I am sitting in the forest right now, having the exquisite pleasure of listening to music that is in many ways more divine than the music I make. It’s Thursday, somewhere late in the afternoon. I’m not sure exactly what time it is, and I don’t really want to know. I don’t want to experience time right now. I am in my favorite place to play guitar, and I want to experience only movement and change, and the stillness that lies beneath them both.
I am listening to the beautiful songs of some of my favorite birds, and new ones are coming to join in as time goes by. They are all so different, some are like liquid whistling, some are like sighing breathing, some are just kind of chirpy. Some are actually funny, but they are all incredibly enjoyable, incredibly delightful.
I love listening to these musicians of nature, because they sing for the best reason there is; because they must. They are pure, and I come here to soak in their purity. It wasn’t long before I had to unzip my guitar from my new “go to the woods to practice bag”, and offer some sounds from the human world to my bird friends. I must say that even though I felt absolutely inspired as I played, I doubted my bird friends really enjoyed my music as much as I enjoyed theirs. I thought to myself “I doubt they are having a spiritual experience, but I hope at least they find these strange sounds coming from this strange box at least as interesting as I find their sounds.”
And, I pretended they did.
I thank God and everybody else that I get to spend every day doing what I love the best, doing what I would be doing if I died and went to heaven, which I often feel I have. But it wasn’t always so, and no matter how demanding life became, I never forgot to go back to the place I am in right now. I call it my “alone place”.
Everyone has an alone place. It’s where you really are, all the time, whether you know it or not. Usually, we can’t feel this place, because we are too distracted by the world, which has us convinced that IT is reality.
When you are in your alone place, there is no other voice in your head except your own true voice. It is always a voice of love and encouragement, it is always telling you what you need to hear. If you hear other voices, voices you have acquired over the years, voices that say hurtful things to you, then you are not in your alone place. You have become trapped in someone else’s “outland”. You have become trapped in someone else’s prison.
If you hear hurtful voices criticizing and demeaning you when you practice and things are not going well, telling you that you don’t measure up, and worse, never will, realize that this is someone else’s voice. You have accepted it and made it your own, but it is not yours really. It is not the voice you followed when you first picked up the guitar. Find that voice again, and purify yourself.
When you are in your alone place, you play for the same reason the birds sing. And it is pure, un-self-conscious joy. The birds really don’t care what I or the other birds think about their singing, their music. They are simply in their bliss, being their nature.
Make sure you go to your alone place, especially, and if at no other time, when you play the guitar. Because you play the guitar, or want to, you have a special entrance pass. When you are in your alone place, you will be playing for no other reason than to play, the same as those birds up in the trees. You will not be practicing or playing because you want to be somebody or something. If that is your motivation, you will be nothing and nobody.
Rather, when you are in your alone place, you will be practicing and playing because you want to practice and play, because you want to be the instrument that plays the instrument that makes the beautiful sounds.
Of course, you will at the same time be somebody and something, but that takes care of itself. “Who” you are may be mildly interesting and enjoyable, but it can’t compare to “what” you are when you are playing the guitar and making music.
The Alone Place is always open and admission is free. Right now, I got here by going into the forest, one of the best and most powerful ways. But sometimes I go there by going into a room, closing the door, lighting some candles, and playing. When I play for other people, my goal is to be entirely alone, so that, through the music, I can meet everyone else in their alone place.
If you stay in your alone place, you will be pure, and your relationship to what you are doing will be pure, and because it is pure, it will grow. If you can be in your alone place when you practice and play, you will connect with your own power and inspiration, and what you need you will find.
Jamie Andreas has one goal: to make sure that everyone who wants to learn guitar is successful. After her first 25 years of teaching, she wrote the world acclaimed method for guitar "The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar". She put everything into this method that was essential for success on guitar. Called "The Holy Grail" of guitar books, the Principles has enabled thousands of students who tried and failed to play guitar for years or even decades, to become real guitar players. In 2012 Jamie was profiled in "Guitar Zero" (Penguin Press 2012), a study of how adults learn to play guitar. Jamie was interviewed along with some of the worlds leading guitarist/teachers, including jazz legend Pat Martino and Tom Morello ("Rage Against The Machine").