When we listen to someone playing music we rarely realize how much involved is the act of listening, not only for us but for the musician too. As a matter of fact the musician himself – and I am speaking from personal experience – often does not realize that!
What I lately noticed is that when I allow myself to deeply listen to the sound that is produced while I am playing, when I try to penetrate the very core of that sound, the quality of the music changes.
I’d like to make a practical example but I need first to specify that what I am describing here refer to improvisational music and not music read on a music sheet or played by memory – even though some of the qualities I am writing about might show themselves in all three of them.
So for example, if I am playing for a group of people and I feel nervous or insecure (usually because I fear people will not appreciate me) my mind will tend to take me out of the present moment and into a space of either anticipation (what note shall I play next?) or into the past (I don’t like the note I just played).
The notes will tend to be closer to each other and the music will contain less silent gaps, less space.
The more I can relax in the situation I am in – namely playing for a public – the more I start listening to the note I am playing rather than anticipating the next one. The space between the notes increases, my breath becomes longer and because the energy that was fueling the thinking process is now absorbed by listening, the mind with its judgments and insecurity slows down and eventually comes to an halt.
It’s a beautiful feeling when the egoic stream of thoughts stops and I can merge and dissolve into the act of listening-playing.
In this space I am often pleasantly surprised by the music that comes out of me, almost as if someone else – or better say something else – was playing it through me. It is as if part of me is listening to the music that wants to manifest in that moment – unfolding itself through the ever-changing present moment. All I have to do is listening to it and reproduce it – so easy!
All of this of course can be applied to our daily life.
Whenever I move my attention from the mental process to sensing what is happening, I find myself in a quiet, receptive and often very pleasant space.
This is showing me that to be able to take a big slice of the energy I invest in the mental process and direct it toward our senses it means to live a qualitatively better life.
To be able to listen to the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves of a tree, to feel the warmth of the sunlight on our skin, the firmness of the earth under our feet as we walk, to rejoice in the taste of a meal, to feel the loving touch of a friend… to be able to do this means to be present and available to what is unfolding in the moment. It means to live a life with more intensity and spontaneity.
It means, simply put, thinking less and experience more.