Tuesday, January 31, 2006

[talk] The Art of Listening (to Music, Language, Mind)

I will conduct a 3-day workshop in Ocean Lotus Farm during May 5-7, 2006. This is the introduction to the workshop. If you are interested in participating, please contact Ocean Lotus Farm for further details.

The Art of Listening

Ocean Lotus Farm Workshop

Tsan-Kuang Lee

May 5-7, 2006


Music,language, and thoughts come so easily in our daily life that most of ustake them for granted and stop interacting with them meaningfully. Wehear music without listening to it; we let our spouses talk to uswithout knowing what they are really saying; we hear our own innervoices but constantly ignore them.

In this workshop, we learn theart of listening. We learn how to listen to and enjoy music; we learnhow to listen to and comprehend language; we learn how to listen to andbecome union with our thoughts.


Fewpeople would say they don't love music. Music empowers an army,preludes the birthday cake serving, announces a friend's call,farewells the use of your computer, and accompanies our showering. It'sso close to our daily life, but why are there moments when we wonder,how come some people are so crazy about symphonies in the concert hall,jazz solos in the bar, or loud raps on the street? Why, while an operaand a movie may both take two hours, most people find the lengths of thetwo psychologically so different?

Of course, it's a matter ofpreference and taste. Some love operas; some love movies. In fact, mostof us can manage to be with music for a while in the concert hall, inthe bar, or on the street. We can also learn when to applaud, when toscream, or when to shake and nod our heads. However, how the musicitself really interacts with us internally, is probably irrelevant tothe social codes that make us good audience.

How do we really enjoy music?

Again,the question is, how "we" "really" "enjoy" "music". First, it's"enjoyable", not boring, nor patience-challenging; neither does it makeus feel arrogant or ignorant. Second, the enjoyment is "really"experienced, not imagined or pretended. Third, the satisfaction comesfrom the "music", not from the well-decorated concert hall, thedressed-up audience, the gossips about a famous conductor, or "theattractive girl/boy who saw me go to Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra". Mostimportantly, "we" participate in the whole process.

In this workshop, we will (re-)learn to listen to music, and learn to appreciate different types of musical expressions.


Thanks to the best-sellers, everybody today knows thatlistening plays an essential role in effective communication. However,being proficient in Martian and Venusian does not seem to guaranteebetter understanding. While we try very hard to listen, we still hearsomething very different from what's intended or even what's said. Howdo we fill the gap between theory and practice?

In this workshop,we will re-evaluate our listening ability and investigate the factorsthat hinder it. Then we learn to establish new listening habits tobreak from the bad cycles of poor communication that we were so used to.


Thetechniques of taming one's mind have been around for several thousandyears, and have been used by many different traditions, from religions(Buddhist, Catholic , Christian, Taoist, to name a few), to moderntraining (music performance, business leadership, athletics, military,etc.), and healing (stress reduction, meditational curing, etc.).However, most of us still have little control over our own minds.Running thoughts take over easily and many of us either ignore itseffects or totally give up on disciplining our minds.

Why do weneed to discipline our minds? Aren't discursive minds more creative?Don't we relax more when we just let our minds go free? Aren't mindsmore natural without control?

It's no surprise that many of ushave such questions. On the other hand, we also wish we had the powerto stop thinking in a sleepless night;musicians/speakers/athletes/examinees hope to concentrate on theirperformance instead of worrying about what would happen to them if theydon't do well; in classrooms we hope to focus so we can learn better.

Atrained mind does not only benefit us in those achievement-orientedgoals. Obviously, if we are worrying about our tax return when we arein the Grand Canyon, we certainly are missing something; if we keepchecking the time for the parking meters outside of the concert hall,we certainly won't be able to enjoy the music; if we are nervous aboutan exam on the table, we certainly won't be able to taste the breakfastfully.

A chaotic mind may actually harm us. We bite ourselvesbecause our minds are not with us when eating; we fall because ourminds aren't walking with us; we have car accidents because our mindsaren't alert enough.

It actually goes deeper if we take itseriously: we say harmful words to others because our negative thoughtsrule us; we ignore important signals/signs of dangers because our mindsaren't clear; we fail to hear our own voices among other noises in ourminds and regret not listening to ourselves.

Mindful techniqueswill be instructed and used throughout the workshop. We learn to payfull attention to music, language, and thoughts. Then we hope to applythe same techniques to other things and improve the quality of ourdaily life.

Workshop Rules

In this workshop of the Art ofListening, we want to emphasize the practice of listening instead oftalking and expressing. Therefore, we require the participants toobserve the following rules during the whole time of the workshop(including non-class time), for the sake of ourselves and others:

- No talking except for in-class discussion.

- No phone calls. (All emergency incoming calls should be taken and redirected by Ocean Lotus Farm administration.)

- No emailing.

- No reading, unless asked to.

- No listening to personal music/speech.

Theserules really help protect our minds from going away. According to ourexperiences, these simple rules turn out to be very powerful and enableone to go into a deeper level of observation and concentration.

Powerfultransformation comes from a determined mind willing to change badhabitual patterns. Let's make it our Lesson One: when we come to theworkshop, we bring our full mind here. We deal with other thingsbefore or after, but not during, the workshop.

About the Speaker

Thisworkshop will be led by composer/linguist/meditator Tsan-Kuang Lee, whowill share his insights on how to listen to music/language/mind deeply.

Trainedto be a scientist in high school, turning to literature incollege, but ending up studying linguistics and computer science ingraduate school; with several established musicians' help, Tsan-Kuangis now working as a composer/arranger/performer, as well as a softwaredeveloper. Inrecent years, he has been learning to re-exam himself through Zenpractices; he has found Zen practices sharpen one's sensibility, deepenone's understanding, break one's prejudice, and free one's concepts,while at the same time, cultivate one's compassion and bring oneharmony.

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