As a musician, you know two things better than most: sound and silence.
Sound and silence aren’t two separate things–and as a musician, again, you know this better than most, too.
A note emerges suddenly from silence and then fades and fades and fades until it finally subsides as silence.
Without silence, there could be no sounds.
And without sounds, we are hard-pressed to realize there’s silence.
The Mission of Play
Language sometimes results in more confusion than clarity. We use words for things without understanding or agreeing collectively on what those things we’re talking about actually are. My version of “freedom” or “love” or “music” differs from yours. To the extent that we forget that, we miscommunicate and lots of unpleasantness can result.
But one word for which I feel extremely grateful is the verb “play” as it applies to creating music on instruments.
This is a fortunate linguistic occurrence–that we are guitar players, that our practice always leads to playing, that when we work we actually play.
The Two Enlightenments
Mr. Cohen teaches about awakening. His teaching is aligned with no other tradition or path, though it definitely springs from the teachings of others.
One of the best-known aspects of his teaching is what he calls “evolutionary enlightenment.”
Evolutionary enlightenment is a new distinction borne from the realization that there are two aspects of the All.
First, there is the silence, repose, stillness. Enlightenment that comes from the deep quiet of meditation.
This is the enlightenment that people usually think of and refer to when enlightenment comes up. The vast silence. The profound stillness. God as the entire universe and beyond, hanging in infinity for eternity.
However, there is something else going on in addition to stillness here on Earth. Maybe you’ve noticed (it’s pretty hard not to, no?).
Everywhere I look in the world, I see the explosive power of creativity. Whether I’m looking at the plants, animals, landscapes and weather patterns of nature, or whether I’m looking at the tools, structures, languages and monuments of humanity, all I see is creativity expressed and ever expressing.
There is a driving creative power at the heart of creation, and this is another aspect of the Divine that gets lost in the traditional one-pointed focus on the stillness aspect of Enlightenment.
Andrew Cohen calls this active, evolutionary aspect of creation “Evolutionary Enlightenment,” and while I’m in no position to speak on behalf of his teaching, the basic idea is that there is an equally powerful, equally important experience of Enlightenment that aligns with the forward movement of creative evolution and serves that drive toward impregnating every nook and cranny of the Universe with full awareness.
Wait a Minute–I’m Just Trying to Play the Guitar
So, where does that leave us, we players of the guitar?
I am attempting to bring this awareness of the two styles of Enlightenment (the two aspects of the Whole) into my guitar playing and practicing. And it is yielding some profound fruits.
In guitar terms, we can bring awareness of the two Enlightenments into our movement between Silence and Sound.
Silence embodies the Enlightenment of Stillness. Sound embodies Evolutionary Enlightenment.
As musicians, we are always weaving between those two great states. Their interplay is our music.
I just want to offer up this perspective to you to take into your play with the guitar.
It is helping me a lot to remember why we bother going to the trouble of learning to play the guitar in the first place. Our mission as musicians is the same as the overall mission of All Life–to awaken, and to permeate all the Universe with awareness.
Let our harmonies fly into this world to serve the awakening process we’re all going through, whether we like it or not.