(Continued from this post.)
But every time I took part in a meditation service, I became better at listening to the sounds within myself, the quiet from which I ran all week long while pursuing the distracting surface noise of daily life. I just had to not be afraid of the messy truths that arose during this stripping bare of words and music. Meditation of any kind, I think, forces us to acknowledge that our thoughts are not always in our control. We sit in silence and concentrate on reining them in, yet they continue to run rampant. But singing in a group, adhering to the structure of rhythm, melody, and fixed words, provides the framework missing when we flail about in contemplative prayer. (Drowning in chaotic thoughts when alone is painful enough; doing so during prayer on a larger scale, while sharing the experience with a group, is unbearable.) The coordinated breaths of the kahal become a kind of magic spell to access the disorganized emotions in one's heart that yearn for the structure of language. This process, I've found, can be so powerful that I sometimes convince myself I'm being honest even when just going through the motions. I can leave services bowled over by this shared sense of purpose, thrilled to have escaped for a short while--but also frustrated that prayer hasn't helped me find more of myself. In the group, ironically, I find sanctuary from the very truths this structure has enabled me to access.
(Continued in this post.)