People often ask me, “Why do you describe your music as ‘contemplative’?” In the broadest sense of that term, I believe that being contemplative is the same as being deeply attentive, and that its practice in our daily lives, in all that we do, allows us to “wake up.” We are so often driven by convention, so hurried, so rarely able to take a breath and listen to the truth of the matter. Life can race by without our noticing the things that matter most, and that allow us to really have an influence on our world.
The late author, Gerald May describes contemplation as “immediate open presence in the world, directly perceiving and lovingly responding to things as they really are.” In a few words, it is about becoming truly present.
Finding this capacity for loving presence and for responding to people and things ‘just as they are’ takes practice and attention. It also requires a movement away from the dominance of the mind and all its activity, and toward its integration with the heart and body. When mind, heart, and body are in balance, life seems to flow. And this is where music can be so helpful. Music has a way of evoking our emotions that might otherwise remain hidden and can give us access to the heart of the matter. What a gate these emotions can be for us when we attend to them. It seems to me that it is only when we truly honor what arises within us — making space for the truth of what “is” — that its energy can be transformed.
When we attend to our own lives with awareness and intention, it has an impact on how we respond to those around us, and in this way, we have the opportunity to become an influence for peace. As we contemplate the state of war that engulfs so much of the world, can we begin to respond, on a personal level, to this global hatred by responding to our own places of judgment, prejudice, and intolerance? Can we tend to the fragmentation in our own lives that keeps us from loving beyond our comfortable boundaries that include only those who we deem lovable?
I often ask myself, “What would Jesus have done, how would he have responded?” What did he mean by the radical assertion that we should “love our enemies?” His unconditional presence seemed inextricably linked to his deep and continual attention to his inner life. Contemplation is about communing with the deep, limitless Source of Life — that well of Being, of living water, that never runs dry.