Lately I’ve been practicing basketball. When I indulge in a new activity I always find it rewarding to get the essence of how to improve in the art. I have noticed that when I feel the weight of the ball and focus on getting it over the rim into the basket my score rate improves.
But today I had a revelation. I did this really simple exercise where I tip the ball over my shoulder and catch it behind my back with the other hand. You can struggle with where to place your catching hand, how hard to tip over the shoulder and all kind of detail, but this time something beautiful happened. I suddenly had a profound feeling of the ball and the ball only. I could feel the path behind my back, and the exercise started to flow. When I then shot for goal I felt the course of the ball all the way into the basket.
I know from learning the bandoneon (the argentinian accordion) that the brain will figure out a map of where to put the fingers. On this instrument you can’t see the keyboard. You have to trust that your motor skills will find a way while you focus on the music.
Last year I had a chance to work as an actor in a TV show. I was overwhelmed by what I perceived as a nearly insurmountable task. I have no formal training in this art form and found a whole set of distractions and possible ways of maybe keeping the focus on set. All aspects of camera angles, where to stand, what level to keep the voice and what lines to say got me off balance.
One of the last days of shooting the actress Boel Larsson said ”Just focus on what the other actors are saying and the rest will fall into place”. This didn’t only solve my puzzlement with acting, but I took it back to my profession as a musician and I consciously tried that approach when improvising. I focused for instance on the drum playing while soloing on the organ and it opened up for a different kind of flow in where the music went.
Playing music, performing and dancing on stage is a thing I do a lot. Yesterday was a good day. We did two beautiful shows, Grinda and Uppsala, with Timbuktu & Damn!. The music and the reactions from the audience moved my hips without effort. I didn’t even consciously try to dance. The playing and dancing simply where vessels for energies floating in different directions. When I have flow, catching the music and molding it into movement comes naturally, but by examining the target of focus in other art forms I get tools for how to meditate better in the middle of the storm that a live gig can be. After 25 and more years on stages I’m still a novice when it comes to focus control.
Man, it would be great to hear LeBron James or Dwayne Wade contemplate on their relation to the basketball during a game. And where is the focus for my favorite actress Claire Danes when she’s doing a scene and the emotions flow effortlessly? How does Cory Henry perceive the music during one of his marvelous improvisations on the organ? When the musical ideas and harmonic possibilities just keep coming. There seems to exist commons aspect in all art forms when performed at a level that is elevated; A focus on the ball, a sense for the direction and an intake of the full scenario.