I’ve been batting this idea around in my head for a few weeks and I think I can blog about it now. I’ve really gotten into Buddhist and Zen thought over the last few years and it has really changed how I approach everything: parenting, composing, teaching, you name it. I listen to a few Buddhist podcasts each week and I find a lot of what is said in those talks very enlightening to who I am and where I am right now.
One thought that came up in a podcast a few weeks ago was that the reason meditation is so hard is because we are afraid of being still and really getting to know ourselves. This struck me instantly as something that impedes my composition students: they don’t know who they are yet. Often they spend a lot of time and energy writing music that they might think they are supposed to write but they haven’t really found their own voice. Maybe they are mimicking stuff they like, or what was successful for them in the past, but they are really just starting their path of self discovery. They aren’t sure who they are yet so their music can be muddled and problematic.
Assume whatever qualifiers you need to in all accounts, of course.
Over the last few months, I’ve had some real struggles writing certain pieces. In my opinion, that is a sure-fire sign that I’m “doing it wrong.” My attention was going towards what people WANTED me to write instead of writing what I actually write and being who I am. My energies were outside of myself and not focusing on what was genuine to me. Once I attended to who I really was, the music came easily. I was simply in the way.
None of this means I advocate mindless adherence to a schtick or voice, of course (and that is a great article). I expect my voice to change and worry when I get fixated on too narrow of a view. What it means is I need to listen to myself and write that music.
It gets easier when I really attend to the Buddhist sense of “no self.” Since there really isn’t an “I” that can be found, all that is left is the music. Without the self, it flows pretty freely and usually sounds pretty good, too.