Meet your new meditation partner: Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina
The cultivation ideology is one thing. It is quite another to meditate every day and thereby develop the ability to respond effectively to life situations instead of just reacting. Meditation is the path to an always happy and healthy life. This fact has been verified for thousands of years by some of the greatest masters of mankind. Call it prayer or contemplation if necessary.
Happiness and health are the tests of an ideology, in my opinion. If the proponents of an ideology project lasting happiness and health, there is something substantial there. Yet the ideology of meditation is not an ideology. The ability to calm the mind and reap the benefits of this discipline does not require adherence to arbitrary principles of belief.
The idea of meditating can be quite intimidating. The concept is simple. Calm your mind. The execution of this concept may seem impossible. The mind does not want to be quiet. This is where classical music can step in to help us. Meditating on a piece of music is a great way to start training the mind. Sitting in complete silence for five minutes with a still mind is an advanced technique of meditation. This is where most people think they should start. But that’s not the case, in my experience.
Put on headphones and listen to Palestrina Sicut Cervus for a little over three minutes. It is a starting point. Let your mind watch the music as it occurs. When you notice that the mind begins to wander, bring it back to watching the music. When you notice that the mind is trying to interpret the music, bring it back to observing the music.
At Tomás Luis de Victoria Magnum Mysterium is another option for a beginner’s piece. It is almost exactly the same length as the Palestrina. Stick with this short piece of music until you can watch it, uninterrupted, until the end. Once done, you can look to add more time to your observational listening.
Finding a four- to five-minute piece of contemplative music usually means taking part in a larger work such as Palestrina’s “Kyrie”. Missa Papae Marcelli or the “Sanctus” and “Benedictus” by Victoria Missa O magnum mysterium. I prefer Palestrina and Victoria because they wrote music for a Renaissance culture of contemplation. There are composers like John Cage, Henryk Górecki, and Arvo Pärt who have specifically tried to write meditative music in some of their compositions, but I don’t find them as effective. However, Arvo Pärt Spiegel im Spiegel is a good piece of music once you’re ready to go through 10 minutes of mediation.
In my experience, being able to observe 10 minutes of music, without my mind wandering, means that I can do about two minutes of complete silence. To reach the advanced stage of five minutes of silence, I have to do about 20 minutes of music. My favorite piece of music for that is Mass for four voices by Thomas Tallis.
Maybe high culture is real waking culture after all.