Tuesday, November 27, 2007

In Tune


My student came. I am trying to help her practice playing with an ‘Other’ in a room without losing her ability to listen; to stay present and maintain her inner observer even when being ‘observed’ by that Other.

We have been talking a lot about intonation and I have been suggesting that intonation is not something we ‘do’ to the music. It is simply there in the vibration of the instrument, of the harmonies we set up, if we do not interfere with it.

This week my student and I had a break through: This week she played for me, and she played in tune, and my whole body was tingling!

Last week the monk was talking about kindness. He was saying that kindness is not something we ‘do’. It is simply there if we do not interfere with it.

Touché, Mr. Monk!

Maybe because of some trace of Church induced guilt far back in my clan, I have always thought kindness to be something we ‘do’. ‘An act of kindness’ we say self-righteously to ourselves, having helped the fat lady with the bulging suitcase get onto the escalator. I have believed that with each act of kindness we get better at kindness; that kindness gets easier and eventually, as we amass our AOK's, we become good kind people. (Then of course we go to heaven, or are reborn as a princess, depending on whether you believe in God or Buddha, because we have earned our passage with all those AOK's).

The monk, however, was talking about duality and suggesting that, so long as kindness is something ‘I’ do to ‘Other’, or ‘Other’ does to ‘Me’ it will remain dualistic and therefore a source of suffering. He was saying that our basic nature is kindness and that it appears naturally when ‘I’ gets out of the way.

I’ve been contemplating this and, as usual, the best place to do that is whilst doing the washing up. Here’s what usually runs through my mind:

‘I am doing the washing up therefore You are not; I am angry at You. I feel cheated by You; It’s always Me and never You.’

Then of course there’s the weighing up, the balancing of accounts: ‘I did the washing up yesterday therefore You should do it today; I washed up Your dirty plate therefore You should say I thank You and I love You; I said I love You last week, and I will not say it again until You say it....'

And what happens when we take the I and the You out of that moment, as I stand at the sink, my hands soapy and warm?

The washing up is being done.

Is that really all that remains from that angry mess? Blimey.

(I experienced this profoundly the other day when Other was out. I let myself just be with the washing up because Other wasn’t there not doing it instead of Me. It takes practice realizing this state of grace when Other IS there not doing it instead of Me, but I’m up for it.)

It’s the same with intonation. Instead of ‘I play out of tune; You will judge me; I think this E should be flat; You think it should be sharper; I think Bach would want it My way; I play in tune; I am right; You are wrong; You think I am wrong…’

The music is being played.



Anonymous Pica said...

Goodness, what a lot of great stuff in this post!

I'm really going to try hard with the kindness thing to get out of my own way, because that's how it feels when it isn't "doing": it really does feel like a flow, like your monk says.

6:35 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

well i'll be trying hard with you pica!

6:41 PM  
Anonymous latinista said...

Never mind the washing up - are there other things that Other does and that you don't?! All the jobs have to be done - as long as they are generally shared you're doing alright.

7:36 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

latinista, thank you for your concern! 'Other' cooks me amazing gourmet dinners almost every night, he earns our living while i am out of work (and even when i am in) and is expert at cleaning the beautiful new granite work surface. he makes a jolly good fire in the morning before i have dared get out of bed..... etc etc... i could go on but that should be enough to be going on with!

7:42 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

What a perfect post! Right down to the wee cat's expression, which needs absolutely nothing added (I was about to add some adjectives for the cat's expression, but it doesn't need them).

7:49 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

I think you are quite in love with that little furball.

9:42 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

yessiree, ruth, i am! but i had to wait to fall in love till oscar and manon were sure not to disappear! they seem to be learning to play with each other day by day, though baby still loves to hide behind the gas bottle where no-one can get at her..

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Jenna said...

That cat is just adorable. I liked your list of the things your husband does for you in the comments. How easy it is to take for granted, and then to forget to be nice. My husband and I have often had a big argument that we then realize was caused be months and months of generally not taking the time to be considerate in the small things, for him to just once do the dishes, or for me to pick up my pile of clutter that has been sitting around for weeks. But it's hard to make the first step, to be the bigger person, to accept faults and to always try and make that other person feel special, especially when there are kids around with their own relentless demands. But certainly it's worth the effort. How else can you make a family?

10:34 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

latinista, i am still fascinated by your comment, and realize that what i am trying to say is that 'Other' merely represents separation - though that separation can be projected onto another person who happens not to be doing washing up! So I am not talking about who does what around the house at all, rather my own sense of separation from the world and how I deal with it. The Buddhist approach is very interesting here but best found at source rather than paraphrased by me!

9:28 AM  

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