In my private studio students often play a problem passage and say, "I always play that part wrong." That's a telling phrase--a clue that it's time to look a little more closely. I encourage them to dissect the one tiny problem spot--what causes the stumble? Usually it's due to playing the piece every practice session from beginning to end without listening to the details. This practice room habit might even be a life habit. We tend to repeat the same thing over and over in exactly the same way. And we wonder why we aren't getting anywhere. If we slow down and listen we might be surprised what we hear.
I love to go for long bike rides. It's become my habit to set aside a couple of hours, drive to my favorite trail and ride as hard as I can out and back. Last Friday I met a friend who wanted to show me a new trail. As I began the ride I realized that I felt a little lost on a new route. I rode slower than usual, distracted by the unfamiliar scenery. Then, my friend suggested the unthinkable--"let's park our bikes so we can go see the nesting owls." I actually hesitated, " but I'm not going to get a good workout," I thought. To my surprise, my mouth blurted out, "I'd love to!" Shaken from my routine I walked to the owl's tree. The sight was serenely beautiful. Yes, I did let my heart rate drop, although I found myself breathing even more deeply because I relaxed and got off the same old path. I slowed down, took my eyes off the ground, and was surprised by what I saw.
Let's look closely at our stumbling blocks. Are you aware of the patterns that may impede your progress? Are you repeatedly tripping over the same bump in the road? Isn't it surprising how hard we can insist on repetition even if it's obviously not working? Shift your focus away from your routine and take a look at the details. Practice to solve the problem spots until the fingers and the psyche feel assured. Try something new and you may find that your bumps in the road have been transformed into starting blocks.
How rewarding to take the time to master a passage that seemed impossible! What a joy to discover that nature's wonders are also good for my heart! What you seek might be waiting for you in the most unexpected of places. If we take the care to look and listen inspiration just might come calling.