Listening to the Inner Sound

A Tale to Tell

This past week has been very trying for me. Last Tuesday, I tried to brush something away from my left eye. When it didn't brush away, I realized it was inside my eye. The next morning, my eye doctor gave me a thorough exam and then said, “I need to send you to the Eye Institute (at the big medical center). You may have a retina tear.” As I got ready to leave, they were already calling over there to set things up and faxing my paperwork.

I arrived at the Institute and got right in. Once again my eye was dilated and thoroughly checked out. “You have a tear in the corner of the retina. As soon as we can, you're going in for laser eye surgery.” I sat in the waiting room for a few minutes, then was ushered into another room, where the eye specialist shot a laser into my eye hundreds of times (I lost count), sealing the tear. Fortunately, it was in the edge of the retina and my vision, so no vision problems should occur.

Laser beam eye: yes, it was like Star Wars/Star Trek–Phasors on stun!

Seeing in a new way…

Along with all of this, I was restricted from reading, or any other sort of close up activities. That meant no books, magazines, or phone/computer for a while! Besides being a busy writer, I'm also a voracious reader. So what was I to do? I will admit to looking at my phone some, mostly to pick out music or podcasts to listen to. I also checked my e-mail for anything important that needed to be answered. Otherwise, I was limited to viewing far away things. I could watch TV, but even that seemed difficult at first.

At the Threshold of Sound

I spent the first few days mostly laying on the couch with a folded up towel over my eyes, blocking out the bright light. It felt better not to look at anything. I didn't even play any of my gongs or bowls, as they were all packed up, ready for 2 sessions I was scheduled to play that week, but ultimately had to cancel.  So I concentrated on just listening. Listening to the world around me and, the world inside me.

I listened to the ongoing ringing in my ears, tinnitus (a C7 dominant pitch with a G6 harmonic) from playing in loud bands with no ear protection in my younger days. I also listened to my breathing, concentrating on paying attention to how it moved, how it felt, how it sounded. A big part of this process was just trying to relax. So I focused on my breathing more than I normally do.

Breathe in, breathe out, repeat….

I listened to the sounds in the house that I normally ignored out of habit. Things like the AC turning on and the air blowing, or how certain appliances beep, also the sounds our cats make, or just the creaking of our old house, sounding as if it too was trying to relax and get comfortable.

I listened to a lot of music that I have on my iPhone. With headphones blocking out extraneous sounds, and the towel over my eyes blocking out the light, I was able to concentrate and hear things in great detail. If possible, I always use lossless music files instead of mp3s, so those details stood out. I let the music move through me, listening, but not listening, trying to just take in the sounds.

But I also listened to my mind and the sounds that are stored up in there. I listened and worked on ideas for new music, playing things in my head, imagining myself accessing a fresh world of sounds. I also listened to the air, the wind, the clouds, the trees and flowers, the stars at night, the molecules and atoms of existence…I listened to everything anew. 

While I'm used to various types of meditation, the circumstances forced me to adapt and listen in new and different ways. Because I'm primarily a visual person—yes, even though I'm a musician, I tend to see music visually—this helped me see & experience music and sound in a different way.

How do you experience your music?

~ MB

Chop Wood / Carry water / Play Gongs™ / Close Your Eyes


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