Quite some time ago, I discovered something that I shared with Aisling, head of the Bard's Guild of Toteg Tribe. She asked me to post something about it, but unfortunately this was on the message board and I hit the back button and well... the post got lost.
It's now a year or more later, and I'm finally getting around to rehashing it. It's evolved a lot since then.
I grew up with this piano in my house. I used to try to play it all the time, and I loved poking out the notes of my favorite songs. When I learned to play a beginner's version of "It came upon a midnight clear" that had *two notes pressed together* I thought I was pretty hot stuff.
So Mom and Dad, like good parents, thought "Our child seems to have a talent, or at least an enjoyment for music, and we have this piano, so let's put her in lessons." I took lessons for two years I think, and didn't get too far. Then again I was 7-8 years old at the time, and practice... let's just say I learned to fib around that time. I don't recall my first instructor (Vague warm fuzzy feeling), I think it was a school-sponsored thing but I do recall that when the situation changed and I couldn't go to that teacher anymore, I was eager to continue. Only the instructor my parents found... I'll be charitable and call her "old school." I didn't appreciate getting my knuckles rapped, and after a bit of that I didn't look at the piano again for quite some time. Eventually I went back to plucking notes out on my own, pulled out some books from my sister's lessons (she got a little farther than I did but not much), learned a few chords, and sorta tried to fit everything into C, G7, Am, and D. I started taking Guitar lessons not long after, so it became a non-issue.
My school taught how to read music, and in Chorus class (and individual work with the teacher before school) I learned to sight-sing and got some voice training. There were some snippets of music theory thrown in there that I no longer really recall, so suffice it to say that when confronted with sheet music... well I may not read it well, but I at least have a clue what I'm looking at.
During my college years I was part of a band. Some details of that are under Verse. Words fail to describe the feeling of playing in a group, where everyone's together and the synergy's tight and the music just flows. The only thing I have to compare it to is riding, when you and the horse are moving as one and practically responding to one another's thoughts. You, the musician, become the instrument of something else, that is playing you. It's timeless and indescribable. When I graduated and moved away from college, I lost the band, and the loss of that bond, of the synergy, hurt me very deeply. I just didn't feel it playing solo at all. And whatever it was that grabbed me by the lungs, flung me at a piece of paper and pencil and sent me scribbling until the words (lyrics) were on the paper was gone as well. I can't play guitar and sing at the same time, as I might have noted, so there was no point there. I never learned to play classical guitar, and while I have an attraction to Spanish guitar, I had to give up finger speed and dexterity to develop my hands in riding; I just couldn't do it. So I gave up.
Dad died. Mom moved to a smaller place. The piano was "being gotten rid of." I thought about my history with music, and realized that while my singing can't stand alone (I don't have the body to make it, and my voice... is decent but flawed), nor can I play a guitar style that can stand alone, perhaps I could learn the piano - which could stand alone. So I had it sent to me (despite the fact that we could have replaced it for the amount we've spent shipping and tuning it). First in Raleigh I got myself some books and started to teach myself to play. I got to the point where I could use two hands, so long as neither was complex, preferably not at the same time. Then I moved to Atlanta, and the piano stayed in Raleigh for 2.5-3 years. When the piano came back to me, I was eager to continue learning.
I picked back up where I left off pretty quickly, then started getting to some pieces where I actually was using two hands at once, doing different things. Usually chords on the left, melody on the right, but sometimes the rhythms were more complicated than simple whole notes, and let's just say I started geting frustrated. I'd come to the end of what I could coast right through; now was the time for the *work*
I'd sit and practice those pieces over and over and over, and every time I'd think I was getting it I'd screw up again. My "problem spot" moved all over the page, where I'd be able to handle one phrase and be troubled by another, then once I got the second phrase the first would stump me. I don't mind telling you, the frustration was incredible.
And then one day I sat down at the piano in a meditative state. I wanted to play, but I didn't want to think. I was letting something simmer in the back of my head, and just was still. Notes to eyes to fingers to... aaaaaah!
And of course I got so excited I lost it again.
But once I'd felt it, I had an idea what I was going after. Unfortunately I do my work in cycles, and the cycle of music ended about that time, and a different cycle started back up. I'm like that; I focus really hard on something for a period of time, then step back for a few months while it simmers. I'll come back to it sometime, and be ready for the next step. After writing this I think I might just sit down at the piano tonight and see if I can play what I was working on again; perhaps the cycle's come round (though I rather think the cycle's on writing right now).
Usually that happens when I hit on something I need to stop and process. This time that thing was learning that in stilling my mind, the music flowed through. Practicing piano could be meditation. Getting my brain out of the way while playing was the same as learning to become the observer of your thoughts, learning to be in the now, and the key, for me, to touching the ISness, or essential unity, of everything. It's funny... I used to think of myself as a dabbler, picking up various things and dropping them when I lost interest, only to come back again... but it's something I've been encouraged to do as well. I expect that's because there's different ways of explaining things, and a person might get it one way and not another, and I guess I'm denser than most because I've got to have it shown to me five or six different ways to see it.
On the other hand, I've learned to see - music can be meditation. Riding can be meditation. Gardening can be meditation. Sitting outside feeling the breeze and listening to the whispers of the wind through the leaves - can be meditation. Perhaps "meditation" isn't the right word, but it's all I've got for the concept - "letting the mind go, and just being what you're doing what you're being." That's when I touch the IS. It's wordless, all encompassing, and unspeakably intense. It is Beauty. It just IS. All it is, is to be, is all it is. A great big resonating *AM*-Jaelle 10/19/04