Monday, October 31, 2011

A Simple Truth


The more mindful I am of my body, the easier it is to be mindful of my body. As I establish mindfulness of my body, my mind quiets; which makes it easier to be mindful of my body. With this increased awareness, playing the guitar becomes joyful. Very simple; very powerful; all you need to do is practice following your breath and during the in-breath be aware of your whole body. Then during the out-breath again be aware of your whole body. Once this is established during the in-breath release the tension in your whole body and again during the out-breath release the tension of your whole body. Two very simple, complete, and powerful exercises.

Recently, while practicing in this way I noticed that this awareness supports the Alexander Technique directions and allows myself to lengthen and widen. The lengthening and widening through AT, supports the release of tension throughout my psycho-physical system. AT is a mindfulness of the body practice that has impacted me tremendously. Establishing the mindfulness of the body by observing the breath and using gathas has been taught since the time of the Buddha. Both are powerful and are mutually supportive. Both can be practiced anywhere, with any activity. Grateful I have been exposed to both and shown how to practice.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Does it Matter?

contain the broken.

Early tonight I saw a tweet from a composer looking for ways to subdivide 19. Looking at what he has so far I noticed (3,4,3,4,5) was missing, which also looked to be fun to explore with arpeggios.  Life has been wonderfully full of late.  Besides my earlier retreat, I attended two talks by Thich Nhat Hahn this week and flew to Boston overnight for a memorial service.  Time with my guitar has been minimal this week to say the least.

After playing through Gathered Hearts, I decided to play with the subdivision of 19 that had arrived earlier.  This was good for me since I have not played much this got my right in the mode of exploring and having fun.  As I improvised with this as a frame, a few interesting ideas emerged.  Enough to engage and keep me working.  Nothing final came out of this, but something was began and this is what matters.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Stepping Into Freedom

How to begin when there is no beginning?

I spent a week on retreat with the venerable Thich Naht Hahn, and my practice went deeper than ever before.  There were over 1000 participants and the energy of Mindfulness was being cultivated all day long.  Though I did not play a lot during the retreat, the times that I did were sweet and present.

Coming back home, we maintained the practice the following day in our home as a way to reenter gently.  When I returned to work, I noticed a sensation in my throat that warned me a microbe was in the process of hijacking my biochemistry.  And they did. The past two days have found me recovering with Thai lemon grass soup, meditation, and rest.  By evening I have felt strong enough to play for a while and these moments have been delightful.  Noticing that the energy of the retreat is still within me, I am grateful for the silence and stillness that was cultivated, while being overwhelmed by the love that was transmitted. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Simple Adjustments

Fractal Frost

I needed to change strings tonight.  When I began to put new strings on the guitar, I realized I had to adjust the truss bar as the strings were now buzzing on the frets.  A simple adjustment to free the neck of the guitar and then I completed the restringing.

While doing my AT lie down prior to playing tonight, I was enjoying the sensation of my back letting go.  The muscles lengthening and widening, giving rise to a quieter mind and a sense of well being.  Following my breath, while contemplating my body, I noticed the tension dissolve into the floor.  None of this is a new experience for me, yet every time the process is unique.  The release of the muscles shifts the energies and the focus of my thinking in the body creates a union within.  A harmony perhaps of body, mind, and spirit.  Another simple adjustment.

As I noticed my rib cage moving; I wondered if the intercostal muscles, which I recall from my days of studying science, also lengthen and widen?  What a marvelous complex biochemical and mechanical system has been given to me.  How I am using this system?  Do I play guitar from a place of mechanical advantage fostering good use?  Or do I succumb to the habits that have kept me alive and chase the end at whatever cost to my body and psyche?  Tonight I choose to develop good use.  Grateful for all those wonderful people who have shared their knowledge of the Alexander Technique with me over the years.  Gently introducing freedom into my body and thought and showing me how to do this on my own.

Reflecting back on this morning, when I absolutely needed Qi Gong and my morning sitting to focus my day.  The small break at my desk to reflect and breath.  A quiet moment in the car on my commute home to once again let go and find the present moment.  Many, many simple adjustments in service to life.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Think Up

6 o 9

Think Up and

- allow my neck be free,

- allow the notes to soar,

- let myself be,

- release my heart to roar,

- begin to think up some more ...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It Might Get Loud

One of the first things that Pedro de Alcantara noticed about my playing during Monday's lesson is that I need to develop my potential to play loud and beautiful.  I knew this, yet have never moved far in this direction.  Playing quiet fits the meditative aspects of the music that comes to me, with the exception of the introduction in Scattered Hearts.  The interesting aspect of Pedro's comment was that I when he explained this in the terms of having the latent ability within me to play loud, I understood this on some level and trusted his musicianship enough to begin working with this that night.

Throughout this week some part of my practice was devoted to a loud improvisation.  Why does loud denote reckless and even a certain ugliness in my expression?  Perhaps because when I play loud finger style on an acoustic guitar, it takes enough force that this act throws me off balance?  Thursday night while improvising loud, an interesting musical idea surfaced.  I had fun with this idea and allowed it to develop.  Finishing practicing after 11pm, I resisted blogging and went to bed.  Last night I again investigated this idea and watched as other aspects of my recent improvisations began to inform this work.  Tonight I again spent 45 minutes or so on this one idea alone.

Besides the forte introduction, faster playing has been introduced into this particular piece.  Where this will end up, I do not know.  I sense the music and am following, listening to what is needed and letting go.  Enjoying the moment of discovery and the presence of music whispering.