Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Blues & Spirituality

“The Blues” most commonly refers to: feeling down and out or a style of music characterized by the tonality of the blues scale, prominent rhythm, and improvisation. I’m no stranger to feeling down and out, and my two favorite bluesmen are B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. But what do “The Blues” have to do with spirituality?

Well, we could start with reality, move on to the deeper layers of Self, pass on through the trinity, and end up at presence. So let’s see how that might work.

On an individual level, reality is what we’re actually experiencing. Basic. Very. However, most commonly, we’re conditioned to restrict and/or suppress our awareness of our own emotional experience. Either we’re taught that emotions like anger and sadness are bad, or maybe it’s the other extreme: we must always be aggressive and on the defensive to make our way in the world. It doesn’t matter so much which specific emotions we’re taught to guard against the outcome is: LIMITED.

Who cares?

Well, if we were created by a Creator or are simply the energetic expression of quantum-waves, by ignoring our full emotional experience we’re moving toward a distorted, stunted version of Self. Emotions are experienced on a spectrum, with blissful, loving emotions on one end, and angry, sad feelings on the other. When we shut out our experience of being down and out, we also shut out ecstatic bliss. “The Blues” really are part of life, and embracing the whole of who one is can lead to all sorts of unexpected and liberating places!

What about deeper layers of Self?

Well, the deeper we dive into to our inner realms, the more richness we can mine. Our superficial layers of consciousness are forever sorting out our “acceptable” qualities to put on display, not only to the world, but—well, to our conscious Selves, too.

I’d argue that the tonality of the blues scale and harmony, as distinct from the diatonic system of Western music, seeps past self-imposed psychological barriers to access a deeper well of being. Major tones and harmonies are denoted as happy and uplifting, while minor ones carry the connotation of melancholy and sorrow. “The Blues” blends major and minor modes into a single, cohesive harmonic system. Thus the musical heritage of “The Blues” is by its nature wholistic.

What about the trinity of body-mind-spirit? I defy you to sit still—physically, emotionally, or spiritually—while listening to “The Blues”. Syncopated rhythms, riffs that sway with sensuality, and lyrical phrasing that defies imposed structure not only enter the myriad closed rooms of our psyches, they settle in, bringing with them comfort, fresh air, and light.

You always feel good after listening to “The Blues”.

Which brings me to presence. Improvisation, a hallmark of the blues, is nothing if not being here now. Moved by the spirit. Channeling the divine.

Enjoy John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana performing The Healer.