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Jhana when listening to music

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Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/25/10 9:27 AM
Yesterday I had a little revelation.

Different musical instruments all have a little thing I will call "the golden section". What I mean by that is a certain set of frequencies that, when played by the right instrument, will sound very beautiful. You probably know what I mean: don't you agree that when a piano is played with some of the lighter tones, it sounds very, very beautiful*? Or when a harmonica is played with something bluesy or melancholy?

I was at a musical yesterday and during one of the scores I suddenly noticed a pattern of notes that I really like coming from a violin. It was one of those cliche sequences, but a cliche for a good reason, and it was one of those "golden sections" of tones. I tuned in to the sound of it, as I often do when listening to music, and I noticed that "here come the goosebumps" and my eyes automatically closed, as they often do when this thing happens to me. As the goosebumps started fading, I caught myself in a very mindful moment. And what I noticed is that I suddenly recognized the "goosebumps" as what is usually described as (at least first-) jhana.

Now, this specific kind of experience I have had countless times throughout my life. I usually just call it goosebumps, but this time I noticed that there are at least two components of this experience: goosebumps, as traditionally understood, and some sort of blissful vibrations on the skin. It dawned on me that I have been experiencing jhana very many times, mostly when listening to music (as I'm a very musical guy), but as I cross-reference this new understanding with previous experiences like this I find that also during very beautiful nature-immersions I get this.

Of course, there's nothing new here. I've read again and again that jhana is, for a lot of people, experienced in this way. But now a lot started to make sense for me.

There is an important difference between simply goosebumps and what I'm explaining. "Goosebumps" simply happens to be what I explain it as, as most people understand that. But I'm sure that there's been a lot of miscommunication on that, from me.

The fun part is analysing this now-experiential knowledge with what I've read before:

When this kind of experience is brewing, it's like you intuitively know what is about to happen and willingly relinquish control of your mind. It seems wrong to say that there is any doing in this. For example: I happened to close my eyes during this experience, but you don't do the action of closing your eyes. You let go, and it happens automagically. "Effortlessness" suddenly gets a new meaning. It doesn't mean "easy" or "not-difficult". It means "not-doing".

I'd like to encourage others to cross-reference their previous experiences with whatever new knowledge they might have. I know it made me feel better about a lot of things. Maybe "saving the world" isn't so dramatically difficult to do, after all, as people are apparently experiencing this type of bliss far more often than what I thought.


(* actually I'd say that a piano has quite a few of these sets of frequencies, not only the lighter.)

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/24/10 3:20 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
that was an amazing post. thank you for writing.

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/24/10 3:29 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Totally agree with you here Stian, I've explored this area in depth but hadn't considered it from a jhanaic perspective.

I was heavily involved in a genre called noise music for a few years, if you're not familiar with it it's basically screeching feedback, distorted electronics and a complete absence of conventional musical structure. It's wonderful! Ha! Very much an acquired taste, but I found it useful to experiment with the frequencies and introduce what you've referred to as "the golden section" by examining the harmonic content of each sound and using EQ to shape these slabs of noise, creating similiar sensations to those experienced while appreciating a beautiful piano piece.

Have you considered rhythms, whether percussive or melodic, in this same context? It's cool for entering trance states but I haven't tried it for exploring the jhanas yet.

Nice post though and something that's certainly got me thinking.....

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/25/10 8:18 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
I had an encounter with 'Noise Music' a couple of years ago when I was present at a concert by Merbow and Keiji Haino performing as Kikuri. It was the first time I had heard anything like this in a live environment and at first every fibre of my being was repulsed by this chaotic and violent white noise but then all of a sudden it was as if someone had flicked a switch and I suddenly became aware of the complex array of natural harmonics and countless polyrhythms that were all interweaving and reacting with one another.
I realised afterwards that originally my rational mind was trying to find the conventional patterns that it usually associated with music and this was why I had felt confusion and aversion for what I had heard. The moment my mind relaxed its efforts to look for familiar patterns in the sound I was able hear a whole new universe and learnt alot about the natural development of harmony and rhythm.
I don't know how relevant this post is but it I thought that it was worth a mention.

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/25/10 5:13 PM as a reply to Chris Bayes.
I think you've pretty much described the entire experience of every person who's ever gotten into noise!

It's human nature to want to find a pattern, even in the most chaotic of experiences and that's what noise meant to me. It was a really good way to watch how the mind reacts to such chaotic and seemingly random sound, how you can actually follow the experience sensation by sensation as your mind finds a pattern to it all and you can begin to explore each stage, playing around with being aware of different frequencies and effects, picking which polyrhythms you're going to follow. Unfortunately the whole genre is populated by posers, scensters and self-harmers with more issues than I care to mention. It's very polarizing as well, it's either sociopaths or arty pseudo-intellectual types (like me..Ha!) who are attracted to it but there's a whole world of experience out there for those with the patience/stupidity to perservere past the initial kneejerk revulsion experienced on having your ear-drums torn apart by frequencies only dogs can hear, played at volumes only the deaf should be able to tolerate.

I haven't really looked over my notes from that time to examine it in the terms used on here but I'll certainly be checking for hints of jhanas....

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/25/10 9:31 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
tarin greco:
that was an amazing post. thank you for writing.

Tarin, could you elaborate on this?

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/26/10 4:43 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Enjoying music paired with [edit: a special sort of] goose bumps is an experiential phenomenon I can totally sympathize with, so I understand pretty well where you're coming from.

There's another quality in the experience of music for me, which I rarely partake in, that astonishes me so supremely (and having talked about to some real music lovers, it seems to be a somewhat uncommon experience) and deepens my love to music and, in the same breath, life, every time more:
Sometimes, I come across with a tune I am falling in love with (or already felt or am one step before falling), I listen to that particular tune in an unconditional occasion (could be the walk from my home to the next tube station while watching the clouds passing by, for example), that's what's happening:

Apart from it giving me the creeps, I feel my chest nearly bursting, a feeling of pure joy of life itself inside of my body almost exploding in a loud laughter (leastwise erupting into grinning like a Cheshire cat), and, most special to me, an intense tingling at the back of my head. …embracing myself, my habitat, everyone else running across and the world as a whole are just a pale description of this rare moment of experience…

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/26/10 5:27 PM as a reply to Patricia M..
Patricia M.:
Enjoying music paired with [edit: a special sort of] goose bumps is an experiential phenomenon I can totally sympathize with, so I understand pretty well where you're coming from.

There's another quality in the experience of music for me, which I rarely partake in, that astonishes me so supremely (and having talked about to some real music lovers, it seems to be a somewhat uncommon experience) and deepens my love to music and, in the same breath, life, every time more:
Sometimes, I come across with a tune I am falling in love with (or already felt or am one step before falling), I listen to that particular tune in an unconditional occasion (could be the walk from my home to the next tube station while watching the clouds passing by, for example), that's what's happening:

Apart from it giving me the creeps, I feel my chest nearly bursting, a feeling of pure joy of life itself inside of my body almost exploding in a loud laughter (leastwise erupting into grinning like a Cheshire cat), and, most special to me, an intense tingling at the back of my head. …embracing myself, my habitat, everyone else running across and the world as a whole are just a pale description of this rare moment of experience…


what an excellent description of an excellence experience, or a pce. they are such rich ways of experiencing.

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/27/10 2:04 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
what an excellent description of an excellence experience, or a pce. they are such rich ways of experiencing.


I hadn't looked into pce yet so it's interesting that you should mention it in this context. Definitely gives me a better idea of what a pce feels like! And totally agree that Patricia phrased that beautifully.

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/27/10 2:42 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Ident Silence:
what an excellent description of an excellence experience, or a pce. they are such rich ways of experiencing.


I hadn't looked into pce yet so it's interesting that you should mention it in this context. Definitely gives me a better idea of what a pce feels like! And totally agree that Patricia phrased that beautifully.

one cannot feel a pce. here - the parts in bold - is what i was responding to in particular in patricia's post, which evinces the ee (excellence experience):

Patricia M.:

There's another quality in the experience of music for me, which I rarely partake in, that astonishes me so supremely (and having talked about to some real music lovers, it seems to be a somewhat uncommon experience) and deepens my love to music and, in the same breath, life, every time more:
Sometimes, I come across with a tune I am falling in love with (or already felt or am one step before falling), I listen to that particular tune in an unconditional occasion (could be the walk from my home to the next tube station while watching the clouds passing by, for example), that's what's happening:

Apart from it giving me the creeps, I feel my chest nearly bursting, a feeling of pure joy of life itself inside of my body almost exploding in a loud laughter (leastwise erupting into grinning like a Cheshire cat), and, most special to me, an intense tingling at the back of my head. …embracing myself, my habitat, everyone else running across and the world as a whole are just a pale description of this rare moment of experience

tarin

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/27/10 2:47 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
Ah ha. My mistake, thanks for clarifying that. I knew what I meant to say but didn't put it correctly.....emoticon

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/27/10 4:20 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
tarin greco:
what an excellent description of an excellence experience, or a pce. they are such rich ways of experiencing.


I was surprised reading you would call it a pce or ee, but interesting. Thanks for your comment, Tarin.

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/28/10 5:00 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Ident Silence:
I think you've pretty much described the entire experience of every person who's ever gotten into noise!

It's human nature to want to find a pattern, even in the most chaotic of experiences and that's what noise meant to me. It was a really good way to watch how the mind reacts to such chaotic and seemingly random sound, how you can actually follow the experience sensation by sensation as your mind finds a pattern to it all and you can begin to explore each stage, playing around with being aware of different frequencies and effects, picking which polyrhythms you're going to follow. Unfortunately the whole genre is populated by posers, scensters and self-harmers with more issues than I care to mention. It's very polarizing as well, it's either sociopaths or arty pseudo-intellectual types (like me..Ha!) who are attracted to it but there's a whole world of experience out there for those with the patience/stupidity to perservere past the initial kneejerk revulsion experienced on having your ear-drums torn apart by frequencies only dogs can hear, played at volumes only the deaf should be able to tolerate.

I haven't really looked over my notes from that time to examine it in the terms used on here but I'll certainly be checking for hints of jhanas....


Hey this noise music sounds like it would be very interesting to listen to, especially now that I've gotten somewhat better at being mindful through meditation... this is somewhat off-topic I guess but can you recommend some artists that you feel are not "posers", or particular "songs" to listen to/places I can download/listen to them? I honestly wouldn't have any way of telling at this point =).

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/29/10 3:18 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
No probs, I'll send you a message so as not to clutter up the board.....

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/29/10 3:50 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Please send me too emoticon

I also think the same 'acquired taste' is true when listening to metal music. I used to hate it, thinking "that's not even music", but after being involuntary exposed to it at work for a long time I started to like it. Now I honestly enjoy listening to it, although I can't really put my finger on why. I still hate 'noise music' though so will be fun to try.

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
11/29/10 8:33 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
I was at a musical yesterday and during one of the scores I suddenly noticed a pattern of notes that I really like coming from a violin. It was one of those cliche sequences, but a cliche for a good reason, and it was one of those "golden sections" of tones. I tuned in to the sound of it, as I often do when listening to music, and I noticed that "here come the goosebumps" and my eyes automatically closed, as they often do when this thing happens to me. As the goosebumps started fading, I caught myself in a very mindful moment. And what I noticed is that I suddenly recognized the "goosebumps" as what is usually described as (at least first-) jhana.

Now, this specific kind of experience I have had countless times throughout my life. I usually just call it goosebumps, but this time I noticed that there are at least two components of this experience: goosebumps, as traditionally understood, and some sort of blissful vibrations on the skin. It dawned on me that I have been experiencing jhana very many times, mostly when listening to music (as I'm a very musical guy), but as I cross-reference this new understanding with previous experiences like this I find that also during very beautiful nature-immersions I get this.


Ohhh man... I'm so glad you made this post. When I first read it I thought "oh neat!" But then I remembered this very thing happening to me. It happens when I listen to a few trance songs I really adore, such as Made of Love. I get these tingly sensations and joyful feelings just listening to it.

I thought it was related to the fact that I took MDMA while listening to it / listening to trance, so listening to it sober reminded me of that state. But I think its effect was more of an "allowing me to fall into the music" effect. It taught me how to do it sober. (And I also didn't get such tingling while rolling, AFAICT.)

My friend just got some new high-quality headphones, and I just listened to that song again. This time I thought of the goosebumps/tingling differently and man... during one part of the song I was able to intensify it to such a blissful degree that I almost started crying. I can get a little bit of pleasant body tingling to some degree by focusing on my breath, but nothing like this... Now I really know what jhana can feel like!

EDIT: I figured it might be helpful to describe the experience a bit more.

As soon as the song went on, the tingling began, I think because I was expecting it to (and I also really love the song). It's more a kind of vibration along my neck, back of my head, and upper body, than a "tingling" like when your foot falls asleep and blood starts flowing back into it.

The intensity came and went, more or less following the contour of the song. It intensified when a part of the song that I liked was coming up, from the anticipation. As my mind started to think about describing the experience (as it often does when I am experiencing new meditation-related things), the intensity diminished. Re-focusing on the song kind of helped. I think "letting go" in a particular way is what works, but I don't know well enough. What also was fun / maybe helpful (not sure) was imagining each sound I heard as tickling the pleasure centers of my brain.

As to the point where the vibrations and bliss got really intense... I'm not sure what triggered it. I just felt it not only on the surface of my upper body, but also within it. I wonder if it is an example of "gross piti", which I read about from this link:

The initial instructions for Anapanasati from Sayadaw were to learn to follow the breath for half an hour without getting distracted. Since I have been practicing Anapanasati for over 20 years in one form or another, this was not a difficult thing for me to do. When I reported that I could do so at my second interview, Sayadaw asked me to sit longer - like 3 or 4 hours per sitting.

Needless to say, such long sittings quickly built my concentration. And since, for nearly 20 years, I have been using Anapanasati concentration to access piti, I began having VERY STRONG bursts of piti. Luckily, these bursts only lasted 10 or so seconds - if they had lasted much longer, my head would have probably popped off, the shaking was so strong. I was not doing anything to induce the piti - it was showing up on its own after I got really concentrated. I reported this to Sayadaw, and he called it "Gross Piti," and said it was not helpful and to not do that.


Also the quality of the vibrations was very different from those I get by focusing on the breath. With the breath ones, it really is more of a subtle, pleasant tingling, with a warm and "comfy" quality to it.

RE: Jhana when listening to music
Answer
12/21/10 2:02 AM as a reply to Andy R.
Andy R:
tarin greco:
that was an amazing post. thank you for writing.

Tarin, could you elaborate on this?


yes; stian wrote a post describing the direct insight he drew from a mode of practice i have rarely seen discussed with much depth (music-listening). though i did not often make use of music for any practice-related purpose, i do recognise the potential it can have for inclining a practitioner's attention a useful direction; stian's post is exemplary of this. though the entire post spoke loudly (and coherently), these passages in particular caught my attention:

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:

I tuned in to the sound of it, as I often do when listening to music, and I noticed that "here come the goosebumps" and my eyes automatically closed, as they often do when this thing happens to me. As the goosebumps started fading, I caught myself in a very mindful moment. And what I noticed is that I suddenly recognized the "goosebumps" as what is usually described as (at least first-) jhana.


Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:

(...) this time I noticed that there are at least two components of this experience: goosebumps, as traditionally understood, and some sort of blissful vibrations on the skin. It dawned on me that I have been experiencing jhana very many times, mostly when listening to music (as I'm a very musical guy), but as I cross-reference this new understanding with previous experiences like this I find that also during very beautiful nature-immersions I get this.


Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:

When this kind of experience is brewing, it's like you intuitively know what is about to happen and willingly relinquish control of your mind. It seems wrong to say that there is any doing in this. For example: I happened to close my eyes during this experience, but you don't do the action of closing your eyes. You let go, and it happens automagically. "Effortlessness" suddenly gets a new meaning. It doesn't mean "easy" or "not-difficult". It means "not-doing".


Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:

I'd like to encourage others to cross-reference their previous experiences with whatever new knowledge they might have.


tarin