John Stillwell Blog
Subtraction and Addition or Learning to Play the Native American style Flute
It sometimes seems to me that learning to play the Native American flute is more a matter of subtraction than addition. I don’t seem to be adding knowledge about how to play the flute. What I have been doing is subtracting all the faulty psychological programs that stand between me and freedom from fear. It is the fear of failure, of not doing it right, of what others may think that inhibits my playing. These fears keep me from allowing the flute to express itself in whatever way it chooses.
I intuit that these fears were implanted early in childhood. Unrealistic expectations. Demands to do it the right way. Testing and the fear of failure. These anxieties come between me and the freedom to play with absolute abandon. When due to some combination of intent and divine good fortune I enter the zone, playing becomes a truly creative experience. It is an experience where sounds I have never heard before are manifesting. And feelings that I seldom experience are rising to the surface.
Some of us will take our flute playing to places that others will not. This is natural and perfectly OK. Each of us has his own individual lessons to learn and songs to express. This diversity is what makes life so fascinating. How dull if we were all the same. Or how dull if we were all striving for the same goal. Perhaps there are an unlimited multitude of goals. Each one tailor made to allow the individual – you and me - to reach his fullest potential. If we let go of goals to be reached will we find that there are no goals? Will we find there are only roads to travel on? Are we each a traveler on one of an infinitely varied number of roads? With each road being a unique exploration of the evolving Universe of sound.
Why do we have to measure ourselves by some external standards of achievement? Is it not more enjoyable to simply let go and play.