In this final part of the three articles on the ego of the pianist, I would like to help you overcome any perceived difficulties in your playing so that your time spent at the keys becomes much more fruitful and beneficial.
As you may agree, Shakespeare got it right. Expectation is one of the many damning labels the ego applies to life in order to make us feel in control. Of course, we are not. It is only by letting go of the ego as much as we possibly can that our playing, and lives in general, become much more relaxed, stress-free and enjoyable.
Removing the ego must be done without force. Force is like a cat chasing its tail; it goes round and round, losing energy in the process and never actually achieving its 'goal'. By simply being still, however, the cat is able to reach its tail. Of course, chasing its tail may be interpreted as a game for the cat, but the metaphor still applies to our egos in that forcing is a trait of the ego and that which is chased is always out of reach as an effect of forcing. Consider: how best to hold water in your hands? Do you clasp it with force? Of course not, it all squirts out from the cracks between fingers. It is by remaining still and forceless that water is able to remain in our hands. The effects of the ego will diminish the more you simply ignore its demands and reject any sensation of force the moment you feel it coming into play.
As pianists, we (read: our egos) expect results. We give ourselves practice regimes, follow course books insomuch as not turning the page until something has been mastered and feeling great distress and frustration when things don't go our (the ego's) way. Do you think this is the best way to enjoy playing the piano? Of course not.
How would you feel and react if I said that all you perceive as 'piano skill' is in fact simply an ego-labelled 'notion', a concept, that we, as humans, have given such importance and significance to, and that if you remove these labels of 'difficulties' and 'beginner' and 'advanced' techniques, you will actually as a result have no difficulties and all techniques will become equal.
It must be understood that the body follows the mind; it certainly is not in the opposite direction. Since this is the case, would it not make much more sense to declutter your mind first, get rid of the ego's idea that finger technique comes from fingering practice and simply enjoy the results of this activity?
The problem you have is that you expect your technique to grow and develop without actually realising that you already possess the technique inside of you. Rather than thinking in terms of 'progress', you should think in terms of 'revelation'. By this, I mean that your starting point must be: I am already an excellent pianist in the way I consider excellent to be, I am able to execute any fingering required because the muscles, tendons and fingers themselves already exist to do the job. Instead, unfortunately, your starting point is: I am not an excellent pianist and I am unable to execute any correct fingering.
A result of the latter is constant struggle, stress, disappointment and a sense of failure. The result of the former is a positive way of thinking, a self-belief (and realisation) that, since you already possess the ability, your journey is not that of 'becoming better' (bad to good) but that of 'revealing' to yourself, bit by bit, what you already possess.
This positive and equally correct mindset is a very powerful way to remove the ego without force. You simply alter your perception of what you wish to become by realising that you already are it and the abilities you hold within yourself will simply shine through little by little at every 'now' moment.
Expectations are thus removed since it is now completely illogical and futile to consider that there is anything 'coming' (expectations being future ideals rather than present facts). The future is merely an illusion anyway, so expectations really are completely useless. If you like to believe that the future exists, then consider this idea: You are floating in space in your little ship, with no reference to any particular sun or planet, thousands of light years from our solar system, and you suddenly receive an email. It reads "Hi Pianist! I just wondered what day and time it is?" How would you answer this? After all, it's always dark and the concept of '24 hours' does not apply to you. It continues, "When is tomorrow? Do you know when yesterday finished?" You realise, suddenly, in a mind-boggling explosion of realisation, that there is in fact no tomorrow or yesterday and that you are living an eternal 'nowness'.
On Earth, we have created the calendar (we even have more than one!) and the watch, the months and years, etc. but they are irrelevant to the universe as a whole; it couldn't care less! By putting expectations onto a calendar, what are you actually doing? Did you realise? That spaceship you are floating around in, where the future and past are non-identifiable, is also Earth. It is you, now. Now. Now...
By throwing away practice regimes and step-by-step progress charts, you are decluttering your mind and freeing it for universal power to enter. By realising that you already are, and already possess, that which you wish to become and acquire, your mind is further decluttered for universal power to enter.
As a beginner, and I do hate this time for obvious reasons, treat these early days, weeks and months as an opportunity to alter your mindset and remove your ego for very soon, you are going to realise what a greatly advanced pianist with excellent technique you always were. As a more experienced performer with a more revealed technique and larger repertoire, acknowledge that you are no more expert than those of lesser experience; your ego simply tells you otherwise.
From these three posts, I would like you to have become more still. Spending time dealing with scales, pieces and finger exercises is only 10% (1% per finger). The 90% is what most pianists are missing, I now see. However, having been studying in this way and removing my ego without force, many realisations have simply come to me and, as should you do too, they are shared to the world with no expectation in return.
For all pianists of all experience, removing the ego will reveal a universal power so great that you will wonder where it has been hiding all these years, both in terms of piano and in your life. The removal of this fatal ego component of expectation allows you not to 'overcome' difficulties but to enjoy them, to absorb them; in fact, you do not even label 'them' as 'difficult'. Be sure that those who do not label difficulties as difficult, easy things as easy, will experience no friction on their journey of self-revelation.
... just like for water, obstacles do not exist, they are simply part of the Way.
... just like for water, it is in not rushing towards a final destination that it can flow forever.
... just like for water, no matter its position or environment, it adapts without force.
If you feel these teachings are of no value, then you are simply not ready consciously. Be sure, suddenly, it will all make sense. In the meantime, consider how your lack of acceptance of these facts is affecting your studies or performances and how, once you have become a water pianist, you may play to a higher, more satisfying level. But of course, I do not force this upon you.
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