Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Changing My Thinking About Improvisation

Shanklin chine at night 

Walking to the beach, my wife reminds me to have thoughts of openness and freedom.  I meditate on this while walking in the surf.  Breathing in - I am free, breathing out - I am open.  Some of my steps are easier and lighter, as the ocean ebbs and flows around my legs, just as some thoughts and habits are easier to walk through than others.  As I continue to meditate on openness and freedom, I also allow these thoughts to be held:  I can improvise music.  I am free to create spontaneous compositions.  I am free to create music in the moment. Happy as I notice how these thoughts which just a couple weeks ago made me twitch, are now being received with ease.

      I sit and watch the ocean continuing to meditate on openness and freedom. Just as the soft breeze blows across my skin, I imagine my fingers gently caressing the strings of my guitar.  Waves of sound rising and falling, riveting and soothing.  Any note can follow any note.  Any chord can be the sound of freedom. Release the mental, confining constraints, and just be with the sounds as the music unfolds.  Be the inspired and the inspiration.  Just BE.

    What is changed when we observe our breath?  What is changed when we sense our bodies?  Coming alive to the moment of our doing, we may become open to a choice beyond our habits, a choice beyond right and wrong.  Freedom arrives, is glimpsed excitedly and then I am lost again.  If I direct my attention, freedom may again become possible.  We begin again constantly, as the Guitar Craft aphorism so aptly enlightens.  Waves of presence, followed by waves of absence, until the splash of waking up arrives once more.

    Will I allow my sands of time to be eroded by habits?  Or will I act from principle?  Train the mind?  Release the unnecessary?  Cultivate the positive?  Be open and partake of the help that is available?  Understanding that my habits are subtle and obstinate, I must have help to release them.  Habits developed over a lifetime, perhaps over many generations, do not yield overnight.  Except for the occasional, extraordinary event, habits usually unravel in a gradual but persistent release.

    This release requires discipline and dedication to principle, an intentional approach, oftentimes aided by the divine.  In any case, I have to ask for help.  Ask myself, what am I willing to commit?  Ask others who have trudged the path before me for guidance?  Plead for assistance from the unknown.  And then I practice, as often as I remember.

    When the sun rises once more, with my first waking breath, I ask again.  Grateful for another chance to train my mind and change my life, I align myself to a higher principle.  Being gentle and generous in my approach to myself and to others, I breathe in good thoughts.  And I smile as I breathe out.  Alive again, I take a step into life...and then another.  The Breath is always with me.  Am I with the Breath?  Release the unnecessary and arrive in a new place.  The present moment.  Home of the known and the unknown.  Arriving at a castle in heaven, that, for me, is made of sand.  Begin again constantly...act from principle...breathe in...release the sand.

Photo by Andy Buckland

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