Saturday, November 19, 2011

Raking the Mind

Fall mosaic

Out in the crisp early morning fall air.  The temperature is close to freezing, the sun shining, and hardly a sound in the urban forest known as my neighborhood.  The occasional tweet or chirp from the birds that winter in the DC metro greet me.  Gone are the beautiful natural symphonies of spring and summer, now just the quiet of a community still mostly at rest.  Time to rake leaves once again; so many leaves, so deep.  Can I approach this task as a practice?  Or merely get it done? Or as a beloved young person in my life pleaded last night - why don't you just hire someone.

As the rake stirs the first leaves beneath its tines, I listen to the scrunch of decaying life as I pull the leaves across the grass.  Hurrying a bit, how much can I get done before breakfast?  Before others in my family want my attention?  Enjoying just being outside in the sun.  With the shorter days and my professional life this is a luxury for me.  Breathing in and smiling as I watch the sunlight, dance in the tall oaks still tenaciously holdng onto their leaves.  As I dump the second tarp load by the curbside, I decide I could practice walking meditation as I return to the back yard.

As I bend to pick up my rake, I think of the Alexander Technique and how might I apply this here and now.  I do have a gig tonight, so I don't want to exert myself in a way that I am sore later.  Inviting in the AT directions as I rake, my movements take on more of a dance feel, fluid, light, and free.  Pausing before I take hold of the tarp, I pay attention to how I bend to grasp the tarp.  As I walk to the curb following my breath, I feel joy begin to grow in my mind.

A bit later, I find my mind wandering about.  Loosing the sense of the moment, I am merely raking again.  Thoughts of I could be doing better things with my time; am I too cheap to hire some one; too important for this task.  Laughing at my crazy wandering mind that is blocking me from the joy I had experienced minutes earlier, I pause again and finding my breath I begin to rake.  Noticing the frost is melting now and the grass is such a vibrant green.  The wind stirs the leaves still clinging to the oaks and offers me a brief song.   Dumping another load, I marvel at the simple act of walking back to the yard.  I continue to rake with care and attention, getting lost and then remembering to return to the present moment.  As my mind quiets I see once again that anytime I can be present with what I am doing, I am practicing music, practicing life.

I aim to be present with the guitar, with music, when I play.  But the mind has its own habits, and anytime I can practice turning my mind to the task at hand is precious.  Finding silence in raking, allows me to find silence in playing.  And then it is gone again.  Directing my thinking via AT, I notice the area of lawn that has now been raked.  I realize that a part of my mind has also been raked, building my practice of mindfulness and the Alexander Technique.  A bit clearer now, I smile again, grateful for the trees that help to sustain our planet, provide us shade, and home to the lovely songbirds.  No hurry in me now, I pause for coffee and writing.  Whatever I do today - may I be mindful, may I be free.


  1. Oh Patrick,
    Your post is a meditation for me. I love your spirit, your determination to approach your music and your life in a way that can always be calmer, more spiritual, more peaceful. In a world that is always swirling around us, it is rare to find someone that can stop time but you do that for me.

    So thank you. Very much.


  2. Hi Patrick,
    I stumbled across your blog when doing a little research on wrist pain. I, too, am a long-time guitarist, but I think my pain may be just another sign of getting older.

    I've been skimming through your posts, and really enjoying your writing. You sound like a very peaceful person and I can hear the music in your words. Thank you.

  3. Tom,

    Your wrist pain may be a sign of getting older, but there may also be a better way of using yourself that does not lead to pain. I have not had any pain in over a year and a half as a direct result of applying the Alexander Technique. Thanks for reading and if I can be useful to you let me know. If you would like to the music go to

  4. Erica,

    I am touched that my words were able to still you. The journey is endless, yet joyful.