boxed thought and zen guitar

I recently finished reading ‘Zen Guitar’. I think it’s a great book. It’s not about how to technically play the guitar. It has no songs or notes. It’s about the approach, how one should play the guitar, how one should approach playing the guitar. But really, it doesn’t apply to just playing a guitar, it applies to anything at all. It applies to life.

A few reviews on Amazon have described the book as having “profound wisdom”. Although, if you think about it for a while, this profound wisdom is mostly just common sense, or what should be common sense. But we have boxes in our brains, our thoughts are boxed. Our minds are full of boxed patterns that have been ingrained by our societies and our education system. Common sense has no place amongst boxed thought.

Our thoughts are boxed. When I say “boxed” I don’t mean hidden or concealed, no. I mean the shape, the pattern. Our thoughts are boxed. “Think outside the box”, someone will say, and then feel clever. “Everyone is thinking outside the box now, we should think inside the box”, someone else will say, feeling even cleverer. Boxed thought. Inside or outside. No one tells us to think inside/outside spheres, cones or pyramids. We’re all boxed up instead (I now feel I’ve trumped everyone in cleverness).

Common sense helps us see new patterns, it helps us see the other shapes. If you fill up a room with cubes, there is no room for other shapes. And thus, common sense seems profound, and it should. It helps to see common sense in printed text, in audio or in friends’ encouragement. We’ve been trained against common sense, so we need to train ourselves to accept it.

Zen Guitar is full of profound common sense. I would recommend it to everyone. It applies to everyone and anything they would do. It’s one of those books I would buy multiple copies of, just so I could lend it out to multiple people at the same time. It’s a short book and an easy read. I particularly liked the sections on rhythm, collaboration, ego, competition and criticism.

I’m going to post excerpts from the book now.

On rhythm: <blockquote>
I often hear people say they have no natural rhythm. This is false. Anyone with a heartbeat has rhythm. Anyone who breathes in and breathes out has rhythm. Anyone who walks has rhythm. The important thing is to feel it and put it in your music.

On self-doubt: <blockquote>
All you can ever do here is be yourself and play your song. If you ask, “But will it be good enough to play Carnegie Hall or the Village Vanguard or Budokan?” you are blind to the Way. A bird does not ask, “Is my song pretty?” Just make a joyful noise.

On overthinking: <blockquote>
Do not analyze things to death. Sometimes the best strategy is, “Ready, fire, aim.” Do it first, then make adjustments. The answer lies in action – not in words.

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