Musical Musings

This morning I meditated with Sheryl Crow. On her screened-in back porch. With her dog. On Instagram.

If you told me 20 years ago that I’d one day be sharing a “mindful” moment with one of the 1990s’ biggest radio stars, I would have giggled and mumbled “wishful thinking” under my breath.  Little would anyone foresee that the global pandemic coronavirus resulting in forced isolation would lead to such an intimate experience between a fan and an artist. So, how did I get here?

With the cancellation of SXSW, our nonprofit took a hit — we had invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars expecting the trade show to be our biggest fundraiser of 2020.  The cancellation announcement threw us into fast action of creating contingency plans — booking and promoting other events, arranging “spirit days” with local bars/restaurants generously willing to donate a percentage of sales, working with venues on a tabling solution for our silent auction of instruments signed by Joan Jett and Carole King. It looked like we would weather the storm, or at least keep the ship from sinking. Then, more government-mandated shut downs foiled those plans and our team was back to square one. Talk about feeling hopeless, alone, and discouraged.

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Confined to my home with my husband, son, and unruly bulldog, I felt like the walls were closing in. Our daughter was/is stuck by herself in Chicago due to a “shelter in place” order. Almost everything in the news focuses around COVID-19 and the havoc it is wreaking on our society, economy, and spirituality. What a mess.

A few days ago, the emails and social media posts started popping up. Musicians, sound studios, radio stations, and others began banding together to broadcast streamed concerts. Like moving the mountain to Mohammad, technology is enabling musicians to bring the concert to all of us with the ability to pay for virtual tickets and even leave virtual tips (on platforms like StageIt.com). Independent musicians appeared on my IG feed playing music they hadn’t shared before, talking about their tour cancellations and the major losses they, too, are suffering. Yet, here they are… soothing our anxious souls like modern-day shamans.

Sheryl Crow is no exception to that musical generosity. She strummed and sang a rainy day version “Weather Channel” with the Instagram message: “Hoping somehow this song about depression brightens your day… 🌤” Crow is no stranger to depression or dealing with the emotional toll of a disease (she battled breast cancer at the age of 44). As noted on her live IG stream, Crow picked up meditation as a way to cope with these hardships and has been practicing for 20+ years. I’ve practiced on and off over the past 25 years, mainly off since I paused my wellness studio membership after a tearing a muscle. As much as the music streaming and artist interactions speak to me, it was really some solace that my spirit was craving. 

The fact that Crow then invited me, (ahem, her followers) to meditate with her the next morning was so touching and NEEDED in my life, that I set a reminder to join her. And so did a couple of thousand other people.

Hundreds of colorful hearts flew across the screen at warp speed as Crow set us up for our group meditation. How was this going to go with gads of messages popping up from places like Hawaii, The Phillipines, Texas, everywhere? Crow thoughtfully talked her way through it while petting her dog and sitting cross-legged in her blue (maybe black? but I prefer to think blue) athletic wear with rainbow cuffs. Her hair was down, and it looked like she had little if no makeup on. This wasn’t a production, it was a conversation. Settling down the dog and the fans, she asked us to close our eyes and began a soothing instruction into a 20-minute moment of mindfulness.

Each listener would give a different account of their meditative experience. What did I experience? Birds singing. Lots of them… with varying songs and calls. “Good God,” I thought. “Crow must live in a bird sanctuary!” And no, the irony of her name hasn’t escaped me. Bird songs and her dog’s occasional whimpering accompanied us through the meditation. 

Usually, outside noises are a big distraction for me while meditating. But Crow stated in her introduction that these noises are “the soundtrack of your life.” That one line completely changed my perspective on external sounds during meditation. They no longer felt like distractions or noise; they are the soundtrack that will get me through these tough times and allow me to take a moment to BREATHE.

When Crow said to open my eyes 20 minutes later, the first thing I saw was my phone screen. There were no messages scrolling, no hearts flying upward. Just a brief, but noticeable calm.  It was reassuring, if fleeting, as fans awakened and posted their messages of gratitude.

Crow mentioned her faith, and now I can’t help but recall the biblical passage of Luke 12:24: Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?

And the Buddhists remind us of impermanence (called “anicca”) repeatedly in the Pali Canon, knowing that all things are in a constant state of change.

Even a once-aspiring presidential candidate named Abraham Lincoln recounted this story in a 1859 speech: “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

May we all find peace, through music, through meditation, through perspective, and love. And as Sheryl Crow would sing, “God Bless This Mess.”

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