The Discovery Approach to Music Practice (part 3): Simple meditations

Part 1 of this series is available here and part 2 is available here. Please make sure to read those first if you haven’t yet. To recap, this approach is essentially a “hidden in plain sight” simple way of practicing music slowly, that allows for both enjoyment and results in music practice. In part 1 and 2, we covered what the Discovery Approach is, why we might want to use it and how it might be effective and helpful.

This approach assumes you have something somewhat specific that you want to practice, like a line or piece of music, raga, chord progression etc. as a music student or practitioner. If you want to utilize music to realize your real nature itself (Enlightenment, Self Realization etc), please see Naada Yoga for Total Liberation (multi-post series in progress.) It’s all the same in the end, but the focus is a bit different.

Now let’s dive into some simple meditations or visualizations to help enter or access this natural approach for practicing music.

1. Turn off the lights, turn off the mind, awaken natural attention

Relax. Breathe. Visualize sitting in a classroom or lecture hall or perhaps a large sports stadium at your favorite match. Or maybe a concert with your favorite artist. Choose whatever appeals to you. You are engaged in whatever is taking place and there appears to be quite a bit of activity.

Now, suddenly, all the lights are switched off at once. Notice and watch carefully what happens. Immediately, pure wakeful attention comes forward and distractedness and thoughts fade into the background. If fear arises, simply notice it and allow it to subside as it is not necessary right now.

Rest in silence briefly or as long as you like. Begin to feel the sensations of holding your instrument again or, if you are a vocalist, just notice the body itself and its sensations. Slowly begin your warmup for your practice session. You will notice the intensity of your awareness and attention will be many times more than what it was before this. With practice, dropping into this space will be quicker, easier and deeper.

2. When this step is all there is, you go beyond time and enjoy vivid awareness

Relax. Breathe. Visualize that you are standing alone on top of a very tall tower. It is dark and you cannot see anything. However, you can sense that there are no protective rails or anything to prevent you from falling. From the tower is a walkway leading back down. You begin try to move in that direction but you have no idea which way it is. How will you walk?  First, relax again. Set aside any fear, knowing that there is no external factor that could interrupt you. You would move extremely slowly, feeling with the sensations of your feet touching the floor and perhaps reaching around you to see what is in front of you. Move too quickly and you may fall. Relax. The moment you notice your feet touching the edge, you would naturally pull back and proceed in a different direction, unhurriedly. Simply go as SLOW as needed. This recognition is liberating as you know that with this kind of undisturbed attention and plenty of time, there will be no “fatal” mistakes.

Relaxing into this state of natural focus and vivid awareness, come back to your instrument (or body itself for vocals) and begin playing. This works especially well for working on a piece or phrase line by line. You move through the line the same way you would feel with your feet and senses in this example… Unhurried, going way slower than you normally would, and thus noticing and digesting more than you ever normally would about the music and about what you are doing. Even a few minutes of practice this way is very beneficial.

Just enjoy…

Once you slide into the natural attention through either of these two techniques, simply enjoy the music here and now. Enjoy the sound, the entire experience of playing music. Your awareness is now ALIVE and simply noticing all that happens. Playing is easier and more fun this way. This is the flow and this is the natural way. Mistakes are both less in number and less frustrating. “Mistakes” become a friend that points the way. Simply keep returning to whatever you are doing again and again.

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