If you’ve studied any art consistently over a period of many years, whether it’s songwriting and T’ai-Chi I have, calligraphy or painting or dance, you know about detours in your practice. Detours are where you can’t go to the place you want to go in your art without taking a more circuitous path than the one you wanted to take.
The most obvious example would be injuries. You’re ready to go in a new direction or even just continue in the one you’re going, but you injure some part of your body that demands you take a detour. Suddenly you have to paint with your left hand, or half as often as you’d like, or with only certain brush strokes, or only at a certain speed.
Another example would be when you want to take a step forward that requires a step back. For instance jumping higher might involve a return to basic postural alignment.
As tough and as frustrating as it can be to take a detour, I’ve found it helpful to remind myself that while detours are not always pleasant, they do get me where I want to go and often much the better for having taken them.
Maybe it’s surrendering my usual control of my direction…surrendering to what’s actually happening and not on what I want to make happen…maybe it’s something about focusing on the moment and task at hand…something about slowing down and paying more attention…something about being on a bit of an adventure rather than on a well laid out track….I’m not sure what it is exactly, but something about detours, I find very valuable and helpful to my overall practice.
Sometimes I don’t even know where the detour is or how to get to it. I just know I can’t go on the way I’m going. Sometimes I have to send feelers down 10 different alleys…10 different song ideas or movement possibilities before the best or most open way becomes apparent. I don’t see any point in sitting at the road block or detour sign complaining…I try to think and act like water when it meets an obstacle…It’s time to find another way. Even if I can’t move or see a thing…I keep looking…and soon enough, the detour appears.
And besides, there’s always infinite room for improvement anyway. How far I get is not as important to me as what I learn and enjoy along the way. Detours are just another opportunity to extract value from life. I may curse them at first, but then I usually just pick up my stuff and continue on my way.