I just finished a weeklong meditation retreat at the San Francisco Zen Center, which explains why my head is full of deeeeeeep thoughts.
During the retreat you meditate for over five hours a day in nine 35-minute periods. You work a bit around the meditation hall (cooking, dishwashing, cleaning, etc.) You exercise in the afternoon. You don’t talk unless it’s functional speech (Where is the nearest bathroom?! This is a red alert!!!)
Oh, and you wake up at 4:50 am each day. The head student runs around the temple clanging a bell. As you pry open your eyes you think, wait, why am I doing this again?
The basic practice of meditation is to let your thoughts go. You just see them come and go. You don’t develop them or get involved with them, yet you don’t try to push them away. At times it seems elusive or even impossible to do. And then out of the blue, you find that things have cleared and you are aware of what’s happening in the present moment. But don’t get too excited! It doesn’t last…
Ultimately, we practice to practice. No matter what level you’re at as a music student, I encourage you to find a way to be totally involved with what you are learning and playing. Just listen! Make just one note sound good. Can you be aware of your breath as you play?
And if you can pay full attention to just one note, can you pay full attention to a phrase? How about a full tune? And if you can do that, can you do that with other activities? When washing dishes, are you trying to just get it done so you can move on the thing you think you want to do (Game of Thrones binge watch)? Or can you wash those dishes with all of your heart and mind?
Usually it feels hard to do that. But then, surprise! You’re just doing what you’re doing. In this way, music practice, like meditation practice, can enrich each moment of your life.
Now go fiddle with that!