Saturday, February 18, 2012

Energy Rising

“There are seasons we walk with others.  Then there are the times in our lives we journey on our own.  It’s in those days we hear and learn more because we talk less.”

                       The journey is the path.  - Zen saying

Finally I had the time, energy, and space to devote to music today.  As the accumulated stress of the past months has dissipated and the tendonitis in my right elbow is healing, I was ready today.  Practice sessions in the early morning, late afternoon, and this evening has my spirits soaring.  Amen.

After a break in the evening session, I hit the floor for an AT lie down.  My back letting go, my spine releasing, and my arms lengthening as I lay there and let my muscles rest.  Watching my breath assist the release, I was happy to just be on the floor.  When I returned to sit with my guitar, I recalled these words from Kit Racette earlier this week "Imaging there are mountains behind my back to give me support and oceans in front to give my expansiveness."  Smiling I allowed these images to inform how I was in that moment.  Imaging my head floating to the stars and my legs going deep into the earth like the trees I could see outside my window.  Frequently when practicing Qi Gong on the beach, I have related the thought of the AT directions of shoulders wide to the horizon, but the idea of support of the mountains at my back added stability.  I noticed the energy seeming to rise within me.

I began looking at the fast section of Clouds Never Die which begins with an arpeggio in five played three time and moving to an arpeggio in seven across all six strings.  My right hand was still confused even though I had been looking at this transition earlier.  After spending time working on just the right hand, I added the left hand back.  Still confused.  The life of practicing an instrument.  What to do?  Recalling one of my favorite exercises from Pedro de Alcantara wonderful Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique (Clarendon Paperbacks)  I inserted a rest on the second beat of the second arpeggio.  This simple act of pausing and inhibiting my movement allowed my hands to slowly coordinate the needed movements and hopefully no more.  At the end of the second arpeggio I frequently released my hands from the guitar and quickly directed again.

Work and rest, work and rest in this manner allowed my energy and focus to sustain at an efficient level.  I always marvel at the work involved in training four fingers on the left hand and the thumb and three fingers from my right.  As my attention began to fade I played snippets of arpeggio exercises that I know well to support and inform the activity of learning.  Then I resumed in the deliberate manner outlined.  As my attention waned again, I paused to write this post.  Sensing once again the mountains supporting my back and seeing the horizon of possibilities ahead of me,  I need to return to the guitar.  Wishing this helps someone in their own musical pursuits.  May we one day realize that we are all one musician in many hands.

Photo by Ian Sane.


  1. Wonderful writing for musicians, on practicing mindfully and beautifully. The post ends, "May we one day realize that we are all one musician in many hands." Amen! Thank you, Patrick!

  2. This is a lovely, and yet informative, account of the way you are personally working with the principles of the Alexander Technique is your music practice. I so appreciate you sharing your journey, and completely agree with Jennifer - wonderful writing for any musician.

  3. Work and rest. Play and rest. Energy rises and subsides. Rivers flow and pool and flow again. The ribs rise and fall with the breath. My head rocks in the delicate cradle of my neck. The sun rises and sets to be replaced by the moon and stars. What lovely rhythms occur all around us and within us if we only take the time to notice! Thank you for your inspiration.

  4. Many thanks for taking the time to read and comment. AT continues to inform, enlighten, and at times confuse me. Happy that my sharing is useful for others.