I've been working on a set of bebop vocal exercises on and off for a few months, interspersed with another series of exercises. Today, I sat down to look at exercise 5 of 21, and they just don't make harmonic sense to me, so I'm having to analyse and then memorise. I'm jittery with various events looming in my mind, and so am focusing on nailing the exercises as a meditative process. I looked at exercises 1-4 and mastered them over a series of weeks, so that's encouraging.
The only way we can master something is by slowing down, reading the notes, understanding why that note is there, and singing it slowly. Allowing ourselves the time, the patience to do this is the most important work. Because you know in your heart that you have the potential to do this thing - or else it would not be in your heart!
But the repetition of mistakes is a difficult thing to face. You must trust that eventually your diligence will lead you to a new way. In this case, it will lead me to a new musical vocabulary. In other cases, my focused mistake-making will lead me to new ways of loving, of living.
In September, I met the guru ShantiMayi; she was holding daily sessions with her devotees at the beautiful lodge in which I live. I recently picked up her book, where I read this:
"Why can't you choose, when you are confused, to return to your heart as quickly as possible? You do have a choice so why, not make the best one that you can? As long as you believe in your ability to choose the simplest, most commonplace of everyday things, you can also choose to return to your heart. This means to be still and watch without involvement... to remain open to what life brings.
"Well you might say to yourself: I am going to train myself to return to my natural state. Can you do that? YES, you can! You have learned throughout life to exist within the confines of your mental conditioning. No you can relearn the significance of that "heart-full" place and grow familiar with it once again, freeing you from the confines of conditioned responses. So get used to returning to your heart. Make it your moment-to-moment practice! This also cultivates courage and awareness. Make this the greatest desire in your life, your refuge, and your sweetest lover beyond any other on earth...
"You can make this small switch quite spontaneously and without much thinking. Yet, cultivating patience is essential for this reflective consideration. Patience gives us the opportunity to accept a natural outcome rather than manipulated or desired ones, which inevitably bring disappointment. It is a switch from a sense of separateness to oneness."
(From In Our Hearts We Know, by ShantiMayi)
So as I look frustratedly at this exercise, I look back at the previous 4. I also am aware that I haven't even begun to tackle the next 15 yet. The difficulty of these exercises is not as great as that of cultivating heart awareness, but I'm grateful that I have a model for this.
Because art models life and teaches us the skills on how to master ourselves - our fingers, our voices, our hands, our seeing, hearing, our speaking and moving. Nurture that within yourself. This is something our animals and computers won't do: cultivate their heart-seeing. We're so lucky to be human!