The Importance of Practicing - by Nicole Glover
Practicing is the art of being your own teacher – developing the skills that allows one to obtain a greater understanding of the components of music that captivate you. It is a continuous analytical process that helps the student gain knowledge of their craft as well as knowledge of how to learn. The way in which the student then applies this knowledge is a crucial step in the learning process. If the student is able to observe how effectively the information is applied, they can learn a great deal about how thoroughly the material was understood. When the student plays music with others, they can apply various concepts that have been considered in their individual work. They are able to observe and reflect upon how well these ideas worked in that environment, and use these observations as opportunities to grow. Ultimately, when the student is faced with a performance, the moment for which all the preparation and training will come to fruition, the goal is to act without reservation, judgment, or thought. Over-thinking can be a great inhibitor in the act of true expression. Practicing is training the musician to act without thought. To understand any sort of subject, it is important to observe its history. In studying non-thought, one can look at the history of non-thought. It is a central theme in various religions and ancient Yogic practices. In Zen Buddhism, thoughtlessness is believed to be the path towards a mind free from attachment. When the mind works freely without hindrance, liberation is attained. Lao Tzu wrote in his pivotal work Tao Te Ching, “It is the way of the Tao to act without thinking of acting”. Why is this so monumental for human achievement? We are bound to our thoughts, held hostage by them, and unless we are able to let go of our thoughts when we are making art, we will repress our creative energies and replace them with doubt, fear of judgment, and over-intellectualizing. An act of pure inspiration can be stifled by inner discord. How does one achieve the mental state of non-thought? Why can it be so difficult to eradicate the problem of over-thinking? This problem correlates with the problem of letting go, of eliminating attachment. One may experience doubt that they can function optimally without their thoughts guiding them through all of their actions. This problem of letting go suggests a crisis What is faith? Confidence. It is different from trust. With trust, there is an unshakable reliance upon something. Faith requires confidence, and an awareness of the fact that you may be wrong, yet you have made the choice to believe. There are two types of faith. There is blind faith, and there is earned faith. Blind faith is upholding a belief in something because it is comforting, familiar, or simply because one was told or forced to maintain that belief. Those who uphold blind faith have typically only looked at things from one angle – the one they know. There is reluctance, or even a refusal, to examine other possibilities and considerations. They repress subconscious feelings of doubt or fear, which can manifest itself on a surface level through violence and intolerance. Earned faith is a firm belief and degree of confidence. It is a deliberate and earned choice. A brain surgeon, for example, has faith in his ability to operate effectively on his patient because he has amassed incredible amounts of knowledge and experience. In the practice room (medical school) and through working with a simulation, he has granted himself the ability to act with complete confidence in himself. He has earned his faith. Another surgeon whose confidence is unstable or possesses a weak faith base may begin to worry about the hazards involving the procedure, the patient’s family, the fact that the patient’s life is literally in his own hands, and so on…and will succumb to the trap of overthinking. He is not operating at a high-level. He has lost himself to fear. The same can be said about a martial artist. He learns and practices his techniques with careful attention to detail and a high-functioning self-awareness. When he faces his opponent, however, he clears his mind and operates based on sharpened instinct, a result of his training. As Bruce Lee stated in Enter the Dragon, “the highest form of technique is to have no technique”. It is crucial that the musician creates a frame of mind where there is strong faith in what they are doing. One must believe that they can make music at the highest level. If this is accomplished, they can become limitless.