Marion Atmo’s ways of finding what brings her joy.
Is it self-indulgent to follow your bliss? I complete necessary chores and tasks before I allow myself time to follow what I love. Bit of a Protestant ethic there, and maybe just my character too. And there’s that general conditioning to ‘do’ something. But to do what I love often involves more than I bargained for. Moving towards what I love doesn’t guarantee a smooth ride, in fact it can be the opposite as old ways are stripped away. Following my heart’s desire involves letting go of the comfortable and familiar. It can also involve resisting the urge to ‘do’ and instead to wait receptively with the unknown.
I love playing music and singing, but for me that can end up being stressfully goal-oriented. I have heard that to become excellent at something, goals and persistence are needed. But if I let go of goals and ambition, I find a different focus. Music-making in the here-and-now – bringing all my energies together – mental, physical, emotional – can be blissful. Then I’m creatively active and receptive at the same time.
I’ve been hearing the quote ‘Follow your bliss’ for a long time, and now on my wall calendar is a quote from Jalaluddin Rumi:
Be secluded and silent.
Stay in the delight.
Practice quiet and joy.
That’s quite a command. It needs a lot of dedication to follow my bliss. It means I say ‘yes’ to what really fulfills me and not just the quick fix, feel good option. It asks more attention from me. It asks me to discriminate and not rush into activity.
As far as meditation goes, finding out what you love often seems to bring you to your best practice, rather than following a meditation technique that may not suit you.
Osho gave us hour-long active meditations. He was aware that our minds are very tense and busy, and trying to sit silently for long periods is often sitting with repression. He introduced Kundalini and Dynamic meditations, with strong physical movement in the initial stages to release tensions from body and mind. Then there is space for meditation to arise, for the mind to be still and witness thoughts passing by.
I especially love the Nadabrahma meditation – humming for 30 minutes to the sound of Tibetan bells and gongs, then 15 minutes of gentle movement of arms, a giving and receiving. Finally 15 minutes sitting silently. This sound meditation brought me into deep and blissful relaxation. I began to follow this bliss and came to realise that ‘sounding’ is my joy.
Osho left his body in 1990, and as he said it would, his presence became even stronger and more available. Without realising it at the time, I was following my bliss – being drawn to study raga singing with a Dhrupad practitioner in Pune, exploring the resonance of overtone singing. In the 1990’s I experimented more with vocal sounds and how they free emotions held in the body – Self-healing through the Voice. Hand in hand with this, I found myself writing very personal songs – accompanying myself on keyboard and performing with small ensembles: guitars, saxophone, violin, percussion.
Like all gifts of the spirit, identification can happen and then what was blissful is constraining. ‘Sounding’ is my joy, and has taken many forms over the last 30 years. I had to let go my ambitions to be an impressive sound therapist or singer-songwriter, although I put my best efforts into succeeding. I’ve learnt that the most important thing in performing is relationship. Being present within myself isn’t enough. Music is a vehicle to reach people and connect, whatever the setting. When I’m open to my listeners or participants in music-making there is a link and then the music arrives.’
For the last 12 years I’ve been singing a wide variety of songs – traditional, 1950’s ballads, 60’s rock songs and jazz standards in care homes for the elderly. I accompany myself on piano or concertina. It’s not glamorous at all. But it’s tremendously rewarding. These well-known songs bring back memories for the residents, tug at their heartstrings and connect them with each other. There’s sometimes dancing, laughter and unexpected happenings.
I notice after a session that my face has changed – more open and radiant. It must be the bliss working its way out – that’s what I reckon.
There is no right way to follow the path of meditation. For some ‘just sitting’ is perfect. I also need to sit – especially in between activities. And especially to ‘practice quiet and joy’.
Thank you, Rumi.
Osho speaks on Bliss in A-Z
Previously published on Marion Atmo’s blog: pleasejustsit.blogspot.com