Space Between the Notes (The Beatles & Benders)


I have a confession to make. I went on a bender this past weekend…a Beatles Bender. It was excessive and glorious and I highly recommend it.

While 34,000 dedicated runners recovered from the St. Jude’s Rock n’ Roll marathon, I was happily sat on my back deck for the better part of Sunday chugging coffee and devouring the brilliant and arguably most influential sounds of all time.


“Music is the space between the notes.” Claude Debussy

Now, I grew up on a steady diet of Jazz and Bossa Nova with a side of classic country. Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, and Antonio Carlos Jobim were household names. Crystal Gale (aka childhood hero tied with Princess Leia, of course) and John Denver got thrown around a lot too. Though sophisticated and cool, my early music education had some holes in it. A late bloomer in most areas, I didn’t begin to appreciate the Beatles until well into my mid-twenties. In fact, I’m not sure one can ever fully appreciate all the layers of genius and nuance their music houses.

Mid-way through the White Album, something struck me: music is absolute chaos if it lacks space. My favorite Beatles tunes, including Hey JudeSomethingEleanor RigbyWhile my Guitar Gently WeepsAll You Need is Love, and Blackbird (to barely scratch the surface), all dance around those beautiful and strategic spaces between the notes, lending melody and lyric that simply transcend. (Well, maybe they had some help from other “transcendental” substances as well; it was in fact the ‘60s…and beyond…) Perhaps this truth applies even more, what with the exquisite improvisational stylings of my native tongue, Jazz.

Can you imagine music without the space?

What about life?

Space between the notes is metaphorical for life, and specifically in our case, therapy as well. Rest, play, blank space, stillness, quiet. Pick your poison; however, we need them all in this life for so many reasons. For the sake of congruence, I will use the word “rest” to further my musical narrative (#nerdalert).

First off, we need rest in order to recharge and refuel our beings for more. Sure, there are seasons when we fire on all cylinders, but we can’t sustain them, nor are we meant to. When we go for long stretches without deep rest, our body chemistry changes and certain hormones spike to unhealthy levels. This can be extremely dangerous; something we don’t want to mess around with. Accidents happen, cognitions are blurred, moods swing, health problems surface, metabolisms stall, depression hits, and we lose touch with reality.

Secondly, we need rest in order to show up in a loving and compassionate way for relationships. When I experience high levels of stress and resulting burnout, I lose compassion for the people I love. It is impossible to authentically love and give from a constantly depleted, run-down state.

Lastly, we need rest in order to take inventory and gain new perspective. If we are always in “go mode” somewhere off in the distance, we miss out on the beauty of the here and now. Eckhart Tolle renders, “When you lose touch with your inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.” Nailed it.

Have you ever woken up at 3 am, unable to get back to sleep? No matter how tired you are, how many sheep you count, or deep breathing exercises you do, you are wired. Not only that, but insignificant details of the day appear and start damning you to hell. You are now considering a new friend group, fitness regime, psychotropic medication, and the local psych hospital even becomes appealing…like the Four Seasons or something. Exhausted and crazed, you finally manage to doze off with all the cognitive acrobatics you just did. You wake up four hours later wondering what on earth the big fuss was about. You just needed sleep, not a life overhaul.

Rest creates space for new perspective when the treadmill of life and busyness has us running at a grueling pace.

Where are the crevices in your week in which you can carve out time for rest? It doesn’t have to be an entire day or afternoon (though that would be nice!). Setting just an hour or two aside can do wonders and reset you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Rest is NOT a nasty little four-letter word. Rest is also NOT a sign of weekness. Paradoxical as it may seem, we ultimately get ahead in life by taking the time to slow down. Next time you hear your favorite song playing, pay attention to the space between the notes. Let them catch you off guard. Learn from them You may even hear and appreciate that song in a totally new way.

If music is truly the universal language of mankind, then rest must be what keeps us speaking.

In honor of The Beatles and the late, great Prince, I leave you with this… Watch and weep along…