Slow down, trust the process

This magnet has been on our refrigerator for I don’t know how long – at least 6 years, maybe closer to 10. I think maybe I got it, along with one that says “Begin Anywhere” (attributed to John Cage), from an art museum gift shop or something like that. Anyway, through moves and raising small children, it’s seen a few scrapes and scratches:

It may seem a little trite, and even I think it’s trite sometimes — especially the “don’t worry” part which never fails to remind me a little bit of the Bobby McFerrin song. As a signpost or perhaps a mantra for making art, though, it seems indispensable. Last week, for the first time in at least a year, I put some notes on paper, with the vague notion of exploring a piece for clarinet quartet. Eventually I recorded myself playing all the parts and listened back: fail! Some parts made sense, but others were way off the mark. I had a few moments of “arg, I don’t know what I’m doing at all” before I remembered that this was just the first stage — the ideas were still sound, they just needed some more work, is all. The process needed to be given more space and allowed to continue.

Most of the time I see that magnet, though, I’m not composing, I’m just going about the activities of another day. Some days are better than others and some days I really need to remember to slow down and trust the process. My own naturally obsessive instincts usually have me trying to solve all the problems all at once and all at the same time, which is of course impossible. So the quote is a reminder to take a deep breath, exist in the present moment, and let reflection and meditation take a turn. In this more personal view, “trust the process” means, for me anyway, to trust the processes of the heart and mind, and don’t try to force a solution where one may not yet exist. Sometimes it’s also helpful to remember to trust the processes of connection – to trust that the people close to you have your back and aren’t going to desert you at the first sign of trouble.

This a lot like free improvisation. When you play free, you have to give yourself up to the processes of the moment while not letting yourself and your ideas disappear. Your mind, heart, wants, and needs are all important, and all deserve expression. You have to trust in your bandmates that the space of the music is open enough to allow for that kind of vulnerability, and they have to be able to trust you to give them that kind of space as well. It may not always work musically, but that’s part of the risk of entering that space. If there is consistent commitment and effort, though, incredible and beautiful things can happen.

Well, I suppose that’s a little bit of a ramble, but somehow it seemed important. Happy Wednesday!

One thought on “Slow down, trust the process

  1. This was a perfect time for me to read this. The last month or so has been rather difficult. That little magnet and you said just what I needed to hear. Many years ago I read somewhere (and I paraphrase) that there are no big problems, just lots of little ones. It’s taken the better part of 3/4 of a century for me to slow down enough to let the process give me an understanding of that. And the vulnerability you describe in your music, both the creation of it and the performing of it with others, applies in relationships from the give and take of conversation to the grueling daily grind of work, raising children, and getting food on the table. Trusting in the people and the process. Thanks for giving me the means to refocus.
    Much love to you.

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