Music and Words
Music has become a significant feature of the online practice spaces I have been hosting for the past year. I first started to introduce music in the weekly gatherings I set up, introducing fellow companions to the teachings and practices in the Guidance for Life on Earth books.
Every week, around 25 people joined me, and my hosting team, for a two-hour session where the co-hosts opened the call by reading some selected sections from Book One or Book Two, before I read the practice elected for our session. As suggested in the material of the books, participants were encouraged to sit comfortably, to drop within, eyes closed, and to allow the words to wash over them. The purpose, here, is not necessarily to apprehend, nor understand the words, but more to allow the frequencies woven within the word-forms to touch and to open us up to undreamed of dimensions of selfhood.
Music is a great carrier of frequencies, too. The harmonies and melodies, the rhythms and the tempos, all take us further beyond the words, generating altered states of consciousness and guiding us deeper into the imaginal realm. Music is, indeed, a wonderful portal or threshold experience enabling us to remember ourselves in wholeness and to return back to origin, in Source.
On the calls, I played background music for the pre-practice readings and, within short, I had settled on a specific compilation which would become a signature piece, preparing us for the practice and opening up our sensitivities. During the reading of the practice, I introduced several musical pauses conducive to inner exploration and reflection, or writing and drawing when this was suggested. There was always a completion piece at the end of the reading, enabling us to transition out of inner spaces and into working with practice partners in breakout groups of three. The music entwined into our practice spaces not only paced our time together, it also added beautiful and graceful tonalities, nuances and colourings.
I received copious support on the inner for designing and curating the weekly gatherings. I was shown, for instance, which practices to do and in which order, when to pause within the practice and for how long, and the same applied for the music. My inner guides would provide me with very precise instructions as to which piece of music to play, including sometimes the musicians, the orchestra and the conductor, and a particular rendering. Or they would prompt me to listen to the radio and to receive a hitherto unknown piece of music. Unclassified on BBC radio 3, for instance, has been a wonderful source of inspiration as well as, supposedly, randomly selected pieces queued up by my music provider when composing a playlist.
Icelandic Ólafur Arnalds and Norwegian Ola Gjeilo became regular musical guests on our calls as well as other composers and musicians known for their atmospheric qualities and spiritual touch such as Max Richter, John Rutter, Caroline Shaw, and Eric Whittacre. The most spectacular marriage of music and words occurred when we did the last three practices in Book One, Exploring Inner Reality. For these practices, it is suggested playing some gentle music in the background and I was guided to the Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara, and his Cantus Arcticus Op. 61 (Concerto for Birds and Orchestra) performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. I first heard this piece as I listened to the musical homage to Prince Philip played several times in the days after his death. This particular piece, which includes beautiful bird sounds, was chosen to commemorate his trip to Antarctica and his unfailing support to the WWF.
My exploration of music when crafting collective and one-to-one practice spaces has been an inner voyage of many discoveries and much joy. I have rekindled my passion for music and reclaimed my natural inclination to turn to the Muses of music for inspiration and insights. Singing, sounding and chanting are all important practices for me, whereby I allow myself to be infilled and enfolded by music as I bring words into the world.
When I embarked on leading my first learning journey – The Sixth Scenario. Working with Worldly Scenarios – I knew that music would be a crucial companion for our infiltrations into the worldly dramas and the tumultuous life-circumstances we were prepared to meet. I did not expect, however, to be taken up a notch in the artistry of marrying music and words and, therefore, propelled into a completely new dimension.
The itinerary of this learning journey is based on Practice 5. Partaking of your World in Book Two. This practice introduces us to five scenarios suggesting we approach them as if they were our own. Having received and absorbed the five scenarios, we are then invited to consider our life-circumstances in the same way each of the five scenarios is framed, and to write a sixth scenario. Each scenario is presented in 300 words according to a specific style which puts emphasis on rhythmicity and phrasing. This was the proposition I put forward to my travel companions. A group of ten of us set off, agreeing to meet five times, not really knowing where we would go and what we would meet along the way. We trusted our invocation and we were unconditionally available to receive whatever would present itself to us.
In our first session, I took us through the first two steps of Practice 5, reading each scenario twice, so as to ensure a deeper presencing of the movements of life arising. Between each scenario, I inserted a two-minute piece of music from Craig Armstrong and Callum Martin’s Edge of the Sea, released in 2020, bringing together a curated congregation from the Isles of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
There are different qualities threaded into the five scenarios. The first scenario reawakens our connection to nature, where we discover the many ways in which we can resource ourselves. The fifth scenario suggests a dimensional shift wherein we take on the consciousness of an animal. The other three scenarios are strongly embedded within the well-known dramas of the human experience, complete with a dilemma, dramatic tensions and choice-points.
Before diving into our practice of scripting a dramatic sixth scenario, we decided to make a first stop in the realms of the first scenario, revisiting those places that replenish and nourish us. On our second session, I took us on an inner journey to retrieve memories from our early childhood, in particular those moments where we knew of the fullness of life and rejoiced in our beingness in incarnate form. We shared our ‘First Scenarios’ on our third session, and I posted mine I am Here to Remember in this blog. Having reclaimed our essential nature and innate wisdom, we were ready to go forth and encounter, lovingly so, our dramatic scenarios.
For our fourth session, I was guided on the inner to break down the original 300-word text of the second, third and fourth scenarios, haiku style, into a 30-word script, teasing out the essence of the dramatic circumstances depicted. I was told to speak the words on a musical background of around four minutes, while my companions ‘translated’ the words and sounds into a drawing, one drawing for each of the three scenarios considered.
We were to work with pastels or water colours consenting to large brush strokes, fluid movements and quick coverage of the paper. The purpose, here, is to rapidly capture the energetic connections, resonances and emanations reverberating from the words and the music through colours, abstract forms and shapes. Many reported that the rendering of the three dramatic scenarios in such a way was much more impactful and striking than the original 300-word texts I had read on our first session.
This innovative practice enabled us to unpick the original text and to reveal its energetic signature. The unravelling proceeds by pulling apart threads of words, sounds and colours. Once we had gone down this path, distilling the 300-word text down to a drawing, it was time to walk back up the path towards our own dramatic life-circumstances, the sixth scenario.
The first step of our walk back up the track was to sketch the landscape harbouring our sixth scenario playing, again, with colours, shapes and forms, and any sensory experience presenting itself to our awareness and heightened sensitivity as we listened to some meditative music: GioAri’s Echoes of Origin, In Okeanos Healing Water.
We started by dividing a big sheet of paper into three zones and, in the centre, we created a space, applying colours and forms, representing our dilemma. During this guided piece, we were encouraged to lightly hold any words that might appear, bringing our attention back to the energetic signatures behind or beneath the words and turning, instead, to our palette of colours and shapes to represent the frequencies emanating. We repeated the procedure for the two other zones, the second representing the dramatic tensions diffusing from the dilemma, and the third zone signposting the choice-points arising. During this first phase, the only words we would write were the captions for each of the three zones.
Once we had completed the first step, we were invited to look back at our landscaping offering us a wordless, yet colourful and vibrant expression of our life-circumstances and the scenario beckoning us to a radical act of inner awareness. With a soft gaze, we then allowed words to float in, dwell in our loving attention and settle upon the page.
On our fifth and final session we shared our 30-word sixth scenarios born from this guided piece and the drawing that flowed out. I was instructed, again by my inner guides, to attune to music, and to hone inner listening, as I perused the 30 words. I was told to select a six-minute piece of instrumental music, with no voices, in accompaniment of the rendition. For each of the 30-word scenarios I was swiftly and effortlessly directed to an impeccable match, something that I am beginning to appreciate and savour, further enhancing my passion for marrying music and words.
Needless to say, our final performance, where we spontaneously, and with no prior preparation, gifted each other with a melodious rendering of a 30-word dramatic scenario, was breathtaking, ushering us to a place imbued with awe and astonishment at our sovereign creatorship. I doubt we would have achieved the same quality if we had tried to orchestrate such a celebration. The beauty lies in our surrendering to the highest frequencies of consciousness available to us through our sovereign selfhood. More crucially, our resting in the fullness of selfhood occurs when we can share this experience, in a collective setting, and be witnessed by others as we claim our creatorship and become transceivers of higher-vibrational emanations of life.
You can get a taste of our experience by listening to three audio recordings here.
 Stephen Busby (2020). Guidance for Life on Earth. Teachings and Practices from Inner Guides. Book One. Reality, Humans and the Earth. Self-published.
 Stephen Busby (2020). Guidance for Life on Earth. Teachings and Practices from Inner Guides. Book Two. Being Human, Being World (Part 1). Self-published.