While it took years of trial and (humiliating) error, I’ve somehow managed to become a fairly happy and productive person. The common theme with everything that’s made this possible is mindfulness. Now, as an instructor, I’m going to show others how to transform music, particularly jazz, into a mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness takes many forms. It’s turning off your fight-or-flight mode and remaining calm under pressure. It’s learning how to notice emotional reactions without being ruled by them. It’s training your brain to be content, grateful, non-judgmental, joyful, creative, and productive.
Just about all of us – whether masculine or feminine; liberal or conservative; etc. – seek some flavor of mindfulness. We admire the soldiers, athletes, artists, musicians, and entertainers who have attained mastery of their minds and bodies. And yet, as with diet and exercise, the people who need the most guidance about it often have the least access to it.
Traditionally, there were two main paths to mindfulness: danger (whether combat or other near-death experience) or monasticism (whether becoming an actual monk or just locking yourself in a room for many hours each day, as musicians are often told to do). Many people aren’t willing to accept this kind of risk or drudgery, respectively.
Right now, jazz (at least in the academic, mostly White circles that I’ve run in) tends to be focused on individual monasticism and social competition. Many people (myself included) can’t handle the isolation and stress of this system.
Instead, what if 30 minutes of practice allowed you to grow in ways that would otherwise take years of solitary meditation? What if 90 minutes of rehearsal allowed you to work as a team in ways that would otherwise take getting dropped into a warzone?
The key to both is developing simple, effective ways to train people in mindfulness and to borrow from many other domains (such as yoga, management, and athleticism). As our society desperately needs a solution to the collective mindlessness slowly destroying it, the need for this kind of training has never been higher.