Saturday, March 31, 2012

Waves of Trust

All Dressed Up AbstractDuring our morning Qi Gong practice I choose Trust as my word for the day.  As I mindfully traced Trust with my hands in the air about me, I noticed how the "T" had a peak and valley, the "rus" formed waves beneath my fingers, and then again the "t" with another peak and valley.  Smiling as I saw the resemblance to life - up, down, flowing, up, down ...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

System Restore

Jade Belt Bridge & Boat, Summer Palace, Peking, China [c1924] Sidney D. Gamble [RESTORED]

There's been a energy blockage in my system.  Inflammation and needed caution slowed me, alarmed me, and led me to seek help. Recent practice evenings have been gentle and brief to allow my body to rest and to allow my mind to think constructively about my use.

Fortunately the blockage is removed, but the system has been disrupted.  What to do?  After some technical exercises, I began looking at partial scores as a possible beginning point.  Perhaps I should listen to what I have of these ideas on tape.  Get myself organized better to move forward? What?  No,no, no - revisiting the past this evening was not the right action.

I needed to Act.  To embrace the unknown, face a blank score, and brush my resistance aside.  Connect with my muse and ignite the system once more.  Can I just play a note or a chord and follow the promptings?  Can I trust the process once again?  Only if I play what I don't know, that's the only way.  Listen to the notes, stop the chatter, and play.  So I did.  The tape was running but this is not the time to reflect on the outcome.  For tonight my work is done, the path found again; if only as far as the next step.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Connection Found


Last night I was able to return to my Qi Gong class after missing two sessions after a week of flu.  After an hour & fifteen minutes, I was so connected.  My body relaxed, mind focused, and energy freely moving throughout the system.  If only I could live in this space.

Tonight I did a few minutes of Qi Gong before practicing guitar.  Always a good way to warm up my hands, bring my body/mind together, and to get my energy moving.  I was working on two difficult passages from two different pieces this evening.  After good progress was made on the first piece of work, I took a brief break and turned my attention to the second difficulty.

This section has plagued me for sometime.  Part of my problem is that as pieces are evolving I am developing insufficient knowledge of fingerings as the piece is not complete.  Frequently by the time a piece is complete, I have some habits that need addressing.  This is the case with this section.  As I was working on this tonight, I noticed I was lacking connection with myself, the guitar, and with the music.  I removed the guitar and sat for a few minutes to establish the connection with myself.  Then returning to the guitar, I directed with the AT directions, and considered how I might approach what I was doing.

I decided to play just up to the transition that is problematic and then inhibit playing the next notes.  As I worked with inhibition, I sensed a greater connection with the piece, noticing how the energy was building and needed the proper execution of the next part to allow the piece to "take off."  One time I spoke instead of playing; another time I lifted my feet; and I made other gestures, all the while paying attention to what I was doing.  Then as I was leading up to this one more time, I noticed myself catching my breath, so I exhaled but continued to inhibit the playing.  Beginning the section again,  I followed my breath and began to exhale just before the problem part.  I played the notes beautifully.  A few more times of just staying with my breath, not attempting to time the breath with the part, but remaining connected and allowing the breath to support myself and the music.

This is not the first time I have learned this lesson, and possibly not the last.   Just happy to be learning, breathing, and making music.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Use of the Heart


At one point while playing this evening,  I found myself leaning into my guitar rather than allowing the guitar to come to my body.  In this slight motion I had a sense of my heart grasping the guitar.  Sounded poetic in the moment and my thinking continued well all achievement comes from a striving within the heart and soul of us.  But then, I recalled the old adage " If you love something, let it go."

Yes this seems to be the use of the heart in my pursuit of music.  Loving, letting go of expectations, outcomes,  and desire.  Then, just maybe I'll arrive in the present moment, guitar in hand and music flowing.  Just maybe awareness will spread and another be affected.  There is only one way to find out - let go ...  And then when I find I am holding on again - let go.  Again and again for an eternity or maybe for just now.

Are you letting go?

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Journeyman's Wish

May I be free and alive when I play.

May I be free to touch the source of inspiration.

May I allow the meaning and emotion within a piece to flow freely.

May I connect within and without; in time and thru time; and let go. 

May I express the inexpressible.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cycles of Learning


 It was a balmy 41 F, as we set out for our Qi Gong session in the park at 7:45am.  Overcast, like my mood.  I was tired this morning, up late last night after attending a performance of the BSO accompanying the 1928 silent film - The Passion of Joan of Arc.  The oratorio Voices of Light by Ricard Einhorn was as beautiful as it was intriguing.  The emotional power of the actors facial gestures were very moving for me.

As I woke at 6:30am, I had my ready-made excuse to blow off Qi Gong.  But why?  The practice outdoors with Nianzu Li and others  is always so good for me.  The collective energy of the practitioners and Mother Nature supporting my individual effort.  As we arrived, I noticed that there were more birds singing to the early morn than last week.  Tree buds were exploding all around us and the cycles of life continuing.  As were the cycles of my thinking.  Negative judgmental thoughts of myself and others kept arising as I worked with the exercises.  Where was this coming from and why now?  Recycled  patterns that serve no useful nor higher purpose, but are part of me.  The movements are so simple; Nianzu so focused and giving, and I stuck in my thinking.  Have I learned these particular movements well enough that now they are moving into the realm of the automatic & habitual and not requiring the active attention that new learning requires of me?

I have seen this drifting attention pattern many times before.  An activity moving into habit and lacking the spirit.  Yet Qi Gong needs the active participation of both my body and mind to be with the movement to fully reap the benefits of this work.  True for every activity, I suppose.  When learning a new piece of music, the time arrives when the mind drifts from the playing as a certain level of automaticity enters my hands, my being.  Then like this morning, when I notice this drift I need to bring my attention back.  How to wake up to this moment I am living; be it doing Qi Gong, making music, or just being with another?  Finding and observing my breath is a steady ally and part of our Qi Gong efforts.  But today, a pattern of distracted thinking had taken root in my mind and was affecting my efforts.

Despite wanting to walk away and most likely increase the intensity of negative thoughts about myself, I persisted.  I paused a few times, to let go of the trying and come back to the doing with varying degrees of success.  There were moments of presence within, but today some olde, possibly inherited patterns of thinking were flourishing.  I was gentle with myself and this cycle, kept to the practice and know that this too shall pass.  And I am grateful for that knowing.

No great happy ending, but at least I was not burned at the stake like Joan.  An hour can appear to be an eternity or a glimpse.  Thoughts come and thoughts go, do I attach myself to them remains key.  The practice of gently working through the various states of mind that arise is the journey.  Practice like this in one activity affects all activities.  As the Zen saying reminds us - The Journey is the Path.

The bulk of this was written this morning.  Nearly eight hours later with a nap and much rest, my energy is still amiss.  Perhaps a microbe is highjacking my biochemistry.  The negative thinking pattern of this possibility is daunting and eliciting despair.  Can I water the seed of happiness in me and accept what comes?  Please be gentle with your good selves on your journeys.

Photo by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE

Saturday, March 3, 2012

New Steps


Taking a new step ... is what people fear most. - Dostoyevsky



A new step is where I learn.

A new step just may lead me to freedom.

New Steps need love.

We all need love ... so take the step.

Photo by Susi Watson

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Reflection on Space

bridging knowledge to health

Before playing this evening I read Bill Plake's excellent blog on the Alexander Technique. This particular post was about having less tension as you play by thinking about your space.  Always a good focus for me.  Awareness of space allows me to move from compressing myself to one of expansion while I play.  Slowly through my work with AT, I have let go of unnecessary tension, only to find new muscular areas where I am holding on and tonight was no different.

As I was playing through a piece while singing it, I noticed tension in my right arm and thought of the space within the arm, the elbow, the shoulder.  With this added awareness, a slight release became noticeable in the sound of my guitar.  Those moments of incremental freedom in my use coming alive in the sound are always a bit startling and delightful.  When I was finished the piece I thought through the AT directions and returned to begin again.

Becoming aware of my breathing, I noticed the space within/around my rib cage.  This marvelous device which constantly interacts with my  environment without my needing to pay attention.  But when I do pay attention to my breath, something becomes available - life.  With continued practice through meditation of paying attention to my breath this has allowed the space within my heart to expand.  This expansion resulting in a softer more flexible person, open to self-reflection and letting go of the unneeded.  As with the small freedoms in AT, these changes have been slow, but the journey has shifted over time from one led by fear to one guided with love.  And it is within that space that Music lives.