Last night, while performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, I was deeply moved during the 3rd movement where the first violin’s 16th notes flow in gorgeous counterpoint to the main theme in the winds (quick reference video). If I were to foolishly try to define what Beethoven was trying to express there, it would be devotion.
Devotion can be a tricky word, perhaps implying an obsequious attitude or an outward ritual of servile obedience.
But my experience of devotion is simple: it is the rise of the natural love of the heart. Devotion has lit up my life for the past 20 years, awakened by the practice of Kriya Yoga meditation.
Without flowery language, my experience of devotion is:
- A relaxed and open heart
- An upward flow of energy from my heart to the center of my forehead
- An offering of myself
I’ve defined inspiration as a similar feeling: an upward rising of energy that leaves one in a perfect state of enjoyment. Devotion allows the heart to take a ride on that river of joy to offer itself, imperfections and all, into that mysterious source from which great music comes.
I bet you’ve been told at some point to “put your heart into it.” But performing emotionally is not the same as performing devotionally. The energy of emotional performance can go in many different directions, but the energy of devotional performance goes up. It travels in the universal direction of joy.
So here is how you can add that special quality of devotion into your music:
- Come into a meditative posture. Roll your shoulders back to open the heart.
- Take a minute to focus on your breathing. Allow your breath to flow deep into your lungs by belly breathing. If you like, mentally repeat “I am” on the inhale, “Peace” on the exhale.
- Bring your awareness to your heart. Visualize the petals of your heart opening. Let go of the petty likes and dislikes, and enter into the natural love of the heart.
- Keeping your awareness at your heart, begin to play or sing a scale, the simpler the better, infusing each note with the essence of your open heart.
- After you become comfortable with the above, consciously begin to lift the energy from your heart to your spiritual eye, or the energy center in the prefrontal lobes of your brain.
- Finally, offer yourself as much as you are able into the universal source of your inspiration. Let your musical expression speak for itself. Your listeners will feel it.
In essence, this is what I believe Beethoven did. And if he can do it, so can you.