Reflections on Solitude, Devotion, and Gratitude :: a Winter Retreat - by Biko Casini
Good morning family and friends,
I have just emerged from a 30 day solo winter music retreat in a dome in the mountains around Asheville. During that time I was alone, was not driving, and had a friend drop off greens and vegetables once a week who was my only physical contact with the outside human world.
I want to re-engage, and in doing so, I would like to some how offer a little reflection of the lessons I learned in solitude with the understanding that I am still processing the experience myself and an in depth sharing may come about in other ways.
My intention going into the retreat was to offer devotion to Music in gratitude for the amazing year and with the desire to cultivate new musical seeds for the year to come. Looking hard at my self I also saw that it was about feeling a need to go beyond my self perceived musical weaknesses and strive for some kind of greatness....as if it was a place I could get to. This was my ego striving to make up for a feeling of not being a good enough musician.
Among the most valuable lessons I learned during the retreat was that greatness and skill are not the same thing. Greatness is a collection of elements, existing in a context of responding to need. One can practice till the cows jump over the moon, building skill out the wazu....but it is the intention behind the effort....and the service rendered the community through that effort that makes the Art great.
I strived to clarify my intentions...and battled with the feeling that I was not doing the service I was capable of in life...battled with feeling worthless....It is a battle I think we all at some point I think. The challenge of realizing our innate value, and finding how the strength of what we ALREADY ARE feeds and strengthens the community of Life.
I turned 36 during this time... an age at which many are holding down partners and families... and i reflected on the freedom from such commitments that allowed me to commit to myself...It is a privilege to be in a place in life where others are not depending on you for their basic needs.... and I also recognized in me a desire to take on more in the way of supporting friends and family physically
It was cold in the Mountains and with the necessity of harvesting wood from the forest, carrying in all my water from the outside spring tap, cooking, and cleaning up it was very difficult to practice the 12 hours a day I hoped to. On average I was able to practice 5 to 7 hours a day....which sounds good from the outside. From the inside though it felt like I was failing at what I had intended..... again...a universal struggle... is anything we do ever good enough?
Though our ego will tell us we are Successful, or we are failures...we are ALREADY more beautiful that we can ever understand! I worked hard to bring my free ranging mind back to center. In moments I was there.
People often say, Follow your Heart, or Love Yourself....The best advise ever yet so overused it can sound hollow without experience and feeling behind it. To myself I added to that advice; "Know What Your Heart is made of " and " Remember what U are Here for" ? It was when I would walk, and sit in the trees, with no buildings in sight that I would experience glimpses of that knowing and remembering. Those were the best moments of the retreat. One major musical breakthrough I had during all that practice...realizing that practice was boring....but playing was fun! It again is about context...play for your self, play for life, play for others, play for the mountain, play for justice, peace, freedom.... the most powerful tool I have as a musician is my INTENTION.
What am I playing to? What am I singing to? That is Groove that is under the music and gives it life and feeling. This helped me to engage in the music i was playing rather than it becoming mechanical. I am not saying that practicing something that is difficult for u is bad... the discomfort in our mind when it is growing new pathways is a good thing... it is just to be clear about that for which we are working. Remembrances and Intentions... the Songs that were written, the crazy realizations about music and Universal Harmonics, Social Activism and Visionary Communities will have to wait for another time. I look forward to sharing them with u in real time. I love U all. U were there with me inspiring me to continue(and distracting me) and in this journey of life I am soooo excited to have some NOT alone creative time!! Untill that time...Keep honoring your gifts. Keep honoring your weaknesses, and may you find joy and purpose in the process.
Love Biko Casini