Jazz Clubs for the Rational Soul

I love the idea of jazz clubs. A neat little place you can go and just soak in the vibes, alone and without an invite if necessary. Enjoying the music. Right? Wrong. Well, right for some people and wrong for some people. Or is it? Let me tell you a story.
I’ve been to jazz clubs a few times. I’ve never much enjoyed it yet I cling to the idea of it and insist on going anyway, perhaps because I’m outlandishly open to experience. Some people easily find their flow there I assume. They find the music itself is easy to be lost in. The society is agreeable and soothing. I have found that most often people at jazz gigs are themselves musicians in some degree. I myself can play the piano (self-taught). Music is by no means my strongest intelligence or interest though, learning it was an uphill climb and playing it soon gets tiresome. For someone with a literary or logical bend live music can really suck. Basically I just end up in my head trying different things to figure out how to enjoy it and fit in to no avail, and also reasoning whether that is indeed the optimal thing to aim for, meanwhile the music is happening and I’m not enjoying it all and perhaps harshing the vibes for other people too. Today though I went to a jazz gig and had a shit time as usual, but acutally had a series of cognitions and realisations which by the end of it had me enlightened about all such enquiry and most importantly: in flow.
I arrived expecting to join a Meetup but never actually found it. It was a beautiful yet narrow little place, cozy yet well ventilated – and right near my house. Rich wooden and red brick interior. Authentic feel. Nice courtyard with gorgeous summer weather and mysterious upper levels. I ordered a bowl of salt and vinegar crisps and a jasmine tea from the annoyingly grumpy yet pretty and forgiveable barmaid. Some middle-aged guy in a party shirt came up to me and got all in my space whilst welcoming me. He had a lot going on with the pores and everything on his face, it was a bit overwhelming and I’d need to see a photo to be sure. I thought it was awkward of him and perhaps he had autism, but he turned out either to be the owner or at least the ranking musician in the room. At this moment my best guess about why he was communicating in such a way was to assert a certain vibe or culture which he didn’t feel I was yet beholden enough to. He wanted me to react more and my state of being to include his reality more. He notified me that everyone in the room was a musician and to go to him if I needed anything. Basically I received the message that he was the boss.
The music started. I enjoy the first song, or rather I continued to enjoy life in spite of the first song. Actually I did like the music itself, very tasteful – it’s just the social pressure that can put you off soemtimes. The boss was on the piano. There were two young blokes on drums and bass respectively. I thought it was pretty funny that the guy was dominating the room so much. I also had the sense that leadership made it a tribe, and it’s always nice to have a tribe to go to. So I appreciated it despite finding it pretty obnoxious the way he was engaging eye contact with every single person in the room and talking freely whilst playing in a jazz trio. After about 5 seconds I pigeonholed him as a narcissist. Aren’t we all these days, though. 2 minutes in I identified him as being an ESFP. Truthfully I don’t know for sure but on the other hand I just know – I’m pretty damn sure. Something I read about ESFP’s recently: that they wanted nothing more than to be the host of a party and make everyone have a good time. That they have an intelligence for style and decorating.
I felt a discord between us and soon realised that he could tell I wasn’t getting into it and that he was trying to create a certain vibe in the room. It blows my mind that some people are just intuitively like that, it seems about as difficult as conducting a sympthony to me. I’m grateful that some people are though, it’s a valuable quality to have. Maybe I’ll give one a job creating vibes and being the centre of attention some day in part of my plan which occured through cognition. I wonder if he’s grateful for people that intuitively navigate the ideas that underpin society on every level or thinks we’re squares who ruin the vibes. In my own head (which is where I usually am) I reminded myself to sit up straight and release muscular tension. More than anything else this was so I didn’t stand out and to get more in flow, those are inseparable though in a jazz club aren’t they? Anyway that’s the first thing to do if you’re in a jazz club and not finding your flow: sit comfortably, up straight and release any muscular tension if you can.
After about the third song the host guy dropped some knowledge to the room. Interestingly my mind instantly seized upon that much more naturally than his piano playing. The advice was: “just listen to the bass line and you can’t go wrong”. Good to know. I still don’t know if he was talking about one specific song or jazz in general but I like the advice. The bass is a nice uncomplicated, comfortable sound. Like a pillow. I enjoyed it much more after that.
My third and final realisation was that these people were here for the vibes, the sensualness. Sitting down analysing for 30 minutes isn’t going to win you any friends. One thing I know about the emotional dimension of life is that a smidgen of love is a safe bet, almost always a good thing. It takes the edge off around people. It brings down the walls. That coziness and openness is part of the vision that guy had for the shared experience of the room, that’s what he was trying to create and I’m glad someone had a vision for it. Lesson learned. Situation understood. Goal defined. Enlist intellect to achieve higher oxytocin levels. Plan obtained: brief loving-kindness meditation focusing on feeling love and kindness for people in the room. Feelings of abundance, comfort and openness ensue. Self-consciousness subsides and mind quitens. People look at me more welcomingly, feeling greater rapport. Value in the room increases and waitresses seem to orbit around me. Enjoying the experience and drifting in and out of listening to baseline, getting lost in it. Seeing the trio as another man might and “getting it”. Feels natural to smile, sometimes alone and sometimes towards someone. Smiling in a jazz club is not a common thing by any means but stony faced revellers instantly light up when you do it to them and it’s inseparable from enjoying oneself. Felt like I was getting drunk on the experience of being in the room, intoxated. I left after the gig feeling like a new man. Newly creative, newly social, newly enlightened to different flavours and collaborations of personhood. Fresh off of a shared and open communal, musical, sunday afternoon experience.
So there you have it, three brief points of engagement to find your flow and enjoy a jazz gig:
1) Sit comfortably and release tension in muscles
2) When in doubt listen to baseline
3) A minute of loving kindness and a few smiles

Fear-Based Somatic Responses

Over the last few years I have been carrying a lot tension in my face. In my jaw, lips and eye sockets mostly. It looks unpleasantly contorted and often confusingly unrelated to the context. I also have a generally uptight way of carrying myself, with very stiff shoulders and (I’ve been told) awkward movements. Walking sideways or moving very slowly whilst dining. Sometimes I’d these wear these as a badge of pride, thinking they demonstrated an active mind – a hallmark of high intelligence. However I now believe that it’s rather undesirable and something which ought to be addressed if possible.
So this week starting a few days ago, I decided to start carrying myself with more confidence. That means not looking down so much, holding eye contact more, and consciously remembering loosen muscles when I feel them tighten. At first it was challenging; it felt incredibly vulnerable. It made me feel like I was being aggressive or elitist. It made me realise something important: we use muscular tension and mannerisms in response to a sense of vulnerability, and ultimately fear. It’s the body’s physical manifestation of nonacceptance and defence.
When you try to release muscular tension in situations where you usually carry it, the emotion which underlies it is feels completely out of control. Thus by practising conscious relaxation of muscles in these triggering situations one can both gain knowledge of our unhelpful emotional responses (it’s easier to name an emotion than a muscular tension) and also to practise letting go of them. I believe that emotions come in waves and amplitude lessens when we let them freely wash over us. Fear is diminished when you let your guard down in a situation and nothing bad happens. Confidence improves. less energy is wasted in muscular tension. The gaze softens. The voice becomes like honey. As the prefrontal cortex quietens down a richer and more noble intelligence blossoms, newly patient without the impetus of fear.
I’ve noticed clearly that how a man carries himself is linked essentially to his attractiveness and respectability. Survival and reproduction value. Same with women but not so much. With women I find that relaxed, upright posture despite vulnerability is the ultimate in feminine gracefulness – super attractive. Nervous gestures and defensive posture are tantamount to submissiveness or retreat. On the other hand confident body language inspires respect. Confidence correlates with leadership and status. There’s a beautiful phenomenon in humans: you can fake it until you make it. Improve the way you carry yourself and how you feel will follow.
I believe that a completely relaxed, slumpy posture is undesirable. Generally you want something that’s confident whilst situationally appropriate and congruent with who you are – “normal” for lack of a better word. It seems to me that the best way is to simply avoid defensive and nervous mannerisms. Notice what things you’re doing to pacify yourself and stop doing them. When you feel yourself tense up in response to a situation consciously try to relax those muscles and deal with the emotions instead. When you find yourself looking down around others, bring your gaze up. Stop nervous or protective gesturing. Hold peoples’ eye contact. Sit comfortably rather than making yourself small. What all of these things have in common is that they feel risky at first. That riskiness is the seed of feeling more confident and the willingness to deal with those social fears at all is an attitude of confidence. Although it’s rare it does shine through and I find it quite admirable and endearing, inseparable from courage.

Improve Your State 

I believe that a good thing to aspire to in life is a fantastic “state”. Hear me out.

Some people such as myself are rational souls. Life seems to be more of the frontal cortex: ideas, plans, doing what’s “smart”. I believe however that much of our day to day thinking is heavily based on emotions – we just don’t know it.
Eckhart Tolle taught that in order to understand our true present state, we must pay attention to our emotional body. Our thinking can rationalise and convince us about how we are so we must look deeper. He also confirmed that thinking is indeed influenced by the emotional body.

One of life’s great pleasures is being free from frustration and neediness. When our mood improves so do the quality of our thoughts, they become powerful and pure, of a high vibration. Address emotional needs then our thoughts will, in turn, be heightened.

On some level, we’re all avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure already. So what goes wrong? People fail to delay gratification. They try to appease their current little selves rather than change to be less needy. They don’t use courage as a means of transcending fear, rather they just try to avoid fear or pain.

Everyone can be happy. Everyone can find belonging. Most people can do work that they like and find meaningful. Some things are quite rarefied, though. Most can never be kings, even though deep down we might want that. Some things are potentially within reach but are reserved for winners; things like beauty, love, lifestyle, wealth, mastery or being a leader. These things that would often mean an end to frustration are what I mean by “state”.

Appease the self as I have mentioned, but ultimately the self ought to be transcended. This may be the best feeling of all.

maslow-pyramid