“What we do agree on is the importance of people getting together and struggling in a healthy way for a different life. Because if it’s the loss of control and the isolation and the suppression of self-expression that are the greatest causes of stress, then surely one answer to the stress of this culture is to get together and to express ourselves and not to be silent and to connect to other human beings.” – Dr. Gabor Maté.
This quote comes from a speech Dr. Gabor Maté (a physician who specializes in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology) gave in November 2011 in Berkeley California. He was addressing a wide range of topics that revolved around health, addiction, and lifestyle. In his speech, he highlighted the effects of stress on our lives and how it can affect our physical health along with our mental health. It is not in my interest to discuss the topics of his speech in depth, rather, I want to focus on the releasing of stress in a group environment with Jam Sessions in order to release stress.
A Jam Session is an environment in which one person can collaborate with others in a relaxed setting; permitting a free flowing stream of thoughts and ideas through the music. These collaborative moments can be done on an impromptu basis or organized and planned.
During my time at the University of Texas in San Antonio, I met some friends who had challenges in their lives that made me think I was playing the game of life all wrong. One of these cats, known as The Brown Man (seriously, people call him The Brown Man), never talked about the stresses he had. Instead, he constantly played music with a sleek, black, rose-patterned, classical, Esteban acoustic guitar that seemed to always be around. Not being a musician myself, I was perplexed at the amount of devotion he gave to this art. Over time, I learned why.
My first musical experience with him and some others went like this: We all got together for a backyard BBQ. My buddies were laughing, cutting up, and throwing some washers when The Brown Man got out his Esteban and began plucking away. We winded the game; slowly joining him with instruments. Everyone getting into place, finding their zone.
The Brown Man is strumming a tune on the guitar, another is building a beat with a makeshift drum, someone begins to hum a melody. Collaboration has started. No one is talking. No one is giving orders. No one is there. It’s just music that fills the space. Everyone has undergone a transformation from humans to instruments. Various vibrational frequencies coming forth from these new beings became our dialogue.
Now he started letting it all out. His guitar wept and wailed. Normally he has a poker face; never letting anyone know his emotions. In this transported world, however, all the feelings of never being able to laugh with or look at a deceased friend in the eye again flowed forth. The result was a guitar solo comparable to that of David Gilmour playing, “Comfortably Numb.” A content expression, soft smile, overcame his poker face as he settled back down. Visible new life came into his body.
With all of this energy filling our space, I caught the bug. I wanted to participate. I wanted to be a part of that energy. I wanted to let loose my own stresses of failure that had been plaguing me. Unfortunately, before this moment, I never possessed a desire to buy an instrument; to practice hours a day to play some songs. Alternatively, I utilized my immediate abilities. I picked up a pen jotted down some lyrics, and started to belt out a line, leading into a freestyle, and ending with a song that reflected my immediate transformation: Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. I was in it, baby! I was grooving and feeling more relaxed as time progressed. The night carried on, I finished with a few Woo-uh-hoos. I left uplifted and was able to go forth and conquer the obstacles in my life that had been beating me down.
That was my first memorable moment collaborating with others to release stress. Trying out that highly evolved biomechanical machine referred to as a body, one of the greatest wind instruments ever to not be invented by man, was very helpful. Just being in that scene to connect with people, to collaborate, to build something where we could dump the shit that comes into our lives, allowed our woes to be blown away. Our community grew stronger. Our connections strengthened. Stress still comes into our lives, but it does not control us. Thanks, Brown Man.
Artistic outlets, in this case, jam sessions, can give our perception on life a 180-degree turn. Participation in these events can allow us to release negative emotions in a positive way. Get it out! Work with people. Getting out these negative emotions in a secure environment is important for us to live a healthy life.