How I became able to perform freely as a guitarist

As a composer, guitarist and singer I used to hate playing solo in front of people for fear of being ridiculed and wanted to smash up my guitar whenever I made mistakes! Despite this, I would often get enthusiastic feedback from my audiences. This went on for a number of years until I realised that something had to change: either I gave up being a musician or worked on feeling free on stage so I could appreciate what I was doing as much or more than my audiences, despite “imperfections”.
In a nutshell: I took a firm decision to become free and 2 weeks later was offered the chance to play with a Bavarian comedian/musician celebrity on state television for whom I had done recording for his CD previously. At first I told him (Willy Astor) that I was busy on that date but after putting the phone down I realised this was an excellent opportunity to achieve my goals. Despite fear I called him back, to confirm that I was actually free, and committed myself.

I forced myself to play much harder solo pieces in front of unofficial audiences as much as I could before the gig where I was to play a simple accompaniment. The concert went really well and all the musicians were likeable and easy-going. I wasn’t nervous and could hardly believe that! This lead on to further gigs at 4 of the most famous venues in Munich and surroundings, including a further TV performance and audiences of between 1500 and 2000. In the middle of all this I had envisioned my final goal of feeling free, playing a challenging solo piece of my own in front of 1000 people, for example in the flamenco style. Just after this and without having mentioned any of the above story to my colleagues, the main guitarist in the band said that I should do some improvisation at the next gig! I knew this was another fantastic opportunity and took it gratefully. It went well I wasn’t nervous!

After this performing solo became a breeze generally speaking but it wasn’t until about 4 years later that I realised I had achieved my goal after having performed 3 fairly challenging solo compositions of my own in front of 1000 people at a church for the funeral of the brother of a girlfriend who tragically died young whilst snowboarding. It was freezing cold and the church and I had to use hand warmers but I was both touched and happy to support the family of the deceased and was completely free in my mind as I performed. This was an unexpected backdrop to my goal but it also taught me yet again that when one focuses on providing value for others, it is perhaps the best way of feeling free as a performer, rather than concentrating on achieving a high standard per se, free from any imperfections!

Why Is meditation and discipline important?

Many men spend a lot of time and effort on improving the state of their cars and computers. It is of extreme importance to them that their machines look good or run smoothly and fast. A lot of women focus huge amounts of energy and time on making their flat or house clean and beautiful. Having a “fit" body is also a high-priority on today's list. Many drive to the gym and work themselves into exhaustion with some intense training programme. A lesser number of people are inclined to make sure that they eat healthily, although the numbers are growing. The external things to tune seem far more important than the inner factors, which explains why it is only a very small percentage of humans who seriously attempt to keep their minds in good health!

More and more have heard about meditation, and it is generally becoming more popular. However, to really put it into practice in a disciplined manner, enough to keep our minds as finely tuned as our cars, is another matter. It is much easier to find an excuse for not having time to take care of the mind. The logic goes, everything else is far more pressing. But the fact that everything is so stressful or that we have reason to complain so much simply shows the lack of discipline to fit in regular meditation which would certainly ease our minds, free up energy, create more quality time, healthier bodies and satisfaction in life in general.

Discipline is essential for breaking bad habits and illusions. It is not about overworking just for the sake of some unreachable, utopian vision. It is about replacing all that is destructive and restricting, with something that makes us feel alive – this requires vigour. Meditation or something which is very meditative and puts us in a positive trance, is fundamental to our well-being. How can we create deeper perspectives on our lives otherwise? How can we develop our understanding of others and a sense of goodwill for fellow humans through more acceptance, or see where we have been lacking in courage to stand up against injustices?

Without discipline and meditation activities we will surely become like trees on underdeveloped trunks. We will sway extremely with any buffet of the wind. The choice is ours: whinging, whining, bendy tree in a state of illusion ans suffering or tree of straight, healthy trunk able to stand and support us through the storms?

When to let go and when to use a fighting spirit

Letting go of a problem and fighting against a problem are 2 entirely different approaches which can be used in order to reach a desirable outcome. I have applied both and have found each to have its merits and pitfalls. In my experience there seems to be a tendency in various spiritual traditions, but also even on some personal development sites, to focus too much on one or the other as being the “right" way. Certainly a huge amount of emphasis is put on only one of the methods, which can lead to a lot of frustration on the part of the person looking for help.

It may be that letting go works 90% of the time for a particular type of mentality (e.g. overdoers), while the fighting method is great for another (e.g. apathetic types), but I certainly sense a danger of buying into just one of them without questioning the value of the other at all. This can happen when somebody has any noteworthy, positive experiences at all with one of them and assumes it can therefore be applied to all situations. Maybe this is because it is more comfortable to do so. In any case, a lack of awareness as to the integral role of each in life can lead to much frustration and eventually even a personal crisis. It is important to be open to healthy experimentation in order to find an optimal balance and try to listen to your intuition which tries to inform you when you are on the wrong track.

I have discussed the usefulness of making goals with determination then letting them go to come back to the present in  "When Goals Become Obstacles" . Here I would like to look at some other issues.

One of the dangers of the fighting spirit is that it can often mean underlying arrogance. It must be understood that it is more often than not about an inner resolve to transform the self, not an attempt to change others. It should certainly be fed by compassion or determination to maintain respect for others. Let me illustrate: when a child cheerfully helps his parents with the clearing up after breakfast, then spills orange juice all over the floor in a moment of clumsiness, if his parents are loving and understanding they will try to let go of any anger they might initially feel like throwing at him, because they know that his intention was pure, i.e. to help everyone. It was simply an accident.

Similarly if you are a perfectionist at cooking and despite your efforts, the rice ends up burnt so that you are ashamed with yourself, thinking that your guests deserve better, you won't get far if you try to change the situation with anger. You need to accept that your intention was pure, and it was a completely normal part of life: you are only human. That means letting go.

Suppose you are a workaholic who gets ill through overload because you place more value in high output than in good physical health. If you try to fight the illness you will most likely make it worse with stress. Your body normally needs to rest so relaxing and letting go are essential. However, if you get angry that your tendency has expressed itself yet again, you can channel that energy into determination to find the root of that imbalance in your life and then change it. You could focus as much energy and concentration as possible on recognising that workaholic tendency as it arises, so that you can become master of it, and not it of you. You can decide that your negative voice should under no circumstances dominate you. This is the fighting spirit. It can be quite stressful when you call up your resolve, because of this inner conflict. Nonetheless, this is precisely the time to transform bad habits. Stress has a useful function as well as a destructive one: it can show you precisely what has to be done and retrospectively that you had the strength to overwhelm your weaker side.

If you tend to be lazy and apathetic, you will probably find the correctly-used fighting method surprisingly productive. It is obviously closely connected with forming discipline and getting “on top" of things. Procrastination, timidness and depression can all be appropriate candidates for this technique. It sometimes requires a surge of energy to overcome lack of action, incessant negative chatter of the mind or an absence of courage.

On the other hand, we are not designed to endure us stress continually. If you can't change a situation, let it go. Put all your quiet attention into letting go. Visualize being happy and calm and let the subconscious help find ways of becoming that state. Become the attitude and process of letting go using wakefulness.