Sreenath Sreenivasan

Thriving Mindfully

Category: Drumming

On an artist’s state being

‘So what music are you listening to these days?’ I asked my friend Vijay over a phone call.’

‘Ah, I must share this artist’s music with you. His playing is absolutely mesmerising. It is a wedlock of poetic expression with reckless abandon. He plays as if he doesn’t care who is listening or not listening for that matter. He just does his thing. I wonder how long it would have taken him to have that state of being.’

‘Sounds fascinating ! Do share his music with me !’

‘I will, when we hang up.’

And we went on with our friendly, fruitful conversation.

The way Vijay described the musician’s state of being made an impression on me.
I remembered a phrase a dance teacher used to say when people were shy to sway. He would say,

‘Dance as if nobody is watching.’

While that helped people for a while, of course their conscious state of mind came back to them in no time.

But when kids dance, they know the whole world around them is watching. Their expression spouts out in bountiful measure nevertheless.
They don’t dance as if nobody is watching !

Maybe the way to dance best is to dance with a subtle awareness. An awareness that people might be watching. Or not.
Consciousness is such a gift. It should never be stifled by being ‘conscious’!

As a musician, I have also felt this state of being ‘conscious’ while playing. It happens even to the best of us.

We all fall in that trap of trying to be ‘good enough’ as someone. That someone could be your favourite artist, a contemporary or  your own mentor.
But in reality we can only be as good as our best selves. We can never be as good as someone outside our own being.
We can only push further and reach the heights we are capable of. The moment we stop having an external benchmark, a sense of emancipation will dawn on us.

While you should always strive to learn from everyone,
from a master to a novice,
The goal should always be to reach your best possible expression,
Your truest artistic splendor.

And it is best achieved by not striving to ‘be like someone.’
Surprisingly, it is not even achieved by striving ‘to be the best version of yourself.’

The most natural way to progress is just by ‘being’.

It might sound psuedo-spiritual.
And I must admit that it is a difficult state of being to win back.

But we had that state of being as kids.
I am not talking about mastery. Kids are not masters at an artform per se.
I am talking about that subtle awareness.
And the state of just ‘being’,
and expressing until you’re spent for the moment, for the day.

We all had that state of being.
We just have to unlearn.
Unlearn the habit of self-doubt, comparison, and the state of being ‘conscious’.

Now that I wonder about my friend’s question of,
‘I wonder how long it would have taken him to have that state of being’,

I think that the artist preserved the childlike ‘being’ he had as a kid.
Maybe he has always had that state of being.
Like we all did once upon a time.

And we can all strive for that state of being.
In the interest of our best artistic expression.
In the journey of being the best human we can be.

Sometimes the fastest way to learn,
Is to Unlearn.

 

 

How to find a good teacher

In my eyes, the most powerful group of people, who can make the maximum impact in the world are teachers.
A teacher is like a skillful potter, who can mould the the psyche of an entire generation. She can steer the course of thought of curious and aspiring minds.
What a gift it is to be a teacher !

I’ve had the fortune of having met teachers who have changed my life in profound ways. The way I have evolved in life is undeniably a function of the influence my teachers have had on me.

After a point in life we move out of the brick and mortar university. But we must not forgo the possibility of being an eternal student of life. In fact we should actively seek out teachers to learn from.
Even our friends are but teachers,
who we learn from constantly.

But how to find a good teacher?
In the pursuit of finding a teacher/mentor, strive to ask these two questions to them:

a) What more can I learn from you apart from what you promise to teach?

b) Do you consider yourself more a teacher or a student?

Citing an example, the way I play drums and approach music has been deeply influenced by my mentor. Not only by her playing which is spellbinding in itself, but also by her philosophy, worldview and personality.
While choosing a teacher, seek someone who has a worldview you find fascinating, a personality that you would like to integrate. For even if you want it or not, these things will seep into your being while you are learning from someone.
Better to choose someone who you admire deeply, both for their expertise and the way they lead their life.

Secondly, I firmly believe that,

‘The best teachers are eternal students.’

My mentor had such a curious spirit of learning that she would learn things from me if she found I was working on something new. My lessons with her always felt as if two students are learning at the same time, albeit at different stages in their lives. It made me confident about my creative energy as a musician. My discoveries were always received avidly with an intent to learn from it if she found value in it.
And while learning from her I also picked up this aspect of her personality that made me a better teacher and human being.

Remember,
Learning will preserve your youth.

Find good friends, sincere mentors and curious students. Explore the possibility of being a student and teacher throughout your life.

And ask those two questions to all your teachers,
And be in a position to answer those two questions for all your students.

In the spirit of eternal learning,
Let’s aspire to design,
An Epic University Of Life!

 

Reaching Out

Today I was playing drums in my practice loft. Deeply engrossed, I kept on playing with all my attention. After a while I sensed the presence of someone else nearby. I looked around to find an Israeli dad and son watching intently from under the loft.
I called them up with an inviting gaze while playing still.
With the one year old baby in his father’s safe arms, they both made their way up to the loft.

The baby had a glimmer in his eyes. He was exposed to such a stimulus for the first time. I played at a low volume to invite the baby closer. His expression was beautiful, equal parts of curiosity and apprehension.
Then I took out the brushes and played even softer to beckon him. Once he felt a bit familiar, he let out a shriek and reached for the drumsticks.
What a moment it was!

He left me reminiscing about the first time I saw someone play a drum set in a shop. Someone was playing inside and I looked at him with the same penetrating gaze as the child.
With equal parts of apprehension and curiosity.

And I am glad,
I reached out for the sticks,
And never put them down.

I hope the little friend I made today
Does the same !