This week I learned one of those, especially valuable lessons. You know the kind that leaves you feeling irritated afterwards, but ultimately you know are the most important.
I was at my tai chi class, the first day back in the new year. It had been a few months since I had been able to attend a class. I had been practising, but without the direction of a teacher, I had drifted off into my own idea of what the practice should be.
When I arrived I said to the teacher, "I have lots of questions." I had stockpiled, and my brain was brimming with tiny, and as it happens, quite inconsequential details. As a result, when I tried to do the form It was slow, thoughtful, uptight and robotic. There was no flow. I was trying too hard thinking too much and outside of the moment.
Musically, I find this happens to me all the time. I tend to think about the details of the music rather than the sound and the feeling. If I'm playing a gig and it's my turn to solo, I'll often think major scale, diminished arpeggio etc. which as terms really mean nothing, but as sounds can mean everything.
Then there are moments when I don't think about anything at all, those small slices of time where everything is still and I am simply observing what is happening. I feel like I am not in my own way, like a brief ray of sunshine breaking the clouds and then disappearing. It is these moments that I am most fascinated by. When you are in the zone, the greater truth of life appears. I am so often in awe of the people who are truly world class at whatever their chosen field is, how they can transcend all the mental clutter and seem to live in that space that I can only catch glimpses of.
I watched an interview recently with the Irish fiddle player, Martin Hayes. When asked what went through his mind when he plays, he answered that he would take inspiration from the local musicians he was surrounded by growing up. Not so much from their big achievements, but from those small fleeting instances of truth, those magical moments in sessions where the world stopped. That was what he wanted to present when he played.
So I find myself questioning, how do I get there? How do I tap into that zone? that flow state where I am simply in the moment and expressing myself honestly. I think the answer that most regularly presents itself to me is, as always, the simplest and yet the most ethereal; In the words of Yoda
"Do or do not there is no try"