Thursday, August 30, 2012

Night Sounds

Night sky and gum tree: Abstract The night songs of summer insects remind me of all that I do not know.  Which insect is making that sound?  Why that rhythm?  How are they making that sound?

Do the insects hear me playing my guitar?  Do they hear the other insects?  Do I hear me playing my guitar?  Or are they just interested in finding their mate? And yes I think I know that answer to that last one.

Is their a rustle of leaves within this part of the song?  The drone of a distant car?  What would summer sound like without the insects?  Why am I so intrigued by this summer symphony?

Does the full moon affect their tunes?  Do they quiet down when they find their mate? Or get louder?  Do they pause from a  thunderclap? What else don't I know?

Hello darkness my old friend ...


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Place of Waiting

How do I wait?
With awareness.

sometimes I am lost
bouncing about
body & mind?

Why do I wait?
To learn.

When do I wait?
Not often enough.

Ahh but when I do ...

Can I inhibit movement as an act of waiting?
Can I direct my thinking as a way of waiting?
Will I calm my heart?

Do I wait?
Or plunge?
Or both?

Maybe even plunge into waiting?

Why do I wait?
To find out where I am.
To listen to my thoughts.
Maybe even to listen to my speech.
To release the unnecessary and perform an act with ease.
To see.

When do I wait?
When I remember.

How do I remember?
By reflecting on the fruits of waiting.
With the help of others.
From the guidance of a tradition.
By finding myself in a jam and waking.

_ _ _

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Where do I wait?

Who waits?


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


It's Snowing!  (AGAIN)

Slowly something is entering my playing.  Occasionally I hear it.  In May on the Guitar Circle course for a performance during a meal it really came alive, and last night in my AT class David heard it.  What to do?  Keep practicing.  What a joy. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Inviting Change

view from bridge of sighs

Today I made the time to change my strings.  It was past time, but this week was so draining, I would not undertake this on a work night. Now I am enjoying the bright sound of new strings on a beautiful guitar.  A treat for certain.

Looking at UnDone which is somewhat melancholic and written so far in g minor.  There is a solid beginning but a change is needed, perhaps one of tempo, or feel, or key.  What does the piece need is generally my guiding question.  How to invite this change to manifest?  I seek to remain open to the music, to life.  Then with the limits of my technique and theory I explore the potential.  Being open can be challenging as habits of thinking, playing, and living cloud my options.

Tonight I had the thought to investigate a key change and was drawn to c# minor.  I found a way to modulate that works to my ear, and began exploring arpeggios in c# minor.  Playing around with chords built on fourths, I may have found the next direction.

As I reminded myself yesterday, I just need to stay out of the way and follow where the piece wants to go.

                    Sounds,    form,                    Invite the Silence.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fortunate Indeed

Tough Luck (1 of 2)

Guitar practice this week has been rough. By the end of the working day, my energies have been zapped. But as one post titled this week aptly stated I show up. Friday night also found me wiped out and we had our beloved granddaughter with us. My wife and her went to pickup a movie and I got in 20 good minutes of playing. My tone was sweet and I was ready. A melody began to emerge.

My granddaughter entered my practice room to tell me the movie was ready. I said I wanted to play, but she really wanted to watch the movie with me. I knew I was in the space were something creative could occur and that there is no guarantee that if I return later I'll access that space. "It would be more fun with me" she said. How could I resist. So I let go of the guitar and had a great time with the family. After 11pm I picked up my guitar again. The melody was still whispering so I recorded what I had.

This afternoon I played with this more. Music was whispering and slowly the sounds are taking form.  I reminded myself of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategy -  Not building a wall, but making a brick. I played what I have which is really a solid beginning for my wife. I said I did not know where to take it next and she made a suggestion. Diving in another spark moved the piece forward a bit. And the title arrived, the same as last night's poem title UnDone. Grateful that the creative spirit waited for me to get back. Indeed I am fortunate or at the very least diligent.

Friday, August 17, 2012


yours is the music for no instrument
yours the preposterous colour unbeheld
                                  e.e. cummings 

Lift the veil that shadows you. Open to what is yours ... 
Release death's hold on spirit; rise, glide, beebold. 
The world is listening for your you;
                       eager to know and be renewed.
Sounds, form           unfolding            silence.

laughter,    laughter,           revealing     unborn.


What, does it matter?  Yes. Always.

                      and         beeeeeecause.

Lift the veil that blinds you. Open to what is yours ...

Sounds,   scale,          invite The silence 

     listen,  what Is there?

Embrace the veil that guides you. Open to what is theirs.
                Request deaths bold distaste. 
     Search,  thirst,   always - yes.

Be       cause


 Open   open           Open?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Showing Up


This morning I was reading Robert's Diary and one of my favorite aphorisms arrived - With commitment all the rules change.  A good thought to guide my day.  When I came home the motivation to pick up my guitar was lacking.  But because of the commitment I have made to myself, I did open the case and went back to my beginnings.  Playing the first piece that ever came to me generally gets the energy moving.  But tonight other than playing the piece, I was still stuck.

I sensed that I needed some juice, perhaps a brush with the creative process.  I needed an idea.  Holding my guitar with six strings in tune, the clever thought when all else fails do nothing arrived.  So I did for a while, but then I let this go.  Picking up my notebook that contains various ideas and pieces in progress, I looked for an old idea to rework.  Finding a score with a working title of Taking the Veil, I played with this.

Not enough of a spark was in this idea, so I looked again for a new one.  Nothing arrived.  But I had shown up, honored my commitment.  I trust that this will serve me in the longer process of being a musician.  Currently listening to an older work in progress as I type this, I believe I have my bridge to tomorrows work.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Am Not A Student of the Alexander Technique.


A difficult beginning to my guitar work tonight.  Too much chatter as I was playing through a piece just to reconnect with it.  I moved on to review Stepping Stones which I have not played in weeks.  I was having problems cleanly executing some of the opening passages when I returned to working with inhibitory or negative directions.  Employing "I am not holding onto myself", I then returned to "I am not a guitarist" as I have found much freedom with this combination.

Then out of nowhere, the thought I am not a student of the Alexander Technique arrived.  I held this for a bit and explored playing the opening passages some more.  As I continued to hold this something was definitely shifting in my body.  Perhaps years of "trying" to get it right was being let go.  I was just sitting on a chair with guitar in hand.  No position was being assumed,  and my body was just responding to the directions in a different way that yet felt right.

I took a break to do an AT lie down.  While on the floor I continued with "I am not a student ..."  From there I moved to "I do not know how to use my arms."  As I lay there on the floor with this thought the release of unnecessary tension in my right arm was noticeable.  I am not sure what happens within the mind body system when these "negative directions" arrive but I do know that something happens.  Something within the system is shifting.

I returned to the guitar working with these two directions.  Just as I began to play, a bit of chatter erupted in my mind.  I replaced this with the thought of "I am not a performer."  The mind quieted and the playing was beautiful. I think there is fertile area for me to explore these further in the coming evenings.

Stay Tuned.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Inhibitory Experiments


 I'm still moving through Missy Vineyard's excellent book on the AT and today I began playing with her "Acts of Inhibition."  Mind you that I have worked with "inhibition" frequently and have blogged about this in the past.  Perhaps because of my study of science in my youth, when the word "experiment" is mentioned this grabs my attention.  Scientists publish their results for the community to examine and attempt to replicate. So when Missy mentioned that "first you will practice two intermediate inhibitory acitvities. These are experiments ..." she had my attention.

Laying down in the semi-supine position, I quieted my thoughts.  Allowing my attention to focus on the what she terms "the attic," I worked to maintain my focus on my thinking rather than getting caught in the sensation of the movement.  Slowly bringing up my right arm just a bit as I held the thought "I am not moving my arm."  Pausing to focus again, move a bit, redirect the thought, I kept this process going over the course of minutes.  Occasionally noticing tension, I would pause and redirect.  I did these experiments three times and then once with my left arm.

Then I played with this process of bringing my right arm as if I was to play the guitar.  Reminding myself I am "not playing the guitar" as I also kept the direction alive of "not moving."  Noticing different areas of my back, neck, shoulders, and upper arm let go a bit as I did this.  Fairly early in the act of bring my right arm to the guitar experiment, I noticed that my right hand had a clenching quality to it.  What was this about I wondered as I let my hand and fingers release and lengthen.   Chuckling as I had to remind myself that this is not about getting it right.  Rather I am setting the conditions to "let the right thing do itself" as F. M. Alexander so wisely described.

As I took my guitar out of the case, I reminded myself of the primary AT directions and followed this with various inhibitory directions as I settled into my chair.  This next experiment would be to move my right arm to the guitar and perhaps even play a bit.  After spending a minute to quiet my thinking, I began with the direction of "I am not moving my right arm."  After holding this thought a bit, I did begin to move my arm, and the next thought that arose was one I have played with in the past "I am not a guitarist."  I had meant to keep on with the "I am not moving ..." but the "not a guitarist" arose and so I followed this.

In my conversation with Robert Rickover of the Body Learning Podcast series, he observed how this negative or inhibitory direction of "I am not a guitarist" was a "meta-level higher" than the simple I am not doing directions."  Today I saw that this type of direction offered another, perhaps deeper freedom of movement for me since part of my issues arise from moving like a guitarist rather than a human being.  Though I absolutely will not fault the instructions given to me by various guitarists, it has been my internalizing and execution  of these instructions that has led to the aches and pains over the years.  In fact at times I have ignored sound advice rather than take the step backwards to be able to move forward.

I played with this experiment of "not being a guitarist" to bring my right arm to the guitar three times.  Again I noticed unnecessary tension in my right hand on the first two times.  On the third experiment my arm did something different in the area of my elbow.  I lack the technical terms to adequately describe this, and while I am not certain that it was "right" this was how my arm moved after nearly 25 minutes of intensive thinking aimed at inhibiting or disrupting my habitual use.  On this third time, I chose to play an actual piece, Senseless Loss.  About a minute into this piece, the mind began to wander.  Thoughts of how to describe this in the blog and pats on my back began to overtake me.  Old habits of monkey mind now beginning to gain speed.  So I stopped playing.  Took a few breaths and decided it was time for a break.

One major item I am taking away from this work today is  if I do not move as a guitarist, but allow this amazing system of muscles, tendons, bones, and brain to move according to design and principle I just might become a better guitarist.  Can I inhibit this guitarist enough to allow this ease and freedom to grow?  Can I inhibit this guitarist enough to let the right thing do itself?  Yes of course, but will I allow do this work is the tougher question.  Will you?

Missy Vineyards excellent book is available here:  How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I was very tired at the end of the work day.  So drained that I let go of going seeing the latest Batman movie.  After resting I decided to move towards guitar practice.  But first a much needed AT lie down.  For months I had the habit if beginning my session with a lie down, but somewhere along the line this habit has been broken.

As I hit the floor I knew that I had made the right decision. Relishing the ease of how this simple semi-supine posture can release tension regardless of whether I am directing my thinking or not.  Of course when I actively engage and direct my thinking I suppose the process may go deeper, but tonight during this first lie down, the thoughts of the day rolled about and settled a bit.  Perhaps this was the best I was capable of in that moment. Certainly, when I rose my body and mind were more unified.

A spirited improvisation ensued, followed by work on Senseless Loss.  This piece has taken on a new direction lately, and I am ready for feedback related to a particular transition.  I wanted to make two rough recordings with the transition played in two different manners I have been experimenting with. Then I can listen to them while not engaged with the playing and also solicit feedback from some trusted ears.

Before turning on the recorder I decided to do another AT lie down.  This time I began directing in an AT sense when the notion of Edward de Bono's septien arrived.  I have not played with this in some time and decided to create one and see where this led.  After holding these seven words for a while, I rose and turned on the recorder.  Noticing our meditation bell I paused the recorder and invited the bell three times.  Why had I not thought of this before.  We use bells both in our Sangha practice and as part our our sitting at home.  After nearly 20 years of practice in this way the affect of the bell on my thinking and my body is very powerful.

The playing that followed was not flawless but close enough and the spirit was captured for the tape.  Before the next effort of taping I composed a septien that could be related to performance. The second taping with the altered transition took three takes to produce a recording that should work for the purpose of discernment. I used this new septien in between each take. If nothing else I touched on some old practices and combined them in a new way that could bear fruit in the future.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

When You Least Expect It


I arrived home from work today tired, but in a relatively relaxed mood.  I was certainly ready to play my guitar.  I began working with Missy Vineyard's Inhibitory Directions for which I have gained an even greater appreciation for by working with her book How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery.

I was working with not holding on and not playing the guitar.  Working for brief periods of time so as to maintain my focus, I was ready after one of my short breaks to return to the guitar.  Instead I chose to do a lie down. I was amazed at the tension I was holding in my back, particularly the middle portion of my back.  Once again illustrating how difficult accurately being aware of my use is.  When I returned to the guitar, it was if a was a new man.  Working with the AT directions again as I played I took a break to begin writing this. Wondering if it was indeed time for another lie down before I returned to the guitar again, I decided to go ahead and play.

After playing for just a few minutes, the thought about doing another lie down returned again.  Trusting my thinking, I chose to embrace the idea and hit the floor.  Again, I was surprised at the level of tension present.  I know I need to pay better attention to how I use myself when I type, and now the proof was in my back.  Refreshed I returned to the guitar.  Deciding to improvise, a fun idea arrived.  Playing with this for a while I then completed my practice.

A bit amazed that both times before I hit the floor to do the AT lie down, I felt fine.  Yet both times the presence of unnecessary tension was revealed.  Obviously I have more practice ahead of me, as I learn to use myself with the Alexander Technique.

And so it goes...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

What If

What if I treated every situation of my day as if I were sitting down with my guitar?

 I handle the guitar with gentleness and care.

I take the time to tune the guitar so that the "conversation" I evoke from her is as harmonious and pure as possible.

When the guitar does not sound as I wish, I take responsibility for the sound and investigate how I am using myself to produce this sound. I do not blame the guitar.

I listen to my guitar.

The tone of my playing reflects the level of my presence in the moment.  Generally, I either am or I am not present.  Can I develop the sense to hear the tone of my interactions with others as easily as I can with the guitar?

When the guitar needs attention, new strings perhaps, I give her the attention that is needed.  Even when I do not "feel" like doing so.

During a session with the guitar, I pause and reconnect with myself.  When I notice that the guitar has gone out of tune, I pause and tune her.  I do not blame her for going out of tune, guitars just go out of tune.

When my emotions begin to overwhelm me during the act of playing, I find the time and the way to release them.  Experience has shown me that if I do not then my playing generally worsens and more negative emotions arise.  Simpler to address the emotions as they arise, then to untangle the complications from remaining in their presence for too long.

When I am befuddled with how to play the guitar, I seek out assistance from those with greater experience and knowledge.

I accept the limits of the guitar.  Though Beethovan did refer to the guitar as a "miniature orchestra" she will never sound like one.

When my encounter with the guitar is over, I wipe off her strings and her body to remove any particles of my being that may affect her as she rests.

I place her lovingly in her case.  Making sure she is safe and secure for our next adventure.

Then I pause and reconnect with life before moving on ...

So again I ask myself the question - What if I treated every situation of my day as if I were sitting down with my guitar? 

Photo by Wonderlane