Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jazz and Spirituality

I may not have shared this before, not sure if it had ever come up in any of my earlier posts, but apart from what I do for a living, my true passion is that of a professional musician.  I play a few instruments, and among my favorites is the saxophone, especially tenor and soprano.  I love the way it responds to me as I play, the resonance of the sound through my body as I blow through the mouthpiece.  When all things are clicking, it can truly be an extension of my conscious intention.  Considering that today, November 6 is “Saxophone Day” in honor of its inventor Adolf Sax (born in Belgium on this day in 1814) it seems only fitting that I pay homage to this wonderful instrument and the art form that it calls home.  The saxophone to me is an honest mistress in that it rarely cuts me any slack, meaning that if I’m not on my game and prepared to give it everything that it needs, totally committed to the instrument fully and completely, it will let me know in no uncertain terms.  But when I give the instrument what it requires, the rewards are immediately gratifying.

I’ve been playing for many years now, but have yet to come close to mastering this temperamental tempest.  In many ways it’s served as my own personal barometer in terms of where I might be spiritually at any given moment in my life.  When I’m in the zone, there is no sweeter sound and feeling, no greater unification of improvisational intention and tactile fulfillment – no greater temporal unification of cause and effect.  When I’m not in the zone, it can be a mentally frustrating staccato exercise of force vs. allow.   I like playing all types of music, but more than any other I love traditional and contemporary jazz.  The free-flowing improvisational nature of this medium allows me to express myself in ways that nothing else seems to.  It is one of those rare forms of expression that is both instantly fulfilling and potentially transcendent, where the musician can become the actual music; much like when the dancer becomes the dance.

I bring this intimate partnership of self-expression to light because I have always found a very strong and consistent correlation between my ongoing musical journey and what I experience in my everyday spiritual life.  The importance of commitment to cause and being in the moment at any given time are truly the aspirational exponents of a life fulfilled as a conscious spiritual being.  The ability to creatively improvise during the course of one’s life experience, especially when life throws you curveball after curveball, is what often separates the successful individual from the one filled with stress, strife and dis-ease.  Also, the commitment to engage and practice your craft on a regular basis is an absolutely essential component to anyone’s success, no matter what the focus of attention may be.  All of these factors go into our daily journey as spiritual beings inhabiting a physical body and living in this 3D realm.  This is what we all must do in order to ensure success in our daily life experience. 

But please take in the significance of what I am trying to share with you as a metaphor for life; in order to achieve any level of improvisational proficiency, whether it is musical improvisation or creatively working through the challenges of life, you need to practice your craft; you need to engage.  I muddle through my scales and arpeggios regularly to enable me the enjoyment of free-form expression that is musical improvisation.  As this relates to life, we must proactively engage life in such a way as to determine our own course, taking into account the importance of improvisational/creative flexibility in the process.  We cannot be so rigid as to be unable to adapt to change and creatively work through the curves that life often throws at us.  Within the framework of this proficiency lies the importance of maintaining a strong spiritual foundation, and maintaining it regularly.  This comes down to practicing your spirituality on a daily basis; your spiritual scales and arpeggios take on the forms of your prayers, mantras, visualizations and affirmations.  Balance is key, not sweating the small stuff is essential, and being conscious cause as opposed to unwilling effect is crucial.  To paraphrase Maya Angelou, “…When you know better, you do better.”

The same skill sets that I apply to my quest for musical proficiency are the same skill sets that I apply to my life; it’s just a matter of application.  What matters most is the courage to engage life in such a way that you are fully committed to creating what you want in such a way that it expresses your full potential.  Sri Shakti Gawain expressed this sentiment in a wonderful passage that she wrote in one of her books entitled, Creative Visualization.  She said, “I like to think of myself as an artist, and my life is my greatest work of art.  Every moment is a moment of creation, and each moment of creation contains infinite possibilities.  I can do things the way I’ve always done them, or I can look at all the different alternatives, and try something new and different and potentially more rewarding.  Every moment presents a new opportunity and a new decision. What a wonderful game we are all playing, and what a magnificent art form…”

We are all truly the masters of our respective universes, and despite any attempts by outside forces to manipulate and limit our full capability of expression, we must never forget our true nature, our true potential.  You must never allow anything (other than your higher-self and your connection to Source) to dictate who and what you are in the greater scheme of things.  As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently stated “…No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

So it’s time for you to play some jazz.  It’s time for you to creatively compose and perform that beautiful music that is you.  It is time to make a personal commitment to your own spiritual growth and development, and live as an aware and awakened Soul.  You have the potential, you have the power.  No one can take it away from you unless you let them.  But you must also put in the daily practice to maintain the all-important Spiritual awareness and nature that is you.  Just like the scales, arpeggios, and lyrical phrases that I play consistently to keep me strong in ability and fluid in my skill set, so too do we all need to practice our spiritual exercises daily, whatever that may mean for you, to keep yourself in balance and able to maneuver the treacherous waters that are a part of our everyday existence.   If you put in the work, and remain conscious and in the moment, living in the now but creating your future by virtue of what you choose to think (NOW), you will become the spiritual master that you were meant to be.  Yours will be the Spiritual Jazz that will forever be an inspiration to others.  So play well, turn on some Coltrane or Parker, be inspired… and stay cool.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Off the Grid

As I peak my head out from the bunker to try and catch a few rays, I log back in with family, friends and my many fellow travelers who’ve been so supportive during this hiatus. I reconnect now with all of you to simply say, “Hello, I’m back”. Thank you all for your love, understanding and support, both online and off.

It’s been quite a tumultuous year so far, but of course, I don’t need to tell you that, you’ve lived it as much as I have. With the constant specter of a bleak economic future and a relentless unemployment rate stagnating around 9+% nationwide, ongoing threats of world terrorism, increasing signs of global warming, and a gnawing divisive/polarizing fundamentalism permeating our planet, all of us, in one way or another are being affected by and caught up in the growing angst of our times. Like so many of you, I’ve been dealing with what might best be described as a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs juggling act. Moving back and forth between the layers, living paycheck-to-paycheck with the challenges that ensue while simultaneously being (consciously) aware of the subtle yet emergent energetic Spiritual forces at play (within our dynamic universe and multiverse). This can create an unrelenting and annoying distraction from our true nature, purpose, focus, and identity as Spiritual beings. Let us never forget that we are Spiritual beings inhabiting a physical body, on an unending journey and quest for Source enlightenment and growth. Out of this dynamic morass of dueling consciousness comes a never-ending need for personal balance directly impacting the prospect for Spiritual growth. Everything is about choice.

Let us also never forget that all things are Spiritual; that there is nothing that is not of a Spiritual significance, providing an opportunity for us to learn and grow. That being said, it is important to acknowledge that we do not exist within a level playing field, that there are forces on the move designed to keep us out-of-balance and constantly within the ubiquitous specter of fear. Is this by design? There are those that certainly ascribe to this theory. Whether it is true or not will serve as grist for the mill of future discussion and dialogue. Assuming for a moment that this assertion has some merit, how do we deal with it; what are we to do about it?

As I mentioned earlier, everything is about choice. You can choose your thoughts and your consciousness during every waking moment (and inner experience). Notice that I used the word “can”. Many of us understand this truth intellectually, but fail to exercise our God-given right of self-awareness and self-expression. We often allow ourselves to be effect and not cause, subsequently forfeiting freewill with groupthink. As I have said in many earlier entries, vigilance is key. We are in a time now where it feels as though we must constantly tread water just to maintain a sense of “normal”, and constantly swim upstream against the tide in order to grow and progress. Despite our conditioning, it is important for everyone to understand and realize that this is not normal and should not be considered as such.

The current world experience that we all share is the exception within our multi-layered existence and not the rule. We are surviving in a dysfunctional holographic matrix. Acceptance of this pervasive “normal” is your choice, and many have consciously and/or unconsciously accepted this dysfunction as the way things simply are. But within the reality of everyone’s personal universe is in fact a choice as to whether or not you want your consciousness to be held captive within this matrix, or to rise above it while still physically existing within it; in essence “Being in this world but not of it.” This is the constant juggling act of Maslow that I spoke of earlier. We have to do the daily things of this world in order to survive (that’s just how it is), but we have a choice as to whether or not we will live within the victim/victimizer consciousness of the times as we maneuver these waters.

We who are conscious truth seekers and awakened Souls becoming more and more aware of our incarnational contracts and life purpose, must break out of these restrictive shackles and become the true conduits of Source energy we were commissioned to be. Again, it is our choice. Yes, you have bills that are due and financial debts you are struggling to pay, you are appropriately concerned about finding a job or keeping your home, but these things do not define who and what you are; they do not define your value within the universe, within God’s unconditional love. Please make a conscious and concerted effort to delineate yourself from your surroundings and/or circumstances and live within your higher truth. You are not the situation you are dealing with. You are, however, responsible for your own personal universe and as such have free will to change it based on your level of consciousness and ability of direct manifestational change. REMEMBER WHO AND WHAT YOU ARE, a spark of God-Source.

This has been and continues to be my journey, and I have made the conscious choice and effort to continue the fight, not giving in to the negative consciousness. As a practical nature, some of this choice involves removing myself from the 24/7/365 information cycles of our times, and only allowing that which is positive and uplifting to enter my life and consciousness. The rest of it has to do with practicing my daily spiritual rituals and exercises that keep me in balance and above the fray. My ongoing discussions are not as much about the mechanics (though there may be some helpful suggestions shared and considered along the way) as much as it is about making sure you keep the faith, the focus, and continue to fight the good fight. We’re all in this together; we are all ONE. My love goes out to all of you and I look forward to your continued dialogue and insights as we respectively pay it forward. Blessed be and Namaste.