A Dynamic Practice

by | May 9, 2022 | 0 comments

Bruce Cockburn is on tour right now. I’ve written before of the fact that, having followed his career for so long, every new release from this artist feels like checking in with an old friend. Since the advent of YouTube, every new tour provides something similar.

Whenever he hits the road, I seek out clips from recent shows in order to see how things are with him. What’s his band configuration? How many guitars are onstage? What’s his touring outfit look like? What, in other words, is he wearing this time around? And, of course, what songs is he playing?

I also check out is his voice. Whether Cockburn is considered a capable singer or not, I really don’t know. I’ve long enjoyed his tone and phrasing, though. And I’ve long been intrigued by how these have changed over the years.

His voice today is not what it was in ‘77 or ‘85, ‘99 or ‘08. It has deepened with time and, while he still has range left in those vocal chords, this does not seem as wide as in years gone by – which are facts he has a notable ability to accommodate.

Rather than shying away from older material, Cockburn has long been skilled at adapting long ago songs to his current voice. Which is why – after taking note of the whiteness of his hair and the longness of his beard – I’ve been tuning into his vocal performances on this current tour. How is his singing in 2022 adapting to 1983’s ‘Lovers In A Dangerous Time’ or 1969’s ‘Let Us Go Laughing’?

I find Cockburn’s dynamism in this regard really quite inspiring. His willingness and capacity to adjust a song – adjust his approach to a song, his relationship with a song – to the realities of his current vocal abilities is impressive in and of itself. It also impresses in the way it reminds me that similar opportunities are presented by meditation practice.

The state of being I bring to a particular session and, hence, to my engagement with a particular technique is ever-changing. This suggests that a certain amount of flexibility and adaptation, a certain amount of dynamism, might be an appropriate – and perhaps even necessary – part of my practice life.

Recently, for instance, I’ve added fifteen minutes to my meditation routine. This is because I’ve not been settling much of late; because it seems a little more time is needed for my wandering attention to slow down and rest. And just this morning, I gave the bulk of a session to breathing into the heart. As I did some preliminary attunement, this area felt particularly tight and hard. So much of my remaining practice time was spent gently breathing in and breathing out of this location.

These might seem like no big deal adjustments but, for whatever reason, I often find myself falling into ruts in meditation. I don’t pay attention to my state of being as I move through a session. I don’t notice how this state of being is meeting, interfacing, and interacting with a particular practice.

So I appreciate the reminders Bruce Cockburn’s current tour offers. In addition to enjoying that sense of checking in with an old friend, they give me a chance to reconnect with the fact that meditation is a dynamic practice. The fact that my relationship with meditation is alive and shifting in a way that calls for ongoing attention, engagement, and responsiveness.

– Neil


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