Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Blues

It seems there is a lot of change happening in the world. Japan may have become a third world country overnight, revolutions are springing up everywhere, and even in my personal world, things are changing. I spoke with my friend Kusala, a Buddhist monk, this morning about the decision he and his community had to make about ending the life of their much beloved dog, Mitch. In Buddhism, there are only a few basic rules, and one of them is to not take life. The other main tennet in Buddhism is to not cause suffering. So what do you do when you have an old dog who cannot take in food anymore, and is suffering in his waking life? Which precept do you choose to disobey? I can't imagine being in that position. After what I imagine was a long series of discussions, the community decided to put Mitch down, to end his suffering.

I am going through a lot of personal changes too. My trip to Italy got me thinking about what I really want out of this life. It's a cliche to say that life is short, but it's true.  Whenever tragedies happen in the world, I start to think deeply about what matters in life. Tragedies in the world also make me sad.

Kusala and I talked this morning about staying present during times of difficult change. In mindfulness meditation, you sit for 20 minutes (average) and you pay close attention to every feeling that comes up. In music, the same kind of awareness is needed in order to play a piece well. The reason people practice mindfulness meditation is so they will be prepared for the difficult times. I notice that as sad feelings come up for me, during my own time of change, what I have learned in meditation and music practice is to stay centered and simply observe, and most importantly, to not attach myself to the feelings. They always pass, and attachment is what causes more suffering to occur.

Kusala is an avid music lover. This morning we talked about how music like the Blues has a way of taking a sad emotion and literally changing the chemistry in our brains. It elevates our mood. I am listening to Jazz and Blues constantly these days. Kusala is doing the same, also playing his new Tenor guitar, which in my opinion, is an even better way to reap the benefits of mood-elevating music.

We also contemplated the actual birth of the blues. The Blues was created by African slaves and freed slaves. I can't think of any other group in American history that suffered more than they did. And to think that they came up with one of the most therapeutic music forms of all time is amazing. Kusala said that we should feel very grateful to them. I agree.

Isn't it amazing how suffering can sometimes bring up new ideas for creating joy and peace? Right now we are living during one of those times.  A lot of change is happening. A lot of chaos and sadness is running throughout the world. Are you feeling it in your own life?

There is always opportunity in every difficult time. Chaos gives us a chance to think about what we really want out of life. Is another iPod really that important? Or would you rather spend your money taking all of your closest friends out to dinner to spend time with them? For me, I feel like music and friendship are the most important things. And also learning how to feel compassion for myself. Peace can only come when we feel love for ourselves, patience for others, and awareness of what makes us really happy. ***after publishing, I realized that there has indeed been another group who has suffered greatly in our history: the American Indians. My mistake.
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