When I practice my guitar, to get a song down or a smooth finger-picking riff, I have to run through it about a thousand times. I wish I could say I’m exaggerating but I don’t think so. Maybe I’m slower than the average, maybe not. I wouldn’t know.
I do know that rehearsing can carry an air of boring at times. But then I remember that just like writing practice, it’s incubation. Staring at the ceiling/sky looks like laziness but that’s gestation, too. That’s where I pluck poems or unearth song snippets or capture phrases for rant-ology! Or where those things discover me because if I’m not focused and willing to just show up, they can’t find me.
Incubation can be tedious to the mind and given our cultural child training of dividing work from play and calling one a chore and the other fun, labeling one good and one bad can turn practice to doldrums. But practice is life; there’s no real division but in the head.
Ask my broody hens who sit 23.9/7 on their eggs for 21 days. Talk about devotion and sustained intention. If they weren’t willing, if they got “bored,” there’d be no chicks. What fabulous girls they are; I believe they meditate and deep think during this time.
If I don’t pick up my guitar two or three times a day, there’d be no music either. I don’t have to pick and strum for 4o minutes each time; I just have to play. Whenever.
Notice the word: play. Yes, the brain’s dictator mutates play into: nose to the grindstone, humdrum, monotony, tyrannical lists and iron-fisted one-step, two-step, three-step, don’t look out the window or take any breaks. And then there’s the dreaded music theory before music actuality.
Play the music and the theory will come. Trust me, you’ll want to know.
I also like to stop on a good note. Literally. When I’ve gotten the phrasing right, when the riff was played through without a mistake or I’ve written a fabulously structured sentence, I cease. I’m left with the music-worm/poem-worm traipsing “correctly” in my head as I weed & water & cook & sing & read. When I go back to it, I’m jazzed.
The Zen folks call their work practice; us yogis do as well. All of life is a practice. We’ll never get it perfect because life isn’t flawless. That’s a truly boring unrealistic patriarchal myth and misery comes from pursuing what doesn’t exist.
So, “practice” the hard stuff in life first—just for a little bit—then move to the more polished exercises and before you know it what was difficult gets easier. Keep adding on merry-making challenges (no matter how complex) to keep the river flowing. Close on a spirit-filled, soul-ful satisfied note. Cultivate fun in all its forms, be it “work” or “play.”
These endorphins are free; clock in and claim them.