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Learning and Playing by Heart : Page 3 of 3

Learning and Playing by Heart

continued from page 2

The saying "learning by heart" came back to me. That was what I was doing. Without any conscious realization, at first, I was seeking to play this music that I loved so much by heart, by memory, so that looking up at the notes on the score should not interfere with my direct experience of playing, my hands on the keys, just me and the music. I wanted to get closer to the music, closer than reading the notes would allow. I wanted to get to know the music so directly that there was nothing intervening; that I could play it anywhere, anytime, on any piano, even without the sheet music ~ because the music was in me. I wanted to "know" it in an almost Biblical sense. For it had always struck me that this was what was meant by the use of "know" to connote sexual intimacy ("And they knew each other"): that when you are that close to something, or someone, you know it/them ~ not as idea, not as other, but as Beloved: every note, every pore on their face known and loved by you. I wanted this music so close to me that no idea of it was even needed. I could have the thing itself.

   It is such a rare experience, in our time of constant change, novelty, innovation, activity, and speed to give oneself the gift of going deeply and slowly into something that you come to out of pure unadulterated love. This was what gave me the piano-teaching thoughts to go back, go over, get this phrase down before going to the next one. Often hurried as a child (as we all are hurried along, these days), finally I got to not only have the piano teacher I would have wanted when young, but also the loving, caring, inner teaching that I had longed for. Who was it who suggested what to do when, how to break the piece down into manageable pieces, how to master it slowly, be patient when having to go backwards in order to better go forwards? It was myself ~ some wise and loving "teacher" inside me who wished to help me engage, most fully and beautifully, with what I loved.

I am certain that we all have this inner teacher within us. It may not be piano that we most want to learn, and therefore call on to help us play piano. It may be writing, or loving, or parenting, or something else to which we have come to from our own true, unconditioned desire. When I stood at the threshold of the music room in the main library, feeling ready to prostrate myself on the floor (thankfully, I did not, literally), it was because a realm I had always wanted and felt locked out of now stood before me, open to me, to the degree that I was able. I feel it significant that this journey of greater musical mastery was essentially driven from within (even though it certainly was helped by what I learned in the choruses and from my first husband along the way).

First, there was longing and crippling self-doubt (put in place, as I hope you can see, not by anything intrinsic in me but by how my untutored passions were received ~ i.e., the piano teacher who shoved me over so he could play the piece correctly). Then, there was hiding the music from others and myself. Then, there was singing in the choir, i.e., surrounding myself with others who were doing what I wished to do, and learning from and being buoyed up by them. Then there was the recognition that I did not know how to read music, and the gradual learning how ~ a quickening that took time, preceded by laboriousness and a seeming ceiling on how much I could learn. Then, there was the upwelling as a fountain of longing from the forgotten underground river that surfaced as the desire to play something I truly loved, even if it was beyond me. Then came the decision to go slow, to take my time, to do it entirely for myself. And that is what I did.

And out of that came the inner teaching, perhaps as good or better than if I had had an external teacher. And how did the inner teacher appear? Listening for what I loved.

Listening to my own desires, following my own pace, being honest about my current level or lack of mastery, without shame or judgment, I was able to move closer and closer into the experience of learning what I loved to learn. Success was not only in the right notes, the musicality of my playing, but also in the willingness to learn. To take pleasure in the process of learning, no great performance having to function as the reward. Just making this music part of me.

Learning by heart may be an old-fashioned notion. But dear friends, it is our own hearts that receive this nourishment. And so I invite you to reflect on what you have read here and see how it may apply to you in any way ~ and to listen for your own inner teacher to help you move on the path of what you love.

A Simple Guide to Learning and
Playing by Heart in Book-Writing

  1. Write what you love.
  2. Feel the connection to what you write.
  3. If you can't feel the connection, probably some internalized equivalent of my piano teacher is telling you that your own way of getting into it is wrong. Shove that inner critic over, and be with your genuine desire. Let it lead you.
  4. Let go of ideas of how writing is supposed to come about, though do indeed read writers you love — both to experience their gifts to you, and to see what it is you respond to. It's quite likely that what you admire is a mirror to potential qualities in you. Then let go of what you've read, and make room for your deeper Self to bring you your own ways and treasures.
  5. Listen to the music inside you: the urges, the calls, the moments, the impressions. Put down what comes. If you find yourself thinking, “No one will want to read this,” chances are that you have come to a vulnerable and essential place within. That's the place we all try to protect. But it's where the truth and beauty lies, and on some level it's the place that readers hope to reconnect with in themselves when they pick up a book. You can only do this for them if you are there, yourself.
  6. Practice out of love. You are not expected to write a masterpiece the first time out. Maybe your first draft will be awkward, chaotic, not as well articulated as you would wish. Consider these words and phrases as your notes and musical phrases. Come back to them. Sit with them. Ask yourself what you relate to as a reader, and what you don't. Where you don't, just ask yourself “What's needed?” Returning to your practice will gradually make things more evident, more alive, and more beautifully said.
  7. Play by heart. In this case, this doesn't mean memorizing your writing, but putting your heart into it. That's where the underground river is, the flow that you don't have to make happen. Let go of seeing your book-writing as a product, and let it be the process it is. Love the process. Anything you don't relate to yourself, you can let go of or redo. You don't “owe” your readers a specific set of rules done well. You owe yourself the dedication of a relationship where the deeper part of you has room to surface and be known.
  8. Allow yourself to love your writing. This sounds paradoxical, but we may have learned not to love what comes out of us. I remember once doing an oil painting that took me quite a while, and when I was done I would gaze on it every day for weeks. I could not have done otherwise. I had given all of myself to the process, and there was that beauty in material form, now. It held my love, and it mirrored that love back to me. I've read that God feels the same way about us.

Copyright © 2012 by Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.

Naomi RoseNaomi Rose, Book Developer and Writing Coach, has successfully used her "Writing from the Deeper Self" approach to help people with an inner-directed focus write the books of their hearts. More »