Mindful Life Lessons from the Beatles
Guest Post by Shane Ledford, CMT-200, CYT-200
I recently watched Peter Jackson’s amazing documentary, “Get Back”
about the Beatles during their recording of the “Let it Be” album. Much like Jackson’s other ambitious projects such as “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit,” this also had to be divided into a trilogy, totaling nearly 10 hours, given the immense amount of source material.
As a lifelong Beatles fan, I appreciated the new positive perspective offered on the Beatles’ relationships with each other during this time in their career. The previous 1970 documentary “Let it Be” made it appear as a much more somber ordeal (it should be mentioned that if you have not seen “Get Back,” this blog post may contain some minor spoilers, but most of the events are already pretty well known in Beatles lore). Watching Jackson’s films gave me a greater appreciation in the creative process the Beatles went through in creating songs for an album, and I felt their experience offered some mindful lessons that can be adapted into everyday life:
Have fun. One thing these films really highlight is how much fun the Beatles were having. It had been three years since they last performed in public, and there was a lot of pressure on them to prepare for a planned upcoming televised concert in just three weeks. A few setbacks occur because of the tension that came with the enormity of this constraint… including George Harrison quitting the band for a few days. However, “Get Back” constantly features them laughing, goofing off, and breaking into silly versions of cover songs…as well as the true joy you can see in their faces when finally playing live again.
Embrace the moment. Minor inconveniences are just that: minor inconveniences. Towards the the end of the film, the Beatles go onto the roof of their studio building, and stage what would later famously be their last live performance… ever. Given this was in a business district of London, a crowd quickly gathers on the streets below, but not everyone is happy. The London police soon appear, and tell the studio’s receptionist, “We don’t appreciate this. We have had 30 complaints in minutes. It’s got to come down. It’s a break of the Peace.” One businessman on the street says the performance, “absolutely disrupted all the business in this area.”
What I find interesting about this moment is none of the spectators (nor the Beatles) realized this was going to be their last live concert. Like all moments in life, they will never come back again. Instead of focusing on the inconvenience of a loud 45-minute lunchtime pop-up concert, perhaps an acceptance of the moment would have allowed them to realize later they actually witnessed one of the most pivotal moments in rock and roll history… as well as the joy it was bringing to others. Or, as another passerby on the street said, “I think it is marvelous.”
Let it Be. This is obviously the title of the album, the previous documentary, and the famous song from those… but this is also something we say a lot in guidance during mindfulness meditation: Let it be (or let it go). As we are meditating we will have thoughts. The idea is not to engage nor push away the thought. Just let them be as they are…like they are sitting on a shelf. Interestingly, and along that line, the “Let it Be” album was literally put on a shelf as the Beatles immediately went to work on and releasing “Abbey Road.” “Let it Be” was then released after “Abbey Road.” However, except for a few standout tracks, the album is seen as an over-produced release after a new producer was brought in to finish it. (Paul McCartney was never happy with the original doctored release version of the album, and was instrumental in re-releasing 30 years later in its original intent.)
Ask for help. No matter how successful we are or think we have things under control, we all need a little help now and then… and don’t be afraid to ask for it. In a moment of incredible happenstance, the Beatles’ friend, keyboardist Billy Preston, stops by their recording studio one day just to say “hi.” It is apparent at this documented time that the band is in a creative rut, and had actually considered adding a keyboard player to add a little variety to the songs, so they ask Preston to help them out. From here, the vibe of the film and their song recording becomes much more positive and creative.
Mix things up. “Get Back” begins with the Beatles recording and rehearsing in a cavernous film soundstage that seems to drain their creative process and puts them in low spirits. Their mood is greatly uplifted as they move into a more familiar setting for them: a cramped recording studio. When the London police arrive at the studio while the Beatles are performing on the roof, the doorman tells the officers, “They have been recording and they’ve done this to get some scenery and things.” The next time something isn’t going or feeling right for you, perhaps pause, and try something different…such as going for a mindful walk outside, or dancing to some Beatles music in your home.
Be with family and friends. Much has been (unfairly) said about Yoko Ono’s presence during these recordings and the filming. After watching the recent films, I see her as a grounding influence for John Lennon. Her being there with him allows him to be present for the other band members. This, eventually prompts the other band members to invite their partners, family and friends, and it is their presence that enhances the Beatles’ mood and their creativity much like it did with the introduction of Billy Preston. An adorable moment is when Paul McCartney’s partner, Linda Eastman, brings her 6 year-old daughter, Heather, into the studio and is seen playing and giggling with the band members and staff. It is only moments after this when Paul sits at the piano and starts composing the haunting classic, “The Long and Winding Road”, which would be featured on the “Let it Be” album. Along this time, too, George Harrison is seen working on early versions of the beautiful love song, “Something,” as well as helping Ringo Star with his “Octopus’s Garden”… and both of those songs would later be released on “Abbey Road” (which I consider their best album… and wonder if it would have turned out as such without the family and friend influence).
And, finally, accept and be willing to change. During the rooftop concert a passerby said he didn’t like the “new” stuff the Beatles had been releasing and wanted to hear their earlier Fab Four contributions. He did not want them to change, nor evolve…but the Beatles had. They had been together since their mid-teens, and now were in their mid to late twenties… and now with partners and families. As much as the world
wanted them to stay frozen in time, the Beatles were constantly exploring and changing. They felt they had said all they needed to say and contribute as the Beatles, and now was the time for them to continue changing into something else.
Shane enjoys offering a lighthearted approach in his mindfulness teachings by including pop culture and literary references. Join him as he continues his Mindfulness in the Movies series with a discussion about holiday films on December 15th – read more here: https://mindfulness-alliance.punchpass.com/classes/8683320
Thanks Shane for a fascinating article. I love how you point out that changing our environment or introducing positive people can change the whole karma of a situation. The downs in life will happen but don’t have to be permanent. Thanks for your insights.
Thank you, Mary! I am so happy it and those points resonated with you. 🙏
Excellent writing again Shane! Groups, friends, ourSELVES must change, evolve, grow out, grow up to leave & live our legacy!!
Thank you, Tim! And, I totally agree with you. 🙏 🦋