Friday, February 24, 2012

Clouds Never Die

the man who fell to earth
Photo by Robert Couse-Baker
It is Friday after all.  I collapsed into bed after work today, followed by a quiet light dinner.

I was ready to practice, but felt it prudent to begin with a lie down.  Sure enough as my body relaxed into the floor, I felt the tension in the middle of my back and spine begin to release.  Grateful for this simple powerful tool of constructive rest.

I placed my guitar in the stand and sat for a minute to decide what to work on.  What principle might I apply to my work with the guitar I asked myself?  Always good to be mindful of my use and certainly the Alexander Technique provides a succinct and powerful means to this end. I decided that when I noticed I was using myself poorly I would pause from my activity and direct my thinking via AT.

Beginning with an improvisation with long tones, a melody began to emerge.  As this evolved, a certain energy began to build.  Suddenly I felt as if a certain emotional surge was needed and noticed how my shoulders were pulling in and I was adding tension, but not necessarily energy to the piece.  I paused to direct my thinking and moved onto working with the opening of Clouds Never Die.  Playing some more, I noticed I was tense in my upper body, so I paused and directed. Soon I again noticed tension in my shoulders and paused once again.

As I sat there, I thought can I float my hands to the guitar?  Can I allow my shoulders to float above my chest and ribs?  Can I allow the notes to float by like clouds? I played with this a bit, and then remembering our work with slow movement in Qi Gong, I just let my hands move even slower.  I sensed the lengthening particularly of my left arm as I did this.  I set the guitar down and played with this some and then resumed with the guitar.

I abandoned working with the new piece and began to play Gathered Hearts which I know so well to  allow me freedom to pay attention to my use.  Then I decided to change the question  - Can I float my hands to the guitar? to a statement.  I can float my hands to the guitar.  I can allow my head to float atop my spine. I can allow my shoulders to be back and wide and my arms releasing from them.  There was something very powerful with this shift to using statements as they are positive and the questions have a sense of hesitancy and doubt.

As I played and directed my thinking again after the piece, I noticed the area of my back behind my sternum release a bit.  Somewhere in this area are muscles of the back or spine which are habitually tense.  The lie down or the hands of an AT teacher always brings freedom and release to this area, but this may have been the first time I have ever sensed this release while siting with a guitar.  Then I thought of a cloud inside of my torso.  Gently but surely moving through life, providing us with beauty and nourishment.  Yes, as the venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn has taught me - Clouds never die.  Truly I am a cloud, we all are  - may music rain down from us to those who need to hear it.

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