The other night, after the best part of a pitcher of a surprisingly tasty peach whiskey drink, I was speaking with a friend about music. Yihan is an accomplished musician, who was telling me about how she experiences a very interesting altered state when she is playing sometimes.
She described it as being a state when she stops trying to control the instrument, but rather one where she allows the music to be expressed through her. It doesn’t happen every time that she plays, though when it does, as you might imagine, it feels amazing.
So I asked, “How do you do that?”
Of course I wasn’t just asking about her theories of zen/ chan – since I know that she probably doesn’t know herself about the mechanism. (Especially since she’s a pretty small girl, and had indulged quite a bit of that pitcher herself!) And even if she had words to describe the experience, it wouldn’t be much use to me as her representations are shaped by who she is. Instead, I wanted to know how she could access that state. Since that’s something that I can try out for myself…
And it turned out that she would play a very short piece of music. Repeatedly. Perhaps a 30-second piece – even just a few bars – and play that over and over for 20-30 minutes. Simple enough that her extensive deliberate practice allowed her to play it without too much effort.
Now this pattern sounded familiar to me! This was like the strategy that we used in my karate training in learning kata. In learning to juggle. In drilling tennis shots. In several forms of meditation. And even in the New Code Games of New Code NLP. Almost like turning an ‘ordinary’ activity into a meditation.
I wonder whether we could use that state for other things… like taking that state into other areas of life, allowing the unconscious to find ways to use it.