Sunday, February 27, 2011
When New Learning Leads to Old Habits
I woke with stiffness in my left arm and elbow this morning. A sure sign I was trying too hard with my guitar practice last night. Trying as opposed to playing, tends to generate physical discomfort. As I become confident with a piece, my tendency to "hold on and control" what I am doing lessens, and I can than just allow the movement to be. Glad that I let go of my practice when I did. Time to practice Qi Gong and see if this loosens up my issues.
As usual I felt great after Qi Gong. An hour later, while standing, I was giving myself the AT directions and I noticed that my left shoulder and arm again had a bit of stiffness, and that this stiffness also included a muscle in my neck. When learning something new on the guitar, my habit is turn my neck to watch my left hand with my eyes; maybe even try to will my fingers to where I want them. This watching entails a shortening of my neck on the left side as I twist and look down. As I did this again, I could feel that the very muscle that was sore is compressed in this action.
After writing the above I was tempted to go and explore this with the guitar. Instead, I decided to explore this on the floor with an AT lie down. About five minutes into the lie down, I noticed slight discomfort on the far left side of my back, just below the shoulder blade. I lack the anatomy vocabulary to better describe this, but as it released over the following minutes, I also noticed my left arm release. Was this a direct relationship? Not important, as the entire body/mind functioning is dependent on all of the parts. Relaxation, or better use, of one part affects the whole. This was why I choose to do the lie down rather than, work with my guitar, as a means to better address the whole use of myself
As I began to work on the guitar, I allowed my arms to gently move around in a somewhat random fashion. Hopefully releasing any anticipatory habits built up around my approaching the guitar. I intended to not look at my left hand while playing, and to accept what might be played as a result of this. My gaze was looking about the room and mirror in front of me as I played, when I realized I that while there was a certain freedom in this, that by denying looking at my hands, I was still not free. Gently taking in my left hand but not locking in my gaze on it, I continued to play. Amazed that even a well intentioned effort can result in "trying" rather than doing.
Releasing my left hand all the way through the fingertips seems key in this piece. I noticed my left hand becomes compressed as the fingers dance around the bass notes while another finger is anchored. David Jernigan has frequently reminded me in AT lessons to lengthen all the way through the tips of my fingers. When he works with me on this, I see the benefit, but as in most things in life I need to find this out again and again for myself. What is next to learn in how I use myself?A