I just found the neatest contraption on Freecycle. It's a little strap-on machine with two little boxing gloves at the end of mechanical arms, and all you have to do is press a button and you can beat yourself up any time you wish! I've been using for the last couple of weeks, and it works great! Wanna borrow it? What? You have one already? Oh.
Yeah. Haven't been practicing as much as I'd like to lately, and not liking it. The conclusion I've come to (again) is that if I don't practice first thing in the morning before everyone else is awake in the house, chances are I won't practice at all. I don't think I've missed any days entirely, but I've come close. Many a morning, instead of practicing, I opt to write email, or write blog posts, or do laundry, or send bills, or go food shopping instead of practicing. So, last night, I pledged to wake up and practice first thing.
I did it, folks.
At first, it was painful. (The machine, remember? Did you know that you can calibrate those things on low, medium, and high?) The flute wasn't speaking properly. I wasn't into it. Then I decided to take a two-minute break to fold laundry, the gift that keeps on giving. I came right back to the flute, and started playing a tune we'll be recording on our upcoming CD. Note, note, low note, high note, big deal, walk through the tune, yeah, yeah, get through it, just get the fingers remembering the movements they're supposed to make.
Then, something happened: I forgot I was practicing and I think the Beat-Up-Machine ran out of batteries. Or maybe it doesn't work when you're not paying attention to it. In the next twenty minutes, all sorts of creative ideas were bubbling up inside the music and some chick I call "Soul Mama" was finding interesting little improvisations within a tune she's been playing almost exactly the same way for about ten years. Joy! I just had to rush upstairs to write to you.
Why today for this breakthrough? Because, I think, I let go. Back when I was a church mouse, I might have said, "Let go and let God." Same thing.
Makes me think of a little excerpt from a forthcoming book I've been editing on conducting and musical leadership, written by Edward Lisk. Mr. Lisk bases some of his musical teaching on the ideas Renate and Geofrey Caine present in their book Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. They note that there are three ways to ensure the best learning, and one of them is "relaxed alertness." From Lisk's book:
Relaxed alertness means that we have to try to eliminate fear in learners, while maintaining a highly challenging environment. Relaxed alertness ensures that students are being challenged within a context of safety (no threats, rules, or regulations if something is not done). It also includes a personal sense of well-being that allows students to explore new thoughts and connections.
Hm. It is possible that you have a Beat-Up-Machine in your closet, too? If you don't mind me saying, today is probably a great day to take it to the dump. Suddenly, you may find that all sorts of fun ideas pop up!