Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Music player
- Recording of one or two pieces of music that you find spiritual; see Find Out More for suggestions
Preparation for Activity
- Decide what music you will use.
- Decide how best to have youth seated to experience spiritual music.
Description of Activity
Participants seek spiritual connections to music.
Begin by speaking of spiritual moments, with ideas like these:
We all experience spiritual moments from time to time. Those are moments when we feel deeply connected to something much larger than ourselves. We need to have these moments because they can help feed our spiritual center-our soul and our conscience. All that is required for this to happen is for us to be silent and open to the possibility of experiencing something new and deep. You might have such a moment when you are outside on a summer night looking up at the stars; when you are walking through a forest; looking at a great piece of art; or worshiping, either with your congregation or at home. Or you might experience such a moment when you listen to music.
I will play music that some people find spiritual. While it is playing, try to experience the music on all levels. This means deep listening. It means hearing the music much differently than we hear the band at a football game or the music in a store or the music at a dance when we are thinking about our partners and the people watching us and a thousand other things. It means settling down and letting the music fill us so full that it seems to carry us away. That's a spiritual moment. And it is not always easy to have but it is always rewarding. So let's try it now.
Play a piece of music that you find spiritual. One possibility is the "Om Namaha Shivaya" by Robert Gass and Wings of Song (see Find Out More). Jazz or world music will also work, as will many different works of classical music, such as the choral section of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. (Use a German-language version and play the chorus singing the "Ode to Joy" in the final movement.) It is best to use music that appeals to you and to avoid music that has understandable words. "Om Namaha Shivaya," a Sanskrit chant of Indian origin, has words that youth will not recognize. Some say they cannot really be translated into English. Others say they mean, "I bow to Shiva, or God, or inner self, or mystery." Another translation is: "Lead us Lord to source of thy enlightenment."
Do not be reluctant to play classical or jazz music for youth. Some will resist it, but others experiencing it for the first time may be suddenly opened to a completely new world.
If you have time, you might play two pieces of music and ask youth which felt most spiritual for them. For example, play the two versions of "Om Namaha Shivaya" listed in Find Out More.
Whatever music you choose, approach its use seriously and quietly, and ask youth to do the same. Remind them that listening to such music is a profound spiritual experience for some people. It may not work that way for them but they will not know unless they really try and let the music enter them. You might add that music which touches them might not touch their friend, and vice versa. Ask the youth to sit quietly in a relaxed position (or to lie on the floor if this will work with your group without too much disruption), then to close their eyes and let the music enter them.
Start the music at a low volume, and gradually bring it up until it fills the whole room. Let it continue at that setting for several minutes, then gradually decrease it again. As it ends, allow silence to settle upon the group before quietly asking what youth experienced.
If youth did not find this experience spiritual, ask if they think other types of music would work better for them. Discuss situations where they felt profoundly affected by music. Ask also if anybody wants to share other ways that they experience spirituality.
Including All Participants
If your group includes participants with limited hearing ability, ascertain in advance how they usually experience music. Do not assume that even the limited experience of sound and beat will have no meaning for them. However, if you have youth who cannot be touched by music, consider introducing the practice of silent meditation instead of using the music. (Guided meditation is introduced in Session 10, Right and Wrong Together.)