Part 1 of this series is available here. In part 1, there is an overview of what this approach is about.
The Discovery Approach to practice essentially comes from the realization that what IS is inherently complete and perfect. That perfection can grow and change, but it is inherently full as it is. The practice is then to discover that. This can be successfully utilized in music…or anything.
Let us look into the first analogy: uncovering a fossil or perhaps a lost city. Paleontology, archaeology, etc. Remember, all analogies break down. This is just to convey a perspective-essence that you can utilize in your practice.
If you were going to uncover a large dinosaur or perhaps an ancient city, what would be your approach? Everyone has seen a clip or photo of paleontologists in action. If you come at it roughly, the precious treasure will be damaged. Notice the delicate tools being used, crouched on the earth.
The approach is wide open seeing, gently pressing onward to uncover that which you want to find. There is no hurry, no clock. There is a great deal of sensitivity in the work. The team or worker will take as long as it needs to properly expose the dinosaur’s remains. Days, months or years. There is a touch of reverence for what may be discovered. The goal is available right at the fingertips to the point that it can even be touched, yet such care is taken. It is already complete and finished and does not need to be created. It simply awaits discovery. (I will go into how this relates to composing and improvising music another time…this still applies.)
Looking at a phrase, line, piece of music or even a single note in this way might change your entire relationship to it. It ceases to be an item to be completed or scale to get through. You are no longer marking off checklists of completing a number of krithis, scales or compositions. You are not buying groceries here or taking a standardized test or collecting accomplishments.
You become aware of what you are doing in a natural way. You are noticing everything about your experience. You return to just being, which is quite similar to vividly aware FEELing. You notice the entire symphony of body sensations. For example, how does the body posture feel? How do your hands feel on the instrument? Or if you are a vocalist, explore the feeling of the body itself, particularly the chest, head, belly and throat. Now when you go to play, it is not an unconscious “get this done” experience. It is very different. And this is where the analogy ends, because the line of music that initially was like a dinosaur bone, is now ALIVE. Every note comes alive, every breath comes alive. The entire experience reverberates with the sound and feeling of the music. Whatever arises is full and complete in itself. This allows you to actually PLAY music and not do music.
You do not need to wait to enjoy playing music until you have mastered it or even become reasonably good at it. You don’t need to hobble through the initial learning stage or struggle through the advanced and/or professional stages where you run on a treadmill to get infinitely “better,” more skilled and more amazing or impressive as a musician. I’m not saying not to do that. That is a real path. But look at it. The total bliss and enjoyment of music is available now for all. It is THIS note, THIS song that has it. Even a cracked note, HAS it. Most of us cannot see this. But when you approach music with this wide open seeing, the same way a child approaches a flower, you will definitely see.
What happens then, is the hidden fear aspect associated with failing or playing something wrong is either completely destroyed or significantly subdued. This frees up incredible amounts of clarity and vital energy for doing what you really need to do. There is a relaxation as well. Free of the concept of “mistakes,” you end up making less of them.
In the next posts, I will introduce a few more analogy/scenarios that apply to the actual practice process itself. They can be used as brief visualizations or meditations. Feel free to contemplate these first posts, try them out and let me know if it helps.