Eastern Flute meditation with Johnnie Lawson

There are different ways to meditate, different traditions, techniques, moods. Some feel like laying on a soft summer meadow, some like listening to morning rain, some like watching a stormy sea. All unique, but still parts – or stages – of the same process, constantly unfolding, disregarding borders provisionally demarcated only to match the limits of our practical language. Music, especially instrumental, drifts freely across all these plains with the cumbersome anchor of meaning swinging loose, or happily cut away altogether.

The meditative state is commonly associated with blissful tranquility, a lightness which feels like hovering above the ground. But the process of getting there is a different story, especially the early attempts at meditation are often not like this at all. Looking deeply and honestly within oneself, allowing everything to surface as it comes, not suppressing or avoiding anything can be a very sobering experience, difficult, even painful. Serenity that may come much later, the fruit of the whole endeavour doesn’t come from thinking only happy thoughts, but rather from a compassionate permission you give yourself to fail over and over again, and feel whatever you feel in its entirety; from the acknowledgement that what comes is most of the time out of your control.

The only thing you can control is your response to these unpredictable circumstances. Coming to terms with this realisation sounds to me like a worthy goal. Humming along with whatever surfaces, unplanned, unexpected is a great way to be – the natural way I love going back to. Playing my flutes in nature never fails to get me there, and the beauty of western Ireland, where I live, is now even more accessible to everyone thanks to the extraordinary dedication of Johnnie Lawson. I draw a huge comfort and inspiration from the videos he publishes on his YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/johnnielawson), and this is my “thank you”.

In this recording I am playing the Turkish Dilsiz Kaval, mostly using the Tuvan Shoor technique to mimic the sound of a Persian Ney. The sound that the Persian poet Rumi beautifully describes in the opening lines of his most famous book “Masnavi”. The reed flute is there not just a musical instrument, but a touching metaphor of the human condition.
Listen to the reed flute weeping
as it sings of separation.

Ever since they cut me from the reedbed
men and women have cried with me.

You, who know this pain of severance
you will understand.
Torn away from your beloved
you’ll be longing to return.

I’m always this way, in every company
among the happy, and the grieving
friends with all, yet none has learned
the secret of my heart.

Such veiled eyes, and ears can’t know it,
though it’s right here in my cries
intertwined like soul and body
merged beyond perception.

My song is fire, not mere wind.
My form a lifeless shell without
this love that sets aflame, and burns,
this heat that makes the wine alive.

You, who feel abandoned, let me
break your hearts free from the veils.
I’m your poison, and your cure,
always here, your true companion
on love’s dangerous ways.