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Really Listen

Happy 12th day of Christmas! Today is the twelfth day after December 25 and in the Christian liturgical year, this means that tonight marks the end of the season of Christmas, and tomorrow is the beginning of the new season of Epiphany. The change of seasons means that it’s time to put away all of the Christmas decorations for the year. It also means it’s time to turn off the Christmas music until next December. As a musician, one of the things I love most about Advent and Christmas is the amount of music being performed everywhere. Performances tend to wane after the 25th, but I tend to keep playing my favourite Christmas albums throughout the season, long after the malls and shops have packed away everything festive. Today I’m rather regretfully putting things away, but looking forward to new performances and opportunities to listen during the new year.

It’s a real gift to be able to sit down and really listen to good music, without the distractions that usually accompany us if we’re driving, or working, or doing errands with the radio on in the background. Real attentive listening to music can be a profound spiritual practice. I gave a workshop last year in which part of our day was spent in quiet reflection listening to a recording of an entire cello concerto without interruption. It was a very relaxed gathering, with people on couches, sitting on the floor, or in chairs, just being comfortable with themselves and each other. It was a great way to enter into self-reflection and deeper conversations with each other.

If you are interested in exploring new ways to engage your inner self, and explore a deeper spirituality, you might enjoy this exercise:

Pick some music – maybe something familiar, or it could be something brand new to you. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. Chose something that fits with your tastes and comfort level.
Chose a time when you are alone without distractions and interruptions.
Find a comfortable place to sit or to lie down.
Take a minute before you start listening to ground yourself with some intentional breathing, or a prayer.
Listen to your chosen selection of music.

While listening, try to listen with your whole self. Hear the music, but also notice how you feel, what emotions it brings out in you, what your body sensations are as you listen, what memories are stirred.

When you’re finished, take a few minutes of quiet. Be aware of any shifts you might notice in your thinking or mood, or in your body. You might want to journal or draw your responses to the exercise.
Give it a try. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this exercise.

Happy New Year!

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