Takuan Sōhō had a unique insight into how people learn. A beginner knows nothing about posture or position of the sword, so there is no dwelling on body or mind; if someone attacks him, he scrambles to deal with it mindlessly. As he learns various things, however —physical posture, how to wield the sword, where to place the mind —his mind dwells on various points; if he tries to strike someone, what with one thing and another, he is exceptionally handicapped.
When he has practiced daily for months and years, finally his posture and way of wielding the sword become mindless, like he was at first when he didn’t know anything and there was nothing to it. This is the frame of mind in which the beginning and the end are the same. If you count from one to ten and over again, then one and ten are next to one another. In the musical scale too, when you go from A to G from one octave to the next, then A and G are next to one another; the lowest and the highest come to resemble each other.
While this is a long quote at first glance, Takuan manages to boil down a process that takes a lifetime into two paragraphs. According to Zen in the Martial Arts, Bruce Lee was a huge fan of this quote, and used it with his students.
Each and every master, regardless of the era or the place, heard the call and attained harmony with heaven and earth. There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit — love.
When it comes to learning music, perfection is often overplayed or underplayed. We either get tense about being perfect and make ourselves too stiff to be effective, or get so mellow that we skip practice over and over again.
I think the trick to being able to recognize those small moments when everything clicks – and when that moment passes have the strength of character to continue practicing, learning and growing until the next moment happens along.
Since it is Dear old Dad’s birthday, I decided to use a quote I once blurted out in a long-forgotten argument that to this day makes my dad laugh.
Once you pull the handle you don’t get your goldfish back.
In music and in life, we often find ourselves flushing some opportunity or challenge away. Skip playing in a jam, put off practice, blow off the wrong person and . . . well, you get the idea.
When this happens, when we flush the proverbial goldfish, it does no good to stage a rescue attempt or ponder on how badly you messed up. Just learn from your mistakes, move on and get yourself a new goldfish.