In Chicago this summer, the band the Grateful Dead celebrated their 50th anniversary with three sold out concerts at Soldier Field Stadium. Love’em, hate’em, or don’t understand’em, it’s a commendable achievement of longevity, devotion, practice, and fruition.
One of the band’s popular songs was called Playing In the Band. Famous for their improvisational jams, the Grateful Dead’s studio version released in 1971 ran 4:37, yet when played live, the band could extend the song from 15-30 minutes—and sometimes even longer.
Like most songs, or even art for that matter, creation begins with structure. Let’s say for argument’s sake a song has a four bar beat, a chorus, a refrain, and a hook. To get to that moment of improvisation requires practice and structure, but when mastered the practice and structure becomes a launch pad for improvisation. When the band enters into that unknown, all of the musician’s practice takes over and the structure that held it together disappears into feeling and listening. In that feeling and listening there is nothing but Being, and in that Being the musicians meld into one consciousness to create music. This is the concept of emergence. The band is, one could argue, tuned into a frequency—or a possibility—in the Quantum Field.
No matter what type of artist you speak to, whether it’s a musician, a writer, a painter, or even an athlete, it is this state of Being that they would all agree they are trying to achieve—that moment when everything fades away and their art simply flows through them. In the example of improvisation, in the connected field when say five musician’s minds become one, they are not stressing about hitting the right note or what (and sometimes who) they will be doing after the show. In this state, no past, no future, and no personality exist. The music is providing instant feedback and that feedback is what opens doors to trust the next moment.
This is what our work and research demonstrates. In these moments of coherence, we attune our minds to be a conduit through which we download possibilities from the Field. Bob Dylan demonstrated this perfectly when he said in a 1962 interview with Sing Out! magazine, “The songs are there. They exist all by themselves just waiting for someone to write them down. I just put them down on paper. If I didn’t do it, somebody else would.” Imagine what we could create and achieve if we got out of our own way and let the goodness flow to us?
I think this is a good metaphor for meditation. In our workshops, I’m simply the conductor of a beautiful orchestra made up of all of you. When we breathe, we are tuning our instrument. When we enter into a space of open focus, we are playing the song we’ve rehearsed thousands of times. And when we surrender into the field, we are moving into the improvisational unknown. This is the place from where all creation comes from—when we step outside of our familiar state of mind and trust in the unknown.
Just as the concept of emergence works in musical improvisation, this is what we’re actually doing at our workshops and this is why we produce incredible results. We are—queue the music—playing in the field.
In this version of the Grateful Dead’s song Playing In the Band, the improvisation begins at 2:50. This is the musical representation of what our brains do when we drop into the unknown and we go into la-la land. Creating music is most certainly a meditation, and these musicians are experienced meditators in their own right.