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.