Pause • Reflect • Sundays on Pianodao
Written by ANDREW EALES
“In autumn everything is falling: the leaves, the temperature, the angle of the sun. Following the prolific expansion of summer and the warm fullness of harvest time, autumn begins the descent, the turning inwards. There is a sense of quieting. Autumn invites us to ponder the impermanence of all phenomena.”
John Kirkwood: The Way of the Five Seasons (2016, Singing Dragon)
We sometimes think about Autumn as a season of decay, of decline, in which the weather turns drab, and the nights draw in. And for those of a melancholic disposition, the words Seasonal Affective Disorder loom, an ominous spectre.
But I prefer to see the Autumn as a time of dynamic change and possibility, the old giving way to the new. Any gardener will tell you that plants sometimes need a good pruning, and the spectacular feast of autumn colour serves as a vivid reminder of nature’s inbuilt commitment to change, vitality and new beginnings.
What better time for us as pianists, teachers, and simply as people, to reflect on those changes that may be needed in our own lives?
Which “leaves” are turning yellow?
Here are some of the questions we might ponder…
- What projects do I really need to complete and draw a line under?
- Are some of the pieces in my Active Repertoire “yellow leaves”, on the turn? Should they make way for new ones?
- Do I have bad habits which inhibit my development as a player?
- Are my strategies for progress working?
- Who are the “evergreen” composers, whose music I enjoy and would love to explore more?
- Are some of my lesson routines becoming stale? Students with whom my approach is becoming negative? How might I refresh my teaching?
- Are there pieces I am bored of hearing over and over? Books I would prefer to lose, and replace with something new?
- Are my students bored with the pieces they are learning? Can we agree to accept some imperfection and move on?
In Chinese medicine, the autumn season is associated with the lungs, which in turn are linked to the emotion of sadness and loss.
- Do I breathe deeply? (try these exercises).
- Where would be a good place nearby to go for a walk in the woods and enjoy the fresh air and Autumn colours?
- Is it time to reorganise my home, and discard belongings that I no longer need or use? Who do I know who could make better use of these things, or where can I donate them?
- What changes can I make in order to let go of and avoid negativity in my life?
Let me leave you with this quote, which marvellously summarises the challenge of change, and the need to leave behind the baggage we no longer need:
“If life is a journey, then we need to consider the baggage we are bringing along. This baggage can take on many forms. It can be the material things we possess, or the emotional baggage from unresolved issues. It can even be spiritual baggage from beliefs which no longer serve us…
The more you can let them go, the more you will be able to travel light and enjoy the next leg of the journey.”
Derek Lin, The Tao of Joy Every Day (2011, Penguin Books)
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