Music and Mindfulness Retreat – July 2015

I was part of a team recently delivering a 2 day residential creativity retreat at Sudarshanaloka Buddhist Retreat Centre in Thames, on the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand.

Our retreat was called Music and Mindfulness and the team consisted of Mindfulness facilitator Akasadaka Robison, a Buddhist ordained in the Triratna order and our assistant Heather Garland, a local Thames based musician.

I lead the Music sessions with 13 participants, 6 musicians and 6 music lovers. music-and-mindfulness-2

We focused initially on the art of listening and created two soundscape stories. The group included an age range from 29 – 70 and of the older ones there were 4 ordained Buddhists. This meant that the meditation sessions were very deep and we were able to access a beautiful quality of listening very quickly.

Soundscaping is a process which invites participants to take full responsibility for the music they are creating. Music, after all, is in the reception of sound. What is music to your ears? How can you tell the difference between noise and music? When is the wind rustling a tree’s branches music to your ears and when is it annoyance keeping you awake at night?

Working in a circle we elected to tell the story of the enlightenment of Siddhartha. Some of the participants who were familiar with his story were able to share it with the group. As we were seated next to a meditation shrine featuring a life size sculpture of the Buddha there was an ‘immediacy’ to the story. Listening to the Buddhist women was grounding and helped the group centre .

These are the steps we created:

The Enlightenment of Siddhartha

  • Siddhartha’s wealthy and protected upbringing
  • Becomes aware of the suffering in the world
  • Awareness that there are those who are not suffering
  • Journey of discovery and exploration
  • Period of isolation and solititude
  • Enlightenment as the Buddha

Our next step was to explore the kinds of sounds we might associate with the different steps, and to try them vocally and with the instruments we had gathered.

Then we closed our eyes, and told our story using voices and instruments, listening to each other for orientation.

Listen to the result on Soundcloud


Inevitably, some people were unsure of where they were in the story, some were still at the beginning when the group reached the end and finished. Others felt quite unsure about which step they were at, and a deal of hilarity and a bit of discomfort arose in the end. However from a musical point of view, on listening, one can hear that the players were in deep presence and awareness.

This is the purpose of the process, to share an authentic and profound musical experience regardless of experience.

Thanks to all the participants!



I have blogged about Soundscaping before here

Published by Kāren Hunter

Kāren Hunter is a New Zealand based musician, astrologer and ceremonial facilitator.

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