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Spontaneity and the divine

Spontaneity and the divine.

 

The wind blows close to the heart. Amongst all the imaginings there resides an actuality. Not a thought, a solid, true way of living where one feels the strength of the eternal. For those who reach out for something more than the day to day existence of work, eating watching TV and sleeping, those who seek their meaning and the essence of their being, together we can find answers.

This opening paragraph was not premeditated. It comes as far as possible from the unconscious as it is written, as does all truly creative work.

The purpose of this writing is to look at and explore the depth of spontaneity, in nature, in art, science, everything and to see the possibility of a divine force at work in all growth. To encourage us to seek our inner being, to see the depth of our subconscious and ultimately to find and know God. Not to believe but to know!

When he was young and taking his first steps in learning to play the guitar, Bernard the author of this piece (this shall be written in the third person since it helps one remain detached and less egotistical) learnt a very simple riff of three notes from a number by the ‘Pink Floyd’ called ‘Set the controls for the heart of the sun’. That name in itself within the context of this writing could well prove to be extremely symbolic, since it is the sun which is the source of all light, in which we see things as they are. Already the unconscious is becoming conscious.

Once these three notes were worked out, adding one or two more notes here and there made the experience more enjoyable, until eventually the whole scale became incorporated. This meant that every time this tune was played it was different and had a greater capacity to pick up the particular mood of the occasion. In other words it was always in the present moment. Even when you listen to a recording of improvised music it has that quality of ethereal illusiveness, which is not something one easily tires of and why it has the capacity to make even the simplest music come alive. Since it was made in the present moment it takes you into that present moment.

It is looking into those creative processes that we are to explore. It is not only in the arts that spontaneity plays a major roll; it is in sport, science, all fields. Take war for example, there was a situation in the Falkland’s war when after a British Commanding officer was killed; the second in command was at a loss as to what to do. He decided to ask the Argentines to surrender which they duly did. It was at night and it was only then that they discovered that the British were far outnumbered by the Argentines. This spontaneous act did however save a lot of bloodshed.

When you look at it, all conflict is spontaneous, since one never knows what the outcome is going to be. How is the opposition going to react on the day? How many times has the underdog overcome great opposition and gone totally against the odds? In sport, it is the excitement of not knowing that, that draws people to it.

Now we are going to explore a state of spontaneity which for the present we shall call the zone. It is in that state where effortlessly we are on top of our game, focussed and inspired. The first experience for B of being consciously being ‘in the zone’ happened two weeks after acquiring a saxophone. One night he was trying to play along with the Miles Davis track ‘So What’ from the ‘Kind of Blue’ album.

This piece of music in itself deserves a mention here in its relation to the history of Spontaneity. Miles turned up at the studio with the barest of compositions for each track, which had been written hours before and which the musicians had never played. Each track was then recorded in one take.

On the sleeve notes by Bill Evans, pianist on most of the tracks says:

‘There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.

The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see will find something captured that escapes explanation.’

This record became one of the quintessential jazz albums of all time.

We seem to be going off to a tangent at the moment, but no worry that is where we explore and find out things, as in getting lost we discover places we never knew existed. We will come back to the track.

Reading that last sentence of Bill Evans made me take look at the first sentence again ‘The wind blows close to the heart’. It was written without thought just to get the words flowing across the page. More than once the thought has been there to get rid of it since it is not clear what the meaning of it is. It was unconscious. It could however mean something different to anyone who reads it, as in poetry or a lot of art, we make of it what we will, thus making it a part of our selves. It gives us a feeling as oppose to a thought. We start to sense the collective spirit.

It is often the case that the person who is the vehicle for something’s transmission has no full comprehension as to the full meaning of their action. Bob Dylan always dislikes talking about the meaning of his songs and would appear never to analyze them.

There is also the story of Socrates who when told that the oracle of the Goddess of Delphi had claimed that he was the wisest man on earth, went out to disprove it by finding someone who was wiser than he. One of these was a writer of illuminating works, who on close inspection was found to be lacking in any real understanding of what he had written. He was quite happy how ever to take all the credit and due to the praise of all those around him had become very egotistical. Socrates so concluded that he himself was after all better off since he at least knew that he did not know everything and the same was to be found with those others he inspected. He also realized that wisdom was not his anyway since it all came from God.

Getting back to the being in the zone for that first time, it happened that suddenly there was no longer any trying about it. The improvisation took off, completely effortlessly. All the notes took their time and place, it was like flying, just going where ever one needed to go, completely focussed and inspired. This was a great revelation.

The revelation continued the next evening when convinced that the art of improvisation had been cracked, the saxophone was picked up once again to attain the heights of the previous evening. Whatever it was that had happened on that occasion had sadly departed and it was back to the flat routine of playing the notes and stiff little fingers.

This phenomenon will be recognised by anyone who has experienced a moment of inspiration. The more gifted of us will be able to get into this mode if not at will but on a more regular basis. By the mind boggling amount of work that Mozart churned out, he must have been in this ‘state of grace’ all the time.

And thus the search for the deeper level of existence began, which although thoroughly frustrating on occasions at least displayed there was more to life than ‘the day to day existence of work, eating watching TV and sleeping’.

The next few experiences of being in the zone happened when playing music with other people. This displayed an even more interesting phenomenon of collectively, in that the team gelled to the extent of being telepathic, so a sudden change would take place and you would all make that change together without a word or a sign being made. This is a really exciting thing to witness, be it in music, sport or whatever. Even in music that is not improvised there are moments where the musicians come together in a certain magic that is difficult to put ones finger on. One only knows that the performance is flat if it is not there.

One can call it genius. The ancient Greeks and Romans would talk of genius as an outside entity, in that if performer performed badly he would not be frowned on, since it was the genius that had not showed up on that particular occasion. The genius only gives ego when one starts to believe it to be ones own, and it is a great thing to encounter people who have the humility to recognise it is not theirs.

It is how ever one of the greatest frustrations of any artist is to play like a god in practice and then go nowhere near the zone in performance. In the film ‘Bird on a wire’ about a tour of singer song writer Leonard Cohen in the sixties, it shows the last concert of the tour where he refuses to go on because he recognises that he is not getting into the zone.

It can be said for less experienced performers that self consciousness helps to deny one the key to the zone. Stage fright can be overcome by realizing that it is only vanity. It is only by letting go of the self that one becomes a vehicle for something greater, and if the result is divine then one can only call it the divine. The jazz drummer Art Blakey once declared mid concert ‘This music is coming directly to you from the creator!’

Another jazz musician (forget who) said ‘When I become my instrument and my instrument becomes me I am no longer human!’ This has been put in a similar way in Hindu text saying: ’when the flute is completely empty then Sri Krishna can play through it’.

This would suggest we have to let go of something or surrender. Apparently this is the meaning of ‘Islam’, so in religious terms we are surrendering to the will of God or letting be. It is said that children found it easy to listen to free jazz in which there is no set key or chord structure and totally spontaneous, in contrast to classical music where everything is predetermined and you will hear pretty much what you expect to hear. If there is no demand on the music one will receive everything. Surrender produces this paradox that by letting go one achieves complete order.

A wise person is able to see meaning in everything. So for example if there is some natural event like heavy snow or a volcano erupting preventing people from flying, instead of getting frustrated, those with wisdom will see that their destiny is elsewhere and see some fortuitous reason for it. Unlike the executive who was told her flight was cancelled because of volcanic ash in the air exclaimed “What even business class?”

It is when nature takes over that we realize that humans do not dominate the show.

Of course we must not surrender to injustice, but to except whatever comes our way for a reason and to deal with it in a state of clarity and balance. It is anger that clouds our judgement and takes us away from the zone. We need to find out how to let our true nature take over.

Searches for the zone lead B to look at ‘cool’. This term first began to mean ‘relaxed, self composed’ when black jazz musicians were touring the southern states of America in the nineteen forties prior to the civil rights movement. It was consciously used to overcome and stay on top of the negative situations encountered on those occasions. It then entered fashion through the music they were playing emphasizing a restrained, laid-back solo style so embodied in ‘Kind of Blue’.

How then does one maintain cool amidst the stresses and trials of life? The obvious lead was to find out how to meditate since it is the only way to consciously relax and become master of one self. We need to understand that meditation is not done it just is! When the attention becomes one with whatever it is involved in, it is then we get a result. One night after a good meditation, B could hardly drive the car and listen to some music at the same time, so absorbing was the music.

There is no thought at this point only pure focus. Thoughts only put the attention elsewhere and not into the present moment. That is where real spontaneity takes place.

It is said, (whether it is true is debatable) that we only use one third of the capacity of our brain, but when we hand over our action to pure intuition are we not negating use of the brain all together and dipping into a superior source that of the collective unconscious? The real power is not our brain but being able to see the reality of what is happening automatically around us. Being in that space where everything makes sense. When Einstein discovered the laws of relativity he did not experiment, it just came to him spontaneously. When Newton saw an apple drop from a tree it spontaneously came to him as to how gravity worked. All great innovations take place spontaneously.

It has also been B’s experience that an idea which has appeared and not acted been upon, subsequently gets used by someone else. For example he imagined a garlic crusher that could be inverted and have prongs on the back that would clean out the holes where the crushed garlic comes through. These are now available in the shops and needless to say B has not got the copy right on them.

This also nearly happened to Charles Darwin. He sat on his ‘evolution by natural selection’ theory for twenty years before a young naturalist Alfred Wallace, wrote to him showing that he too had come to the same conclusion about evolution, thus forcing Darwin to publish. It also states in ‘The Origin of species’ that ‘this classic story of scientific convergence has been told many times’.

It would seem at a given moment certain things are to take place. It is often seen that a decision taken on the spur of the moment has greater affect than one that has been deliberated over for a period of time. Certainly when it comes to creating music those ideas that flow are superior to the ones that one has taken time over and as it were forced into being.

You can hear that Mozart was a great improviser. There is a story of him auditioning for the job of Cathedral organist, being unable to resist improvising a chorus of a fugue and so failing to get the job! The flow of his music has that spontaneity, to play it feels similar to improvising. The output of work alone showed that there was little time for deliberation. As a friend put it, the output was like that of a computer. The genius was with him as far as we can see most, if not all the time. He was writing on occasions like Miles Davis, so shortly before the performance that the musicians would be playing it for the first time in the performance!

Writing.

What qualifies the author to write these things? Certainly it is not a university education. It is the fact that he has had that glimpse of being there in the zone and struggled to find it. That struggle in itself may be why there is a desire to make others aware of something they themselves have experienced but not acknowledged. It is surprising how few people take an interest in their deeper nature.

Another insight into the depth of improvisation happened through writing. The style of writing where one writes as fast as possible as demonstrated at the beginning was used by Jack Kerouac. Kerouac used it like the jazz music he loved. Like Toasting in Reggae which later became rapping, it delves into the subconscious and can have a depth completely unexpected by the listener/reader performer/writer alike. B used to toast a reggae number in a band he was playing in, and there were times when the music would come to a halt in complete astonishment as to what was coming out of the unconscious.

Theatre.

‘Improv’ or improvised theatre is now a well established art form. There is what are known as ‘improvathons’, 50 hour marathons, where the actors work themselves into such a state that profound things will reveal themselves.

There was an improvised theatre TV program ‘Whose line is it anyway?’ out of which a lot of the comedy game shows have now come into vogue, showing that spontaneous humour is the best. Even when you see a stand up live, the best humour is that which adlib is. It stands to reason that an audience enjoys a performer who is enjoying themselves. Something is funny for the first time and then wears off, therefore gags that are used night after night cannot be as entertaining to the performer as the sharpness of his own wit. Of course gags need to be there as a prop to the improvisation in the same way tunes need to be there for improvising musicians, in case the inspiration does not kick in.

Charlie Parker.

It is rare that artists have that gift of being totally spontaneous. One of the great improvisers of all time was ‘Charlie ‘Yard bird’ Parker’. One of the ways this is shown by the recordings they have released of his outtakes. In the studio when most of the musicians would be feeling their way into a solo, Bird would be strait in there, so that when a recording was cut due to someone making a mistake, Birds solos on the second and subsequent takes would be completely different since he had said what he had had to say on the first take and moved on!

His playing so it is said is to have so demoralized fellow Sax player Dean Benedetti that he went and threw his saxophone off Brooklyn Bridge. After that he followed Bird around recording his solos only and cutting out the rest of the band. This was done illegally, so that sometimes it was done from an adjoining toilet or as legend has it renting a room above the venue and drilling a hole through the floor so he could drop a microphone through!

There are stories of Bird when jamming with musicians in central park in the middle of the night for want of anywhere else to play, incorporating the sound of airplanes flying overhead, traffic honking owls hooting etc. into his solos. On one occasion a piano player overawed at playing with the great master, fumbled and played to him a duff note he had not intended to play. Bird standing behind him turned to him and said “Wow what was that?!!!”

This goes on to show that there is no such thing as a mistake. An improviser will take something unintentional and use it to create something new and even more interesting, to build on it. If we are in the right frame of mind we can see that everything is as it is supposed to be. There is a Chinese word which is the same for crisis and opportunity, or as is said as one door shuts another opens etc. Life although we don’t like to admit it is improvised. We never know what is going to happen. Thinking gives us false hope or vain fear if we are futuristic and if we look at the past it is regret for what we have done badly or for good times no longer with us. By thinking we forget the present and what is here and now, which is in truth only that which can be acted upon. There is an old oxford dictionary that states that ‘existentialism’ is ‘an anti intellectualistic philosophy that states that reality can only be done and not thought about’. Sartre (a strange irony that he should epitomize the intellectual), on meeting Charlie Parker declared him to be the embodiment of existentialism.

Once again Bill Evans from the ‘Kind of Blue’ sleeve notes:

“This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflection, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician.

Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking”, (Which we are starting to establish is done by not thinking at all), “there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved on this recording.”

Free jazz

Miles Davis took jazz through various changes, from the bebop of Charlie Parker which opened up improvisation to the use of the chromatic scale which for non musicians is all twelve notes as oppose to the usual seven notes of a scale, or you can say it is using the all the black notes on a piano as well as the white ones. At the time of ‘Kind of blue’ Miles was using modal keys. ‘So what’ uses D Dorian mode which in simple terms means that it is the same notes as the key of C major but the root note is D. Indian music to which we will shortly be coming, uses these different modes and more. By the sixties Miles’s music discarded key and chord structure all together and took on the music developed by the likes of Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy and Sunra in the fifties known as free jazz. It became known as playing tennis without a net since as you can imagine most people saw little point to it and questioned as to whether it could be called music at all.

In B’s opinion it did and still does serve a purpose. Discord in music as in life brings us out of complacency, it wakes us up. In Indian music there is a note they call the thief because it steels the Raga (scale or mode), and a master musician will use it for that purpose, to grab the audience’s attention. Indian music can be soporific if one is not totally tuned in, so the audience can be aroused by the use of these notes.

At that time in the sixties human rights were coming to the boil in the states. Jazz had been born out of the years of cruelty and obscenities against the black people. That screech in the dark must have been a culmination of all that. John Coltrane (who by the way was also on the ‘Kind of Blue’ album), was a friend of the Indian Sitar player Ravi Shankar. During the last years of his life Coltrane produced records that are extremely demanding to listen to. Shankar remarked “this is the sound of a tortured soul”. As the final boundaries of music fell this was a cry for freedom.

Out of chaos comes order. For some that was the stepping off point. Rock musician (?) Captain Beefheart took to the stage with a saxophone to play all night not knowing what the notes were or how to play the thing, to mimic John Coltrane’s ‘living musical sculpture’. Without any technical abilities people were able to make a noise and be accepted for it. This was reflected in the Punk movement of the seventies which again awoke the musical establishment from their complacency.

At that time B went to play one night with a London improvisational group who proudly announced they had not touched their instruments since they had last met. The interesting thing about that evening was that at one point some teenagers came in from the street and joined in. They were intent as making as much noise they could with the instruments they picked up, without any intention of listening to what everyone else was playing. This brought out that what we had been doing prior to that moment the noise had been a collective nurturing one.

This kind of thing is probably better appreciated as a participation sport. Free jazz for want of a better word still has a place in that it can teach people to improvise. When there is no improvisation there is little innovation going on. When improvisation is going on there is experimentation, it is a laboratory for creativity.

Improvisation seems to be held in a myth of some kind of esoteric high brow realm and that one has to have attained an advanced technical ability before one can take part. Someone said that had they told their child that they were off to an art class to learn how to draw. The child’s response was “Why, have you forgotten how to?” Give a bunch of small kids a musical instrument or a paint brush each and you know what will happen. Learning how to improvise should be a key skill as to how we live our lives.

Indian classical music

The Indians talk of musical notes falling into two categories, the struck (or blown) and the unstruck. The unstruck are the silent ethereal notes which of course are part of the structure of all music. It has added poignancy in that in Indian classical music the aim is silence. There should be if it is done right, complete silence at the end of a performance, as the whole purpose is to take one into meditation. Usually in the west the audience is so blown away by the musical dexterity of the artist that it is impossible not to applaud.

It is hoped that people will not be offended if it is stated that Indian classical music is the most highly evolved music of all. Certainly it does not contain the intricacies of harmony that western classical music has, that the west may teach the east in terms of integration and all that it entails in regard to living in harmony.

Jazz as has been said was born of suffering and although some jazz can be said not to portray angst it does not come from the position of balance that Indian music does. It may be noted that the white man gave the Indians a hard time too. It is a sign of their passive nature that they came out of the colonial days with less resentment.

Indian music is also older. It has come out of meditation. The Ragas are scales that come in many forms and shapes as they use the tones, (gaps between notes) semitones and quarter tones in far greater variety than western music does. It is profoundly subtle in that there are ragas for different weather, times of day, seasons of the year and for the different subtle centres within the spiritual body.

The sounds of the Tablas (drums) also relate to the different sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet (the ancient language of Mantras).

They also pay such reverence to their instruments that if one should do so much as step over an instrument they pull their ears, a gesture of asking forgiveness.

On top of this they are so highly disciplined that they can play for hours in what would be seen in the west as one chord. If they have a receptive crowd they will play an Alaap (an unaccompanied introduction without rhythm) for over an hour! Rarely is that witnessed in the west. That is hard to do just for a few minutes.

Evolution

Bernard is by profession a gardener, he is thus witness to the daily spontaneity of nature, the way things evolve by natural selection. On a TV program called ‘The genius of Darwin’, the atheist Richard Dawkins tried to disprove the existence of God using Darwin’s theories. As the program progressed it had the effect of showing the wonder of creation. It may have had the effect of disproving God to be an old man with a beard, but then having read a lot of different scriptures that is yet to be seen as a description of God. God is described as Pure Consciousness, Life, Love, Nature, Truth, Compassion, Mercy, Beauty, Light, The word and Forgiveness. The existence of all these are hard to deny. They are difficult to conceive, they are also contributing factors to creation. By saying ‘he’ created us is humanizing God, but to say we are born out of these things could be said that we are born out of God.

It is so that we witness all of nature as a spontaneous act from the germination of a seed, to the eruption of a volcano. Spontaneously nature competes for resources that spontaneously come from elsewhere. The seed will be nourished from the nutrient rich ash from the previous eruption of a volcano. Then unless cultivated by a gardener it will have to compete for water and light with all the other plants growing up around it. All the time it is adapting to the prevailing conditions which is what we are doing when improvising collectively.

One can say that the more readily one is to improvise the more likely one is to survive.

How then are we going to evolve? Are we going to turn into a blob of mush that is tuned into a computer that will for fill all our requirements, providing us with food, entertainment, disposing of our waste and computing our reproduction for us? Trees, lakes and Mountains will become a distant memory or a virtual experience devoid of risk. No soaking in the rain, no burning in the sun, no insect bites, no nettle stings, no weary feet, no danger apart from power failure. Health and safety will have made the outdoors out of bounds, mass suicides will take place due to the banality of life.

But woe, here we are making projections into the future. It is just imagination. How many projections of the future have come into being?

There is already an alternative, a way of becoming a balanced personality. This whole piece is designed to bring us all to the next stage of evolution. The first stage was to find food, warmth and shelter. Since then we have been developing materially and spiritually. Materially we have reached the stage when barely a day goes by without some amazing kind of gadget appearing on the market. Spiritually many would say we have lost our way. The more we engage with the material the less we have time for the spiritual to the point it seems no longer a reality.

However growth is still being made. A seed becomes a plant or a human being, which in turn bare their own fruit. All this happens without the intervention of a scientist or engineer. It happens of its own volition in the same way great art, sporting moments, scientific breakthrough do, spontaneously!

The next stage of evolution is to maximize that potential by humans understanding themselves and allowing (risking sounding corny) the force to flow through them. We can see in collective ventures the capacity to respond to one and other without verbal communication, much as a large group of starlings will move around the sky. It has been experienced in meditation that people are there just when they need each other. The suggestion is therefore that we work towards a state where we can all work in total harmony, not just with each other but with nature and the cosmos as a whole.

It is said in Tao Te Ching, the teachings of the Chinese sage Lao Tse: “The Tao that is spoken is not the sacred Tao”. The same can be said about the next step, to understand it you have to be it. If any of what has been said previously has made any connection then there is the seed.

To germinate the seed there is a process known as ‘Sahaja Yoga’. ‘Sahaja’ is Sanskrit and means ‘born within’ or ‘spontaneous’. Within us all at the base of the spine in the sacrum bone resides a maternal energy known as Kundalini. When the Kundalini is awakened it rises up the spinal column enlightening seven centres known as chakras which relate to the various physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects about us. On reaching the sixth centre just above and between the eyes in the optic chasm known as the third eye, one starts to go into meditation, a state known as thoughtless awareness. This does not mean you cannot think or that you are being clumsy or stupid, that state is on the contrary in that you are thinking about something other than the task in hand. When one is really thoughtless then one is in a heightened state of awareness and at one with whatever is being undertaken. You are in the present moment because all thought relates to the past or the future, mulling over what has to be done or what is to be done.

Meditation is a very quiet peaceful state to be in, where all those things troubling us take a moments respite. The longer one can maintain this state the more one becomes an untroubled personality.

On reaching the seventh centre the Kundalini gives us what is called as self realization. This is prophesized in all the true scriptures. Despite the discrepancies of relay and translation they all talk of some kind of emancipation that takes place.

Since one of the effects of self realization is not only to recognize the truth within but to recognize it without, one is in a position to recognize the truths that lie within the scriptures and to understand that they are all one. After all virtue is virtue never mind what book it comes from.

So how do we get this self realization? It is best done through a practitioner of Sahaja yoga of whom the following website will put you in touch. Failing that it will help get you started. www.sahajayoga.org.uk

It is the great teacher, guide, catalyst, what ever, the late ‘Sri Mataji Nirmala Devi’ who has given us this final insight into how to awaken this consciousness. For her memory that this has been written and for which we shall be eternally grateful.

May love help you to grow and evolve.


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