Patience, Tenacity and the Value of Time

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking ~ Buddhist Proverb

It takes time to learn to play an instrument. As a teacher, I strive to organize and present concepts and material in such a way that I can shorten the time required for my students to comprehend and digest the information they receive. Regardless of how well I do my job, however, no one will learn to play guitar without logging in a lot of practice time – and that practice time must be focused and efficient in order to produce satisfying results.

Ways to Use (or misuse) Time

In studying music, we are called to not only spend time ingraining skills through repetition, but also to devote time to independent problem-solving. Students commonly resist digging for an answer when, in fact, the deepest learning comes from just such effort. If you find yourself saying “I don’t understand” or “I can’t remember” quickly or often, try sitting with the challenge until you are able to find or remember the answer. This type of struggle is exactly what makes testing valuable – it pushes us farther than we might push ourselves. When we train ourselves to not only work through challenges, but to relish them, we boost our capacity for learning.

Another consideration of time as regards learning and practice relates to attention. In The Book of Secrets, Deepak Chopra says “The misuse of time is only a symptom for misplaced attention.” This broad wisdom certainly applies to the study of music and the attention required. For example, many guitar players choose to practice while watching television, hoping to expedite progress in the mechanical areas of guitar playing (building calluses, strengthening the fingers or programming muscle memory) through multi-tasking. What is ignored in this approach is the fundamental function of practice: what you do repeatedly, you will likely continue to do in the same manner. In other words, however you practice is how you will perform. If you practice unconsciously, you will likely play unconsciously in all situations, resulting not only in the production of unsatisfying music to both performer and listener, but also in confusion and anxiety in the performer who is catapulted into a highly aware state when faced with an audience.

Time is also a function of our learning in the choices that we make away from the practice room: when to walk away and how to direct our energy when we do. Learning has a natural cycle of activity and rest and by tuning into and responding to that cycle, we can optimize our investments and our inherent abilities. If we ignore the rest phase of the cycle, we not only suffer from a creative perspective, but we also risk physical injury. Take time away from the guitar to enjoy new experiences, open to fresh ideas and rest your mind and body!

Tenacity

Tenacity will take you far in the study of guitar and in performance goals, as well. If you are tenacious, it means that when you set a goal, you do what it takes to achieve it.  Tenacity relates to will, desire and determination.

The emotional energy of tenacity is yang – it is an active energy. In attempting to conquer procrastination or the temptation to jump ship, it is helpful to summon that kind of energy.  Make a plan, stay true to a commitment and employ discipline. Keep a practice log. Set regular goals for performance (even if only for a friend or family member) or record yourself. Get on it!

Patience

Unlike tenacity, patience is the ability to be still and allow time to work its magic. The emotional energy of patience is yin – passive and yielding. It feels like a soft and willing kind of resignation that is a cousin to surrender.

In order to increase patience, it is helpful to engage in practices such as breathwork or meditation. Learn to emotionally detach from self-judgment and to cultivate the ability to call up positive feelings about your musical expressions at any given point. Consciously enjoy your playing, regardless of your level, and be fully engaged and satisfied, while continuing to put one foot in front of the other.

If we are facing in the right direction

When applying the Buddhist wisdom to learning guitar, it is critical to give attention to every word of the sentence. Many determined people walk for months or years in the wrong direction.

I consider my principal job as a teacher to be to constantly monitor and correct the direction that my students are facing. Determining direction is the part of learning guitar that can be the most frustrating for those who are either without a teacher or are taking lessons from a teacher who is bound to a strict and inflexible curriculum. If you recognize yourself in this description, stop suffering and start seeking the guidance that will point you in the direction that you want to go.

Keep on Walking

The word “keep” is critical. It takes time. It takes more time that you probably bargained for. You may put in the time in increments of thirty minutes or you may log in 5 hours a day, but know that it will take time. One day you will look up from your playing and ask yourself “How did I get here?” The answer is – you kept on walking!

Accessing and Nurturing Creativity

“Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.” – Einstein

Accessing and acting upon unique thoughts and perceptions is among the deepest and most satisfying aspects of being human. You may consider yourself to be more or less creative than your peers, but regardless of where you view yourself to be on the spectrum, there have probably been times when you wished for some stroke of magic that would ignite the creative fire. During those times, it is all too evident that creativity cannot be programmed or forced; it can only be allowed. Cultivating certain habits, however, will invite or stimulate the flow of creativity and once those habits become a part of our lives, we discover that creative energy flows as naturally and consistently as does the breath.

Tune in to the right side of your brain

Creative ideas and expressions emerge from the intuitive mind, or the right brain. You can stimulate and strengthen your right brain by engaging in artistic endeavors, but it is also essential to know how to turn down the dominant activity of the left brain. Begin this process by learning to turn off mental chatter. (This is a skill that is practiced in meditation, so if you don’t already practice meditation, you may want to begin.) Empty the mind regularly. Give yourself permission to daydream. If you set an intention before going into the silence, you may be amazed to discover how powerful your intentions are!

Perhaps the most effective way to open a channel to the right brain is to practice observing your thoughts and responses in a detached manner. Releasing judgment of your thoughts and feelings allows them to expand. As you learn to observe your thoughts, dismiss those that are narrow, limiting, cumbersome or distracting.

Creative ideas spring from varied perceptions and sources

Because the seeds of our own creative ideas and works surround us, it makes sense to develop our ability to notice them. Begin to increase your attention to details in your environment. Wake up your senses! (Remember to listen, as well as look, feel, touch and taste.)

Surround yourself with creative people and creative works – it’s not only fun, it’s guaranteed to stimulate your own creativity. Go to art galleries and concerts. Read. Choose stimulating and fresh entertainment over that which is mind-dulling, predictable or manipulative.

Learn to see events and circumstances in ways that extend beyond your normal perceptions. See humor or oddity, find beauty, experience compassion. Tap into wisdom that lies beyond your daily awareness by learning to find connections and to understand symbols and metaphors. Study and enjoy the rich messages in fairy tales, myths and stories. Look for signs or insights in seemingly trivial events. Find a larger meaning or a deeper message in the details of your life and become aware of all that is presented to you, personally.

Ego-driven goals conflict with and distract from the accessing of intuitive information

It’s easy to become distracted by the ego. If we succumb to that distraction, however, we will suffer from insecurity and be tormented by thoughts and questions that sabotage our creative goals: “How will my work be received? Do I look, sound or act intelligent or talented? Will my song (painting, book) sell?” When you recognize that you have fallen into the ego’s trap, make it a point to suspend all judgment and turn off expectations. Remember that what you create doesn’t have to be cool, provocative, serious art or even a finished piece. Instead, cultivate creativity as a lifestyle – something that can be accessed when writing an email, choosing your clothes for the day or setting a table for a meal. You are, by nature, creative. Relax and enjoy it!

Commit to innocence and authenticity in your creations, without regard for consequences, either positive or negative. Give yourself permission to be expressive in all that you do.

Pressures, schedules and deadlines rein in and corral creative potential and expression

Set aside time to write, draw or play music. A lot of “free” time, without structure or discipline, can deteriorate into slouch time; by the same token, a tight creative time frame is like a tight shoe – it’s unpleasant and it doesn’t take you very far. Carve out broad periods of time and then disallow distractions during that time, such as emails or telephone conversations. Daydreaming, however, is allowed and encouraged!

Soften your eyes to open your mind

Learn how to soften your visual perception, so that your field becomes broad and limitless. Relax and expand your focus – or close your eyes completely. Allow your internal eye to drift into the distance while following thought streams. When you broaden your perception, you may notice that you access specific types of information from different parts of your visual field and that you can successfully connect the thoughts and images that flow into that field.

Know Yourself

You are a unique individual with unique requirements for optimum patterns of work, rest, social time and exposure to external stimulation. Many people, for example, generate ideas best by working in a team, while others feel overstimulated or squelched in the company of others. Discover the environment that best nurtures your creative self.

Not only is the amount of solitary time a crucial element in a creative lifestyle, but the quality of that time must be considered. Fatigue or physical discomfort can sabotage a creative session, as can emotional upsets or distractions. Strive for mental and physical clarity during times that you want to express creatively.

Achieving the optimum balance often requires not only self-discipline, but also a willingness to educate the people in your life as to your plan. Once you’ve found that balance, honor it!

 

For news of upcoming creativity workshops (as well as other workshops), visit the calendar page.