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Improvisation: A Spiritual Practice

As a musician and a coach, I get excited when my coaching clients show an interest in playing a musical instrument or any other form of creative expression. 

What immediately comes to my mind is the opportunity to use their creative interest as a supplementary tool in their personal and spiritual development.

Creating for the sake of nothing other than creating is a strange concept to many. We live in a world of products, content, outcomes, views, sales etc.

I've been a guitar teacher in the past and one of the things I used to start encouraging very early on, even if my students had learned nothing more than a couple of notes, is the habit of improvisation.

If the essence of spirituality is presence, elevating beyond the construct of the self, interconnectedness, then improvisation provides a creative playing field for exactly that.

Meditation is one of our pillars. One of our non-negotiables. You can look through many of the blog posts on this website on that subject. So how can creative improvisation be an extension to meditation?

It happens when you start learning to let go and authentically be in the moment. When your sense of "self" gets set aside for whatever is happening in the present moment. There is no past, there is no future, there is no "end product" that you should be thinking of. And because there's no end product, there are no rights and wrongs. The ONLY thing that can get in your way is judgement. When you recognize it, you push it aside. Doesn't that sound like meditation?

All that exists is this moment, and what you express in this moment. And then it's gone. It doesn't exist anymore. 

"That was horrible". Shuuuush, ego. I need to be present in THIS moment. Now. And now. And now.

So the next time you grab your instrument, or I don't know... breakdance, or grab a pad and write stream of consciousness or whatever, just play. Let everything be as it is and play in this universe. As you are... in this moment. Whenever there's judgement or expectation, recognize it and gently push it to the side. 

It's absolutely okay to put a fence around your playground. "I'm going to improv in the key of C". Or maybe you decide that notes don't matter and every sound that this beat up guitar (which you perhaps never learned how to play) can produce is part of your palette. "I'm going to do one page".

Sure. Set parameters as you like. But within those parameters, let go. If you get the opportunity to improvise with others, you are likely to cultivate a sense of connectedness, a unity with other players, a representation of the interconnected nature of existence.

This reminds me, I've encouraged a couple of my clients to join their local improv acting classes. 

And they've concluded with certainty that our core programming has played a vital role in their ability to let go, drop the self judgement (even if momentarily) and truly extract the joy of participating in improv. 

One of the guys told me his teacher was curious as to what he was doing there, not having any aspiration to act or perform on stage. He told him it was for personal development and learning more about himself as encouraged by his coach. The teacher was impressed and said something among the lines of "If it were up to me, guys like you would be my target market".

1 comentario

Right on. I never regret playing music. I can't imagine someone sitting down to play, no matter how difficult or frustrating the session and thinking "I shouldn't have done that. Waste of time." Making music feeds the soul.

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