Thursday, November 19, 2015

Matka Boska

The first words I wrote in my journal at 5:15 this morning were "Happy Birthday Mama!"  Though it was been more years than I can imagine since she has passed, I was happy today.  This is not always the case on her Birthday, but today I am.  I know that this makes her happy.  All she ever wanted was for her children to be safe and happy.


This evening I played Matka Boska for her.  A piece that came to me in it's entirety years ago and as soon as it did I knew she was close by.  She used say Matka Boska, Blessed Mother when at a lost for how to deal with her children.  I gave her many opportunities to reach out to God.  Today I know she understands, forgives, and still just wants the best for me and my family.  If only I could hold her in my arms one more time ...

Life is short. 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Every Day Qi Gong


Our next class begins at the Takoma Park Community Center on September 30th.  With the busy stressful lives many of us lead today there is even more reason to cultivate our health. We are calling this class Every Day Qi Gong and it is culled from our studies over the past 15 years.  Qi means energy and Gong translates as work or cultivation.  The movements presented will be simple to learn yet extremely powerful in stimulating our energy systems. There is always something special about practicing in a group.  The collective energy supports and guides us deeper than we can go as individuals. 

The heath benefits of Qi Gong have been known in China for thousands of years.  Over the past 40 years,  Western science has been studying and documenting the beneficial aspects of these simple stimulative movements.  In July of 2015, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine  reviewed nine studies of Tai Chi (the most popular and well known form of Qi Gong in America) and found those that practice regularly “appear to have a protective effect against age-related cognitive decline.”  Coupled with the physical benefits of Qi Gong practice, we have access to a complete system for gently caring for our total body and mind.

     Physical benefits go beyond the strengthening of muscles and balance. Qi Gong exercises open the Six Gates—the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle. According to Chinese medicine, the major joints are the gateways of qi for our complex human system, encouraging the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body. Qi is the determining factor in health; each organ and each area of the body depend on a regular, vigorous stream of qi to function properly. Qi is the motive force for blood. Qi is both energy and information for every cell.

  When joints are stiff or frozen, the gates “close,” impeding qi flow both near and far from the joint.  Rather than view the problem of tight, painful joints as local, isolated, and limited, we need to understand that the effects are wide-ranging and influence the health base of the entire body. Soft, gentle, relaxed movement of joints results in better hydration, opens the joint space, and releases irritating toxins—important factors for alleviating or preventing arthritis.   Qi Gong Exercises are completely adaptable to each individual’s health status, as are all the exercises we teach. 
   
The exercises we will offer in Every Day Qi Gong are simple, easy to recall and have formed the basis for our daily practice.  Choose your health and wellness today.  Please join us, you are worth it!

Use this link to access the class on the Takoma Park Class Registration page .  Let us know if you need assistance in registering.  In the meantime, please be gentle with your good selves.  We look forward to practicing with you once again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Equal Night



Last walk of summer,
foot falls heavy, without spring.
Nox chases chaos.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Morning Delight


Bird songs delight us.
Yet issue warnings and threats!
More wrong perceptions.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

Evening Star


Venus, Mars and Saturn
pierce nights darkness for a breath
 syllables divide

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Road!

When walking alone,
the shadow without goes in!
Practice deep looking

Inspired by Basho


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Do I See?


 What do I see when my mind has locked onto the seed of judgement? 

Better to change the channel of my thinking, rather than darken the being of another with old formations not based in the present nor within reality.  Rather than to darken my own being too by piling up more misinformation.   Fracture the habit by listening to another instead of entertaining my judgements.  But oh the lock of habits can have me in cuffs before I'm aware.  By fostering my awareness,  I may have a chance to twist away from the grip of habit and turn towards the dawn of awakening.

Slow my thinking and thwart the arising of judgement.  In other words - Pay attention.  See the flower before me, not my imagined illustration.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Why What Where ... When


Where is the boundary when light becomes dark?

What
           is
                 being
                            defined
                                                                               here?

As the dictionary states:
in a manner so as gradually to approach indefinitely near, though never to meet.

                                What then is the act of the approach?

Why?

Knot?

The whorl of the world

resembles a non-self-intersecting closed curve in space,

while a patterns volution is notional.

Nascent deflections edge asymptotically
 where?
                                                  when


Monday, August 10, 2015

Reflection and Gratitude

 Music is a benevolent presence constantly and readily available to all.
 Guitar Craft Aphorism. 

 I am ever so grateful for those moments when music has been available to me.   Ever so grateful when musicians have been available to me and even more grateful when someone listens.  What a gift that has been bestowed upon me through the guitar.

May my work reflect a portion of that gratitude, a portion of the love and benevolence that has been extended to me.   May I do the work needed to be open and available to the Presence.  May I remember my debt and be diligent in my offerings.  Life is short, isn't it.  Time to play, while I still can.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Remembrance






August.  Always a challenge for me.  And an opportunity.  Spread out over decades I lost my Mother, Sister and Brother in the first 9 days of August.  A time to be close to those I love.  A time to remember.  Music helps me to remember and to connect.  Songs from my youth that were family favorites.  Specific pieces playing on the radio that bring back special times, special smiles.

There are pieces that arrived in my heart and hands as I have mourned them.  Two actually for my sister Elegy and Forgive Me.  Matka Boska for Mom and Forget-Me-Knot for my Brother.  On each of their respective days I play for them, play for me and my wife.  I am Blessed to have known them, to have been loved by them and to love them.  Life goes on, the losses mount as do the memories.  Keep the good ones.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Raef

raef

That's fear backwards

Philippe Petit


What is music without an audience?

I have learned that the audience is the Mother to Music.

Fortunately I tended not to fear my Mother,
but oh I how I feared an audience.

Now I know this fear of an audience is backwards.

And the way I learned it was through.

With guitar in hand, notes in mind and hope in my heart, (along with various iterations of fear)
over and over.
The mirror reflecting my fear
and the act of performing becoming my path.

Now the fear is I not find a suitable venue to perform within.

The path continues ...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Necessitate the Impossible

What we need are more people who specialize in the impossible.
Theodore Rothke


And then some.  

I never thought it was possible for me to perform music with out fear.
Let alone to perform my own music.
Even more so that anyone other than family or friends would care to listen.

In Guitar Craft I have seen that the impossible is possible.
Once seen, one can do the work to approach the impossible.

What are you doing Now?


Photo courtesy of NASA

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sounds of Joy & Wonder

There's a reason I call her my favorite person in the whole world.  Joann has been wonderful during my recovery.  After dinner I began to help with dinner clean up.  She told me the most useful thing I could do is to play my guitar.  Truly I am Blessed.


And play I did.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Finding My Way Back Home






Where to begin?  Constantly. Oh that's when to begin. 

Currently I am recovering from a double hernia repair.  The first half was known and needed, while the other side was found during the procedure and will save me the trauma of another operation in the future.  I've never done "fragile" well.  I can be quiet, aware and gentle but I also have a rather large well oiled frame in reserve.  Except when I don't.  Then I begin again, within the unknowing.  Generally this is not comfortable for me.

The pain meds have been put away, so the most intense part of the recovery is over; but the physical, mental and emotional repercussions continue to resound in my being.   Fatigue in all these levels  abounds.  I rest a lot, read, watch a few shows and have been listening to music.  Most of the music I have been listening to has been new to me, a simple challenge to grow even while growth is a far away dream.

I hoped to pick up my guitar for the first time in 4 days yesterday, though it seems much longer than that.  In a sense it has been longer.  Hampered with the nagging pain of the hernia, overjoyed with being with visiting family, life's practicalities and searching for that ever elusive rest were major parts of my path during the weeks leading up to entering the body repair shop.

Now the question becomes - How to begin?

I thought of studying scores these past couple days but neither my focus nor resolve were there.  Not beating up on the musician just a simple acceptance of where I was.  Still, how will I begin after this time off could prove pivotal over time.  Plenty of options to pursue - long tones, exercises or a review of repretroire were obvious ones and if done with quality - bravo.

I yearned for a direction ...

Another day went by without my guitar.  This morning on awakening I knew I would pick it up but still this question of direction shadowed and informed me.  Could I accentuate the positive?  My hands have been still.  How to begin guiding them back home?  A venture into the unknown.  Yet a challenging one, some structure appeared necessary.  What would it be?

Investigating Scriabin's Mystic Chord came to mind.  Over the years I've experimented with this chord to no avail.  How might I today?  The what to do had manifested, now how?  I needed an intention.  With hands, heart and head out of sync how to guide them back home? Simple - connection.  My intention was to connect with myself, my guitar and music; pure and simple Guitar Craft Fundamentals.

As I moved towards my case, I sensed my hands.  Noticing my nails have not been addressed in some time, I knew that the appointed reunion would have to wait just a few more precious moments.  The need to address the practicalities of practice is part of the path.  Nice to be home.

Again.


Photo by Yogendra Joshi

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Shape of Things to Come




People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around
Terry Pratchett  

This holds true for this musician also.  I've done my share of exercises, learning etudes and the works of others.  Now I find an exercise when I new piece arrives that requires an exercise to hone the execution.  What of the stories I tell myself about myself as a musician?

Changing these stories has been a very slow process, fostered partly by the words and insights of a few musicians who I respect.  Still the ones I generate myself are the most important.  Listening for the truth and building this foundation through practice is the story I am interested in today.






Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Gathered Hearts





Yesterday was my Brother's Birthday - the first born.  I meditated on my parents within me and felt their joy on this day 69 years ago.  My young proud Father beaming - it's a boy, it's a boy;  My Son.  Cigar smoke wafting with joy; the incense of the working class of Southeast Baltimore.  Life.  Life.

Impermanent, yet ongoing.  Nourish the dearth of death with one more conscious breath.  Touch the life of those around I remind myself.

Now.

I played Gathered Hearts for them; for me.  Then I called my sister-in-law to see how she was doing.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Reflecting Freedom


Free
Like the water in Sligo Creek.

Watching reflections
 of fast moving swollen basin
overcast & shadowed with storm clouds,
each moment 
a different reality reflected.

I
change also
reflecting back
through
 waves of ripples
within the universal consciousness.

One place
one moment
change too fast to fathom.

So be still.

Be still

Rest in the change.

Change is still.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Patient Progress








   Why did this photo attract me?  Why does a piece of music?  Or writing? 

Be it intrigue, wonder or just a sigh of relief,  art certainly helps me make sense of myself and our world as I process this life.  Many thanks for all those who put themselves out there day after day, taking risks, learning and moving our world forward.   Much hides from me, just like this photo loading improperly into the blogging platform.  Yet the different photo retains the taste of the old and also something new.

Thus look, listen, learn and create.  Share without remorse and do so every day.  Patient progress is its' own reward.  Then when your work touches another you too are touched.  In Guitar Craft we say that music makes the musician.  I now know this to be so.   What is making you?  Go to your work, now. 


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Silently Falling



Late this morning I saw the news that Chris Squire had died.  Sadness entered me.  In high school I loved Yes, still do.  When Fish Out Of Water came out in 1975, at lease once a day I listened through.  Side one with Hold Out Your Hand, You By My Side and Silently Falling still gets my emotions roiling.  Such beauty and truth cast in notes and words.

I picked up my guitar and began improvising in Chris's memory.  Rather quickly a beginning surfaced and I followed along for 20 minutes or so.  The taste of music was present, but it needed development.  The sky clouded over, so I decided to take a walk in case it rained.  Sligo Creek still swollen from yesterday's deluge mimicing the flood of emotions as I thought of all the music that stirred and comforted me in my youth.  Too many great bands to list here.  Many of them possessed such masters of the guitar, that I put mine away for years because I could never be that good.  A mistake perhaps, but then life is full of them.

Returning home I picked up the guitar again.   The improvisation moved on and after a few takes I recorded what I had.  Today a special person has moved on.  I am grateful that his music remains to provide solace to my soul.  Perhaps what I discovered today may sometime comfort another.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ch-ch-ch-ch changes

Why does a change of scenery, particularly one that brings me closer to nature, stimulate my creative spirit?  I used to think it was having the time off from work to relax and pursue the other aspects of my life.  But now I've been retired for over a year, spend plenty of time on music and yet when I get away to the beach the ideas flow.  Two new musical ideas in as many days and some good thoughts articulated on other areas of importance to me.

Does being close to the Ocean waves affect the waves of thought within me?  Is it the time outdoors moving within and being moved by the Ocean?  Decreased social interactions and responsibilities?  Less overall distractions associated with the maintenance of our home and lives?  All of the above most likely.  I'll continue to nurture these changes of scenery as often as possible, with guitar in hand of course.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thinking About Thinking About Guitars

I am currently reading How the Body Knows its Mind by Sian Beilock which is about how the body impacts the mind as well as how the physical environment influences how we think & feel.  Some of this material has been touched on in other works I've read and some has a new twist on this.  There's also new information which is always a delight for me.  Over the years I've worked extensively with how my thinking can affect my body via the Alexander Technique and will continue to do so.  One of the reasons I picked up this book is that it was mentioned in an Alexander Technique group I'm in.  She devotes part of a chapter to the Alexander Technique.  Meditation has also greatly impacted how my mind and body relate to my emotions.  Qi Gong has introduced a greater harmony & awareness of my body in motion and how this impacts my being.

Today as I read this book on the beach after a swim in the Atlantic Ocean Beilock touched on how children learn by observing others.  Certainly over the years I've picked up subtle and straight forward information related to playing the guitar by observing other guitarists.  I've also affected my playing by directing my thinking with the Alexander Technique, usually with guitar in hand or certainly close at hand.

But what if I just visualized myself playing, not related to a specific piece, but just about how to play?  Thinking purely about the act of playing in a free and open manner.  My guitar elicits a strong response in me, sometimes even a reaction that can get in my way.  I want to hear her sound, sometimes need to hear her sound.  Hell I live to hear her sound.  But what if I took time each day to just think about playing.  Not thinking before playing and then playing, just thinking about playing. Preferably on a  beach or close to Sligo Creek or maybe in a temple or church.  Unburdened by the act of bringing my hands to the guitar.  Observing the motion of the Ocean and thinking of myself in motion.

Physics tells us that a body in motion tends to remain in motion.  Can I allow my whole body to move & support the playing, not be fixed in my hips or locked in my right elbow or have my feet grasping the floor?  Can I think of my arms moving light as feathers though the air and alighting on the guitar with ease and grace? I did today.  Dare I think of my spine as the support of my body which supports my brain, all in harmony in the here and now?  Can I not think about thinking about how to play guitar?  May the learning continue.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Dip

Today the temperature topped out at 95 F and very humid.  The sand was hot and so was I.  As the Atlantic Ocean rolled about my toes I was shocked, stopped back and then quickly moved forward.  That cool that refreshes, the primordial ooze calling me back, comforting my skin, my soul and my desire.  Jumping through that first wave I emerged ageless. 

Frolicking about, I gave myself to the surf. The salt biting my lips.   The ebb and flow of the water moving me about releasing my tensions and drive.  Jumping, laughing and jumping again.  Total ease and freedom of movement.  Playing without thought, responding purely to the moment.

Back home I pick up my guitar.  Connecting with the present moment I wish I could manifest once again the ease and freedom of movement; to play without thought nor judgement.  Slowly the possibility approaches as the hands dance softly on the fretboard.  Waves of sound echoing in the moment, as the sands of time dissolve.  Music nudging my being as the notes played on.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Discovered Random Possibilities

The last few weeks we've been going through "stuff" in our home.  Let go of 400 plus cassettes tapes, too many music magazines, CD's, equipment, and tons of paper.  So many ideas, quotes and notions I have written down on paper over the years.

Found the following on a small sheet of paper today:

Ignore the question. (Eno?)

Add a little grey (Smith, but darn if I know which one)

Suspend in air  (Alexander Calder)

Construct the same differently (Sounds like Eno)

Speaking of sounds, I better pick up my guitar, already 9 pm here on the East Coast.  Life is very
 good.  Being stopped to consider items that I find attenuate the process on many levels.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Right Question?




It's a beautiful question - but your answer is wrong. 
Toyah Wilcox

What if I asked the right question,
heard the answer,
and was able to incorporate this into life?

Just might be a beautiful answer.

Photo by John Fowler

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Spider & I


Spider and I sit watching the sky
On a world without sound 
Brian Eno

Driving Hope 
before and after 
science of another day.
Webs of silence
calling forth,
watching the sky
with stilled heart.

Last Looks.
Hometown is closing.
Mourning hours call.

What?
What if?
I never again?





Monday, June 15, 2015

Rest

According to Wikipedia a rest is an interval of silence in a piece of music. I'm back home after a week on the Introduction to the Guitar Circle and Beginner/Intermediate Course in Hope New Jersey last week.  For myself being on a GC Course provides an interval of silence in life and while a part of my being is rested, I certainly come home tired.



Sunday, June 7, 2015

Alexander Reminders Arising Out of Trees

We were learning a new part of a form in Qi Gong class this morning, one where one of the hands moves across the body around the waist and then the alternate hand does this.  Some of us in the class were leaning over, perhaps unaware or perhaps helping the hand doing the movement.  Master Li pointed this out and then I heard the birds.  The trees were so tall in the area we were in and as the birds sang out I spontaneously rose up to hear them better.  As the class went on I let me ears lead me forward and up.  I smiled at yet another reminder from nature about this important aspect of movement delineated by FM Alexander.

As the class progressed the birds continued to remind me to think "up" as I learned these new moves.  To be wide and open, to listen to Master Li's verbal instruction, but to also learn from the graceful way in which he moves.  Unfortunately a recently discovered hernia began to garner my attention and soon I sat out the rest of the class, focusing my energy on this area with hope that it may heal.  As I type I hear the birds singing their nightly lullabies and am again reminded to be forward and up, long and wide.  Be free, be open and sing. Ever grateful for the reminders however they arise.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Now Where is That Question?


Curiosity killed the rut.  
Todd Henry

May I find the question(s) I did not know I need to be asking.

How to uncover/discover/recover the spark?

Listening
Reading
Walking
Conversing
Looking at Art or art
Being open
Collaborate

We know what & how to do this, so let us do the work.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Magnification

Magnify the most difficult details. 
Oblique Strategy

Working on Slip, another demanding work-in-progress. Once again fingers of my left hand are anchored throughout the piece. Several odd rhythmic changes require my constant attention.  As I am developing the possibilities of the piece I am also working with the space around me.  I wish to maintain my freedom by incorporating the principles of the Alexander Technique and practice good use.  I'd like to say maintain good use, but that is a dream at this point for me.

When this Oblique Strategy popped up today I wondered which difficulty might I magnify.  The shapes my left hand must assume and hold, the changing rhythms, or practicing good use?  Can I keep a sense of the space around me and within me?  Why within?  By noticing the movement of my chest as I breathe I notice two things. One is if I am holding my breath as a "system of control."  While the other aspect I've been noticing is that when I sense my inner space is confined, I notice I am collapsing down and in from my neck and shoulder blades.  The collapsing limits my freedom to play, is a detriment to my long time ability to play, and tires me out.

As I pondered this Oblique Strategy during a break, I saw once again the importance of minding my use.  With good use, I increase the freedom in my left hand, I lessen the tendency to collapse about the guitar and though this does require additional attention I am in a sense growing my attention muscle.  With this growth my future musical pursuits will prosper along with the rest of my life.  By decreasing the strain on my system, I might be better able to hear the additional possibilities hidden within Slip.

Returning to the guitar, I decided focus on my use instead of Slip.  I played through two pieces not as demanding on my hands while working with the AT directions to foster freedom in my neck, back and spine.  Noticing the fatigue from the past two hours of practice I decided that taking a longer break from practice was in order.  Though the possibilities of the Slip continue to pull at me even now I inhibit my desire to jump back in there.  Time to work with the Musician and allow a rest.  After all does not Music reside in the space between the notes?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Them Changes

Well my mind is goin' through them changes.
Buddy Miles

Impermanence - everything changes.

Notes change - sounding different from the attack, as they sustain, and as they decay.  Apply various types of vibrato and the notes change more.  Invite other notes to play at the same time and any individual note sounds totally different depending on the surrounding notes or harmony.  Not unlike people in that way.

Thoughts change. 
Times change. 
People change. 
Tastes change.
Life is change.

Many of the changes are random. Yet there are changes we can direct.  Such as our thinking.  The information we take in or not.  The food we eat or not. The people we engage with.  The practices we undertake.  Are my actions serving my aim?  Are my words in harmony with the world I wish to create?  Am I aware of the precious moments with loved ones that may leave this life before I finish this sentence?

Photo by Neal Fowler

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Asking

Day after day and throughout the day I have to ask for help with my practice.  What do I ask for?
- Help from Beyond
- guidance from those that have tread the path before me
- the clarity to see the next step
- the courage to take it.

Over and over, again and again.


Photo by ePi.longo

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Clouds

                        
Clouds come and clouds go, my mind is a clear blue sky ...

Notes come and notes go, but where is my mind?  Am I present with myself, with the guitar, and with music?  What happens in those moments as I bring my hands to the instrument and the mind begins a slight chatter?  Over and over I find myself calm and centered and just as I go to play the opening notes the mind interferes?  Why does the mind begin to wander, imagine, or otherwise obstruct the act of music?

I sit on my stool and come into my body by observing my breath.  Releasing my neck to be free, my back long and wide, my legs free, and my shoulders wide I arrive in an optimum state to play.  Many times I do, but other times the mind interferes. Patience.  Practice.  Discipline.  Love.  Over and over again.  I am grateful for the improvement over the years. 

Photo by Prashant

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Search

Once the search is in progress, something will be found. 

Brian Eno/ Peter Schmidt

So very true.  Once again the Oblique Strategies serves up a gem. So blatantly obvious, yet beginning the search at times is just about impossible for me.  Why is this?

I must be present.  I must be present to my shortcomings and lack of knowledge.  Be willing to struggle with potentially fruitless paths.  Be willing to know that a good idea may arrive that I can not develop fully.  


Today I was going through old stuff in my basement.  Time to let go of my cassette tapes.  Glancing at the tapes I smiled often at the wonderful and diverse music that has informed my life.  I am grateful for all the musicians who have put their hearts and souls onto recordings, frequently receiving very little for a life time of work.  


But musicians play; we share our music in the venues and mediums that are available. And the world is a better place for this act of sharing.  This music I have listened to, continues to inform my searches and many others.  As has the books read, art viewed,  poetry pondered, and long walks and conversations with others.  My search is always in progress, I'm just frequently not aware of this.

Photo by Alan L

 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tipping the Scales

Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle. 
Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt

As this Oblique Strategy arose in my mind this morning I had a sense something interesting would arrive.  I wondered if I was becoming too consistent of late.  I've been picking up the guitar, making slow progress practicing pieces, but there has been no creative spark.  I'm disciplined enough to remain in the process of practice, but when the juice arrives, my practice is amplified in a sense.  How to investigate the inconsistency principle and restore balance?

One thought was to pick up my electric guitar and see what happens.  Maybe even plug in some effects. Looking at the definition of inconsistency I found this explanation when used as an adjective - "not in agreement or harmony."  I could go for something atonal or I could learn more about harmony.  Playing around with an Eb sus4 and Eb sus2 chords I now had a direction.  Then the Strategy spoke to me when I began playing around in eleven which reversed itself.  The pattern of this was 4/4/3/3/4/4.  Then it switched to 4/3/4.  More inconsistency arrived when the rhythm changed to ten, then to seven and eventually mellowing out in six.

My playing was energized and challenging.  I was alive again.  I made some notes and will investigate this more tomorrow as the scale tips toward balance.

Photo by elycefeliz