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!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Those two talented women taught me to sing harmony at an early age, which, combined with my own patience and tenacity, led to my ability to pick out chords on the guitar, create solo guitar arrangements, invent leads […]

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