Not long ago, I was looking at the fingernails on my left hand and realized that I hadn’t played my guitar for a couple of weeks. My nails were too long. As I began to think about taking an hour to play, I wondered what it would be like to pay attention to how I experienced my playing through touch. So on the selected day, I clipped and filed my nails. Then I carried all my musician things to the patio where I positioned my foot rest, set up my stand, and arranged my music. I picked up my guitar, sat down, and began to warm up my fingers by playing scales.
Before I even started to play, I knew what I would notice first—my tender fingertips. And of course, that is what I noticed first. As I pressed the strings down on the neck, my weakest fingers suffered the most. The nylon strings dug into my ring and pinky fingers and left them stinging with indentations. After a short time and when my left-hand fingers began to feel numb, I realized that each string plucked by my right hand was subtly felt by my left. When I paid attention, I could feel the movement of the string under my finger and sense its quivering. I was concentrating on this part of the guitar when suddenly I realized that my whole torso vibrated with each plucked string.
All the parts of my body that touched the guitar resonated with the sound of the strings. The current of music flowed from various parts of the guitar into my body and met somewhere in the center. The most powerful pulses came from the bass strings. Their deep tones massaged my interior and sent soothing messages to my core. They were notes of rest and peace and calm. They were notes of oneness and connectedness. I was no longer a separate person playing a separate instrument. We were a duet of wholeness—performing together, a relationship based on synchronized harmonic waves, a kind of harmonic living.
Dissonance is the enemy of harmonic living. Dissonance is not restful, nor peaceful, nor calm. It is that state of tension which, if prolonged, agitates the soul. I know this agitation. It is the kind of discord that pushes me toward harmony. It creates within me a desire to be connected, to be one with God, myself, and others. I want harmonic living. I want the vibrations of my soul to be synchronized with those of the One who creates the music. I want inner notes that resound with rest and peace and calm. I want the pulses of my spirit to be attuned to the pulses of others.
Awareness is the tuning key. Without awareness, I am disconnected, separated from the vibrational music that permeates all of creation. Without awareness, I perform a lonely concert. Without awareness, I play but have no sense of belonging to the band. Awareness attunes me to the Great Music Maker. Awareness unites me to the whole of things. Awareness invites modulation. By paying attention, I notice the dissonance in myself and in others. By paying attention, the dissonance invites me to become a bass string—one whose deep tones massages the cores of others, one who sends soothing messages of rest and peace and calm, one who synchronizes the notes and enables harmonic living.
Photo: Lisa Barnes