On Meditation: The Most Essential Part of Daily Performance
I once took guitar lessons when I was living in Harlem about ten years ago. The first thing we learned how to do, before each session, was to tune the guitar. Once properly tuned, we riffed.
I haven’t played much since then. But I pulled out my old guitar the other day, tuned it up, and tried to remember some of those old chords from class. After a short while, the tips of my fingers began hurting from the wire strings and I put on some Jeff Buckley instead.
Growing up, I was taught that in order to perform at my highest level, I had to have a big breakfast (usually with sausage, biscuits, eggs, and OJ). This was the south so most of that food was processed. Regardless, that was the way I tuned my body up for nearly two decades. Later I incorporated running, working out and yoga into my morning tune-up routine – and started eating better.
When I discovered daily meditation, I realized that what I thought was tuning up before was really more like — sanding and polishing the guitar.
It’s true that eating clean food, moving the body, and surrounding ourself with loving, inspiring and supportive people will allow us to perform at higher levels. But what about the mind?
In the ancient Vedic texts, they are very clear about the fact that the mind is the blueprint and the body is the architecture – a physical manifestation of our accrued thoughts and emotions (this can be easily measured by the way). If we have a sad thought, the cells of our body respond so quickly that within seconds we have the body of sadness (down to the bone marrow). The same is true for happy thoughts.
In fact, every thought has a corresponding chemical messenger that instructs the body how to respond from moment to moment. The body isn’t a frozen sculpture. It’s amiable, supremely adaptable and infinitely layered.
Actors refer to their bodies as instruments. Singers and dancers do as well. In fact, most creative types and athletes seem to have a deep reverence for the body’s ability to stretch it’s limits.
What everyone finds through meditation is that tuning it up regularly gives us access to mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual abilities that we may have never imagined possible before. We marvel at the talent of Eddie Van Halen, Prince, Jimi Hendrix and yet we never see them tune their guitar before the performance. If we did we’d most likely be bored out of our minds. But if they didn’t tune before each and every performance, they wouldn’t sound like the musical icons we know them to be.
They wouldn’t have the freedom to make the kinds of musical discoveries that they made and be able to repeat them in a reliable way if their instruments weren’t properly tuned. Jimi Hendrix, for instance, played his guitar upside down. Bob Marley played his guitar without the D string. A great musician can have an imperfect instrument, but if the sound is consistently tuned, they can still create masterpieces.
I once taught an older gentleman in New York City to meditate. He was referred to me by an ayurvedic doctor he was seeing in California because he was experiencing a gastrointestinal issue that had gotten too severe to ignore. When he showed up to my Intro Session, he was asked to remove his shoes like everyone else. This posed a challenge to him because he happened to wear corrective shoes due to an old foot issue. Nonetheless, he managed to take them off and sit through the talk.
A month after practicing meditation daily, he noticed that his gastrointestinal issue began to become more managable. But even more surprising was how, without even noticing it, he began walking around without his corrective shoes. For years, he had spent a fortune on correct shoes and now his feet were no longer giving him problems. He said he always suspected that it was psycho-somatic and now he proved to himself that it was. He got a benefit that he wasn’t even expecting simply from daily tuning.
The body is the architecture and the mind is the blueprint.
When we interrupt the thinking process we sync our body’s vibration with Nature’s and our past problems start spontaneously correcting themselves.
If the guitar doesn’t sound good when it’s being played, it’s almost always a tuning problem. The best musician in the world can play an out-of-tune guitar and it will still sound off. If musicians never understood the mechanics of tuning, they may mistakenly think that there’s something wrong with the body of the guitar. Perhaps the guitar needs another sanding down and polishing? Or maybe we should cut it open? Then we can stitch it back together and see how it plays. Or we can replace the strings? Or maybe it’s your personality that’s the problem?
As humans, we vastly underestimate the importance of staying in tune. We treat musical instruments better than we treat ourselves. We treat our cars better than ourselves. We treat our skin and hair better than our inner selves, not realizing that it’s all a manifestation of our inner consciousness.
By far, the best thing we can do for ourself every day, before leaving our house to perform the masterpiece that is our life is to tune up our instrument by connecting with that aspect of ourselves that most effects our performance – our inner consciousness.
Call it meditation. Call it quiet time. Call it Reflection. Call it whatever you have to in order to carve out that time. Even if it means just sitting on your couch with your eyes closed for a few minutes each morning. You will quickly begin to notice profound differences in your performance outside of your daily tuning.
And with that said, don’t make it about the tuning experience itself. Tuning a guitar can sometimes feel like the most mundane thing in the world. It’s a formality. Nobody expects anything particularly special to happen during the tuning process. It’s in the performance where we should pay attention.
Meditate as a basis for performing dynamic action. To track your meditation progress, notice how well you are performing in action. Notice subtle changes in the architecture of your physical body and your extended body (reality). Are you getting sick less often? Do you sleep better? Do you have an appetite for healthier foods? Are you cultivating more sustainable relationships? Is there less drama in your life? These are clear symptoms of being in tune.
Playing any instrument regularly requires daily tuning. Since we play everyday, tuning only once a week is not enough. It’ll just retard the performance. No respectable musician would ever tune just once a week if they performed everyday. Neither should we. We live a full live, daily, transporting the body here and there, working hard and playing hard. We engage in all manner of activities, and therefore we also require regular tuning.
Your tuning fork is your chair. Sit in it and close your eyes every morning. Be easy and practice relinquishing control. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up from there. It’ll be the best thing you do for yourself all day, by far.
Photo Credit: Veni Markovski