Guitar and Meditation

I've been seriously dedicated to meditation for three years now. (I've given up keeping track now, it is so ingrained in my life.) And I've been playing my guitar since I was 11 and seriously practicing it since I was 18. 

Here's what I notice about the practices of meditation and guitar playing:

The enormous life-changing skills of presence, awareness, focus, concentration, letting go ... these are what I work on in tiny increments everyday in my meditation practice (10 to 20 mins in the morning and, when I am at my best, at least 10 minutes in the afternoon).

When I bring these skills to the woodshed (a jazzers term for "practice room") and to the time I spend with my guitar on my lap, I notice that I learn better, I am more calm and less overwhelmed by all the I still want to be able to do on my instrument. My guitar practice sessions are more focused, less scattered. There is a glow and restorative aspect to this time. My mind is refreshed and still. This is new for me. Before, my practice session were always, basically, demoralizing -- showing me only how far I had to go and how painstakingly, achingly, terribly slow my progress was, if I wasn't backsliding, which I often felt like I was.

Learning to see that meditation is a way of practicing my guitar and that practicing guitar is a kind of meditation has made both activities exponentially more gratifying and deep.

There is a rich and satisfying inner life to my guitar work now that I am sure was always there somewhere, but I could never see it. I was moving too fast, trying too hard, too attached to what I couldn't do, hadn't done. 

My friend the great saxophonist and human John Ellis once mentioned to me that he felt he needed his time in the practice room with his saxophone everyday as a way to stay grounded and sane. At the time, I caught his drift -- that he meant that his practice was, spiritually, more than just practice. 

I -- finally -- get it.