TAI-CHI FOR MUSICIANS

A newborn is completely dependent on the people around him or her.  The behavior patterns of the people around him gradually imprint themselves on his behavior.  At a certain age he begins to exert his independence to break free from the control others have over him.

As an adult we must balance our connection to our surroundings with our creative individuality.  The skill of creating this balance is key to our power and fulfillment in life. 

A musician in a band, for example, must have skill both in playing his instrument and in allowing the other band members to connect with his playing, thus playing his instrument through him.  In this way there is a balance between synchronizing his playing with the others and creatively leading the music.

Each musician “gives life” to his or her instrument and feels that his fingers, his breath (depending on the instrument) and even the instrument itself have a life of their own.  He feels that the instrument is playing itself and interacting with the “aliveness” of the other instruments.

In this way playing in a band is similar to raising a child.  There is a struggle between the feeling of control and the desire to let the instrument or child have a consciousness of its own.  At a certain point you feel that you can just sit back and let the instrument play itself.  At a certain point you can allow the child to control his own life (maybe when he is in his thirties).

When you get involved in any relationship you go through this same process.  Each person has issues of controlling or letting the other person control and they hopefully learn to blend together.  You reproduce your early childhood with each relationship.

So how well you learn to balance the effect of external influence with your own internal creative control as a child will greatly affect all future relationships.

It may be difficult to remember how you developed as a child.  Children’s memories are recorded as “states of being” not as events in time.  Accessing each type of memory requires a different mechanism of your attention.

There is an exercise you can do that shows you how to use your attention to access childhood and even fetal memories.  I use this exercise to prove to my students that there are indeed dynamics to their attention.  In order to perform a specific conscious act you must use a specific dynamic of attention.  These dynamics are the “secrets” that ancient teachers taught to their advanced students.  It is a large part of Zookinesis training.

To do this exercise requires that you have some basic awareness of the feeling of attention itself and its movements.  It may take years of training to get even to that point.

So here is the exercise.  First remember a specific event in your life that happened at least two years ago.  Spend one minute remembering the event and when it happened.

Next remember a state of the body.  It can be sad, happy, surprised, relaxed, agitated, warm, cold – any specific state.  It must NOT be related to any specific event or time.  Feel that state for about a minute. 

Next do each again but this time notice if your attention moves up or down and if it relaxes and opens up or if it compresses.  Use the same event and body state as you did before.  Write down what your attention does for remembering the event and for remembering the state of the body. The results should be the same for everyone as long as you are familiar with what attention is.  You can read many of the lessons on this site to learn about attention.

I will not tell you what those dynamics are for this exercise so I don’t prejudice you (but you can email me and I’ll let you know).

If we can become aware of these dynamics we can develop skill in their use.  We can use this skill to become much more aware of the world around us and how to interact with it.  We will see aspects of our everyday world we were not aware of before.

Infant and fetal memory can be accessed easily so we understand how we tried to make sense of this world and fit into it.  Some of the solutions we came up with were useful and some ineffective.  To what degree do we shut out the world around us and how does that affect us?  To what degree are we too vulnerable and how does that harm us?

Once we gain awareness of these mechanisms, the awareness itself is the solution to the problems.  It is as if someone’s eyes were shut and he kept walking into things.  He spent his life remembering where everything was so he wouldn’t bump into them.  But the best solution is to just open his eyes.

Learning about the dynamics of attention is like opening your eyes.  Then you can easily balance the interplay of letting influence in (Yin) and exerting creative influence out (Yang).

There are exercises to develop each of these two parts of the balance.  When you practice your Tai-chi form, initiate each movement from the center of the body – the hip area.  Then let the movement flow outward through the legs, the torso, arms and head.  This will develop the outward flow of creative energy (Yang).  Imagine that you are in a pond and someone drops various sized and shaped rocks into the center of the pond.  The dropping of each rock is like an initiation of movement because it creates ripples in the water that flow outward.  Each movement of the form ripples out from your center (your tan-tien).

For the Yin aspect of this dynamic, allow the legs, torso, arms and head to yield to the initiated movement and reproduce its quality of energy.  You will be like the water itself that yields to the force of the falling rock.

The water on the surface of the lake is completely smooth at first as the water is relaxed.  It is like a musician who stays in the proper stance to play his instrument.  He is not grabbing the instrument with tension as if to protect it from the influence of his band members.  He does not feel territorial about his instrument but holds it in a relaxed and open way.

On the other hand, his stance is not sloppy.  That would interfere with transferring his creative energy to the instrument.  He is open and connected to the other players influence but also connected to his instrument so that it is receptive to his influence.

He is open and receptive to his entire history of development as a human being because he knows how to remember.  So the quality of his music is expressive of his entire life.

He can see how his life can really be described as a quest to learn about this balance of the dynamics of attention.  It is about the development of his soul.

When you know your soul the audience knows it, whether you are a musician or just a regular person interacting with another person.

Your soul is really the musician playing you and it plays all day and night.  For that reason it would be very helpful it if played well.

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