The Inner Master
Of all the things you can do to make sure you are enabling yourself to achieve your guitar playing dreams, finding the Inner Master is the greatest. All great players have found the Inner Master. Once the Inner Master is found, everything else that can be useful becomes usable.
How do we find the Inner Master? Actually, we don’t. The Inner Master finds us. The Inner Master finds us when we are ready to be found, when we are ready to listen. The Inner Master is like the “still small voice”, it can’t be heard when other voices are talking, or screaming, inside of us.
We won’t hear the Inner Master if we are busy hearing voices of worry about how “good” we are on guitar, or if we can ever be “good”. We won’t hear the Inner Master if we are hearing voices of pride about what a great guitar player we are!.
We will hear the Inner Master when everything is quiet enough for the Inner Master to hear US when we play, or practice; that is, to hear our music. When our Inner Master can hear us play, He, or She, will instruct us, guide us, to our next step of development, to the next awareness we need in order to move beyond where we are. Our Inner Master should be the one we play for when we play. The Inner Master hears when we truly listen.
Mastery on the guitar is not the attainment of a state of perfection, it is the attainment of a position; and we arrive at that position through the practice of essential attitudes. These attitudes allow us to see what is important, and what is true. They allow us to be Masters, and to become Masters.
Mastery is the state wherein there is no obstacle from the outside to the inside, or from the inside to the outside. Mastery is a position of “no-position”, or all positions. It is complete openness. Masters are those who have spent a long time in that position, and have developed from that position.
Masters are never finished growing, they haven’t seen everything. They are just in a position from which they COULD see anything.
Finding The Inner Master
How do we find the Inner Master, or allow ourselves to be found? I really recommend a way I believe has been successfully used over the ages: find the Outer Master first. Or, we might say, be able to recognize the Outer Master when you do see him.
Nothing can release your own Inner Master more effectively than seeing a great player play. But, you have to know how to look. You have to look with complete openness, you have to absorb it all without “mentalizing” about it. You have to “feel” the great player, you have to feel like you ARE the great player.
I have always noticed a very peculiar thing. Whenever I would watch a great player play, as time went on and I went back to my practicing, I would notice that I was doing things a little differently, I was using a finger a bit differently, or I was feeling a bit different as I played, perhaps moving, or feeling my body in a new way. I realized I had picked up something by just watching a great player play.
Somehow, I had internalized, in a non-verbal and non-conscious way, something about the way that player was approaching playing the guitar, something about the way they were related to the whole thing.
I have to admit I haven’t done a scientific study of it, but I have to believe it is something that happens all the time for many people, and is possible for anyone. It is simply a matter of letting everything you are connect with something outside of you, and everything IT is connect with something inside of you. Then, you will notice changes.
How I Found My Inner Master
I once watched Segovia play a chord, and then bring his hand away from the strings in such a beautiful and graceful way. I felt afterward that I had learned worlds about how to touch the strings, and how to feel in the whole body as I did so. My Inner Master had connected to his Inner Master. I found my Inner Master through attention to an Outer Master.
When I was young I went to see Julian Bream play. I felt I learned a lot about being a master as I watched him simply walk out on stage! His incredible naturalness as he sauntered around to the front of the stage, combined with those red socks, conveyed so much about how one ought to feel about sharing the intensity of one’s relationship to music and the guitar with a crowd of strangers.
But watching Julian’s face as he played said more than anything else, and conveyed more than anything else could. His absolute involvement and concentration on the music, and his surrender to it, revealed the inner experience of a Master. The emotional intensity of the music, reflected in his face as he created and communed with it, made a harmony as beautiful as any in the music itself.
My Inner Master knew he was in his Alone Place, and that was the place for a player to be when he or she plays, and it helped me enter my own Alone Place. I have gotten that same feeling watching Stevie Ray, Angus, Jimi, etc. play. If playing Rock or Blues were my highest and most urgent calling, these would be the masters I would commune with.
When you can allow the eyes of your Inner Master to see the Outer Master, communication and transference will take place, you will discover the effects later.
Occasionally, when I am instructing a student in correct practice, and I show them the depth of attention needed, and how extremely slowly movements must be done, they will say “I thought that I should be doing something like that, but my last teacher told me NO, don’t practice that slowly, it’s not necessary. It felt good to me, and I thought I should be doing it that way, but my teacher said no”. This is an example of the Inner Master trying to be heard, even in a beginner, but not being listened to because of mis-guided faith in “authority” instead of trust in one’s own Intuition (in--tuition, inner teaching).
The Inner Master “Finds” The Way To The Notes
People sometimes ask questions like “I saw John McClaughlin play, and his face was tense. Jamie says you should have no tension. Is John McClaughlin wrong?”, or “I saw so and so play, and his pinky was sticking out, somebody tell Jamie to yell at him!”
It needs to be understood that what we do when we practice may be entirely different than what we do when we play. Whatever look you see on John McClaughlin’s face when he is playing, you can rest assured it is not because he is struggling to play! What you are seeing is a Master “finding his way to the notes”. If the music is there as you watch someone play, if the master player has found his way to the notes, and you are hearing them, then, whatever he is doing, is right. In playing, whatever we do to get the notes is fair game, legal, and allowed.
I have seen John Williams’ pinky flying around. I see that with my eyes, but I also hear all the wonderful notes! How can what he is doing be “wrong” if he is finding his way to the notes? Obviously, when that pinky needs to play a note, it’s there, and Williams makes sure it’s there! So, be very careful when you judge a master player. I have seen Bream look like he might be having an epileptic fit, and I have seen him look like he was going to jump out of his chair. He is doing what HE needs to do, at that moment, to find his way to the notes. A master knows what he wants, knows how to get it, and knows when he gets it.
When we practice, we create the optimum conditions for training of the body, so that it becomes able to respond to our commands. When we play, we do whatever we feel like doing, and we do whatever we must do to “find our way to the notes”. And sometimes this involves body language and movements, and facial expressions that may not make much sense to someone on the outside, especially someone holding a list of rules about how things ought to look when one plays.
The Intention and Attention of a Master is so powerful, the desire for the music is so strong, that all matters of technique and form MAY be overridden occasionally in the process of finding his or her way to the notes. If a student see such a moment, they will not understand what is happening, because they are always trying to figure out “the rules”. Ultimately, there are no rules, there are guidelines. For every rule, there is some great musician, breaking that rule as he finds his way to the notes. Preparation, if necessary, will yield to inspiration.
Mastery is a position we take. We do not have to wait to take that position, it can be recognized and found within us even from the beginning. If you can keep your love of music and desire to play in it’s original purity, free from contamination of ego, free from the bondage of service to the ego and it’s needs, then you will hear the voice of your Inner Master.
The Inner Master knows the best you are capable of at any moment, and it will accept no less than that. The Inner Maser will accept nothing less than the music you make when your whole being is fully immersed in the making of the music, when the notes being made are made from your complete love and honest and passionate involvement, nothing else. Then, as you and your Inner Master listen and enjoy together, the Inner Master teaches, and you learn.