Friday, April 21, 2017

Exploring Beethoven's string quartet no 1 opus 18

I've had a lot of free time over the years - quite a lot where all I can do was listen to music. Now, if you listen to a lot of music you begin to realise that, by in large, there's not a lot going on in modern music that will keep you interested for long. So you begin to explore all kinds of music and you find that Beethoven has produced some particularly interesting works of art. If you take the time to combine Beethoven with meditation, you then begin to realise that his music is a profound expression of mood and/or mental states the likes of which you never thought possible - it's like he has written his mind into music.

Anyway, let's start at the beginning with his first string quartet. I know very little about Beethoven or his life or why he wrote the music he wrote - I just listen to the music and see what comes up. I also dislike sleeve notes that get too technical. So what you're getting here is just raw interpretation of the music through my rather stubby eyes.

I've chosen this quartet to start with because it's easy and I want to show how to recognise the amazing stuff when it happens later on.

First movement

It starts off bright and breezy. I imagine a room of polite people doing polite things with each other as this plays in the background. Nice with a cup of tea. Digging a bit deeper we find a well worked piece that establishes a jolly phrase and then floats along in pleasantness before fooling around with some more assertive and frenetic textures - nothing too serious though, just a taste. Nothing to put us off our cup of tea and cake.

Second movement

Sublime and ripe with melancholy, as you would expect from a slow movement. Apparently inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet but let's not let that get in the way. There is some drama injected near the end just to keep us on our toes. A good outing for a slow string piece. Feels polite. Cools the mind and makes us feel poignant.

Third movement

A lighthearted and jolly contrast after the second movement. Back to our tea party, after the sombre telling of grief laden tales. We find some angular excitement here but without the muscle. Just enough to pique our interest.

Fourth movement

Here we find a sort of remix earlier phrases with a bit more of a pacey edge to it. There is some nice interplay between the instruments which is kind of thrilling and we are left with a pleasant, intellectually satisfying finish. Nice one.


A decent string quartet composition that lays the ground work for some of his later compositions that have real meat in them. Good with friends and rewards the interested listener, especially in the fourth movement. No peak experiences. Just sublime satisfaction after repeated listens.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017


I am enjoying google keep at the moment - try to guess my state of mind from this

Friday, March 31, 2017

The zen path

Instead of the gradual path, you could have a crack at the zen path. It's a bit more straightforward:

1. Get your sitting posture stable - it's import to get the right posture
2. Just sit
3. Keep sitting

At a certain point, something will trigger a moment of perfect clarity in the mind. You may be out shopping, you may be at the zoo, you may see a leaf flutter out of the corner of your eye - it could be anything.

It just happens by itself

Monday, March 27, 2017

The gradual path

I thought I'd jot down some of things I've encountered on the gradual path of mind training. This is probably why most people don't bother...

Practice daily
Observe the body (repeat)
Observe the senses (repeat)
Practice eating
Practice listening
Observe sounds
Notice pain
Notice pleasure
Observe moods
Observe thoughts
Bare attention
Clear comprehension
Observe the breath
Notice tension
Notice relaxation
The relaxation moment
The in breath
The out breath
The resting moment
Notice the whole body
Relax the whole body
Allow pleasure
Notice wanting
Notice anger
Notice anxiety
Notice doubt
Notice weariness
Thoughts are not you
Behind thinking
The observing mind
Observe patterns
Observe reactivity
Accepting you don't know
Going deeper
Wandering mind
Mental proliferation
Calming the body
Calming the mind
Notice (5 elements)
Notice (32 body parts)
Notice initial attention
Notice sustained attention
Notice pleasure
Notice bliss
Notice unified mind
Notice hatred
Notice love
Notice greed
Notice delusion (circular thinking)
Be happy
Be calm
Be good
Be generous
Be forgiving
Move on to wisdom
Thoughts are not truth
Notice (5 aggregates)
Accepting things as they are
Let go
Arising and passing away
Notice 6 senses
The first noble truth
The second truth
Third truth
Four truth
The three doors
Expand your mind
Noble silence
Infinite space
Infinite mind
Neither perception or not
Sustained cessation
The mind is everything
Observing the formation of mind
Freedom from mind
Resting in sublime equanimity

Saturday, March 25, 2017

You are not your thoughts

That's it really. Have a thought, let it go. Where do they come from? Well, that's where it gets interesting. We are all in this soup. Who is in your bowl?

Anyway, take a step back and breathe. Then you will know what to do.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Focus on the space

Notice the body and forms
Then notice the space

Don't get too excited about it. Just know that it is there.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Still meditating

Breathe in,
Breathe out,
Rest in the gap,


Breathe in,
Breathe out,
Rest in the gap,

Slowly, slowly, slowly
I yield