Saturday, February 21, 2015

Practice, Practice, Practice

Ugh, the dreaded "P" word.  How often, as a kid, do we hear that word and hate the teacher or coach for saying it?  As a piano teacher, I have said it many times, and as a parent many more.  Most of the time I get the same reaction I gave when I was a kid, namely the slump of shoulders accompanied by an eye-roll.  Why? Why do we hate it so much?  For me, it is the fear of the upcoming performance.

I often put too much pressure on my practice times.  When I am learning a new piece of music because someone needs me to accompany them or perform for some event, I feel the weight of the performance and it can overshadow any enjoyment I may get from the experience.  Maybe my imagination is too vivid because I can feel the emotion of being in front of the audience just as strong in my home, with no one around, as I do when actually performing. Contrast this to when I am just playing to play or learning a new piece just because I want to.  At these times there is freedom and if I make a mistake, I try again and move on.  Often these practice sessions feel more like prayer time.  As I make music, I let go of myself and I can feel a bond with eternity and there is joy.

I think this joy is what George Leonard is referring to in his book, Mastery: the Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment when he says:

"Practice, the path of mastery, exists only in the present. . . To love the plateau is to love the eternal now, to enjoy the inevitable spurts of progress and the fruits of accomplishment, then serenely to accept the new plateau that waits just beyond them.  To love the plateau is to love what is most essential and enduring in your life."

We can apply this to all aspects of our life, not just music or sports.  Practicing my religion is one of the areas I can really apply this.  I am not a perfect Christian and will likely never be one, but I am better at it than I was last year, and I can be better tomorrow than I am today.  The Lord does not put pressure on me, only I do that to myself.  He celebrates my improvement and challenges me to keep going, but never belittles when I fail.  He is the perfect coach.  I will work at being a better student of Him.  I am looking forward to the practice.

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