Whit Sellers of Old Dominion
Sharing Some Words of Wisdom
Greetings, Modern Drummer readers! I would like to share with you a quote from the inimitable martial artist and actor Bruce Lee: “Awareness is without choice, without demand, without anxiety; in that state of mind there is perception.”
The awareness or perception that Mr. Lee is referring to could be paraphrased to mean being in the moment, or it might mean a state described by those experiencing it as a place free of self-consciousness, where no “wrong” moves can be made. Decisions are made with no deliberation, and a quality of openness and effortlessness replaces that which is closed-down or rigid.
A drummer in a state of awareness is probably a drummer you and other musicians would enjoy listening to or working with. This drummer is confident, accurate, expressive, and most importantly, is generously making it work by playing things that fit into the musical environment and keep everything moving in the appropriate direction.
The opposite of this would be a drummer performing in a state of attachment. This individual is at the whim of his or her desires. These cravings could be anything from wanting their perceived talents to be recognized as good by others, or simply wanting to recreate a previous good performance. As a result, this drummer is busy ruminating and time traveling in their own mind, making judgments about what is good or bad and thereby becoming estranged from the present moment. Thus, the attached and distracted drummer’s suffering is reflected in their performance as they play inappropriately or execute without confidence.
So how does one be a drummer who is aware and not attached? The simplest way to start is by awakening to the fact that the choice between bad and good is not mandatory; there’s actually no inherent reason one must pass judgment on any experience. With some practice, it is entirely possible to do something without deciding whether it is bad or good.
The way to do this is surprisingly simple. All it takes is recognizing when judgment is occurring, and then doing nothing more than observing those feelings with curiosity instead of responding in a habitual way. Although the urge to engage in the habitual response will be strong, focus on breathing and bravely examine the uncomfortable feelings as completely as possible. Is there a physical sensation? Does the feeling have a taste, a smell, or even an appearance? The truth is, this act of deliberate observation is the only thing that is required for release from the habitual or attached response. It’s not easy to catch yourself at first, but the more this technique is practiced, the easier it is to comprehend when judgment is occurring and quickly shift into the perspective of the unattached, interested, watcher and leave the inveterate response behind.
Try it out. The next time you are making music and experience frustration or nervous excitement, keep this bit of Buddhist philosophizing in mind to help you reunite with the present moment. This technique can be useful not just for drummers but also for anyone preparing to do anything challenging. Any person can start training their mind to cultivate awareness and surrender from attachment at any time; the only prerequisite is a desire to do so. Thanks for reading!
Watch Old Dominion’s “One Man Band”
Watch Old Dominion “Never Be Sorry”