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Meditation and Music

Basket of Plums

Meditation and Music have coexisted all along. Chants, Mantras, Kirtans, Bhajans, Hymns, Niggunim, and Sabbath Songs have accompanied spiritual practice through the ages.

Joseph Emet has contributed to this tradition with his songs for the practice of Mindfulness Meditation. Music plays an important part in the practice of Plum Village. Joseph collected and recorded the songs he found at Plum Village, and he also set to music many of Thich Nhat Hanh's poems.

His work has been published by Parallax Press with the title Basket of Plums. Basket of Plums consists of 41 songs on two CD's with the sheet music for each song. It has a foreword by Thich Nhat Hanh.

It is available as an e-book from Parallax Press. Basket of Plums is also published in Thailand and in South Korea.

Two aspects of music are helpful in mindfulness practice:

  • Having a practice song continuously in mind goes a long way towards keeping our mental state in a positive direction. It is a reminder.
  • 'Finding your voice' is a valuable practice both metaphorically, and also in regards to finding pleasure in singing. Many people say that they cannot sing because they compare themselves to well-known singers. They forget that they only need to sound like themselves and not like someone else. Just like we don't dress or live like a pop star or a diva, we do not have to sound like one either.

Thich Nhat Hanh has praised Joseph's work by calling him 'A Boddhisattva of Music.'


Sample Songs


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Song List for Basket of Plums #2:

1.  Happiness Makes You Beautiful
2.  Simple Gifts
3.  Let the Buddha Walk With You
4.  I Hold the Earth and the Sky with Love in My Heart
5.  Mealtime Meditation
6.  Garden Hymn
7.  Peace is Every Step
8.  How can I Keep from Singing
9.  There is no need to Travel Very Far
10. Namo Buddhaya
11. I Learn Each Moment
12. I have Arrived, I am Home
13. Compassion Springs from the Heart
14. Guarding the six senses
15. In the Bleak Midwinter
16. See the Green Blade Rising
17. Reverence is the Nature of my Love
18. Now I Walk in Beauty
19. The River and the Sky
20. Earthsong
21. My Head Resting on Waves

Lyrics:

These songs have been inspired by the poetry, talks, and the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh. Some are adaptations of traditional tunes, and others are original compositions by Joseph Emet.

1.  HAPPINESS MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL

Happiness makes you beautiful like a spring meadow in bloom,
Where daffodils and lilies grow and grasses sway in the breeze.

Happiness is a flower that grows in a pure heart,
Where daffodils and lilies grow and grasses sway in the breeze.

Please walk with gentleness in a spring meadow in bloom
Where daffodils and lilies grow and grasses sway in the breeze.

The tender flower of happiness is more precious than gold
Enchanting all with its fragrance and sowing seeds in the wind.

 

2. SIMPLE GIFTS

‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free,
‘This a gift to come down where we ought to be
Then we find ourselves in the place just right,
In the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
to bow and to bend we aren’t ashamed
In simple gifts of life we delight,
We enjoy them with a thankful heart.

 

3. LET THE BUDDHA WALK WITH YOU

Let the Buddha walk with you, let the Buddha walk with you,
Let the Buddha walk, Just walk, let the Buddha walk with you.

Let the Buddha smile in you, let the Buddha smile in you,
Let the Buddha smile, in your eyes,let the Buddha smile in you.

Let the Buddha work with you, let the Buddha work with you,
Let the Buddha work, peacefully, let the Buddha work with you.

Let the Buddha live with you, let the Buddha live with you,
Let the Buddha live, in your home, let the Buddha live with you.

The Buddha's strolling in the milky way, strolling by the moon and stars,
At home in the garden, at home in the universe, let the Buddha walk with you.

The Buddha's smiling in each being, smiling in the smallest heart,
With a patch of blue sky, with the morning bird, let the Buddha smile in you.

The bees are working in the garden, working wholeheartedly,
Like the butterflies, gracefully, let the Buddha work with you.

 

4. I HOLD THE EARTH

I hold the Earth and the Sky with love in my heart,
I hold the Oceans and Rivers with love in my heart,
I hold the creatures of the Earth with love in my heart,
Beings big or small, near or far, living now, or to come,
May they be happy, May they be safe,
And may their hearts be filled with joy.

 

5. MEALTIME MEDITATION

This food is the gift of the whole universe
The Earth, the Sky, and loving hands
Lets enjoy it thankfully, and vow to offer
Understanding and love to all beings.

 

6. GARDEN HYMN

As I walk in Earth’s green garden the spices yield a rich perfume,
And the lilies grow and thrive, the lilies grow and thrive.
I feel refreshed with each breath, as I gaze with joy at every vine,
And I arrive at home, and I arrive at home.

 

7. PEACE IS EVERY STEP

Peace is every step,
the shining red sun is my heart
Each flower smiles with me,
How fresh, how green all that grows
How cool the wind blows
Peace is every step
It turns the endless path to joy.

 

8. HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING

My life flows on in endless songs above Earth’s lamentation,
I hear a joyful melody that cuts through all affliction.
Through all the tumult and the strife I hear that music ringing,
It brings me joy with every breath, how can I keep from singing.

Each time I see that through my fear a peaceful nature is shining,
With love of friends both near and far, how can I keep from singing.
The storms don’t shake me deep down while to that tune I’m listening,
With love for all beings in my heart, how can I keep from singing.

 

9. THERE IS NO NEED

There is no need to travel very far
Just for a taste of the the blue above,
There is no need to travel very far
Just for a taste of the blue sky.

 

10. Namo Buddhaya

 

11. I LEARN EACH MOMENT

I learn each moment to be a better lover,
I learn each moment to discover my true love.

 

12. I HAVE ARRIVED

I have arrived, I am home in the here and in the now
I am solid, I am free, I am solid, I am free,
In the ultimate I dwell, in the ultimate I dwell.

 

13. COMPASSION SPRINGS FROM THE HEART

Compassion springs from the heart as pure, refreshing water,
Healing the wounds of life, turning poison into flowers,
One flower, two flowers, millions of little flowers appear in the fields,
and weapons turn to dust.

From the highest peak of the mountain
the blessed water comes streaming down, comes streaming down,
Penetrating rice fields, and orange groves,
The healing water is the same on a willow branch, or in the heart,
The leaves are still green, and the sunlight smiles on the snow.
 

14. GUARDING THE SIX SENSES

The eyes are a deep ocean, with whirlpools and violent winds
With shadows beneath the surface, and sea monsters deep within.
My boat sails in mindfulness, I vow to hold the tiller firmly
So I do not drown in an ocean of form.

Using my conscious breath I am guarding my eyes
For my protection and yours.
So that today continues to be a beautiful day,
And tomorrow we still have each other.

The ears an ocean of sound,
The tongue an ocean of taste,
The nose an ocean of smell,
And the mind an ocean of dharmas.

 

15. IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER

In the bleak mid-winter frosty wind makes moan,
Earth is hard as iron, water like a stone.
Snow has fallen snow on snow, snow on snow.
In the bleak mid-winter, Just like long ago.

Roots and seeds lie sleeping under mounds of snow,
Dreaming dreams of green leaves and stems where flowers grow.
The Earth will soon be soft again, water will soon flow.
Flowers wake from winter dreams, and in bright colors glow.

In the bleak mid-winter spring buds do not show,
Hiding, waiting, dreaming in their roots below.
See the flowers through the snow, see them bright and fair,
In the bleak mid-winter they perfume the air.

 

16. SEE THE GREEN BLADE RISING

See the green blade rising from the buried grain,
Seeds of wheat in darkness many months have lain,
They grow again, when watered by the rain,
Love can rise again like wheat that springeth green.

When your heart is wintry, grieving or in pain,
Water seeds of joy, and come to life again;
Fields of our hearts that cold and bare have been,
Grow and thrive again like wheat that springeth green.

 

17. REVERENCE

Reverence is the nature of my love, my love,
Reverence is the nature of my love.
I bow to the bushes, I bow to the flowers,
I bow to the singing birds in the trees,
I bow to the mountains, I bow to the rivers,
I bow to the dancing bees.

 

18. NOW I WALK IN BEAUTY

Now I walk in beauty, beauty is before me
Beauty is behind me above and below me.

I sit at beauty’s table, beauty’s in the food before me,
In its fragrance in its flavour fresh from Earth’s green garden.

I lie in beauty’s cradle, beauty’s in the moon above,
Beauty’s in the dome of stars and in the Earth that holds me.

Now I walk in beauty, and I sit in beauty,
And I breathe in beauty.

 

19. THE RIVER AND THE SKY

The river and the sky are singing a Dharma song.
Singing and listening become one,  as the sparrow joins their song.
Sing like the sparrow, listen like the sky,
for all is listening, all is song.
Sing like the sparrow, listen like the sky,
for singing and listening are already one.

 

20. EARTHSONG

I live on a mountain, I live by the sea,
I live in a valley, I live by a stream,
I live on Earth, the Earth is my home,
My home is my body, the Earth is my body.

The wind blows through grasses the wind blows through trees,
My breath is the wind, that blows through me,
The eyes in the sky, the eyes of awareness,
The sun by day, the moon by night. 

This is my song, the song of Earth,
The Earth in my bowl, the Earth in my cup,
I hold my love, my love in my arms,
My love is the Earth, I hold the Earth, the Earth in my arms.

 

21. MY HEAD RESTING ON WAVES

My head resting on waves I drift with the flow,
Boad river, deep sky, they float, they sink
Like bubbles like wings.