Trella’s Positive place

From the book “Unstuck” and revised by me, replacing writing with music

Deep compassion practice:

A relationship with practice and music so that the thought of practicing no longer causes a spike of fear

So that the minute the flow of music, the desire to learn or write music slows down, I will no longer panic.

So if I get up from practicing and have a twinge of malaise about the progress made today, I won’t sink into a depression

Now after struggling with learning jazz guitar about 6 months…I have the stability and leisure to sit back and begin to examine my relationship to my music and practicing to understand what it means to me and asks of me, and to be confident that me and my music can live a long and companionable life together.

So far my jazz guitar playing has shifted from dysfunctional and impossible to possible and at times even satisfying.

But what a shame to stop here, to leave uncharted all the territory on the other side of what is possible.

Why limit my discoveries?

What if ahead lay serene mountain valleys or meadows blazing with wildflowers or jungles that dazzle with the songs and colors of exotic birds

What it, instead of finding jazz guitar –gigs-busking— tolerable, I could eagerly anticipate its company or experience deep happiness in my guitar’s company

The relationship between music and musician lies somewhere between the relationships of friends and that of lovers.  It is a relationship that varies over time as well as from musician to musician.

For blocked musicians the relationship becomes clouded with anxiety or fear and often with anger or hatred—fear of no skills coming from the hours of drills etc.  anger toward yourself when not picking up the guitar and practicing…

Once this negative connection between music and musician has been established, it is difficult to mend.  One or two wounding experiences with the guitar and we become negatively conditioning

Each bad encounter reinforces—the turbulence we feel toward or about the music/guitar /performing, until a psychic battle royal is fought every time we want to play or learn on the guitar

What is needed is a storehouse of good experiences with the guitar –many good ones  to counter one or 2 bad ones.

To get the good experiences going do this:

Think small-learning just what I am playing right now no matter how long it takes

Create a safe place to practice

Speak kindly to myself and recognize and embrace my own guitar learning process

Once there are lots of good experience about being able to sit down and learn or get better at things from my guitar lesson, to write songs and practice songs for gigs, I can begin to redefine or recast my relationships with the guitar as a partnership between my guitar learning process and my hopes and dreams.

One morning while struggling to improvise with scales, patterns, following the 3rd , and arpeggios, a voice spoke to me, the sweetest, kindest person came to reassure me, saying;

I know this phase of jazz guitar is difficult for you but dont worry.  It doesnt matter if it takes you longer that it takes other musicians.  Everybodys different  everybody learns guitar at their own speed. Just because your hands dont fly across the fret board doesnt mean youre not a musician.

As I listened to the voice I went into a state of deep relaxation, and the words written above were internal truths, verities that emerged as a result of all the work I had put into my guitar up to this point.

my response reflected a sense of my uniqueness as an individual guitarist. The words are an acknowledgement of my own particular struggle and relationship with learning guitar and making music my life

Even thou taking a long time, I know I am a musician.

Even if I struggle more or longer to pluck the right strings and make the pick behave, i am still a musician

The voice is telling me and repeating over and over again – I am a musician I am a musician I am a guitarist, I am a guitarist I am a guitarist

Whether or not I am successful at it

Whether I have bad days or not

Whether sometimes I have trouble sitting down to learn on the guitar

Or get lost  now and then

What the voice was saying was that I have carved out peace with my guitarist self, and that peace is holding.

Whatever strategies I have devised to keep from getting mad and not practicing, or thinking I may never make it and will quit my journey to get to jazz improvise and accompanying myself on jazz songs and original jazz songs– to know deep within that I will get the skills I want, and more importantly, the flow and fun that I want while playing and singing jazz at home and in public, these strategies continue to work and to hold

Whatever style, pace or schedule I have evolved to practice, I am a guitarist, I embrace my music as my own, my skills in my hands and voice as my own

Whether I play in spurts, want to practice scales or arpeggios more than songs or vice versa, the essential thing if I want to become a jazz player is that I remain intimate with my process and embrace it with love and self-nurturing and kindness to myself.

That I practice and play gigs at my own pace, in my own time, and that I resist the temptation to compare myself to other guitarists or imagine they would think this or that if they heard my playing.

This means, when playing guitar /singing or both, I remain fully who I am

I will be who I am and play guitar naturally from within myself instead of from without.  I will no longer play the role of conductor, flourishing my wand to create desired results.  Instead I will play from the spot in the very center of the orchestra, in a spot that will no longer allow me to distance myself from the other musicians.

From this spot, with the notes and phrases washing over me, I will play as much in response to the music of the other musicians as to the written page- the drill, the list of things that I judgmentally tell myself I must master right now before the next lesson.

I no longer try to remain in control, to make demands on myself and achieve the mastery that I once pushed myself towards. I am now able to let myself be.

When blocked

we spend energy insisting that we change everything about our playing –the last thing we want to do is be more in touch with our self

Far from accepting anything about my guitar playing, I am convinced that unless I effect dramatic change I will never be able to improvise, get the music life and jobs I want

Accepting myself is the furthest from my mind.

But only by stopping trying to reengineer each and everything I play, and accepting my presence in the playing of the guitar will I be able to make any real progress.

I will refrain from trying to twist and turn myself into the guitarist I want to be, and I will become more and more relaxed and able to play and flow in my hands and and thoughts and feelings, and have fun – AND….begin to play better


  1. once week either before or after I have played guitar, take some time to think about what I like about the way I play guitar—once I have isolated a few things, think about them while practicing or performing
  2. Take stock of how I have been playing this week- is it easier to sit down and begin? Anything different from prior weeks? Whatever is different, take stock and write it down and allow myself to feel grateful for the changes.
  1. My pick isn’t getting as twisted going back down the scale, I noticed Herb Ellis way with pick and tried it.
  2. I forget less of the notes in each scale pattern
  3. I have played longer per day
  4. I enjoyed a feeling that I could combine things henry gave me and be able to improvise once I learn the foundations of each of those things – patterns of scales and how they fit, and in what key, with the chords I am playing, arpeggios, where the 3rd of the chord is.
  5. For areas where I am still stuck, do the following

Note on paper what they are and instead of getting angry, practice compassion – tell myself –it’s hard to improvise, but at least you are learning the tools that when fully incorporated will empower you to improvise.  At least you are playing guitar and you are learning… I know you feel anxious when working on some things from the lesson or trying to play a song for a gig a better way – but look how much you have improved in the past 2 months in spite of this anxiety

  1. when playing guitar imagine I am a coach helping a tennis player when an important match—encourage, reassure and offer tips on strategies—the goal is to make the player feel as much on top of the game to win
  2. If I become angry or frustrated or apathetic while playing guitar, imagine a good friend tells me she is having trouble at work—what will I say to comfort her, help her work through her anger and disappointment she feels –now repeat those words to myself

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