Natural Guitar Practice, Trusting The Process
Often when we’re practicing we can get quite contracted and tense. There’s a pushiness and felt anxiety in our chest, forcing ourselves through the practice session. We have a lot of internal commentary about how it’s all going, often quite unfairly. “This lick should be fast by now!” “I don’t have the technique or natural ability to do this” “Steve Vai practiced for 10 hours a day, so should I” “I’ll never make it as a Guitarist”
All of these thoughts are abstractions; they have no basis in reality. What is happening in the present moment is practice. Our attention gets divided between these thought patterns and our feeling of anxiety. Very little attention gets spent on really listening and feeling what we’re practicing, with no internal commentary. Because of this we become aversive to practice, we feel that practice ‘doesn’t work’ or that we don’t have a natural ability or talent.
This is why wise practice sessions that are wisely simplified and put into short time frame’s during the session are most effective. We do need to ground ourselves before practicing so that our practice is effective.
Why do we practice? We practice because it helps us achieve results. We want to play a riff, we listen carefully, we learn the riff and then we then practice the riff. Generally that gets results. However, we get impatient. As humans, we really believe that our thoughts can speed up our bodies and brains. This is a misplaced belief, we can set the conditions to get results, but we can’t control the speed of which our body learns. We forget that in practice we’re training our bodies, our nervous system, our consciousness.
Our bodies are not separate from the world around us, we are what we eat, breath, our thoughts are the thoughts we are exposed to, our feelings are consciously and unconsciously triggered by the world around us. We are no different from nature, we are no different from a tree. We don’t will our fingernails to grow, we don’t will our heartbeat and breathing to keeping going. We have no control over our senses, we can’t choose not to hear sounds around us, we can’t choose not to see when we open our eyes. And in the same way, we can’t force our body to speed up.
We must be grateful for the fact we’re alive before we practice, that there’s a body and mind to practice with.
Rather than fighting our fingers and our thoughts, we must approach them with compassion. As you are practicing, your body is busy programming all this information! It's listening, it's feeling the strings, it's getting feedback. Now and then thought can be used to steer our practice in the right direction. Just like growing a plant or vegetable, you can set the right conditions, get the soil right and water it etc. But you can’t force it to grow immediately, you have to treat it with compassion and trust that you’re doing the right process. You can’t plant the seed then as soon as you see any sprouting, start pulling on the sprouts, that will stop growth all together.
In summary: appreciate your body, your mind, the fact you're conscious to even play guitar. Make sure you set reasonable goals in your practice, make your sessions are simple and effective. Then, let the practice happen, trust that you’re programming the right information. Good luck, may you be well!
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