Lately, my wife and I have been enjoying Marc Lesser's teaching on mindfulness. Check out how he relates his experiences with high school wrestling with a greater understanding of concentration….
I was captain of my high school wrestling team during my senior year of Colonia High School in north-central New Jersey. One of the teams we regularly faced was J. P. Stevens High School from Edison. They were consistently one of the top-rated teams in the state and often sent wrestlers to the state championship. During the warm-up period, my team behaved like most high school wrestling teams. We ran briskly onto the mats, did some exercises, and made a lot of noise. The main objective of our warm-up was to demonstrate our prowess to the opposing team.
In contrast, the J. P. Stevens team walked out slowly and quietly onto the wrestling mat. They were poised, focused, and concentrated, preparing themselves for the task ahead by settling and quieting their minds. They seemed disinterested in our team. Their uniforms were black, and their heads were nearly shaved. They didn’t talk or smile. I knew right away that this was the team I wanted to be on. I think of this as an early sign of my desire to be a Zen student (and at times a Zen monk.)
One of the things that intrigued me in high school wrestling was the power, passion, and complexity of concentration. I noticed that my desire to win and my fear of losing often interfered with my performance, my concentration, and my enjoyment. I knew that something very important was going on, and I also felt that something very vital was missing. By my senior year I was a fairly good wrestler, having faced some of the better competition in the state. Competing with the best in the state was, as my coach proclaimed, a good way to develop. Our coach used to ask, “Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond, or a big fish in a large pond?” This was his way of explaining that although we were a new and inexperienced team, it was useful to wrestle against the best teams in the state, even if it meant being utterly demolished and embarrassed.
In watching other wrestlers, I noticed that the good ones were usually strong and athletic and really wanted to win. The best wrestlers, those who became state champions, seemed different. They weren’t always the strongest or quickest or the most athletic looking. They certainly cared about winning, but they did not seem caught up in winning and losing. Rather, they appeared focused on what they were doing. They seemed to move and act from a deeper place than the good wrestlers. They often seemed a little odd and appeared not to care what others thought of them. I knew that there was something to learn from these wrestlers and that the lessons to be learned would translate far beyond the wrestling mat.
Lots for us musicians to chew on as well. Why are we doing this? If it's just to be the fastest/loudest/most impressive we're not going to be doing this as deeply as someone who is just fascinated by every part of making music………...