How to organize a night of meditative music

Who says you should always sit in silence? Ryan Winger explains how you can bring the mind of meditation to the music you love, with friends.

music night

Illustration by Sydney Smith.

Music is the backbone of our lives: playing in the grocery store, accompanying us while we wait to talk to our next customer service representative, shuffling our iPhones as we go to work. Music is ubiquitous, but most of the time we don’t really listen to it.

Most of us have also had a more attentive experience of music, really listening with a unique approach. When we really pay attention, we can treasure the feeling and energy of the artists and songs that hold a special place in our hearts. Whether it’s in a concert hall, on a busy street corner, or in the privacy of our own home, the experience of connecting with music in a meaningful way is rich, profound, and sometimes profound.

From the perspective of the practice of meditation, this experience is the result of attunement to our current experience through sensory perception of sound. We are fully there with the music, experiencing the texture, the rhythm, the melody, the harmony and the progression, riding the sound waves in real time.

My experience with music as part of a group meditation practice began a few years ago, when a handful of us in the Shambhala community of Washington, DC, were relatively new and enjoying our first tastes of freshness and inspiration. of the practice of meditation. As we talked about our experience with meditation, we discovered a mutual appreciation of jazz. We wondered what it would be like to listen to John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins with the same attention we were applying to our breathing.

At one point, someone said, “Why don’t we get together and meditate and then listen to jazz?” This led to our first “Music Night”. Here is the format, which you can follow in your own group if you want to try to meditate on music.


We are in a small group environment (6-12 people) equipped with a stereo. Each participant carries two pieces of music with which they feel connected. Start with a snack and a half-hour conversation.


To settle down and fully enter the present moment, we gather in a circle and meditate in silence for 10-15 minutes.


One by one, we offer a piece of music to the group. Sometimes the person offering the music says a few words about their inspiration to select it. By sharing something that is meaningful to us, we become naked and vulnerable. The more meaningful the music, the more naked we can feel.


As everyone offers their selection, the others practice receiving the music with all their attention. Without the need for analysis or comment, we practice mostly in silence. We go around the whole group at least twice, and sometimes we keep listening until late at night.

When we listen openly, we get a lot more energy and substance from the music, both pleasurable and sometimes not so pleasurable, than we usually do. Paying close attention, we hear things we have never noticed before. We see in great detail how we sometimes relate to our experiences through the lens of passion, aggression, and ignorance.

While this practice sounds simple and straightforward, from my perspective it can be meaningful, challenging, and profound. Music represents feelings, emotions, colors, and affirmations that cannot be expressed in words or images. Feeling our shared connection with music and being totally present with each other makes us feel incredibly intimate and warm.

Music is an important part of my life. On Music Night I felt totally seen, with warmth and love and no judgment. He played an important role in helping me connect with my own basic goodness and the basic goodness of others, and he can do the same for you.

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