Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Tuning Slide: 2.14- Deepening the Beginner's Mind

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Before starting last week’s post I did some journaling/scribbling of thoughts. I decided it needed to be a short “poem” in place of the “prose” I generally use. (Poetry is like music in that it forces one to focus on the things that are important without getting into a lot of words- kind of NOT like I am doing here.) Anyway, here’s what appeared when I was finished..

Having a beginner’s mind-
    The mind of a child:
Being childlike,
    Filled with wonder- where even the
Old is new
    And what’s young is filled with wisdom

Do you have any memory of the wonder and awe the first time you heard some music that moved you?
That’s beginner’s mind.

Do you still have that happen when you hear a performance or recording of someone doing great music?
That’s beginner’s mind.

Do you still have that happen when you have finished a performance and you sit back in wonder at having been part of the creation of something powerful?
That’s beginner’s mind.

It happens when the notes fall into place and are no longer just black marks on a white paper. It happens when you wake up one morning and realize that this is a new day of unknown opportunities. It happens when someone points out to you that the trees on that mountain over there are not green- they are an infinite number of colors we call green. That childlikeness is a gift to be nurtured since most of us lose it as we grow older. It doesn’t take long for us to get bored with seeing the same things, playing the same songs, looking at the same four walls. Those days we wake up and wonder what’s the big deal about another day? We assume it will be just like the ones before. When we do that we lose the childlikeness that EXPECTS each day to be different and can hardly wait to see what it will be.

Do something right there where you are. After reading this paragraph take a look around the room where you are sitting. It is most likely someplace familiar, someplace you may even know like the back of your hand. There’s nothing there you haven’t seen before. Or is there? Look around- and find one thing that you may never have noticed before- or never saw quite that way until just this moment.

Go ahead. Do it now and then come back. I’ll do the same.

How did it go? Find anything? See anything new or unusual or out of place? If not, do it again. Really look hard. There are things there I am sure.

I am sitting at one of my normal coffee shops, one I frequent 3-4 days/week- and have done so for three or more years. Two things showed up in my line-of-sight. First, was a new sign indicating the type of coffee being served this evening. Not unusual, but the sign was new. It didn’t have the standard company logo.

The second thing I noticed was an American flag folded in one of those triangular display cases made for the flag when it is given to families at a funeral or graveside. What is that doing here, in a coffee shop? Does that framed paper underneath it explain it? So I went and looked. It was a flag flown over Operation Resolute Support base in Afghanistan. It was given to a local high school (and this coffee shop) for support of Operation Hometown Gratitude.

That has nothing to do with music. It is the growth of awareness that does. It is sharpening my senses so that I can be more ready to see and hear and experience the life that is around me and within me. How we do anything is how we do everything. Remember that? If the only place and time I try to be mindful is when the trumpet is in my hands, I will probably not be as successful at it as I would like. I will just be playing ink spots on a page or getting whatever sound comes out when I press valves 1 and 3 at the same time. It may sound like music, but it won’t be musical. Until I pay attention. Until I know what is inside that note with those valves pressed. Until I know what that sounds like alone- and in a line with other notes. Until I know what those notes sound like when added to other people playing their own notes. Childlikeness. Wonder. Awe.

What surprised me most in that short “poem” above was the way the last two lines flowed out. They came from an awareness- hopefully a mindfulness- of something I hadn’t even thought of yet. We are talking about a way of seeing the world around us so that even what is “old is new and what’s young is filled with wisdom.” This is a mindfulness where we are open to learning from each other and don’t put value judgments on what we may see or hear. There is newness even in that same old song I have played a thousand times over the years. How many times has our big band played Glenn Miller’s immortal, In the Mood? How many times have all of us played Stars and Stripes Forever or the Star-Spangled Banner? Do they still move you? Do they still touch that inner place of wonder and awe as if it were the first time you heard them? They can.

Just as the new song or new lick or new flower growing in the spring can be a source of wisdom- learning wise ways that may have never been seen or heard quite that way before. Every March and April I go out looking for signs of spring. I have done this for years and I know what I will find, when it will show up, and where to go to see it. But it is new. New every time. It is a new life. It is a new experience of the world. Alive and returning. Wisdom.

Yes, I am getting philosophical here. Maybe it’s the time of the year for that. But when we learn to be mindful and aware in the normal course of each day, each day will no longer be just “normal” but unusual, filled with wonder, and ready to move us into new understandings of who we are. Tomorrow, when I pick up Clarke #2 there will be something there to change my perception. It will even be there in the long tones I start with. As I cultivate that in all I do each day, I will grow- and so will my music.

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