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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 39 WHEN I MEDITATE, I do not have a hard time letting go of films, grudges, or grocery lists. But I can’t let go of music. A song is different. A song has special status, doesn’t it? Let me clarify: I don’t mean a pre-existing song, but a glimmer of inspiration, a little tuneful embryo waiting to be born into a full-fledged ballad. An idea. I am a songwriter. I need these moments bad. As an artist, I’ve unwittingly prioritized my life to keep the inspiration-receiver in my head tuned to a clear frequency. This both braces me to receive brilliant and clever ideas at any moment and makes me an impractical idiot who admires the beauty, poetry, and irony of the piano about to fall on my head instead of getting out of the damn way. The songwriter in me struggles like mad when meditat- ing. The rules of my conditioned art-mind say that nothing must stand in the way of a developing idea. When inspira- tion calls, follow. If I should be struggling with anything in my life, it should be taking that impossibly disciplined step from thought to pen to paper, from seed to full song. I watch this mental boxing match take place with interest. In one corner sits a meditator, who calmly suggests that good ideas will linger if they are worthwhile. And so what if they don’t? The songs are not happening; only sitting is happening. In the other corner paces the crazed composer with the mind specifically cultivated to jump from image to word to melody in an effort to create a work of art that will move her fellow humans. A perfect song, to me, is a captured moment of inspiration barely touched. When a good idea hits, it’s as if I’ve thrown a set of colored juggling balls in the air and taken a blurred (yet beautiful) photograph. If I develop that photo unaltered, I will have a perfect image. If I am convinced that I can get a better photo (just a little better) by juggling again before it gets dark and the light changes, I’m screwed. This is where sitting and art-making go hand in hand. Spending hour after hour laboring on finding the perfect line or the perfect arrangement of notes is about as productive as wandering the world seeking the perfect tree under which you’ll find enlightenment. Some years ago, I was on retreat at the Insight Medita- tion Center and I was outside exploring the grounds. The air was just beginning to carry that sugary spring scent, the rot of winter leftovers drifting up from the dampening ground. Away from the city, no tangles of pipe and con- crete were between me and the crust of the earth. There was just my feet taking steps, my eyes adjusting in the light, my nose taking in the thaw, my mind hooked on a beauti- ful melody that floated into my head—a melody that I was Melody vs. Meditation There are two sides to singer- songwriter AMANDA PALMER of The Dresden Dolls: the “just sitting” meditator and the crazed composer. Which side wins when they duke it out? r)byj ILLUSTRATIONBYAMANDAPALMER.PHOTOBYBRIANVIGLIONE. MAY 18-41.indd 39 MAY 18-41.indd 39 3/6/08 11:17:33 AM 3/6/08 11:17:33 AM