BCP #2: To Strive with Ease
More today on this idea of striving. In playing Beethoven's music, I want to capture that rampaging energy of his sonically, without letting it derail me physically. Musicians spend a lot of time on the road, and after the past week of snatching odd moments of practice in hotel rooms, I'm about to sit down at home in my practice room and coax my body and mind to connect more deeply with the violin again. It's time to invite the muscles in my hands and arms to soften and move. Think for a moment about the difference between being invited to do something, versus being challenged to do it. The invitation allows freedom to try, to explore, while the challenge immediately stirs up some feeling of strain, of the need to gather strength to surmount something. Determination is a tainted gift; it holds within it a wealth of potential, fuel for exploration and conquest, but sometimes I think it saps that energy from other places in us that might have made use of it with more freedom. As a youngster, I fell in love with the violin and felt a powerful desire to make it sing in my hands, and since I unknowingly approached everything in my life as an obstacle to be overcome, I went about forcing my hands and arms to wrestle the violin into submission. I came to identify the feeling of strain when I played the violin as musical expression. I had no idea that the physical work I put into my playing was actually blocking my ability to communicate through the music! As soon as I was given a new assignment, some new technique to learn, I tried with all my might to master it, having no idea that might was exactly the opposite of ease and dexterity. It was my very desire (striving/yearning), and my eagerness to please my teachers, that set up a feedback loop in my muscles.
I sought out new methods of working with my body - yoga, the Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais method - and changes began. One day particularly stands out in my memory: I left the room of my Alexander teacher after she worked with me to facilitate my body’s simplest movement with the least effort, and as I walked out the door I felt this foreign sensation of floating. Walking was a startlingly new experience! It was as if I’d been plodding along while wearing a heavy suit of armor my whole life, and suddenly it was removed. I actually wept with the simple joy and ease of being able to walk on this planet. And I am not making this up—I looked up from the city sidewalk I was floating/walking over, and there was a rainbow in the sky above me. (Cue harp glissando here.)
It's possible for the heart and imagination to soar, even when the body is broken. But today I will try to embody freedom in every aspect of my being, so that Beethoven's music can communicate with the audience through me, rather than in spite of me, in two weeks.