Appreciating Underlying Form

Written by on August 18, 2020 in Conscious Living, Meditation with 0 Comments
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Sometimes, a subject like yoga or meditation is so dense, it’s hard to know where to start and really how to appreciate it. However, once you begin to learn a little about the underlying principles and form of the subject, that subject can come alive in new and exciting ways. You learn to see all the beauty in it. Similarly, practicing yoga and meditation helps you to understand a little of your own underlying form so that you can appreciate your life with deeper appreciation. 

 

Learning to Appreciate Underlying Form

I love jazz. I love Jazz because it is a language. It speaks to a culture, a sophisticated musical discipline, and a style. For the longest time, I wanted to like jazz music but didn’t. Not much of it, anyway. I liked Kenny G. 

 

The first time I heard John Coltrane, all I heard was chaotic lines of complex notes hurled out the tail end of a tenor saxophone. But now, when I hear John Coltrane, I’m so taken by the music that I can’t keep up a conversation with anyone else because of the conversation I’m having with the music. So, what’s changed? 

 

In part, I believe it was because I started to learn to play the sax. I’d always wanted to play the sax (to sound like Kenny G). When I was a kid, my dad asked his uncle Lester, a professional sax player, what it would take to help me appreciate playing the sax. Lester told my dad to start me on the piano, move to the clarinet, and then to the sax. That way I would have the rudiments, the underlying principles of music and woodwind instruments to spring me forward as I started to play the sax. 

 

I never really met Lester. There exists a sun-bleached photo of me and my entire family posing for the camera on his back porch but this was before dawn of my consciousness—I was about three and don’t remember it at all. Well, Lester died. And nobody remembers exactly how, nobody remembers doing it, but somehow his horns showed up on my doorstep with my name on them. I was 13. I’d been playing the clarinet for 2 years and I was itching to start the sax. Problem was, I didn’t have one. Not until that day when Lester’s horns, (yep, he gave me not one but TWO saxophones, an alto and a tenor AND a clarinet) showed up thanks to a mystery and the US postal service. I scarcely remember a more exciting or more reverent day of my life than when I received those horns. They are the saxes I still play today more than 30 years later. That day, I remember feeling like something very important had just happened to my life.

 

That summer, I started to blow through the horns and figured out how to finger the notes and make a decent sound before I started working with a sax teacher. Lester was right and the clarinet and piano had paid off.  As I continued to learn to play the sax, I began to learn to play jazz. The more I began to understand the underlying form and direction of jazz, the more I could appreciate what was happening when I heard jazz. And with just a little bit of experience of playing jazz, I grew and entirely new appreciation for  jazz, I could hear it completely differently. I developed a thick listening for jazz. I understand the instruments expressing emotions and experiences. I learned to hear intervals between notes, feel chord changes come and go and understand and appreciate the inherent tension and release of jazz. More than that heady stuff though, I can sit back and feel the groove and swing of it, I can feel the flavor and texture of it. I can appreciate the personalities behind the music. For me, when you’re invited to see the bigger picture, I can savor the individual parts better. 

 

“Thick Listening”

 

This is often what happens when we begin to understand and appreciate the underlying form of almost anything be it jazz or yoga.  A yoga asana is beautiful on the outside but understanding the underlying form—the mechanics of muscles, bones and even subtleties like energy and intention—makes the posture understandable, enjoyable and enlightening. Yoga is about understanding oneself deeper. Any deeper look inward, even just at anatomy, fulfills the ends of yoga. 

 

 

The underlying form expresses itself clearly in the outerlying form in our yoga postures: slumped shoulders might manifest for the depressed or burdened or shy, broad shoulders for the confident, open hearted, and gregarious. As a teacher, I can’t read your mind, can’t feel your soul, but I can see how your consciousness produces the product of a very engaged outer form. So in that sense, I often know whether your mind is present by how your poses look. The outerlying form reflects the under.

 

Of course the underlying and outer lying forms are inseparable. You can’t have the pose without the energy or thought or emotion behind it, you can’t have jazz without its history and culture, you can’t have the blues, without feeling blue. Appreciating our being is learning to have a “thick listening” for all parts of our being.  Establishing a “thick listening” for our lives helps us engage in life on a richer and deeper level. By understanding the underlying form, we might acquire a taste for more complex things like deeper poses, meditation, Coltrane or dark chocolate. And soon we might begin to understand a little about the underlying form of all things and learn to see that with increased flavor and appreciation.

 

So maybe, years later, because I’ve learned a little about the underlying form of jazz, for my buck I’d choose John Coltrane over Kenny G, though I still understand Kenny G’s technical proficiency and his beautifully clear and distinct sound. 


 

I invite you to practice thick listening for your life this week. Focus on understanding yourself by looking at your underlying form both in practical, anatomical ways as well as conscious, meditative ways. 

 

Until then, if you’re interested click here to hear John Coltrane play Blue Trane, in my opinion one of the best sax solos in all of jazz.  

Photo by Joshua Terry

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and the author of Practical Yoga Nidra: The 10-Step Method to Reduce Stress, Improve Sleep, and Restore Your Spirit. When he's not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he also writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program. Scott just moved back to Salt Lake City after living in Southern France with his family.

 

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