Do you hear what I here? (not a typo!)

Prickly PerfectionMy friend JD got on my case today about not having posted anything lately. So, thanks JD and here goes. I want to talk about hearing the music. This is probably the hardest aspect to talk about since hearing the music seems to be the most obvious way we take it in. “Of course I hear the music.” “How can I not hear it. It’s right there.” I don’t know about you but I lose touch with the music with some frequency and have to re-member how to hear again.    Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here I am not talking about simply those forms of music which are official, written down and performed by players and singers.  I am talking about the music that is the soundtrack of life.  The music that is always present when we pay attention.  The music that ranges from birds to traffic to symphonies to stomachs gurgling to the endless chatter in my head.  For me the music is always right here and right now.  Which means we have to be here to hear. Have you ever noticed how much of the time our first reaction  to traditional music is to play “Name that Tune”?  As a result we lose both hearing and “hereing” in the process. It’s a form of self-lobotomy wherein our right brain get excised from the immediate experience while our left brain gets all full of itself and doesn’t notice that the music has been lost in the process and now we’re hearing a lecture on the music instead. If we’re lucky we have had some experiences of the right hemisphere declaring independence.  I first really was aware of this through the hymns and spritiuals of my years in the church.   And let’s not forget Elvis and Motown  and Rock and Roll.  There was no way to hear  such music and not have our bodies back in the experience. But it was when I extended my right brain’s openness to all sounds as music that things really got interesting.  It dawned on me that we hear before we see as we float around the womb.   Whenever I really am paying attention in a kind of hereing hearing I am struck by how one dimensional we experience life.  Sadly I think that all that mental traffic is the primary experience of hearing that most of us have.  I am more and more convinced that that monkey mind chatter is the left brain trying to take over again.  To again put itself and its words in the center of things.  I don’t think it is accidental that the ego seems to start setting up shop as soon as it has words. A very interesting descriptions of this experience is Jill Bolt Taylor’s book “My stroke of Insight” where she describes her stroke. (You can hear her talk about it on Amazon.  Just type in “My Stroke of Insight” and watch the video of her telling her story.  I believe that most of our immediate experiences are centered in the right hemisphere of our brains.  But what about all those words and thoughts in my left brain?  They feel pretty immediate to me.  My working hypothsis is that all those thoughts and ideas and chatter only have meaning when they are in service to something other that themselves.  There is music on both sides of the brain waiting to be heard.

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9 Comments on “Do you hear what I here? (not a typo!)”

  1. Radish Leaf Says:

    I love your verb “to here”.

    Jill Bolte Taylor’s recounting of her experience is extraordinary. I’ve been wondering how I might arrange for a temporary!! left brain lobotomy. But medical science, bio-feedback techniques and under-the-counter pharmaceuticals, i.e. psychotropics, all seem fall a bit short of the mark.

  2. ShannonOliveOil Says:

    It has been said that music is really the ‘space in between the notes’. Given that sound is created by a wave that ocillates between at least two points, we are constantly surrounded by waves of various intensities, some of which we hear and some of which we feel. Percussion is one of the ‘feely-ist’ waves – such as harmonic convergence – where things can vibrate so intensely as to break apart. There must be some helluva filter that allows us to focus without reacting to all of the sound around us.

  3. Radish Leaf Says:

    Ooops – Allen, I see a typo that I made in my comment.
    Could you please change the verb to the correct spelling? “To here”. Thank you. That’s the verb that I find so lovely.

  4. MamaBat Says:

    This reminds me of a client who was viewed by others as being “simple.” Client’s ego was not striving to be seen as “smart” and was free (or, at least, freer than most) to enjoy the moment. How much time do I spend striving to look smart? and which parts of me feel survival-urgency to label, sort, and categorize? Thanks for reminding me that it’s worth facing those fears for a moment of being present–“To here!”

  5. Randall Gates Says:

    Hi Allen – When you say “the music that is always present when we pay attention” it reminds me of the Latin phrase: Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus Aderit Deus (called or uncalled the god is present), or basically of the nondual nature of these tunes by the trans-temporal trio. I often find that the more discordant the tune the easier it is to lose perspective (“hereing”) of the symphony that still pulses in the background and of which this tune du jour is but a single note.

    Interesting question as to when these thoughts have meaning. I am thinking how so often my dancing is like in the westerns with the archetypal gunslinger firing off the rounds and my role being simply reactive. Clearly if I can work on my “hereing” then I may keep that tune in perspective—so when I am danced by them, they are in service to themselves, and when my “hereing” is better, they are in service to me? I am not sure it is more meaningful, but it certainly seems less meaningless…

    As to the potential for one dimensionality, I guess for me it always comes down to keeping the life ‘contents’ in ‘context’ and for me the best quote that captures the polarity of the challenge is:

    “Like animals they herded, paired, and fought, but did not see that they dwelt in a unified cosmos, God’s world, in an eternity where everything is already born and everything has already died” (Jung, 1961/1989, p. 67).

    How can the mighty left brain deal with such an inexplicable reality other than keeping up the chatter and hoping we miss the question? Certainly is difficult keeping that monkey away from the liquor cabinet…


    • allenkoehn Says:

      Randall – Thanks for the response and the quote from Jung. I plan to use it soon in a talk on “The Other” at the Jung Institute in LA. As for the “vocatus” quote I first came across it when it was pointed out to me that Jung had carved this quote over the door to his home in Kusnacht. For me, as you might guess, the music and the call are pretty much the same thing. Noticing and answering, now there’s the rub.

  6. Laurie Casriel Says:

    On a morning walk yesterday, a truck drove by, disturbing the peace of an otherwise bucolic scene. I thought of your blog and it occurred to me that the noise of the truck would be music to people waiting for rescue, or for desperately needed supplies in a disaster area. In the same vein, a baby’s cry is often jarring noise to other diners at a restaurant, but beautiful music to a mother in the delivery room after a long, difficult labor. And exotic birds emit screeches of sound that become an annoyance to certain neighborhood locale, while the same sounds might seem like exotic musical tones for a traveler to the Amazon rain forest.
    Thanks for inspiring this train of thought.

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