Spiritual Practice, Meditation and the Ukulele

Purdy Bear

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Jul 21, 2015
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I have a few thoughts and questions on this:

Do any of you have a spiritual connection to your Ukulele? Do you think your Ukes have a spirit, or energy of their own?

Is there anyone who uses their Ukulele practice/music as a meditation?

Here's a Ukulele based meditation music video from Jonathen Lewis on You Tube:


For me is yes to the first two questions and I want to, to the third. I feel all items that are made have the essence of the maker in them, and this is passed on to the user in a way. It's like building a friendship with the instrument as you learn to play.

I've been told a lot of composers get their music in dreams, I presume it would be the same with Ukulele players. It hasn't happened to me yet, but I can't see why it wouldn't. I certainly did with the flute some years ago.

This isn't a religious thing, more like a respect for the instrument.
Sorry, but i have a problem thinking that my ukulele has a spirit, or that there might be a spiritual connection between me and it. It probably being a mass produced product.

However I do believe that a ukulele, as well as any instrument, can be used as an aid to meditation. Thought I have not done so..yet.

I do have the idea that a sot of relationship can be formed between a player and a custom built ukulele, but that would grow from the communication between the player and the maker.
Really interesting questions!

As a yoga practitioner and Zen Buddhist, I definitely see similarities of "being in the moment" (to use a much-overplayed cliche) to meditation when really caught up in playing. I've even heard non-meditator, non-spiritual players say that, so I think it can be pretty powerful.

That being said though, I see my ukes as inanimate objects; even when I owned a custom that was built especially for me, there was no particular connection to it beyond enjoying playing - no essence of the maker, no higher ability. I actually have bonded far more with my anonymously-made factory Kamakas than I did with the custom (which I no longer own).
As I mentioned elsewhere, I don't see our "expensive kindling with strings" as being inhabited by spirit or spirits. If a talented maker is a horrible abusive wretch in their personal life, I'm sure happy their products are not haunted. I love the feel and play and sound of my luthier-crafted Celtic mandolin born from three months of detailed work but I get just as much joy with my cheap Chinese and Chicago factory ff-hole A-type mandos pressed out by the hour. Each has their own acoustics. Any 'spirit' in an instrument derives from how I push and pick the strings.

Yes, my ancient Martin tiple (small USA factory ca.1920) sounds richer than my new Oscar Schmidt 8-string tenor 'uke (big China factory, 2015) downtuned to Bb. But of two acoustic 6-string guitars of similar vintage (ca.1990) the glossy Ibanez Performance (big Korea factory) sounds better than the satin Art et Lutherie (small Canada craftworks). I give them all my spirit or at least my experience by playing them as well as I can.

As for meditation: When I empty my mind and let my fingers flow across the strings automagically, it's best to be in open tuning. ;) Dulcimer is an excellent instrument for meditation. So are slack-key 'ukes and guitars. And they make it hard to fall asleep whilst meditating.
I believe, and have experienced, a relationship with every instrument I've ever played. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, some were brief and others lasted years. But there is a relationship, even if you don't call it a spiritual one. Ss long as that instrument is in your hands, you're connected to it, if only physically.

Personally I do see the relationship is spiritual. But that's because I purposely make it that way. All the songs I write are the result of meditation practice and carry a spiritual meaning.

So yes, I have an energetic relationship with the ukulele. Before I realized this, I played, but didn't get as much enjoyment, centeredness, peace or fun out of it. But then, it's a lifestyle for me and not something I only apply to music.

YMMV. Play on!
Interesting question. This is right up my street however... as much as i love my ukes i do think they are more communicating my message rather than that of a builder or machine. They are dead wood or laminate. :)

I will say this tho, be it ukulele, guitar or any other instrument i feel a huge weight lifting off me when i play. A sense of well being. I do meditate but sure, maybe a circle of ukuleles around me to ward off bad spirits and the monkey brain may help. :)
Do any of you have a spiritual connection to your Ukulele?

I am fond of them and I can totally relate to connecting or not connecting with an instrument but spiritual connection? No.

Do you think your Ukes have a spirit, or energy of their own?

No, I don't believe in any kind of personification of lifeless, inanimate objects. A ukulele can make sound that may move someone in a visceral way so that person may ascribe that as a spirit or energy but it is just a pleasing aural experience.

Is there anyone who uses their Ukulele practice/music as a meditation?

No. I'm not the meditating type.

Here's a Ukulele based meditation music video from Jonathen Lewis on You Tube:


This I dig, it's very relaxing. Hearing it, I would have guessed it was some kind of Japanese instrument.
I have a personal connection with playing music as a whole and a particular appreciation for wood made items abs instruments.

What I find more conducive to self inquiry, mediation and relaxation is playing Native American Flutes. They have a unique sound that seems more connected to my breath and state of mind than any other instrument. You should check them out. High spirit flutes are reasonable prices and excellent quality.

Native American flutes are also great with ukulele and to play blues and jazz.
Sorry, but i have a problem thinking that my ukulele has a spirit, or that there might be a spiritual connection between me and it. It probably being a mass produced product.

Hmmm...interesting theory ...there are those that might say the Human Race is mass produced as well.....en masse...massively ....

A connection to anything is a personal thing.....spirit ...well I don't believe in that sort of thing .

But I can get an affection for an object .....a favorite Tee shirt, instrument ..book...etc......and you often find that those who have imbibed enough spirit often form really close bonds...." Ahhhhhhhhh looove you mate .....I really (hic) do ...."

But now I am going to look at my little collection on top of the wardrobe and wonder ..Who am I gonna call ???

Sorry PB I am pulling your leg unfairly....:eek:
I think the spirit of any instrument, whether mass produced, hand made, ukulele, clarinet, flute.... and so on, the spirit of any instrument is the spirit that you put into it yourself when you play it. It is the performer's spirit using the instrument to express. That's how I feel about it, anyway.
Yes, there is spirit for me. The wood comes from a tree that once lived, just as the poem once separated from its poet has its own "spirit." The wood has its own vibration, just as each of us does. When these vibrations meet, something unique transpires, which is why each instrument sounds different in a player's hands.

It has been said that how you do one thing is how you do everything. How "present" is the player when playing? In that inquiry lies the answer to how meditative the meeting was.

I know my response may seem out there. My answer is sincere.
I follow the meditation practice of Lawrance Freeman. You could sing the words and play along I suppose. But the idea is to be completely still, which is hard if you are playing an instrument. Keep it very simple for best results.
Music is as old as our species. Everyone has it. Some people have pushed if out of their life. Your brain does process the words, if you sing a religious song it will be spiritual. If you feel it is spiritual you are singing a religious song. But spiritual is just a suburb in the huge megalopolis that is music.
The wood is harvested from a tree. Laminate or solid. Unfortunately the tree is usually killed by the harvest, which is not so bad if ten seeds are planted, but usually they are not. The wood is stable because it is dead, it has been dried for a year or more to make sure. Any spirit or connection you feel is generated in your brain and beliefs, so it can be real to you.
If you want to write songs, they are in your brain waiting to come out. You don't need to cheat with drugs or make up spiritual beliefs to set them free, you just need to be yourself and relax. But, often you do need to put some hard work into learning some technical and mechanical stuff so you can give them a recognisable form. But if you use meditation, that is much safer than cheating with drugs.
Flutes are wind instruments, playing them may be not unlike doing the yoga breathing exercise.

With enough awareness, you can get out of your own way (and quiet your mind) enough to play an instrument *and* meditate. Case and point - Kenny Werner's book, "Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within." He advocates a step-by-step practice going from approaching the instrument in a relaxed manner and not making any sound, to practicing and performing while still in a relaxed/meditative frame of mind. It takes time, which is why many give up and say this meditation stuff is crap, or doesn't go with playing music. But for some, they are not separate, but form a cycle where musical practice enhances meditation and vice versa.

As for songwriting, I agree you need some basic musical skills and at least some observation of form, rhythm, etc. What I mean by "writing songs based on meditation" is using meditative experiences, rather than an emotional or physical event as songwriting material. There are many emotionally-oriented songs in this world, and there will always be more. Why should there not be spiritually-based songs as well?

Yes, there is breath involved in playing flutes. I find them meditative myself. But there is breath in singing, speaking, and living at all. No breath, no life... So while playing another instrument, are you still breathing? If so, then the same breathing focus could be brought into playing the uke if one chose.

Using meditation is not about cheating or a drug-altered state of mind. It's about returning to a natural, relaxed way of being and moving. We don't realize how tense we are, with or without instrument in hand, until we re-learn how to relax.
No, I don't have a spiritual connection to my ukulele. I'm not really a spiritual person by nature. I actually wish that I was more so, but I'm not. I don't really become attached to things. Second part of the question, not being real spiritual, I don't do a lot of meditation, so no, I don't meditate with my uke. However, I do find playing my uke to be relaxing. I often times play my uke to get myself unwound. In fact, sometimes I'm on a rampage, and my wife will say, "why don't you go play you ukulele, and calm down a little." So maybe, in a broad sense, someone might interpret that as spiritual, but I don't. I think it just takes my mind off of things.
Stress relief. Plenty of benefits in that. :) I think many people play music for that reason - I know I have, and do.
Stress relief. Plenty of benefits in that. :) I think many people play music for that reason - I know I have, and do.
And then there are hardcore musicians who work for quite the opposite, to induce substantial stress. The Toccata & Fugue in Dm attributed to JS Bach certainly doesn't reduce stress. Much high-power music is aimed at pumping us up, not cooling us down. It's the old Apollonian vs Dionysian dichotomy, calm order vs wild frenzy. I used to wear a HIGH ON STRESS button. That was when I was employed. I'm much calmer now. ;) Playing dulcimer helps. No wrong notes; no hu-hu. Ahhh...
Meditation, contemplation and reflection is part of my Activities of Daily Living. I don't do this based on a schedule or such but I do engage in this type of activity most every day and generally several times during the day.

I believe that religion and spirituality has the purpose of making one's daily tribulations easier to bear. Music making of all sorts does this for me. One way this works for me is with depression. I have chemical imbalances in my brain that induce this all to often. I deliberately started to use this depressed state to play the Blues this spring. It doesn't really help the depression but it makes for better Blues and as such this allows me use use a depressed state to some positive purpose.

When Iam working on a musical piece I select the instrument I use for its acoustical properties and experiment with different ukuleles to see what will give me the desired effect. Some pieces I will play on the the five string banjo because the ukulele just does not give me what Iam looking in that piece. I do know that the more an instrument is played the better it will sound, not talking about my abilities here. Whether these factors are due to some animus in the instrument is something I have never considered.
One meditative aspect of my ukulele experience is a calming that begins when picking up the instrument. Starting with the first strum, the well known known warm up pattern and continuing onward. While some don't consider it meditative it is going to my "happy place".
Other playing can induce stress, such a performing (more so with a mike) or leading a ukulele group (cat herding), that has to be channeled into the moment with varying degrees of success.
When I imagine a uke-spirit it is when restoring a once prized or not so prized instrument back to a playing and visual presence. The thoughts arise when tap tuning the body, watching the wood structure reveal itself during french polishing, or the first note after the string is strung, about what music was played by who any how. Yes all this is a projection by myself as the only witness.
Were there and will there be other projectionists? It feels like spirit building.
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Any activity -- no matter how mundane -- can be a meditation if approached in the right manner and with the right mindset. Sitting,walking, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor -- all have the potential for being a meditation. Playing a musical instrument can certainly be a form of meditation, but it's important to be clear about your objectives and purpose before you begin your practice. Musical meditation is about being fully present with your instrument, you're environment, yourself, and the sounds you and your instrument are producing.

Repeating the same scale, chord progression or single note for ten minutes could be an excellent meditation if you are completely tuned in (pun intended) to where you are and what you're doing. Playing a complicated piece can be meditative too, although it's easy to put the importance of mastery and quality of performance above that of meditation. When that occurs, you can get so side-tracked by frustration, self criticism, and perfectionism that you lose connection with the meditation. Good news is if you're aware that's occurring, you can shift back into a meditative state of mind. _/\_
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