Disassemble a musical instrument

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Remove a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


It's really too early to talk much about the two-month retreat I just attended. It seems wise to allow the effects of these many weeks of intense practice to slowly and quietly seep into my system and continue to make changes in unpredictable and mysterious ways. But there's also something to be said for making the most of the freshness of certain turns and ideas by putting them into words, no matter how close they are to actual experience.

I'm also curious about re-engaging with writing on my computer: maybe sitting in front of the screen and using the keyboard will feel a little different; maybe I won't cross my legs so much, won't cross out so many sentences in a self-critical way, won't keep my shoulders down and my heart open. Maybe it could feel like making art, or playing music, or dancing, with the desire to take pleasure in something that's a little beyond my control.

To set the scene: there are 34 of us, all members of the Triratna Buddhist order, in a hotel on the Gower Peninsula in Wales, United Kingdom, which has become a pop-up retreat center. Bright thanks Buddhas and bodhisattvas hide television screens, and photos of famous Buddhist teachers sit alongside heavily framed oil paintings depicting the ancient inhabitants of this ancient hunting lodge. The mahogany, richly textured wallpaper, and bright chandeliers pair very well with the colorful sanctuary that takes up most of one wall in the hotel's dining room. Tall windows open onto a vast, calm park-like landscape, and the sea is a 20-minute walk away. There is an emergent rhythm of a few days of teaching by Vessantara, our main leader, followed by 5-7 days of silent practice. We have 15 minute meditation reviews with a team member twice a week, otherwise we are in silence. We each memorized our schedule: these meditation reviews, then cooking once a week, cleaning, and some of us go to teaching. qigong or Iyengar Yoga sessions. I practice my own eclectic movement practice in several daily half-hour periods, before or after meditation. I'm working on opening my upper spine and chest, as my posture has become quite hunched after decades of working at the computer. There's a large, airy veranda set aside for body work, and we see everything from military-style huffing and puffing workouts to meditative, lying-down Yin Yoga and amazing acrobatics. The glass ceiling of the veranda, from which a rainforest of artificial plants descends, connects us to the weather: clear, exhilarating blue skies; mostly clouds and rain. The silence shared during the retreat is built and built; entering the sanctuary room is like being immersed in a warm bath of loving presence.

We explore a text from the Ninth Karmapa, Eliminate the darkness of unconsciousness, which, like all Mahamudra texts, concerns the understanding – in a direct and experiential way – of the non-dual nature of the mind. The main practice is to “just sit” and it is an intuitive process of letting go of the ego-based habit of owning the experience.

About two-thirds of the way into retirement, Vessantara said something that changed things noticeably for me. He talks about our tendency to "try too much" during meditation and encourages us to be alert in more subtle ways, making small intuitive adjustments that are a response to the body-mind, as if we were playing a musical instrument. exquisite strings. We can become curious about the ever-changing interplay of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, without any push or pull toward outcomes. Even the term “curious” is not entirely appropriate, as it can imply a search for something and carries too much “selfish” energy. It is rather about playing with the organism, with life as it passes through us in the present moment, applying the light and sensitive touch of a talented musician. Rumi's famous lines on this came to mind when he was talking about it:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and afraid. Don't open the office door and start reading. Remove a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

(Plain water mindfulness practice center)

I dive into a deeper layer of confidence, recognizing that I have a lot of experience in music, painting, and dance, and that I feel at home in this realm of intuitive, creative, and subtle responsiveness. I know how to let myself be seduced into forgetting myself by responding to beauty with a loving and open heart – this feeling of aesthetic enchantment is familiar to me. This helps “me” relax more deeply and allows these Dharma teachings about the elusive nature of consciousness and appearances to reveal themselves. And it's probably best not to say more at this point. I just want to express some encouragement to readers, to let your own sense of aesthetic appreciation be the forefront of meditation, rather than a motivation to achieve results.

What is required can be summarized by three “A’s”: Recognize, Allow and Appreciate. We are probably familiar with the first two, recognizing an experience, whether painful, pleasant or neutral, and doing our best to accept it. Going deeper and appreciating it appeals to that “inner artist” part of us that can adapt to the creative possibilities inherent in the experience. Imagery works very well here – for example, at the beginning of a meditation, when we connect with our body and our posture, letting the earth absorb any physical or emotional discomfort we carry, not only for relief from it, but like a welcome fertilizer. And just as a valuable musical instrument needs to be cared for, polished and kept safe, it helps to eat nutritious foods, get regular exercise that we actually enjoy and guard the gates of our senses, carefully deciding what to address. we expose ourselves. Since I've been home, my husband – who also attended the retreat – and I have decided to make some lifestyle changes to increase the chances of staying connected with this scent of inner freedom. I am particularly excited about the idea of ​​regularly spending time together quietly listening to music, not talking about shopping, not reviewing the day or making plans, but simply opening our hearts and minds to this mystery of experience lived, beyond words.

* According to Barks, Coleman, ed. 2005. The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Desire. London: HarperOne

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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