations go through awareness of sound in the immediate environment, so that it can be accepted rather than fought; body position, to gain alert but restful physical balance; shoulder stretch and neck massage, to relax the muscles that signal (and contribute to) mental tension; and a simple breathing exercise. The first of the longer meditations is a relaxation exercise which combines and extends some of the short exercises, and then Disc 1 closes with an extended movement meditation.
Disc 2 begins with a basic ‘Watching the Breath’ meditation and continues with a breath-counting variation and two extensions which invite the meditator to visualise the breath flooding and energising the whole body, ‘feeding your body with the breath … drinking it in to your whole body’. The first meditation on Disc 3 extends the preliminary relaxation routine into a full body scan, guiding the meditator around his/her body, bringing sensations to consciousness and constantly reiterating two points: ‘if your awareness drifts away, gently bring it back’ and ‘whether the sensations are pleasant or unpleasant, just let them be, just watch them’. The second, ‘Washing Mind and Body’, leads the meditator to visualise a warm gentle rain washing right through the body and rinsing away physical tensions and negative emotions, while the last two, ‘Acceptance and Kindness’ and ‘All-embracing Kindness’, cultivate positive feelings towards oneself and the world respectively.
Anyone who has learned meditation in any of the Buddhist traditions will recognise most of the techniques presented here, and yoga practitioners will recognise the others. Williams’ biggest practical departure from his sources is in posture: he does allow people to sit on cushions on the floor if they prefer, but he assumes that most will sit on a straight chair. It is a very reasonable choice which removes a large but inconsequential barrier between Westerners and meditation
The teachers (we hear several) have obviously refined their pacing and choice of words with years in front of classes, and their guidance is excellent. Each meditation is introduced by a routine of settling the posture and accepting the sounds in the vicinity – a good idea, since routines aid consistent practice – and book-ended with a minute or two of music. The music is treated respectfully and appropriately in that it introduces and closes each track but not used as background.
The unique conjunction of meditation and contemporary art music here is due to the shared history of the teacher and the composer: Graham Williams (a distinguished pianist in his other life) and Ross Edwards were friends in university days. They went separately to Europe but found they had much in common after they returned, as each of them radically re-defined his practice, of meditation or music, to fit it to the Australian psyche.
The selections on Disc 4 naturally emphasise the contemplative side of Edwards’ work rather than the ecstatic. The best known piece will be the soaring Dawn Mantras, written for performance on the sails of Sydney Opera House on the first morning of the new millennium. Six of the others are drawn from his concertos for guitar, violin, piano and oboe, all in excellent performances by Karin Schaupp, Dene Olding, Dennis Hennig and Diana Doherty with major Australian orchestras. The other two are Yanada for unaccompanied oboe (Doherty again), and the Chorale from Enyato I. All in all they make a lovely introduction to the composer’s work.
The music is beautiful and the whole package is superb. Experienced meditators will find The Joy of Being rewarding, but it really stands out as a perfect introduction to meditation for mainstream Australians. It bypasses any potential cultural or religious obstacles and it presents all the basics of meditation very simply and clearly in a calm, welcoming ambiance.