Last week, I looked at some different aspects of the approach to playing guitar that I call “Love Guitar.” If you missed those posts, check them out. They begin to flesh out the take on guitar playing that you’ll find here at StringLove Guitar.
This week, I’m going to extend Love Guitar a bit further. There is a subtle but powerful awakening pushing across the humans inhabiting this blue planet of ours, and music has major power to advance this wave of awakening. If you’re at all interested in relating to music as a spiritual, transformative practice or harnessing your musical chops in service to something greater than your moment-by-moment desires, then that’s what this week’s posts will be all about.
For today, though, I want to discuss the music I make when I’m left to my own devices, because it best demonstrates what I am trying to do with this approach to guitar called Love Guitar.
In case you didn’t know, I have a CD of solo acoustic guitar called Spirited. Check it out here. Don’t just check it out, though–buy a copy. I’ve had enough people tell me how much they love it to know that it has a shot at touching you as you listen, and you’ll be supporting the StringLove mission in the process (thanks!).
I didn’t set out to write a bunch of songs and make a CD. Instead, I was pursuing a period of intense guitar investigation that I referred to as my “Guitar Monk” period. After a stretch of years in the hustle and bustle of New York, I returned to Nashville and went into a self-designed guitar retreat.
My intention was to push deeper into guitar playing in order to be able to command the guitar at a higher level in service to the source of love and harmony within us all. I had already begun articulating my Love Guitar approach to playing the guitar and making music in general, but I was a long way from the detailed perspective that I now have thanks to all the intense guitar work I did during my Guitar Monk phase.
So, I went back to Nashville and commenced what often seemed like an impossible mission–to surrender completely to the guitar and push my skills and understanding with it as far as possible.
As I worked on my daily practice, I learned a ton and applied some very key teachings that helped me work through any challenging technical issues that arose.
I also discovered the silence more than ever before.
The more I worked with the music, the more I connected to the silence.
Have you heard of Andrew Cohen? His enlightenment teaching includes two complementary fields of enlightenment–the enlightenment of Being and the enlightenment of Doing.
(I’m paraphrasing and using my own terminology here, so apologies to anyone who disagrees with this characterization of the teaching.)
The point is that the silence embodies one aspect of the nature of the universe–stillness, beingness, pure awareness–but the music embodies another equally valid aspect of the universe’s nature–creativity, awareness made active, the drive to create and fill every last atom of the entire universe with that pure awareness.
So, in my own tiny trailer in Middle Tennessee, I opened up to these twin aspects of the Divine through my musical work.
The quieter I got, the better I got at making music.
And then, the songs started coming.
Here in Nashville, the term “singer-songwriter” gets mentioned a lot.
I don’t consider myself a songwriter.
Instead, in the musical tradition that I’m coming from, the feeling of “writing” a song is more akin to “catching” a song. It’s as if I float through outer space with a butterfly net in my hand, and my job is just to use my net to catch a beautiful song as it flutters by.
The songs on Spirited all came that way. The quieter I got in the depths of my monkish guitar practice, the more clearly I could hear the incoming songs soaring out of the silence.
Artists throughout history have used all kinds of metaphors to describe the creative process. The butterfly net swung through outer(inner) space to snag a comet song is mine.
Spirited, then, is my first example of how Love Guitar can sound. Please take a listen to it, and listen to it with as much attention as you can muster. That’s my request as an artist and a teacher–I promise you, I put those songs together with as much reverence and respect as I could muster at the time. They’re there to entertain, to inspire, to remind and rejuvenate.
For the rest of this week, I’m going to continue getting more and more specific about how you can harness the power of Love Guitar in your life. Just remember that this is all about beauty made musical. Sit in the silence today and enjoy your favorite music and remember why it is that we want to play guitar in the first place.