Well I had some sort of an insight a little while ago listening to “Sugaree” out on the UC patio – the one at the West entrance to the building. I noticed myself having these anticipatory visceral responses to a particular passage in the song. I’ve heard the song, and indeed the version in question, many times, and am, therefore, rather intimately familiar with it in a very detailed way. As a result of this, I think I was on a bit of autopilot as I listened to it. In other words, despite the fact that my ostensible intention had been to put in my headphones and listen to this song—I had even sat down at a picnic table as to devote my attention to listening—my mind only obeyed in a half-assed kind of way—enough, perhaps, to trick me into thinking I was carrying out my stated intention of listening to the song.
Anyway, this moment of affective and, ultimately, superficial response caught my attention and interest, hence this little note. I’m not sure what to make of it. Certainly I am, generally speaking, distracted; and I am certainly distractable as a general rule, particularly by the myriad goings-on inside my mind. Part of this is quite simply my nature, I suppose, but part of it is the fact that I have miles to go, figuratively speaking, in my mind-training, i.e., meditative practice. In other words, my “monkey mind” is as-yet untrained.
Regardless of the reasons why, or, rather, of the factors inducing this occurrence (for there are surely many, to say nothing of the fact that an exploration of them at this time is beside the point of this note), it did indeed occur, and just barely did I notice it. I suppose if I hadn’t consciously noticed and caught it in the web of my attention it likely would have persisted in its own way, manifesting only in a vague sense of dissatisfaction, the origins of which I may or may not have had the wherewithal or inclination to pursue. As it is, I am glad I noticed it.
I am interested in attention and focus. The experience of pure listening, to continue with the present example—deep and focused listening—is a wonderful experience, and one that I suppose I used to pursue more fervently than I do now. I suppose I have found it simpler and altogether more pleasant to “let myself be” to a certain extent, and certainly to a greater extent than I used to do: I was my own hell-hound for too many years, and I still am on occasion. If that is hell (and it can be), then heaven is the experience of fully “being in” an action such as listening—and there is something especially sublime about listening in this manner to music. Music, after all, is a language beyond language. It speaks directly to our heart, plays with our mind, and soothes our troubled souls.