Sunday, February 20, 2011

What is the End in Mind?

sky 3

Shortly after I woke this morning, I picked up my guitar to review what I had learned last night.  Always so precious to play early in the morning when my body is rested and my mind is calm.  The notes are in my hand and sounded good.  Playing in a relatively free state, without concerns for time pressures nor to-do lists, I experienced the joy of this wonderful moment.  Then the question arose from last night - What is my end in mind?  Music of course.

But how to arrive at allowing music to be played through me?  Harmony in body, mind, and spirit provides the conditions for music to arise.  Freedom from my habits, while never stationary, can momentarily allow in the new.  Being present to hear the whispers of the muse, while having the ability to respond to her promptings on the instrument, requires me to practice.  Thus the end in mind is the wish to be available to music, trusting that by developing an efficient and effective practice, that I will be present to respond.

A key I am finding through the Alexander Technique is that freedom in my head/neck relationship allows the freedom in the rest of myself.  If I intentionally tense my neck, I sense my breath constricting.  If I tense my arms, the breath also begins to freeze.  As the breath looses its' freedom, so does the rest of me.  A cycle of positive feedback develops that is never good for a human being.  Both Zen and Physics tells us that all is inter-related, and the Alexander Technique illustrates this superbly.  The Dhammapada tells us “We are what we think.  All that we are arises with our thoughts.”   The Alexander Technique directly addresses our thinking about how we use ourselves.  As we change our thinking, learn to inhibit our actions and direct first, we can then allow a new way of doing to enter our being.  And like Zen we also practice “non-doing” in the Alexander Technique.  So simple, yet it has taken me a very long time to see the elegance in Alexander's simplicity.

In the past I incurred injuries in my left shoulder and a nasty bout of tendonitis in my left wrist, which caused me to stop playing.  I was forced to take a longer view of  my use and functioning.  Hence the study of Qi Gong, and the application of the Alexander Technique.  Now I as I think about the phrase “Begin with the end in mind,” the end has a much further reach.   How I use myself today does impact all of my tomorrows.  I wish to be able to play guitar in such a way that courts the muse and allows me to remain healthy for the long haul.  By utilizing all the practices that bring me to the present moment, perhaps as the great poet T.S. Eliot wrote:
         We shall not cease from exploration,  and
         the end of all our exploring will be to arrive
         where we started and know the place for the first time.

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