Is something holding you back from making better music?
Ever asked yourself:
“Why do I sometimes get nervous when I play?”
“Why aren’t I making as much progress as so and so?”
“Why do other musicians have more gigs?.. Better gigs?.. Are more successful?”
“But (Joe Blogs) is not as good as me! How come they get all the work?”…the list of questions goes on!
I have asked all these questions throughout my 20+ years of drumming but it is only recently that I have started to see the truth and finally find the answer to these questions. The more I travel down this path the more I am surprised that all the questions above lead back to the same answer! I would like to share some thought provoking ideas with you.
When we Google information about learning to play an instrument we are often bombarded with a host of things such as gear, concepts, gimmicks – such as “learn to play faster in 30 days” and so on. We get consumed by the latest products or the next must have item. There is one thing that is very rarely discussed and interestingly enough it’s the most profound thing to understand… the “Ego”.
Of course no-one talks about the Ego, why would they? There is no gimmick to sell that modifies the Ego. Your tutor doesn’t want to lose business by really telling you why you will struggle to achieve your potential. Maybe your tutor doesn’t even realise it themselves as they might be too wrapped up in their own ego to even notice yours! Most people don’t get kicked out of bands because of they can’t play a double paradiddle faster than a speeding bullet, yet how come we spend more hours every day / week / year / decade practising these things than really working on the key issue that paralyses our creativity, musicianship and relationships? I’m not saying to stop practising and start hugging trees but I believe that there is a balance between practising to learn an instrument and the effects that practising mindfulness can have on your musicianship as a whole.
From a Buddhist point of view; the Ego or sense of self is an illusion made up by the mind. After some thought you soon realise the ego that we cling to is the centre of all our problems.
Have you ever had a moment when you have lost your ego?
Interestingly enough as musicians we often have moments where we lose the ego and don’t even notice until we regain it. Let me give you an example:
Have you ever finished playing and realised you had been completely swept away with the moment? Maybe you lost all track of time and suddenly noticed you had played for half an hour or more without a single thought or care in the world! That feeling of “just playing” is a glimpse of living in the “present” or the “here and now”. You felt liberated and seemed to channel the energy from somewhere else as new ideas effortlessly appeared before you. Doesn’t it feel good! When you reflect on what has happened you may notice that there were no distractions hindering your creativity, no thoughts about not being good enough and no “illusions of self”. Now all we have to do is to cultivate that feeling and work on capturing that sensation more and more.
How do we cultivate such a practise?
Now there’s the million dollar question! Let me just say that I don’t confess to being an expert, I’m only sharing my experiences and opinions which are a work in progress. Whether you agree or disagree with what I have to say is up to you.
It all started for me by accident when I decided to take up Aikido in 2014. After practising for a short time it became obvious to me that Aikido is more of a “way of life” or a spiritual journey than anything else. I noticed that the Aikidokas I had grown to admire had something in common. They were all continually looking inside themselves and working on spiritual development. They had all realised that it is impossible to change other people but no matter what you can “always sharpen your own sword”. I asked them to point me in the direction of things that had made a positive impact on their lives. As a result I began to research Buddhism, mindfulness and the more esoteric philosophies.
Since then I have been constantly applying this “way of life” into everyday life and am overwhelmed by the benefits I see. My relationships with people are changing, my Aikido is blossoming and my musicianship is developing too. I am working more with inspirational people, playing great and feeling free to express myself musically without fear of embarrassment and as a result enjoying living more in the moment.
So here’s the key part:
The truth is that all of this is connected. When you play music you are “expressing yourself” through the art form. So playing music is like holding a mirror up to your personality. Your expression of music is a reflection of your true self! Here’s the big question… Do you like what you see when you look at the reflection? If not, what are you going to do about it? Making time in your life to reflect upon the important matters may have a dramatic impact on your life and how you perceive things such as music. What’s to lose by having a go?!
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