Monday, September 23, 2013

A meditation

Meditation for the purpose of focused, memorized playing doesn't just bring me closer to a state of total presence, and it doesn't just give me something to do backstage. Meditation teaches me a number of things, and it, in turn, informs my playing.

First, the act of meditation forces me to be more patient in my work. As you know, I've been preaching patience for some time. That's a very hard thing to be, especially when you get as excited about learning new music as I do. But you know by now that impatient memorization leads to poor and inconsistent memory. Because the sheer act of calming the mind is such a challenge, meditation gives a new respect to the patient learning process. Meditation, indeed, makes me more patient with myself and with my own limitations.

Second, meditation has a great affect on my ability to handle fear. I think that a lot of the fear we performers experience on stage is about our egos. I don't want to make a mistake...I want to appear flawless...I want to be better than everyone else. Meditation creates the ability to be humble, and in that humility, we are better at accepting our flaws, including those mistakes we make on stage.

Third, meditation helps us appreciate our audiences better. In my initial home meditation, I was simply focusing on calming my mind and trying to develop total presence. When I started to attend meditation sessions at my local Buddhist temple, the focus wasn't on me. It was on compassion for others. In doing so, I started to think of my audience not as critics, but instead as humans. For me, at least, it's all too easy to become hostile to an audience. They're too loud...They're not listening...Are they getting it?...Are they judging me? Meditation teaches me compassion and a better understanding of humanity.

I truly believe that when we perform, we play ourselves. We open up a window to the universe and expose our souls to our audiences. That's why playing can be so difficult, and it's certainly why playing is so personal. If I really do play myself, then isn't it in my best interest as a musician to be as good of a person as possible? What sort of audience would want to see into the soul of a bad person? Like any good, contemplative act, meditation has a way of making us better people. And this informs our playing.