In complicated times, we often look for spiritual connection and inspiration, a way to find understanding and clarity. To explore these various paths, The Flute View is launching a monthly Spiritual Flute column. We will write about varying approaches for flutists to add this component to their flute practice and performances. We’ll share our own practices and invite guests to explore this topic as well.
I want to share my own thoughts and approach in this first column. As flutists, we work hard to perfect our technique, practicing for hours at a time, studying the music, the style, perfecting the challenging parts, and sometimes we get to the performance and we don’t connect, we’re playing everything correctly but the artistry and music doesn’t come through. We can’t somehow get out of our own way. Other times we have a performance experience that feels as though something greater than ourselves takes our playing to new heights, we can perform in extraordinary ways, we are in “flow” or a “flow state.” When we are in this state we are totally focused and feel as if we actually aren’t there, we are just totally present to the moment not feeling our bodies, but our body is working perfectly. We are totally happy and joyous as well. In our secular world we leave out the possibility or the language that a “flow state” is actually a state of ecstasy, a state we try to achieve through meditation or as in millennia past through religious rituals, or using substances to get into an altered state. We often bypass the discomfort of describing something as a spiritual experience. But to me, this getting out of the way, flow state, state of ecstasy is a way to let higher power, the energy of the universe, or God come through you and connect you to the perfect energy that is always available to all of us and connected to us in this world.
Here’s a quote from an anonymous composer quoted by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, “Flow, the Secret to Happiness:"
“You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out of itself.”
It is interesting to me that in contemporary discussions of flow and how to achieve a flow state, for example, “4 Practices for getting in Flow” by Laura Thomas, the discussion, although touching on four excellent practices, stays mostly in the world of science. Perhaps expanding our language and consciousness to include the ineffable, that which cannot in fact be defined will inspire our flow states. I’ve been exploring this process in both traditional ways, and on my spiritual journey to find ways to bring this heightened experience to my own flute playing and artistry. I hope to share this journey with you. Presently I’m combining meditation, breath work, various exercises, and religious study in my own practice to try and become a more communicative and connected flutist in order to share the music more fully with others. In the coming months, I will share this work with The Flute View readers and look forward to your responses and thoughts on Spiritual Flute.
Barbara Siesel's career includes performing, teaching and producing. She has appeared in concert halls throughout the US, Europe and Asia. Siesel is co-founder and creator of the Green Golly Project, co-founder of The Flute View, and founder of Flute Mastery and Spiritual Flute Workshops. She received BM and MM degrees from The Juilliard School. www.flutemastery.com.