Last fall I dated a man who, in our short time together, introduced me to a many great things, including the Indian Sarod.
The first time I heard Indian music burbling out of his van, I tensed with immediate resistance. I don’t like that music, I thought.
It was sunny and we were about to head out on an adventure. Let’s play something relaxing and chill, something that sounds like two sips of Tequila on a Friday night so I can feel at ease. Indian music always seemed chaotic to me. Itchy and messy, like something I want to avoid.
A few weeks later, sitting on his cabin floor in the early morning, snuggled near a warm fire and close to each other as we mediated and talked candidly about whether we wanted a future together – the playlist started again.
Perhaps seeing me squirm, he decided to give me a gift. “Listen,” he said, “underneath that crazy melody, there’s a deep hum. Can you hear it?”
I squinted and listened, always wanting to be an ace student and perform. After our quiet morning, I found it almost instantly. A rich, warm tone, constant and comforting under the noise. And I felt the vibrations; low in my belly, down into my soft center where I make love and make babies, and thru my bottom that now seemed nailed to the floor.
The Sarod, he explained, represents the resonance of the universe. If you tune in, you can always hear it. 4 humble strings without a fret, demanding strong hands and masterful training to make it play in concert with the Sitar, a 17 stringed bumble bee spinning out over sweetness and frenzy. The Sitar is too much, unless you can grasp the Sarod.
I love it when a new idea clicks into your head, heart, and soul all at once. Like a complex padlock snapping into place and releasing free. Hearing the Sarod was like that for me.
That very same day, we decided to go our separate ways. But in the months that followed, I found myself craving the hum. Searching You Tube for ‘Sarod Meditation Music‘ then calming instantly once I heard those notes. My lower half grounding into its root, while my top half lifted and lightened, able to enjoy the Sitar’s flight.
We’ve always been a musical family. At 70, my mom just joined a choir group in Palm Springs and called me last week after her second rehearsal, completely excited and mentally exhausted. “It so much harder then I remembered,” she said, “I can’t seem to stay on my notes, I keep skipping over to the melody.” I concurred. She and I both sing Alto Soprano; the deeper feminine voice offering dissonant counterpoint to the high Soprano line.
It’s a hard job. How one wants to be pulled into the swirling Soprano action! To be part of the circus excitement – wild intrigue and passion, great tears and joy. Hearing the notes swoop and twirl, plummet and recover; it’s thrilling.
But the Alto Soprano must hold steady; that pretty mess is not our defining role. Our song brings balance, clarity, and harmonic completeness to the tight rope above.
Two years ago I began working for one of the world’s largest tech companies; a collusion of pressure and change that wrecked my previous work-life-balance. I realized quickly that weekends would need to be a sacred time of renewal. I typically limit activities to the practical (laundry, groceries) and the few that will truly recharge my emotional fuel cell for the week ahead (playing in the forest, reading, writing).
Sunday nights I am relaxed on my couch, three books open around me, my dog curled in a tight roll at my side, my son sleeping peacefully in his bed, the dishes done, the dharma balanced.
But quietly, there is also the fallacy of scarcity and control (I can maintain this all week if I just try hard enough). And fear (what will happen when I can’t).
I make plans to resist the kneading intensity of the machine I work for. I’ll meditate for five minutes every morning, drive to work without checking my email, take a short walk before dinner. I will not be pulled in.
Sometimes, but rarely, it works. More often the frenzied pace, the all-day meetings, the hours of commuting, the always behind, never caught up, relentless ‘ping’ of ever more emails builds in my head; a tension crescendo with grating, tinny sharpness. I am desperate to change the channel, or at the least turn down the volume. At night, I reach for a drink or comfort food, just to shhh the noise.
But that dial is slippery. My hand aims for two clicks on the knob, but instead the volume spins to zero. The world goes silent, dark, and isolated.
In the morning, I stare in the mirror at this girl who is so wise, but has failed, again. I seek self-compassion and remind myself this is no beginner’s game. I got lost in the music, floating transience and imperfection. I forgot that beneath the madness, the universe still hums.
Don’t drown out the solo, just listen harder for the resonance. Hear the hum.