A Quote from Rinzai ( d.866), and Jazz by Kenny Burrell

Today I want to take the time to think about the following quote:

“Today’s students of the Buddha-Dharma need to look for genuine insight. If you have genuine insight, birth and death will not affect you, and you will be free to come and go. Nor do you need to look for worthiness; it will arise of itself.

Followers of the Way, do not let yourselves be deluded by anyone; this is all I teach. If you want to make use of genuine insight, then use it right now without delay or doubt.

Students nowadays do not succeed because they suffer from lack of self reliance. Because of this lack, you run busily hither and thither, are driven by circumstance, and kept whirling by the ten thousand things.-“
Rinzai ( d.866)

I found it very empowering to read “if you want to make use of genuine insight, then use it right now without delay or doubt.”

That makes me feel like a child, who knows without doubt the value of feeling good, of wanting and then receiving a desired thing (be it material, experiential or emotional, mental)…

As an adult I often question the voracity of wanting anything – would it be good if I got it, what if I can’ t  get it…all this just keeps me from living…keeps me in fear, in a place where I am fighting to be “not – alive”….but the statement “use it right now without delay or doubt” opens it all up for me…When I watch a video (like the one I have posted below), I can see without delay or doubt how I will practice today:

…I practice in the wake of the greatness I experience in the videos of  Wes or Herb or other great guitarists.  I will flow with it …for the joy of it…like a child on fire with the delight of mastery — just for the sake of getting lost in the pursuit, not because it will lead to a gig or impress someone else.

Listen first, then listen again, then some more, and then decide to be quiet

10858497_10153095268990850_7376995795256107858_nAll my life my mom used to say “you need to learn to listen”, at which time I became royally offended and hated my mom and thought she was the enemy.

In a way she was– judgmental and negative, but she was right about my needing to listen.

Not sure to what, but after she passed I found out how important listening was.  Listening to something besides my relentless  self recriminations .

Virtually anything I listen to (or read, for in the act of reading I am speaking the author’s words in my head) is better than what I call Ms. Bad-Sad–that default feeling/thought/voice track in my head and heart.

That is because the original dysfunctional messages are there for time immemorial – no matter how much I know about enlightenment, NLP, Jungian approaches, and dozens of other tools for transcending a mentally ill family mind-set.

This bad sad mind track is only harmful if it goes unnoticed.  And once noticed it is only bad if I try to deny or argue with it or mask it over with “positive thinking”.  It is most beneficial when I accept it for what it is and is not:

What it is  – old messages and attitudes from a mentally ill upbringing.

What it is not – the deciding factor in who I am, how I feel, or what I can achieve.

But it is there, period.  It is possible to befriend and peacefully co-exist with Ms. Bad-Sad, provided I  start of every single day listening to things that quiet her:

Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen–

–to songs, meditations, books on tape, written materials, and people when available,  that are evolved, kind, accepting, and affirming of my pure desire and deservedness of love, fun, and high self-regard.

Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen…

to the love within me, my need for love, and my capacity to be, give and receive love.

This goes against my resident crepe hanger voice – since human loving kindness and love between people was declared (albeit silently by actions and attitudes) nonexistent by my mentally ill family, unless in the framework of traditional religion.

Listen – to my inner wise self, hidden beneath the daily barrage – my solid and ageless self, aligned with  all the love and motivation in the entire universe

So today, I begin, late but I do begin, by listening, quietly, silently… to loving, kind, self-accepting messages, letting them soak into me.

Right now I hear a book on tape called Ask and It is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks.  Tomorrow I will play Shakti Gawain’s guided visualizations.  It can be anything, as long as the message is allowed to exist in the deep recesses of the mind/heart/soul.  That is why you writers and artists out there need to keep producing, because there can never be too many life-affirming loving and kind books, poems, songs, stories, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, art and craft gizmos…the more there are, the more they will outweigh the hateful, superstitious, false, fear based, or apathetic books, articles, shows and songs out there.

Every morning I will read,  play, and especially sing messages that give me the choice,  all over again, to declare I am not Ms Bad-Sad–she is just a roommate, and that I deserve a good life, success, friends and fun.

Excited at first? Has your plan to blog daily lost it’s dazzle?

Yesterday I posted for the first time in a long time, and I don’t know why or how, but my whole day went better.  I recall how it was when I started; I thought “this blog will be my positive start to each day, a way to listen to the loving voices in me and defuse the doubting, depressed ones.”  Then alas, I fell off the trolley.,..but as in my post from yesterday, I now simply BEGIN AGAIN.

Because it works, it feels good…no need to analyze or justify, if something keeps you working on your goals, frees you from negative monkey mind, just keep doing it for Gods’ sake!

What does it take to get you (i. e. me)  in your own corner, rooting for yourself?  You (I) root for others and would never think of saying, “so…you find blogging a great benefit…oh well, don’t bother, you’re too busy, you don’t have anything to say…”

…and yet that kind of self talk is what kept me away from blogging.

One of my favorite parts about this blog is when I post a jazz video.  Then when I begin practicing guitar I have a vivid sound and picture of why I am putting in all this effort on drills and such…Today’s video is by  jazz guitar icon Grant Green, with a great band backing him up.

For me, it is imperative that I watch role models doing things that I aspires to.  Rather than compare myself and feel I have fallen short, I love hearing the great jazz, it ignites my desire to play the best I can, to allow myself to picture the gigs I plan to get, and picture them going fantastically, and the venues inviting me to come and play all the time, for a decent amount of money or other compensation.

You see, just writing that makes it seem possible, not a distant pipe dream…it makes me wanna up my guitar practice to 7 a day..not hard at all.

I hope my story helps you to start blogging again if you have drifted away like me.

What is your “Path With A Heart?” Know it–for it is the only path that is any good.


path 2If I  don’t “make it” as an artist, should I quit?

That isn’t the question, that isn’t even the even the…That misses the whole point.  A musician friend on Facebook posted that he was discouraged about not making more money with music and not getting emotional support from community and family–thus he was thinking of quitting.

I wrote to him:

either or, do or not…anytime there is a side we must take there is stress…No side needs to be taken, this is Zen so it may go by un-clarified…but…no need to choose a side…An old Zen Koan said, Eat your food wash your bowl. Get up, music, eat sleep, live, take out trash, feed dogs…life.. The path with a heart is the only path that is any good (paraphrased from Carlos Castaneda).

So much hope for a better world. WE CAN SOLVE PROBLEMS HUMANS!

This video describes utility cars in the future not owned, timed by AI for use round the clock, not able to cause accidents… this is wonderful.

Think of all the problems this one invention/advancement could solve

1.  People getting in car accidents

2. lack of space for growing populations (the cars are never stored or parked…ever..they are always carrying people from place to place)

3.  Air pollution

4.  Economy that discriminates if  you don’t have a good enough car

5.  No more sitting in traffic jams for many hours of your life–no more road rage

6.  Go to cultural events without having to find a parking space

 

and more I am sure

Think of all the hundreds of thousands of creative solutions to every problem on the planet…and people do…

think of solutions, that is.

You know who has the most solutions?  Young peolpe…they invent, they dream how it could be and make a life purpose out of helping to realize that dream.

So I don’t think there is cause for a collective gloom and doom. About elections, climate, or jobs or anything…

Turn off your news streaming and set your own course into the possible, the fun, the important and meaningful stuff that makes life worth living while making others lives better.  Learn music, invent a safe holiday toy, create a better space where you live or work to show kindness to yourself (i.e. dust, remove clutter, maybe bring in a plant..):  what ever you can do to set your own mood and focus, and detach from the media’s hatred, shallowness and plain old uninteresting-ness…do it now,  and have a better day from this moment on,

 

 

Jazzin’ the Day Away

I am posting a jazz guitarist video today to start my day of practice off right.  The arpeggios are getting easier all the time and I think if I can break the sound barrier so to speak, that place at which most people would quit because they don’t see how any of the drills will make them able to play actual improvised jazz, or even to take the songs they currently know and play them in a much more enjoyable arrangement..

So, yes, in spite of all the lack of proof that it will work, I will practice on in despair, like a mountain climber that knows that even if they reach the top they will most likely not make it down again due to hazards of nature…

That sounds so drama-queen-ish but it is how it feels to work and work for hours on one song and then play it and realize it does not sound good yet…

But I will go on because part of me knows that the day will come, in a month, a year, or 2 years, or more, when I will play well, when each song will be up to par, when I will have the gigs, respect from my fellow musicians, and most importantly, when I will use my new guitar skills to compose songs that I feel will make a difference – will help one or more people to learn, gain a new insight or be free of some mental anguish, due to the message and love in the song that I sing.

I don’t mean that I will be a star or that my video  will go viral, just that the ones who do hear my music will benefit from it.

This is almost like going back to a time when live performers were everywhere, before they had computers, TV, or even radio.

The world I want to live respects  songwriters and musicians of dedication, not because they are famous or because the are “trending” on social media, but because their music is glorious, like a beautiful painting by a master painter.

So enough of my rant, here is a video to inspire and entertain you and me:

Can A Waitress Play Jazz Guitar (good if not great?)

Today I have a nice dog to keep me happy and I begin another day on my jazz guitar adventure.  Yesterday I was thinking how I previously believed (and often still do) you have to be a genius to play jazz guitar, and  have a super sharp memory, lightening quick reflexes and tons of musical talent.  Then, thanks to a book called Zen Guitar (not exact title, will add later) I thought more productively, and less judgmentally, about the odds that I will ever get good at this.   And this term came to me:  memory stacking.  As a waitress one must remember all the orders, personalities, condiments, and so on.  One needs a good memory for detail.  So is jazz guitar harder than that?  Yes…and no.  If broken down, one skill within the jazz training foundation may tax the memory as much as what a food server has to do within a given working day.  So, if it is like one day, I thought, I don’t have to be smarter than a waitress to play jazz guitar, I just have to only learn and attempt to reproduce ONE thing at a time…

Kind of like, stacking the jazz guitar skills one atop another within my mental circuitry: Memory Stacking.

…Until I have a giant multi-story building…or jazz mansion so to speak.   Will see how that works as I continue on my jazz adventure.

One more thing…before I start daily practice I often find a good jazz guitar video.  Today I will go for 5 hours, with this good example:

 

How to Shut Up (while not suppressing) your inner Critic.

 

You cannot suppress this voice/person/belief system that lives in your head.

You will only make it stronger.  You must come up to it and say,

“Hello, what is your opinion about my (music/writing/clothing/weight…)” and let it/her/him reply.

Then kindly say, thank you for sharing that, now I need to get back to what I do best, writing/playing/being joyful…

This person will lose the desire to bug you when you stop taking the bait.  Just like an external person.  If you are polite but do not let them jerk your chain they will get bored and stop their negative chatter about everything and anything.

The magazine “Real Simple” suggests some tips for controlling your inner critic:

  1. Pluck the weeds – when you have a thought, decide, is this a weed that needs to be plucked so my lovely garden can continue to flourish?  Focus on the thoughts that are beautiful blooms.  You can only focus on and embrace one thing at a time- by the time you immerse your feelings into the astounding  beauty of what your eyes and your heart behold, the weed/critic will have forgotten the point it was trying to make
  2. Rewire your brain – every thought we have paves a neural pathway, making it easier to have the same response over and over again. When the path is taken millions of times, it gets on auto-pilot.  Be aware of this, for example, every time I work on a new jazz technique the critic assures me I am too stoopid to play jazz – so I will recognize this, and take note of things I have mastered that I originally thought I never could.  At first this counter-thought will seem like a lie, I am just fooling myself, but just go along with it, and the next time the critic on auto pilot returns, insert that same response:  “Look at what I have accomplished that proves your criticism is wrong”.  Each time you do this, the new and self-loving neural pathway will get bigger, to the point that you will replace the critic with the warm,  loving supportive inner you that treasures each effort you make to excel at your dream of being a jazz guitarist/author/dancer/painter…or ______ (insert whatever is your passion.

HOW WILL I GET THROUGH TODAY WITHOUT GIVING IN TO DEPRESSION?

Each day there is that pull, to just sit in the chair and stare at videos on you tube or tv, eat all day even though I am not hungry, and just quit my jazz guitar adventure….but this blog is helping me to commit to something greater.  Each day i have to be aware that the habit of just becoming a depressed blob is there, and I have to read, write  meditate (NOT medicate), take a walk…do anything I can to rally myself to be on my own side, to not pretend that I don’t exist…

To me, depression is a feeling like you don’t exist, and yet you are here…the pain that, yes, you ARE here and you must accept yourself.

How do you accept yourself, love yourself, show yourself the loving kindness you would to a friend or a child?  There, I have begun to turn it around…

I imagine a kid on Christmas, a child…the child in me…what right do I have to deny her the chance to live, to have fun, to hurl off the fetters of depression and low self esteem and just declare “I AM HERE, YOU BETTER NOT FUCK ME OVER TODAY YOU BITCH”

Maybe that is me talking to the bad person my mom sometimes was to me, the mom that wished i would just disappear –the “uncaring mom” that now lives in my head.. that thinks i am too much trouble to have around…

BUT THERE ALSO THE LOVING MOM..the one in my head, and the one my mom was before we become disconnected from each other.

That is the mom I will have with me today, the one that loves me and wants me to succeed, to love playing jazz guitar, to eat in a healthy and tasty way, and to get exercise in the outdoors–by the way, studies have shown that exercise is as effective as anti depressants at countering depression!!!!

YEP it is time to LIVE my life, play jazz music, and try to be part of the solution for me and others like me, that artists  the sensitive ones…here is to all of you my fellow bloggers!

Here is a fav jazz player, Herb Ellis, so free in his playing…now THAT is something that washes away your depression! learning to play jazz guitar…(or _____ – insert whatever works for you, something that demands you be in the PRESENT!)

From The Book called “Unstuck”

Trella’s Positive place

From the book “Unstuck” and revised by me, replacing writing with music

Deep compassion practice:

A relationship with practice and music so that the thought of practicing no longer causes a spike of fear

So that the minute the flow of music, the desire to learn or write music slows down, I will no longer panic.

So if I get up from practicing and have a twinge of malaise about the progress made today, I won’t sink into a depression

Now after struggling with learning jazz guitar about 6 months…I have the stability and leisure to sit back and begin to examine my relationship to my music and practicing to understand what it means to me and asks of me, and to be confident that me and my music can live a long and companionable life together.

So far my jazz guitar playing has shifted from dysfunctional and impossible to possible and at times even satisfying.

But what a shame to stop here, to leave uncharted all the territory on the other side of what is possible.

Why limit my discoveries?

What if ahead lay serene mountain valleys or meadows blazing with wildflowers or jungles that dazzle with the songs and colors of exotic birds

What it, instead of finding jazz guitar –gigs-busking— tolerable, I could eagerly anticipate its company or experience deep happiness in my guitar’s company

The relationship between music and musician lies somewhere between the relationships of friends and that of lovers.  It is a relationship that varies over time as well as from musician to musician.

For blocked musicians the relationship becomes clouded with anxiety or fear and often with anger or hatred—fear of no skills coming from the hours of drills etc.  anger toward yourself when not picking up the guitar and practicing…

Once this negative connection between music and musician has been established, it is difficult to mend.  One or two wounding experiences with the guitar and we become negatively conditioning

Each bad encounter reinforces—the turbulence we feel toward or about the music/guitar /performing, until a psychic battle royal is fought every time we want to play or learn on the guitar

What is needed is a storehouse of good experiences with the guitar –many good ones  to counter one or 2 bad ones.

To get the good experiences going do this:

Think small-learning just what I am playing right now no matter how long it takes

Create a safe place to practice

Speak kindly to myself and recognize and embrace my own guitar learning process

Once there are lots of good experience about being able to sit down and learn or get better at things from my guitar lesson, to write songs and practice songs for gigs, I can begin to redefine or recast my relationships with the guitar as a partnership between my guitar learning process and my hopes and dreams.

One morning while struggling to improvise with scales, patterns, following the 3rd , and arpeggios, a voice spoke to me, the sweetest, kindest person came to reassure me, saying;

I know this phase of jazz guitar is difficult for you but dont worry.  It doesnt matter if it takes you longer that it takes other musicians.  Everybodys different  everybody learns guitar at their own speed. Just because your hands dont fly across the fret board doesnt mean youre not a musician.

As I listened to the voice I went into a state of deep relaxation, and the words written above were internal truths, verities that emerged as a result of all the work I had put into my guitar up to this point.

my response reflected a sense of my uniqueness as an individual guitarist. The words are an acknowledgement of my own particular struggle and relationship with learning guitar and making music my life

Even thou taking a long time, I know I am a musician.

Even if I struggle more or longer to pluck the right strings and make the pick behave, i am still a musician

The voice is telling me and repeating over and over again – I am a musician I am a musician I am a guitarist, I am a guitarist I am a guitarist

Whether or not I am successful at it

Whether I have bad days or not

Whether sometimes I have trouble sitting down to learn on the guitar

Or get lost  now and then

What the voice was saying was that I have carved out peace with my guitarist self, and that peace is holding.

Whatever strategies I have devised to keep from getting mad and not practicing, or thinking I may never make it and will quit my journey to get to jazz improvise and accompanying myself on jazz songs and original jazz songs– to know deep within that I will get the skills I want, and more importantly, the flow and fun that I want while playing and singing jazz at home and in public, these strategies continue to work and to hold

Whatever style, pace or schedule I have evolved to practice, I am a guitarist, I embrace my music as my own, my skills in my hands and voice as my own

Whether I play in spurts, want to practice scales or arpeggios more than songs or vice versa, the essential thing if I want to become a jazz player is that I remain intimate with my process and embrace it with love and self-nurturing and kindness to myself.

That I practice and play gigs at my own pace, in my own time, and that I resist the temptation to compare myself to other guitarists or imagine they would think this or that if they heard my playing.

This means, when playing guitar /singing or both, I remain fully who I am

I will be who I am and play guitar naturally from within myself instead of from without.  I will no longer play the role of conductor, flourishing my wand to create desired results.  Instead I will play from the spot in the very center of the orchestra, in a spot that will no longer allow me to distance myself from the other musicians.

From this spot, with the notes and phrases washing over me, I will play as much in response to the music of the other musicians as to the written page- the drill, the list of things that I judgmentally tell myself I must master right now before the next lesson.

I no longer try to remain in control, to make demands on myself and achieve the mastery that I once pushed myself towards. I am now able to let myself be.

When blocked

we spend energy insisting that we change everything about our playing –the last thing we want to do is be more in touch with our self

Far from accepting anything about my guitar playing, I am convinced that unless I effect dramatic change I will never be able to improvise, get the music life and jobs I want

Accepting myself is the furthest from my mind.

But only by stopping trying to reengineer each and everything I play, and accepting my presence in the playing of the guitar will I be able to make any real progress.

I will refrain from trying to twist and turn myself into the guitarist I want to be, and I will become more and more relaxed and able to play and flow in my hands and and thoughts and feelings, and have fun – AND….begin to play better

EXERCISES

  1. once week either before or after I have played guitar, take some time to think about what I like about the way I play guitar—once I have isolated a few things, think about them while practicing or performing
  2. Take stock of how I have been playing this week- is it easier to sit down and begin? Anything different from prior weeks? Whatever is different, take stock and write it down and allow myself to feel grateful for the changes.
  1. My pick isn’t getting as twisted going back down the scale, I noticed Herb Ellis way with pick and tried it.
  2. I forget less of the notes in each scale pattern
  3. I have played longer per day
  4. I enjoyed a feeling that I could combine things henry gave me and be able to improvise once I learn the foundations of each of those things – patterns of scales and how they fit, and in what key, with the chords I am playing, arpeggios, where the 3rd of the chord is.
  5. For areas where I am still stuck, do the following

Note on paper what they are and instead of getting angry, practice compassion – tell myself –it’s hard to improvise, but at least you are learning the tools that when fully incorporated will empower you to improvise.  At least you are playing guitar and you are learning… I know you feel anxious when working on some things from the lesson or trying to play a song for a gig a better way – but look how much you have improved in the past 2 months in spite of this anxiety

  1. when playing guitar imagine I am a coach helping a tennis player when an important match—encourage, reassure and offer tips on strategies—the goal is to make the player feel as much on top of the game to win
  2. If I become angry or frustrated or apathetic while playing guitar, imagine a good friend tells me she is having trouble at work—what will I say to comfort her, help her work through her anger and disappointment she feels –now repeat those words to myself