The Water Pianist
Over the course of three posts, I am going to introduce you to a new Way of thinking. This knowledge can be applied to life but emphasis will primarily be on the piano. By the end of the final post, it would be quite excellent for me to learn that you have changed the way you think, therefore the way you play, and that you feel much happier with what you can do. These readings are sure to be very unique so spend as much time as you feel necessary to completely understand what is written. As water, do not rush, do not force.
Let's be honest, you have probably never seen these two words together. How can there be a similarity between the wet stuff and an ivory tickler? Actually, they are one in the same.
Ever since time immemorial, sages (those of wisdom) have been aware of the similarity between water and the Self. In fact, all of nature (which is not only birds, flowers and trees but everything inside and outside of us, from smallest imaginable and beyond, to largest imaginable and beyond) is able to teach us valuable life lessons for the simple fact that we are also 'of nature' and are bound by exactly the same rules as it. Unfortunately, and this is truly a great misfortune in the fullest sense of the term, once we are born, we develop an ego.
This ego is a circus of perceptions, ideas, ideals, beliefs, experiences, doubts, expectations and everything you can possible identify with in your life but one thing is absolutely true about it: it does not, in any way, follow the rules of nature. This clash between your ego and nature is what is holding you back from, amongst many things, becoming the pianist you truly are; the one that is currently hidden from view and invisible to self-belief.
What 'is', is nature. With or without humans, nature simply 'is', and it 'is', it 'does', everywhere, including You. It 'is' You, it 'does' You. If you don't believe me, try stopping your heart. Stop your eyes from working. Stop hearing. Stop your hair or nails growing. It simply isn't possible. This is because you are 'being done', rather than doing, and this is the first point to acknowledge.
What is significant and what I will soon apply to pianism is that we label everything around us, from tiny particles to galaxies. Of course, we do this to help with communication and to assist us in the experience of living, but the actual label does not mean anything whatsoever to nature itself. Humans, and when I write 'humans', I mean 'the ego', to which I shall not give a capital E just to spite it, have a burning desire to label every physical and mental 'thing', but by doing this, we trip ourselves up; we trap ourselves within confines that the ego has created and thus make our lives, especially learning lives, very, very difficult indeed. Nature does not do this because it does not need to; it simply 'is'.
Have you ever come across an acorn that wants to become a rose bush? Did one branch of a tree ever fight with another because it was a different length or because it was jealous of the view another branch had? Nature does not compete with anything, especially itself, since everything is nature itself. This is important: You are nature, do not compete with yourself. Furthermore, do not set goals (yes, I really wrote that) and force yourself to reach them because this is forcing; nature does not force, nature does not rush, yet everything gets done on time, every minute, every week, every season, every century. Think about that.
Nature, including You, does not have an ego and it is for this very reason that we are able to learn exactly how to live our lives: by mimicking it or, more correctly, realising that we are it. The softest and most valuable component of nature is water, and this is where our 'water pianist' journey begins...
I ask you: Do you know where water is headed? Consider: it does not stop and wonder what it is doing, it does not question its ability to overcome an obstacle, it does not flow up and it constantly seeks the path of least resistance. Without force, it achieves its purpose because it does not give itself a purpose to achieve - this is the Way, and is the only way you will be able to become the best pianist you can be. Reread this sentence and really try to understand its invaluable point.
In more conventional terminology, as a pianist of water, since you do indeed come from the same source, do not interrupt your piano playing; remove the ego's need to question, challenge and become emotionally attached to success or failure. By removing the concept of obstacles, success and failure, you can have no obstacles, resulting in the very pleasant notion of never failing or falling behind. As water, do not seek higher ground, meaning do not shout loudly (especially to yourself) about your perceived successes in order to attract attention.
By constantly sticking to a natural path of least resistance, or, by doing what is most natural to you without forcing unnatural movements because someone expects or demands it from you (such as your teacher, or because you wish to mimic another who can do what you currently cannot), you will simply 'be' a pianist and remove the devastatingly constrictive belief that you are 'still becoming' a pianist. Water does not try to become other water; it does not try to outrun itself; it does not try to flow higher or get to more places than other water. This is so very valuable and carries huge significance: by being water, you will be as perfect as possible, in a most non-egotistical manner of speaking.
This leads me to pose the question: when do you switch from being a non-pianist, to a pianist. Is it some notes you play in a particular way? Is it because of your speed? Is it because of the size of your repertoire increasing by that much-awaited one extra piece which suddenly pushes you across the line separating non-pianist and pianist zones? Of course, this is nonsense. By removing this ego programming of always wanting to 'become', you will automatically simply 'be'. Recognise that you 'are' a pianist, no matter what your perceived ability is in comparison to others and that it is simply humanly impossible to say that you wish to 'become' a pianist since no switch between non-being, and suddenly becoming, exists.
Thanks to this, failure becomes an irrelevant concept and progress is not made but gets renamed as simply 'playing as you play right now'... and each time you play, in whatever 'now' that may be, the idea is that having played for many 'nows', you happen to play to a higher level of self-satisfaction than you ever did before. Isn't that a marvellous way of enjoying your piano time?
Removing the ego in life is one of, if not the most difficult task to accomplish since we are surrounded by egos; we have lived with it for the longest time and it is now hard-wired, welded to our minds. Separation from it is difficult but, if you can come to understand that even the ego cannot be removed by force, meaning you actually shouldn't try to remove it since the only reason it exists is because we have labelled it into existence, you will actually simply forget about it. Once you begin to live in this way, you will suddenly make a huge amount of energy available to your being that can be focused in much more important places and on much more necessary things: playing the piano, for example.
Competitions may have benefits, and practice routines may help you to focus, but they are purely an egotistical necessity and for that reason, they go against nature. I am sure you would agree with me, as a pianist of any experience, that preparing for exams or competitions often renders the participant very, very nervous. They oft times over-practise, become paranoid about the tiniest of mistakes, boil with envy when they hear someone able to do something that they cannot yet do, show off their skills if they are one of the more proficient, and the list goes on, and on, and on ad nauseum...
The pianist who is able to transition from being a 'pianist' to a 'water pianist' is sure to win any competition, pass any exam and execute any piece of any difficulty because they have removed the ego's need for labelling, for trying to be better than it thinks it should be. It's quite absurd, the thought of biting ones own teeth, isn't it? Enter an exam with peace, partake in a competition for yourself; remove the competition and stress element by understanding that this is a mere ego trip and your truest ability will shine true if you return to source, remove force and play in the now rather than the illusion of the future. This reminds me of a great, powerful idea: If you are depressed, you are living in the past; if you are anxious, you are living in the future and if you are at peace, you are living in the present. Water is not depressed or anxious.
The water pianist has altered their mindset, has disregarded practice 'regimes', enters competitions or applies for exams purely for a sense of achievement without comparing themselves to others better or worse than they.
Scales are considered tools rather than boring 'exercises'. Who likes exercises? How many prospective pianists stop going to lessons because their teacher forced scales upon them and demanded 'correct' fingering? I have heard this story so many times and not only for piano lessons but a variety of instruments. What the 'teacher' failed to instil in the 'student' was that of 'water pianism' - by playing naturally, by seeing keys and scales and 'advanced' techniques not as obstacles but rather as nothing at all. That, by removing any form of label, one cannot possibly encounter anything difficult since it does not exist to that individual. Through a constant cycle of acknowledgement, understanding and application, the water pianist is able to be as excellent as they desire... whatever the value of 'excellent' may be to them.
Labelling the key of F# as a difficult key to play in because it involves five 'black notes' (there are no black and white notes, I've said this in every video and text I've ever written) for example, is madness. F# is just one of the twelve starting points for a major scale and happens to use five notes which are physically a little thinner than the little bit wider 'white' notes, but so what? By not highlighting this as a difficulty, by removing the idea that more black notes/less common keys is 'difficult', it will not be difficult. The fingers will simply become accustomed to this shape just as much as they became accustomed to playing one 'black note' in the key of F (the Bb) and G (the F#) or two in the key of Bb (the Bb and Eb) and D (the F# and C#).
I would now like to bring your attention to the two videos posted below. See how the water never rushes but flows at the perfect speed; see how it never challenges hard rocks but trickles over or past them without conflict; observe its constant flow downwards. This represents how you would do well to not shout about your successes to either yourself or others. Consider: the ocean is the most powerful force in nature. How can this be? It is simply, and observably, the lowest point of all things on Earth. Every raindrop, stream and river flows towards it so it can be understood that by remaining low, let's say, by living in obscurity, it can maintain its power and attract what it requires to remain what it is. Since water is the ocean and the ocean is water, water naturally flows downwards because it is all together part of its own greatness... in silence. Realise how this can apply to the water pianist.
Watch the following with maximum resolution and in full screen for the best experience. Observe every rock and how the water interacts with it in each video. Observe the different directions the water is flowing and look for little side paths the water may have found. Note the stiller areas and the stronger areas. Above all, notice the grace with which it moves; it does not compete with itself and it never stops moving to consider where it should go. It simply 'is'.
1. Water flowing in a powerful stream
2. Water flowing in a peaceful stream
By studying water's movement and realising that you come from the same source as everything else in nature since You are just as much nature as 'it', your mind will alter its state. The first thing that will happen, without force, is that your ego will become less and less dominant and your playing will become more and more fluent.
It is in recognising how nature itself works that a pianist may become a water pianist. The removal of labels and ego-rooted requirements will open up your mind in such a way that you will stop fretting over what you can and can't do, what is deemed difficult or advanced and comparing yourself to what others can and can't do and basing your ability on that and that alone.
Water pianists behave as water. Without force, landscapes are shaped and valleys are carved, all through steady persistence.