This piece is dedicated to my dear friends and brothers, Justin Glosson and Matt Smithey, and to all others who, like them, are musicians on the way of the heart.
Practice is another one of those words that gets used a lot when describing the mystical or contemplative life. It makes no sense to speak of “achieving” the contemplative life, let alone “completing” it. The contemplative life is like an art, something that we craft, that we experiment with, practicing and practicing, and thus becoming more skillful and having it flow more naturally. Yet we never get to a place where something has been attained so that we no longer need to practice, but how we practice may change significantly. In fact, a genuine music lover is simply driven to some form of practice as part of enjoying both the experience and the expression of music. In the process, one naturally refines the ability to let the music flow, and to flow with it, as freely and beautifully as possible. For contemplatives, the “music” we love is the ever flowing presence of Being Itself, of Love Itself, in all Its diversified unity. Our practices are therefore quite diverse, and so it is that there are at least as many different means and styles of practicing the way of the heart as there are means and styles of enjoying music. Just as every music lover must love music as one is most moved to do so – whether playing an instrument, writing music, singing, dancing, or simply listening deeply – so must each of us on the way of the heart practice somewhat uniquely. However, just as all ways of enjoying music have some things in common, so do all forms of contemplative practice.
The way of the heart, like music, urges us toward wholeness in the moment, to be willing to give ourselves over to it, fully present, deeply attentive and alive with a harmony of both focus and fluidity, of both intentionality and spontaneity. It requires awareness and acceptance of the moment just as it is, most importantly including ourselves, just as we are, with all our talent and skill, as well as our apparent lack of talent and skill; with all our knowledge and understanding, as well as our apparent lack of knowledge and understanding; with all our patience and perseverance, as well as our apparent lack of patience and perseverance; with all our peace and joy, as well as our apparent lack of peace of joy; with all our awareness and acceptance, as well as our apparent lack of awareness and acceptance. When we play, or dance, or sing along with music in this spirit, with this attitude, we become aware of mysterious depths in which we intuitively realize our oneness with the music. This unity inspires and informs the unique experience and expression of it in the moment, and therefore even what might have been regarded as a mistake can be experienced as a delightful quirk, if not the creative spark of some entirely new expression of music. So it is with the contemplative way of the heart in lovingly realizing, experiencing, and expressing our oneness with the One and All. Finally, just as the love of music has both solitary and interpersonal dimensions, so does contemplative practice. In music and the contemplative life, greater development and enjoyment of one’s potentials comes through practice in private as well as in companionship with others. Both dimensions are part of the whole love we are experiencing and expressing.