In A Beginning

2017 has been the year of reflection. For the first time in about 15 years, I have resumed my spiritual practice of daily Korean Buddhist chants and meditation. I not only want to have a consistent and serious religious practice but I also want it to pervade every aspect of my life. Over the past two years, I have strayed away from who I was and who I always strove to be.

This has also led me to play the clarinet regularly for the first time since I studied clarinet formally: I got my degree in 2002, had my last lesson in 2005, and my last performance in 2008. Ever since college, my view of the world, especially that influenced by Korean Zen Buddhism, has profoundly intertwined itself with the way I perform, perceive and think about music.

My first year in music school, I even made a deliberate attempt at making music a part of my spiritual practice. Eventually, it became my spiritual practice and the sole purpose of my life at that point. I had convinced myself that that is why I decided to become a musician and in order to succeed, I needed to have that level of devotion to my art. Every action in my life at that point was tied to music. What I ate, my daily grooming habits, the people I hung around with, you name it.

This was all wonderful until I reinjured my wrists. I had to drop out of school very suddenly. I no longer felt that my life had any purpose. It sounds really silly and ridiculous as I write this. It truly was devastating. I don’t think I ever fully recovered.

Fast forward to now, I now see the error of my ways. There is nothing wrong with making music with a spiritual direction. Making it your whole life was the problem. I have now come to the realization that by making playing the clarinet a vehicle for spiritual exploration and practice instead of the sole means, one can have a much healthier and in the Zen parlance, a much more nonattachment approach to music making.

This blog will chronicle my holistic and mindful practice of the clarinet. I will draw upon many different areas beyond Zen, American clarinet pedagogy. My interests, hobbies and work will also inform my playing. I don’t know how often I will post nor do I know which direction this journey will take me. I’m eager to find out.

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