One of k.d. lang’s projects of late has been working with Tools For Peace . Their latest endeavor has been to launch and refine the “Stop, Breathe and Think” app, a free app on iOS that teaches modern people how to meditate. UPDATE: This app is now available for Android. It is also available on the web.
In a presentation Executive Director Jamie Price gave at the Wake Up Festival 2014, she explained how the app was the brainchild of her spiritual teacher to try and get the practice of meditation accessible to people everywhere. It is a rather long story, but in short, the idea was to take the main components of Tibetan Meditation and make them doable for those who do not have a lama to study from, or who are not Tibetan monks or nuns.
Making Tibetan Meditation Accessible
This is quite an undertaking, because there are more than one Tibetan meditation tradition. Amazingly, the app has done a stupendous job of teaching the main tenets of Tibetan Meditation, without really telling you that is what you are learning. And while you are learning how to practice meditation, the app is also slipping in some key Buddhist ideas that you should be thinking about on your spiritual path. One of these is the idea of Compassion and building the desire to have it for others and to alleviate their suffering. Without going into too much Buddhist ideology, one key idea is that suffering exists. One way to help alleviate suffering is by developing and training ourselves to be compassionate towards all other sentient beings.
So, in the Buddhist tradition (if I have understood correctly), working on being compassionate is not only done during meditation, but also in our every actions every day. So, I came up with this idea:
Using k.d. lang’s “Crying” as a “warm up” for Meditating on Compassion
What if we used the unbelievable voice of k.d. lang as a way to help us prepare for a compassion meditation? But wait! Before you close your browser, hear me out.
Fans and followers know that one of k.d.’s signature covers is “Crying” by Roy Orbison. I have included a link to a video here, but in my opinion, k.d. belts this song out best on her album Live By Request. It may be that she had more control in this performance, or that she had just matured a bit as a singer. But, pick the version you like best and pay no attention to my assessment on which performance of “Crying” is “best”.
What a song to activate feelings of compassion! For real, if you do not feel sorry for k.d. as she croons this classic, then I think you really do need to find a cave and a lama, and move in together! I know I speak for essentially all of us when I say I am brought to my knees due to the heavy emotions I feel, that k.d. evokes, as she channels pure compassion while singing this song. True, it is a great song to begin with, but since it seems to mean a lot to k.d. when she sings it, it becomes the perfect spiritual appetizer.
If you are not sure what I mean, let me give you some ideas about what to listen for and how to recognize compassion in yourself:
- The lyrics themselves (Orbison’s) tell one of the saddest stories there is; one that we have all experienced. If nothing else, feel sorry for yourself as you recall the first or worst time your heart was ripped out and stomped on while you acted as if nothing was wrong.
- Feel k.d.’s pain: k.d. is great at feeling heartbroken on demand! I am not sure how she does it, (in fact, I do not think she knows how she does it), but she can force herself to confront the most pure and brutal pain there is when she sings this song. Just listen as her heart trembles in abject devastation.
- Notice differences in the refrain: Thankfully, Orbison wrote a traditional ballad and it has a refrain. k.d. LOVES refrains because she sings each one just a teeny bit differently as the song crescendos to its catastrophic grief-stricken end.
Next, now that you feel terrible, try and wish that no other person on earth ever has to feel the way you do at this moment. Try to feel compassion for those you know, those you do not know, (and the mother of all requests) for those you detest. Then, check in with the Stop, Breathe, Think App. Most likely, given the way you feel by now, it will automatically select the Compassion meditation for you. But if not, you can select it.
By thinking about compassion using music you like and are comfortable with, you create a scaffold for yourself to try and increase your capacity for it. k.d.’s voice is there for us, why not use it as a warm up to truly setting ourselves firmly on a compassionate path?