Staying focused on important things amid the chaos that too often surrounds us is hard for a lot of people. As I practiced this 26th Goldberg Variation it was nearly impossible to keep my mind on the stately slower moving notes – quarter, quarter…eighth, quarter, quarter…eighth, quarter, quarter. Because swirling all around those notes is a cloud of 16th notes that never stops. Technically, those faster notes are more difficult, but musically, well, they are just not that important.
I’m told that it is in fact impossible to multi-task. Our brains might shift instantaneously from one task to another, but we can’t actually do two things at once. Considering the complexities of playing an instrument, cooking a meal, or raising small children, I think most of us have a hard time believing that, but I won’t argue with science, which has studies to prove this is so.
What seems clear is that at any given instant, one thing is more important than another and knowing for yourself what that thing is makes a difference in how you manage your time and stress levels, contributing to a sense of being grounded – that feeling of connection with the reality of who and where you are. Calibrating your perspectives to those realities can only help you achieve a better balance among all the things that are competing for your attention.
Your perspective on what’s important is not my perspective, but that’s what makes the world all the more interesting. We each bring our unique points of view to the table, and in that context even the swirling notes can have meaning.
I’ve lived with Bach’s Goldberg Variations for a long time now. More than half my lifetime in fact. I would pull them out periodically, feeling that I was revisiting an old friend, but a friend who always has something new to share. I began thinking about Bach and mindfulness last year in a way that meant something to me. Each variation became linked in my mind with a word and that word became something like the “intention” that yoga students are sometimes asked to set for their practice. A word to mediate on and to help draw more from within. For the next 32 weeks I will post one of the variations and write about the word I associated with the music. Sometimes a connection will seem obvious, but more often it will be unexplainable. It became apparent as I worked on this project that I thought about things which I wanted to cultivate in myself, ways of being in the world that were positive. All of the recordings are to be made in my living room, playing the 9 foot Steinway that was given to me on January 5, 2016.