Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.12- Inner Game Skills- Will and Trust

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Never let the thoughts of self-unworthiness re-arrange your prepared passion for failure. You can do it even if others say you can't. But you cannot do it if you tell yourself you can't.
― Israelmore Ayivor

Last week I wrote about awareness, the first of what Barry Green and Tim Gallwey call the “skills” of the Inner Game of music. I wrote:
Non-judgmental awareness moves us into a place where we aren’t fighting what’s happening, analyzing it, trying to “fix” it. We are simply letting it be…
There are two skills which build on top of this awareness- will and trust that I want to look at this week. These are all skills that help us grow toward a healthy balance of Self One trying to analyze and fix and Self Two working on what’s natural. Let’s start with “will.” From Google:
• The faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action.
⁃ synonyms: determination, willpower, strength of character, resolution, resolve, resoluteness, single-mindedness, purposefulness, drive, commitment, dedication, doggedness, tenacity, tenaciousness, staying power - "the will to succeed"

• Control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one's own impulses.
⁃ synonyms: desire, wish, preference, inclination, intention, intent, volition
The first thought is obvious- we seem to be talking about willpower and doing what you want to do. In and of itself, that is true. But there is more than just “the will” to do something. One of the things research has shown over the past number of years is that, believe it or not, “willpower” has limits- you can “use it up.” If you go through a whole day having to exert choices and willpower to do- or not do- something, your ability to resist temptation at the end of the day is greatly reduced. You don’t have as much “willpower” left. So, let’s dig in a little and see if we can find some directions in this.

Will is both a decision- drive, purpose, dedication- and the exertion to do (or not do) something. It depends on what you discover through the skill of “awareness to refine and develop what it is you are intending to do and accomplish. From Gallwey and Green as I said last week:

• Will can be described as the direction and intensity of our intentions. It sets the goals, keeps us on course, works through trial and error to keep us on course.

Will does start with some exertion of willpower, but that’s not what it’s about. It is about goals and making decisions to move toward those goals. Goals, Green says

• are the direction finders for our will and the major “will skill” that we need to learn is goal clarity… When we have clear goals and are focused on them, our concentration can be sustained. (Green, p. 53)

In other words if we know what we desire (learned through awareness) and have set clear goals, it becomes easier to stay focused and aware. Again, to Green

• When we are clear about our musical goals, we find that … reserves of strength and energy become available to us. On the other hand, when we are uncertain about our goals, it is hard to bring our will to bear on them and easy for our concentration to wander. (Green, p. 53)

We can reach a point- call it force of habit or whatever- where you don’t need to exert as much will to do something. Now Self Two is beginning to step more clearly into the picture. Self Two has taken over some of the work of the will because I enjoy what I’m doing. The awareness, built in Self One has relaxed about these concerns. I don’t worry about some of the technical issues around these concerns. I now pick up the horn to practice every day- and usually at least twice on most days- even if I have a gig or rehearsal later in the day- because it is what I do. It is natural. It is relaxed. It is fun.

Which brings me to the third of the Inner Game skills- trust. Let’s go back to what I said based on Green last week:

• Trust allows the simple awareness to take place without self-criticism, it lets you go through trial and error without giving up, and it lets you be open to tapping your inner resources to perform your best.

In other words Self One knows that Self Two is actually more competent than once thought. Self Two can step aside on those issues and relax while maintaining the awareness of what needs to happen next. But it does that with less self-criticism than it used to. It can now criticize what is happening without adding negative judgements. It knows that I and Self Two are listening and will do something about it. Again, to Green, this is not:

• Blind trust but the trust that comes after hard work, and the trust the comes from knowing there is music inside you…. We have seen that our awareness and will “skills” are powerful tools that can help us solve problems and give intensity and direction to our music. In order to achieve our ultimate goal and enter the state of relaxed concentration where we are one with the music, there is one more skill we need. We need to trust ourselves.

There are barriers to trust that we have to work on. Some of the most common for me are
• Worrying about what others think of me
• Being a failure
• Feeling out of control
• Doubting my abilities.
• Performance anxiety

Fortunately these can be dealt with and I will do so in more depth next week. Dealing with them takes the openness to an awareness of what’s going on within you, including a personal inventory of what you CAN do and what skills you can being to bear on them. It then takes the will to set clear goals and move toward them. But more on that next time.

The barriers can all describe where I was when I attended that Big Band Weekend at Shell Lake Arts Center in June 2015. I felt overwhelmed, outplayed, out of control and exhibited a lack of skill and a lot of performance anxiety. But I also loved what was happening. So I then attended the week-long Trumpet Workshop and found some direction. As a result, I started this expanded trumpet journey. But I had no real goal other than in some way or another to become the best damn trumpet player I can become at my age. I was excited and determined. But I had no idea how to do that. So I started simple- just pick up the horn and practice. As often as possible. Simple goal- aim at playing every day for at least an hour.

Over the next year I averaged between 60% and 80% of days and increased to about an hour and a quarter a day. I managed three months of daily practice! In the middle of the second year I reached the daily practice level- now going on six months without missing a day and have reached anywhere up to two and a quarter hours a day.

I didn’t do that through willpower alone. Yes, it started that way, but the I knew that the simple goal I set was the way to become a better player. I used the same method of goals to learn the 12 major scales around the Circle of Fourths. I then sought to improve my embouchure and stretch my range through some specific exercises. Both of those have been working. These all started with an awareness that I needed to do something. I then set goals, simple, achievable goals to move in that direction. I have been able to sustain and improve my concentration which moved it beyond just exerting my will to pick up the trumpet and play.

I actually trust myself today! I am discovering the music within me like never before in over 50 years of being a trumpet player.

The journey is worth it. Set your goals and move.

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