Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mind Training

Jeffey Agrell left a comment down in the persona post that bookmark these two posts of his, and my response says that every time I reread them all sorts of new ways of looking at things pop up in my mind. This post is a try at framing one of the very deep issues of music making they raise.

As evidenced by the work put in to create the CD over on the right, I think Tibetan Buddhists are on to something. For one thing, in teachings where lamas present their ideas, they much prefer the term "mind training" to "religion". Bound up in that notion is the idea that one's progress depends on one's practice, which involves analyzing what you're doing and then trying to make a better job of it, as is the case in music making.

A lot of the new brain research talks about how spending ten thousand hours doing something effectively rewires your brain. In music practice, a lot of that rewiring involves getting the physical body to become more responsive to your musical intentions. What Jeffrey's posts make clear is that effective music making in front of an audience requires more. He also makes clear that this other (non-technique specific) part of music making, without which the exercise can lose most or all of its value, is not much talked about by music educators.

The primal point of Buddhism is motivation. Why you're doing something is more important than what you do. Every teaching I've ever attended has begun with a discussion of the importance of your motivation.

One of the great insights of Buddhism is that neither wisdom nor compassion alone does the trick. If either outruns the other, obstacles will arise.

In music making, technique is analogous to wisdom. And for now I'm going to say that the motivation to positively connect with and to be of benefit to an audience is the analog to compassion.

The lamas often say wisdom and compassion are like the wings of a bird, as both are needed to take flight. The point of mind training is to pay attention to and to cultivate each. 

photo - calla lily

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