Today I am continuing on with some of the lessons I learned from my piano teacher, Mildred Portney Chase, and her book, Just Being At The Piano.
Imagine taking a break from grading your playing today and instead focusing on seeing…listening…feeling…moving…. According to Mildred, this is the only way to produce a beautiful sound on the piano. As a child, I used to secretly roll my eyes when she would ask, “Did you play that with love?” It seemed too touchy-feely back then and I just tried to give her what she wanted. But as I matured, I realized how much my emotional state affected my playing. Mildred said,
Time spent at the piano can be an insightful journey inward, the pleasure deepening with the years….The so-called amateur may play from the heart even if her proficiency is not on the highest level.
She believed that when we focus on our mistakes and compare our playing with others, we not only lose the joy of learning, but we make it impossible to progress as musicians.
Love is the most important quality to bring to any task. Love draws all that we have within us to the action in which we are involved….It heightened the senses; it allows self-acceptance and total involvement.
So how do we bring love to a task? We find love through gratitude. We practice seeing the beauty and wonders all around us. We take time to appreciate our life, our health, our home, our loved ones, nature, music, and the things in our lives that bring us joy.
How do we move towards total involvement? Like any other skill, it takes practice. Zen masters talk about carrying out mundane activities with mindfulness. If you’re in a train station, be aware of all that is around you. The sound of the train, the faces of the people, the smells and your feelings in the moment. If you’re washing dishes feel the surface of the plate and the warmth of the water, smell the soap, watch the movements of your arms and hands, listen to the sounds of the running water and clinking silverware.
Though we may not be able to live mindfully every moment as the masters do, we can practice it daily in our chores or activities, then bring that heightened sense of awareness love and gratitude to our playing.
Only from that state of total involvement can you begin to play in the way in which you dream.
With love and music, Gaili
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