Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of May 25, 2009

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Sacred Melody

We all know that music has a remarkable power to affect our emotions. Sacred music, most often in the form of sung or chanted prayers, serves in every religion to move our heart toward the Divine. Such music partly accounts for the unreasonable efficacy of communal worship. But sacred music also proves profoundly effective in solitary and outwardly silent contemplative prayer.

To bring inner music to meditative prayer, we can inwardly and silently intone a sacred melody. The key is to use a melody that opens our heart and mind, and disposes us toward the Divine. This is, in part, a matter of training. We prepare by finding a melody that we have heard for many years, one we associate with prayer or religious ritual, one that moves us. If no such melody comes forward, we can explore more widely, even into classical or popular music, for a melody that touches our heart.

And then, when we reach the deepest part of our meditation, where we turn toward the Divine, we silently intone the melody in our mind-heart and allow it to suffuse and open our heart. We let the melody guide us into the sacred. As we continue to work in this way, the melody develops into a sure and swift representative of the sacred, having an immediate effect of drawing us upward, in joy, in love, and in meaning.

Repeated practice builds in us an association between the melody and the sacred. Eventually we can invoke the melody at any time, even when not in meditation or contemplative prayer, and it draws us upward. We ascend on melodious wings and the sacred descends into us. Higher energies and a purifying action on our will come down through the melody.

Having established the melody in meditation or contemplative prayer, use it from time to time during the day. But keep it special. Turn to it only in moments where you can give yourself to it completely. And, of course, engage it to turn a portion of your meditation into contemplative prayer, to help you reach deeper into your heart, deeper into the spirit.

We learn most sacred melodies with words. But the melody can stand apart from words. It may be even more powerful for us without words, because that leaves out all the associations we have with those words and it leaves out the language center of our brain. The sacred is well beyond language, well beyond thought. But a sacred melody, without words, can bypass our ordinary conceptual mind and put us directly into contact with the higher.

Work with only one or at most two melodies, so as to focus your training, focus the wordless meaning. Let the melody raise you up, into contact with the world of Divine light. With practice, the melody becomes a key to your heart, a key to the door of the sacred.

For this week, allow your sacred melody to enter and open your heart.


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