Category Archives: Intention

My Personal Journey as a Pianist, Part 3

September 16, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention / Piano Performance

There is one word that sums up the vast majority of my time as a pianist.

Practice.

Yes, lots and lots and lots of practice.

There is more practice than the time spent actually composing music, writing lyrics, being creative, and performing. It is time spent getting a fingering sequence to sound effortless on the piano, hours learning a new piece by playing it over and over again until it sounds and feels right, and fingering exercises to maintain and enhance the flow and dexterity of movement on the piano.

This is the part of being a musician that most people would find dull and uninteresting. The constant repetition of music and singing during practice would drive most people insane. It’s also not particularly glamorous. I actually like to practice in my pajamas and under the most mundane and comfortable conditions possible. If I am practicing a new finished piece that I am excited about, I will sit there for HOURS meticulously working on several details until I am playing it just right.

It is ironic that I put so much time into practicing now when it was the repetition of nursery songs when I was young that pushed me away from learning how to play. The difference was that, in time, I grew more patient, and I eventually recognized the deep value of practice.

Sure, practice makes perfect, as the cliché goes, but it’s actually about more than just getting better at playing. Over the years, I have found that those rare moments of inspiration-those lightning bolts of a new song that light a fire under you-they would not happen without the tedium and persistence of practice. The repetition and memorization buys you the physical space and time to seek out musical textures and understand them. You build this understanding into a personal catalogue in your musical brain.

It’s also like going to the gym for your fingers. You build muscles and muscle memory every time you repeat something. Your hands get stronger. Your body grows to know the rhythms, ebbs, flows, highs, and lows. Your ear grows more refined and selective.

Practice is the act of growing what you know, of cultivating an instinctual and multi-sensory language that only you can understand.

I practice every day, and I have done so for many years. If I do not manage to play on a piano for some reason, I try to play another instrument. My ukulele and cello enrich me as much as my first love.

For those of you who might be wondering, my piano practice is built on a foundation of fingering exercises from the book, Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises for the Piano. I have a vintage, old, and worn-out copy that I have used forever and a new one that I lend out to aspiring new pianists or for travel.  I have done these exercises so much that they feel more like meditation to me. I focus on the flow of movement of my fingers and the rest of the world fades out into the background.

I love to practice on the piano just as much as I love performing on it. Along with writing, it has served as the deeper infrastructure for all of my creative work.

I do it as constantly, vigilantly, and lovingly as possible.

-Roqué


I Live My Life In a Generosity Loop

August 5, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

Over the last few years, I have been been personally cultivating what I call a generosity loop. Basically, this term refers to the constant flow of giving that occurs in my life. This is how it works:

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Part 1:

I give my money to a cause I believe in or

I give my time and attention to someone or

I give my belongings as gifts (or I purchase new gifts to give) toward something or someone that does not benefit me personally in the least.

Part 2:

I do all of this just for the sake of giving and with no strings attached.

Part 3:

All of it, in one way or another, comes back to me somehow.

Part 4:

Refresh and repeat.

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I am well aware that all of this sounds new-agey, mystical, preachy, and weird, but this is a phenomenon that has consistently played itself out in my life over and over again. In fact, the MORE THAT I GIVE, the better off I become.

In the world of science, in which all phenomena must be questioned, proven, and exacting, this aligns with Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion which states the following:

When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.

In other words, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It’s simple physics, and I find that it literally applies to every action, intention, and movement in the universe.

Without a doubt in my mind, it applies to generosity. Over the last year, I’ve made the monthly intention to give my money, gifts of physical objects, or my time to something that does not directly benefit me in any way whatsoever.  I carried out any of the three options of Part 1 of the generosity loop. Within the same year, I was approved for EVERY scholarship that I applied for toward school, and I even received other school funding that I wasn’t even anticipating. You can call this coincidence, but I see it as the intention that you put out into the world being reciprocated.

Energetically, I strongly believe that you get back what you give. People who horde their money and belongings and share nothing will stay closed off from the world. If you do not let anything out, nothing is able to come back in.

To be clear, one must engage in a generosity loop wholeheartedly and gladly accept the likelihood that you will get nothing in return. The objective is to give for the sake of giving and to help others. Do so without any expectations whatsoever.

There is one major bonus that comes with living your life inside of a generosity loop. In my case, it simply feels good to give and help others. It is deeply gratifying to know that I made someone smile or made someone’s life a little less heavy. With all of the suffering and misery that exists in the world, generosity is a gift that gives to everyone involved. It is a classic win-win scenario.

Please seriously think about doing this yourself. See if you can live inside of a generosity loop. What may or may not happen might surprise you .  .  .

-Roqué

Learn From the Past But Live in the Present

July 29, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

The mind will wander where it will. It will take you back to times that may have been happier. Traumas of the past may haunt you. Sadness born many moons ago may still dwell among newer ones.

The most frustrating thing about the past is that it cannot be changed. There is no time-travel machine that exists. We cannot undo past transgressions and mistakes, but what often happens is that we beat ourselves up about them long after they have happened. They become awkward bedfellows–spooning you comfortably with their familiar presence, but holding you a little too tightly.

There is a basic truth that I have come to know. If you keep your mind stuck in the past, then you will always live there, and any way that you look at it, living in those places for very long can undermine your efforts to be well and better in the present moment.

In my case, I grew up on a lush and breathtaking tropical island in the South Pacific Ocean called American Samoa. Do I miss the sandy beaches that border the glistening and warm turquoise water? Do I miss the thunderous sound of the ocean as waves dive willingly into the land? Do I miss the smell of ocean salt that is exhaled by the ocean’s breathing? Do I miss the tropical shades of green that adorn every corner of the island–in every swaying coconut tree and along every different color of hibiscus flowers?

Yes. I MISS IT ALL.

There is a part of me that wishes I could go back. It was the magical home of my childhood, and it feels like it was all a dream–a gorgeous deception my mind devised just to fool me.

However, in the present moment, I live deep in the hills of middle Tennessee. It is an entirely different landscape for the most part, and at first, it paled in comparison to what enchanted me as a child.  Because I kept reverting to my past, I created an impossible standard that prevented me from appreciating what I have in the present moment.

Where I live now, my house resides deep in a hollow. Green hills rise steeply on all sides. Breezes ripple through the leaves of trees–moving in undulating waves across the treetops. There are trees everywhere. Birds of many varieties swoop and sing outside my window. In the absence of an ocean, a gentle fog blankets these hills in the early mornings, saturating the landscape with its richness.

This is my home in this moment, and it is so beautiful here.

Once in a while, my mind wanders back to my island of the past, but in this moment, I am embraced completely by the landscape of the present.

My past taught me to appreciate my surroundings. This is a lesson I put into practice to this day.

Is there a part of your past that keeps you from enjoying what you have in this moment?

This is a good question that is always worth asking.

-Roqué

 

 

 

A Morning Routine Will Ground Your Life.

July 22, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

Over the last few months, I’ve been honing in on getting down a regular daily routine. I am close to getting one down, but there is still much to tweak. Beyond that, I am working out a simple weekly routine as well.

What’s the point? Well, if we only have a finite number of days to live our lives, then we only have a finite amount of time to get all the dreams and tasks done that are meaningful to us. A routine helps us accomplish goals at a steady and consistent rate. It goes along with doing a little something every day toward a project or personal goal.

Let’s use my goals as an example. Here are three goals of mine:

1. Progressively improve my piano skills.

2. Write more and write better.

3. Keep my body weight at a healthy and stable number.

So, how do I incorporate these goals into a daily routine?

I do something about them every morning after I wake up.

1. In the morning, I play on my electric keyboard (at a quiet level so that I do not wake anyone up) for at least 15 minutes in the morning. I always start off with finger dexterity exercises and then I explore a little with chords or progressions I am not as familiar with.

2. I write a paragraph in a daily journal every morning, and I am now starting to write my blog posts in the morning as well. Practice makes perfect, and being able to compose my thoughts in smooth, engaging, and coherent ways is what this helps me do.

3. After I wake up and before I eat anything, I step on my scale to check my weight. This acts as a reminder to keep doing what I do to stay healthy.

In addition to these three practices, I also spend some time with my cat as well as give him his morning feeding.  Whether it is water or coffee, I also make sure that I start to take in fluids to nourish my body at the start of every day. The next addition to the morning routine will be adding some sort of simple physical exercises that involve some weight training and stretching.

Here are some other suggestions for morning rituals that relate to personal wellness:

  • Sitting outside on a balcony, deck, or backyard to have a quiet moment surrounded by nature.
  • A morning shower to feel cleansed and refreshed.
  • Two or more minutes of mindful breathing and meditation.
  • Saying or writing down something for which you are thankful.
  • Making your bed to create a sense of calm and order in your bedroom.

There isn’t much to it all as long as you keep your rituals simple and easy to accomplish. It may also help to wake up earlier to give yourself more time to do them.

When I start my day with my morning rituals, I move forward with a sense of accomplishment. I create a foundation for my day that involves practices that make me feel good and stronger.  It gives me a sense of groundedness knowing that I have addressed my own wellness and inner desires first and foremost. If the rest of my day becomes miserable, I will at least have accomplished my daily rituals, and as such, I do not feel so bad.

Think about creating morning routines/rituals for yourself. How would you like to start your day?  Start every day well and make it your own.

-Roqué