This is amazing guitar work by Kenny Burrel…Trying to learn a bit of it…and following this guitarist as he is the only one still alive of this era and style. He plays every month at that Catalina Club in Hollywood–never travels anymore. Must be about 83 ish now and still playing gigs…that is cool
Here is some great jazz to start the day, and then my thoughts on the here and now and the task at hand–the ultimate cure for depression.
From time to time I post quotes by Marcus Aurelius — when I first read him about 1999 it changed my life. It amazed me that all the self help books said many of the same things. I took his words to heart and applied them. Today I thought of the following quote. It empowers me to cease the hamster like thoughts going round and round and serving no purpose except to drain my energy and leave me with nothing accomplished. When I read this quote I immediately accepted as fact that I DO have the authority to direct my thoughts, to produce something of value–in my case my art in my music–and to get off the hamster wheel
Another area where this quote applies is to social media–I can become like a hamster chasing after everyone’s Facebook posts for the cute cat, the song, the weird science discovery, until I realize that is like in the quote where Aurelius says “we ought then to check in the series of our thoughts everything that is without purpose and useless, but most of all the over-curious feeling and the malignant”
Isn’t that a good description of Facebook, a bunch of stuff to be over-curious about, and sometimes malignant–who got killed in your hometown, the store that got robbed down the street and on and on. Now there are times when social media is definitely good and purposeful, I refer to the times when it isn’t..
So consider the quote below, and read it with the spirit of someone in another place and time, in the time it was written, without prejudgment.
Upon directing my thoughts and thereby increasing my productivity, I just learned yesterday what I was doing that was messing up my jazz guitar picking. That was a moment of rapture, as I played a fast riff and the fingers flowed like velvet. My friend came in the studio as it happened– he said he didn’t want to interfere because I was so into it, and he noticed how much better the music sounded!
So, I vow to tend to the task at hand–with the ultimate benefit: For someone like me prone to depression, doing a task that requires my full attention makes it impossible for me to be depressed:) Someone once said that depression is focusing on the past and anxiety is focusing on the future, and freedom, fun and joy is the here and now.
Do not waste the remainder of thy life in thoughts about others, when thou dost not refer thy thoughts to some object of common utility. For thou losest the opportunity of doing something else when thou hast such thoughts as these, What is such a person doing, and why, and what is he saying, and what is he thinking of, and what is he contriving, and whatever else of the kind makes us wander away from the observation of our own ruling power. We ought then to check in the series of our thoughts everything that is without a purpose and useless, but most of all the over-curiousfeeling and the malignant; and a man should use himself to think of those things only about which if one should suddenly ask, What hast thou now in thy thoughts? With perfect openness thou mightest, immediately answer, This or That; so that from thy words it should be plain that everything in thee is simple and benevolent, and such as befits a social animal,
The ocean is so vast. The vastness of all that is–being so huge as it is– does not mean that we are insignificant (i.e. so tiny in comparison to the vast infinity that we don’t matter). Instead, it gives us HUGE significance, to know that in the infinite cosmos, we are the only ones (that we have seen so far) with water, love, flowers, dogs…it means we “hit the jackpot”.
- We are the one in a trillion trillion trillion that got dropped off by accident or however it happened (which DOES NOT MATTER) in the part of the infinite all, that has Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, the Redwoods, the Iguazu Falls
- Jeju Island
- Komodo Island
- Puerto Princesa Underground River
- Table Mountain
- Halong Bay
- Amazon Rainforest
…and we are not in some desolate place with no trees, no dogs, no cats, no sex, no water, no LIFE…. We are the only ones with LIFE and our human habit is– instead of appreciating all this–to suffer by hating people, being scared, thinking every moment about past pain, or fear of pain we may feel in the future, and WE MISS OUR PERFECT HUMAN STATE OF ALIVENESS IN WHICH THERE IS NO SUFFERING. There is no suffering in the here and now. The suffering in only from
- Remembering and feeling pain about the past, or judging and finding fault with the past (I didn’t do good enough, they didn’t respect me…), or from thinking the past was so magic and great and now life sucks in comparison.
- Thinking of the future –worrying about it, or doing things (work, paying penance etc.) that we believe will give us happiness at some later time, thinking there is no way to have happiness without doing all these other things first.
We can notice how vast “all that is” is, and notice that we won the statistically impossible – like that one in a million who get to be a movie star – We won Earth.
Earth is the “movie star” among all the planets and the infinite cosmos, and we have this amazing place–a dream come true of delicious food,fresh fruit, breathing, seeing colors, feeling the warmth of the sun, hearing/making great music, laughter, the sound of one another’s voices articulating the beauty of being human, and yet we hang around smack dab in the middle of this heaven we call earth, at this amazing miraculous event called life, and we hate, fear, worry, and conjure up awful versions of what is around us, rather than concentrating on the 999 percent that is all solid gold.
Instead of, “let’s go enjoy it”—oh no, we can’t do that, first we have to spend a thousand years hating each other because we have different ideas about how it all got here, arguing about god, no god, evolution, intelligent design…..
We are like a ship or vessel of life forms/humans, that was lost, got tossed about, and landed in PARADISE – the BEST PLACE with the greatest capacity to feel love, joy, ecstasy, sublime peace and tranquility; to live in the affirmation of the tremendous dignity and sanctity of our own and all other sentient beings lives. And somehow we as a species got confused, and in our attitudes a glitch came about, the glitch of anger, stress, low self-esteem, fear and confusion and inability to BE HUMAN—and inability to BE in the present moment. We got caught up in a negative loop that goes round and round of; they are better, I want their car, money, attractive husband, etc, or I am better, how dare they have part of my stuff (i.e. expect me to pay taxes).
So now what can be done?
How can humans appreciate all the cosmos/life/earth/nature / each other?
By being here and now, by feeling and learning from and releasing traumas, death of loved ones, and old grudges and regrets.
By acknowledging (as explained in the great book, The Tao of Physics), the past, present and future is all right now, not linear. We CAN be in the present: there is no need for encumbrance from past. And there is no need to fear the future, or engage in excessive preparation for the future. Notice people like the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh , many others – joyful in the present. It is humanly possible to be that way, not based on money or material success, but on noticing our breathing, and living mindfully.
We can embrace the concept that we are the ones that hit the jackpot of life, of nature, of living in this place so well suited to us. We can respect the nature, our part and place in it. We can ALLOW ourselves to be/feel who we really are, human animals connected with the one-ness of all that is. We can use our intellect to direct us to the feeling place of peace and love and kindness, transcending prior (and current) approaches based on fear, hatred, closing off between groups in various places on earth and closing off between one person and another.
We act like it’s not ok to function as we were designed to function – to pee, poop , have sex –things we all do and pretend we don’t (well SOME of those things)– and we pretend people don’t die, and become sad when they do. We pretend we can control life, when actually we are here to roll with it–the weather, the change of seasons, the always evolving, living, dying and living and dying of people/plants/animals.
We pretend we are immortal, and thus go for decades and decades without enjoying or feeling happy in life…to perhaps take a 2 week vacation in which we are supposed to get the reward of 20 years of not really being alive while we work at a job that has no meaning, that isn’t using our talents. Or we convince ourselves that “If only I work the next 20 years, or until retirement, at a job that I force myself to go to, and sacrifice all present enjoyment, I will have lots of money, or the perfect spouse or house, and then I can be happy.”
We pretend we don’t die: Thus, we often disregard the present moment, acting like it doesn’t matter, imagining that it will matter some other time–tomorrow, or this weekend, or at the holiday break. Think of a party that we are all invited to, called life, we know that the party is happening, but we don’t go. We say we will go later. Alternatively, think like a little child who has not yet removed himself from living in the moment. Someone comes and says lets go see the sights, play, laugh, roll in the grass, stare up into the sky, the kid goes. He does not say “I can do that later” or I am holding out for a better party later, or the cool people won’t be there so I don’t want to go, or, that party won’t last forever so it isn’t any good.
We can stop pretending that some people are not human, and have compassion for all life, human and other, and build systems that reflect that, systems that foster the state in which we can frequently EXPERIENCE the ECSTASY of being alive. Feel our breath, the fresh air on our skin, a breeze caressing our skin when we walk outside in the morning, the lovely laughter of children playing, and cease our habit and systems that wall off our lives into buildings, cities, in which each person is expected to hoard items they “buy” after selling their time at a “job” that is not intrinsic to who they are. We can allow our planet and its humans to blossom out in the intrinsic thing that is who they are.
We can make art and design things that will help the planet heal, find ways to solve problems like garbage floating in the ocean and homelessness…. And base our economy on only things that help heal ourselves and the planet, exchange goods and services that help all, ceasing to run the world using economies that harm millions while benefiting 10 or 20 wealthy people that own some big corporations.
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:
This Blaise Pascal quote seems simple, and not all that earthshaking at first, but breaking it down, I find that pain of loss, grief, is from mourning that fact that you are no longer the same and vainly trying to be–like a baby insisting on getting their own way–like you were before the person died.
When I read this quote I was renewed, freed of grief for that instant I understood its deeper ramifications.
To know that I am in fact no longer the same person, gives me the joy of accepting who I am in the present. It empowers me to know that there is only the present. Humans trying to make something stick –trying to make life like a painting that never changes–is what causes the suffering and grief.
Flowing as a LIVE person empowers and mitigates the suffering. Being in a painting or old photo is only pain and despair, and it is a lie because it isn’t real–you aren’t a real person when you try to pretend that painting or photo of a vision of some sort of perfect life, a fairy tale life, will sustain you.
I need to know that my loved ones who’ve gone would not want me to cling to old photos, that they were once vital in the here and now, loving life, not fixated to a false fairy tale of a life…and they want me to be vital too. They want more for me than they had. They want me to live in what they only glimpsed could be–a life fully empowered, with full capacity for joy, success, inner peace and love within my family and my community.
These things I have shared allow me to let go, yet keep the memories and learnings of the person and the past.
Maybe this post will help one of you who also suffers because your life isn’t the fairy tale you hoped for, or thought it should be–a picture painted (probably in childhood) on your psyche–a picture that never was and never can be real.
A picture that your mommy and daddy would be pleased to know you have flown beyond.
I watched “Draft Day” last night, with Kevin Costner in the lead role as Sunny, manager of the Cleveland Browns, and was intrigued about a mystery note that he wrote at the start of the movie…more about that later.
As the film evolves, Sunny’s decisions about the draft enrage the whole town–they picket outside his office waving signs saying “Fire Sunny”, and the coach threatens to quit.
But he keeps making hard and ridiculed choices…particularly his passing up of the ostensible star quarterback, Bo.
At the very end, we see the note — “Pick Vonte (instead of Bo) no matter what”
Well, his strategy pays off and the movie ends with everyone loving him. But it won’t last…so he has to keep following his own plans and listening to his inner voice, NO MATTER WHAT…
no matter that he feels all is lost
no matter who thinks he’s crazy
no matter who hates him
And WHY do I play jazz guitar NO MATTER WHAT? No matter whether I have gigs or not, whether my teacher all but gives up on me, no matter that it takes hours, weeks, months even, just to acquire basic knowledge and skill necessary for the simplest of jazz tunes…
…no matter that anyone who hears me play right now would most likely think me a deluded middle-aged nut case, making a lame attempt to regain the shimmer of a lost youth.
Because sometimes, in that rare flicker of an instant, I feel and see me in the zone, playing with a style and grace.
Because I honor the pure part of me that loves music, that becomes breathless upon hearing a great player and yearns to make similar sounds come from my instrument, via my heart and soul.
Because I want the daily experience of “pure potentiality” in which I sometimes dwell, where-in resides a good musician, one that is ego-less, fully present in the sound and meaning of music.
Because playing good jazz, even just learning to play, demands that the continual din of voices in my head, chattering and moaning about either the past or the future, cease and desist.
Because it feels great to live in the moment, without those dinny voices…when they stop, the suffering stops. No regrets of the past or worries about he future.
Because if I don’t do this, I will be dead inside, having no dream, no purpose, no vehicle on which to do my part of making the world a better place.
Whatever you are doing, figure out which part of it you will do no matter what, so you’ll be ready when the naysayer in your head or the other nay sayers try to show you how ridiculous what you are doing is.
Now, enjoy Stanley Jordan,
…note how he is like a child digging the music, no judgement., just pure joy..to play jazz you must be “a little child” to quote my teacher. Today I will be a little child no matter what