Last Sunday I had the tremendous honor of performing the first movement of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with my Bodhi Trio and the Pacific University orchestra.
When I perform repertoire I’ve known for decades, it’s easy to let the fingers do their thing and dive into the inspiration behind the piece. But this Beethoven concerto was completely new to me. It demanded all my concentration even after weeks of intensive practice.
I had to consciously relax away from tension and anxiety and yet increase my energy and awareness to keep my ears and fingers tuned in properly. I turned off egoic analysis, comparison, and judgment to the best of my ability, and opened myself up to the power and joy of the great piece.
First rehearsals are the best—nothing to lose! I led the orchestra in a brief meditation and then we got to work. The sheer volume of the orchestra behind me resonated through my body and cello, and the expansive energy and power of Beethoven’s spirit filled the hall. Working with Dr. Raul Gomez was a dream. His clear direction, attention to detail and aspiration for ensemble excellence lifted the Pacific University orchestra to a new level of playing.
Sunday’s performance was 90% as open and free as it was in rehearsal and overall went really, really well. My main takeaway from the performace—I need to get over being surprised at my successes with big shifts and high notes. My reaction, as positive as it was, limited me from being fully present for the note that followed. A lifelong lesson for sure.
The next morning I awoke early (was it continued energy or late night chocolate after the performance?) and went to our community meditation. As many of you have experienced, music lingers in the head. My first 30 minutes were filled with Beethoven, a little breath awareness, and typical egoic thoughts about the performance: Did I do well enough to allow myself to feel good about it? If not, how much do I need to beat myself up? Did I deserve less praise? more praise? The ego can NEVER be satisfied. Ever.
But there is a way around to deep soul satisfaction: stillness of body and breath.
As I worked with my breath to quiet my mind, I had some powerful realizations:
- The breath is my inner concerto set against the orchestration of my awareness—it is the imaginary sound of my cello meditating in a vast sea of orchestral silence. Poetic images aside, the natural unmeasured breath, as well as more audible pranayama breathing techniques, provide the opportunity to examine tone, texture, and depth, with just-as-deep awareness as when my bow hits the string. You can’t judge the breath with the ego. It simply is.
- No matter what is going on in the orchestra of my restless thoughts, the aspiring melody of my energized calm focus can take me into heightened awareness, into a deeper experience of myself.
- Engrossing my mind into the slowly awakening inner mystical sounds will help me become aware of my own Divine Concerto. Those who have read about or experienced inner sounds can testify to the peace that this brings.
What an honor it was to prepare and grow through this experience. I wonder what will be next!