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. The Inner Master wants us to be a good guitar player, and enrich the world with our music.
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 and self doubt 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!. Worry and pride are noises that scare the Inner Master away.
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.
How To Be A Master
Mastery on the guitar is not the attainment of a state of perfection, it is the attainment of a position of inner power, and power is the ability to create change. 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, right from the beginning of playing. What is a “Master”.
A Master is one in whom there is no obstacle from the outside to the inside, or from the inside to the outside. What does this mean?
I am practicing and I keep making mistakes. I get frustrated. I start to doubt whether I have what it takes to be a good player. The very emotional power of this frustration absorbs me, and prevents me from paying attention to the mistake I made, examining it, and figuring out a better way to go about things. I have allowed an obstacle from the outside (the mistake) to the inside (my emotional experience),
I am practicing and I keep making mistakes. I immediately become interested. I ask “Why did I miss that note? What did the finger do that it led to that mistake? What should it do? Let me play this a hundred times slowly, and pay great attention to my fingers, and the rest of the body those fingers are connected to”.
Now I am a master, I have not allowed an obstacle from the outside to the inside to take shape and have power.
I sit down to practice. I notice that I am feeling negative about my guitar playing and myself as a guitar player. Old tapes, old failures are playing in my head. I ignore them, I do not allow them to claim the attention I should be paying to my practice. I am too smart to think that I am even smart enough to judge my true potential. I have not allowed an obstacle on the inside to emerge outwardly and steal my power. I am a master.
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 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.
What Does Mastery Look Like?
When someone is practicing Mastery and allowing themselves to be guided by the Inner Master, there is great movement. That movement is continuous, it never stops. It is always moving in the direction of perfection. When someone is stuck on a "playing plateau", the problem is not the plateau. The problem is the lack of movement.
After 50 years of practicing Mastery, my daily practice is like entering a rocket ship. The movement is powerful, the distances traveled are galactic. Each day the journey forward begins from where it ended the day before, and new insights, built upon old, come faster then I can write them down. What my Inner Master reveals to me, I reveal to my students.
What Does Mastery Feel Like?
For 50 years I have served the Inner Master with love and devotion to music and the guitar. The countless thousands of hours of my practice feel like one long moment. Every time I touch the strings, it feels new. There is a constant feeling of satisfaction for progress made and excitement for progress to come.
All my students, when they learn and practice the secrets of correct practice, have the same feelings, and receive the same rewards.
Assume The Position of Mastery
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 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, with gratitude for the sounds being released from the strings and commitment to your own continuing quest for excellence, the Inner Master speaks to you, the Inner Master guides you, and you learn.