Effortlessness seems to come from years of practice. Certainly, there is truth to this.

But the phrase misses a vital other practice. Specifically, what do we do in the moments we are practicing?

One important aspect is that when practicing, it is often very useful to begin at a point of effortlessness.

As an example, when I sit at the piano, and I find that I am playing something with tension, I strongly benefit from relaxing. However, simply telling myself to relax doesn’t work. When I do, I start making all the mistakes I was trying to protect myself from with the tension.

Losing the tension reveals the problems. But that’s the way of any type of construction. First it looks worse, then it looks better.

So, not only must I relax, I must also slow down.

I slow down to the point where I do not make mistakes. Sometimes that is a lot more than I thought I would have to.

Certainly there is deliberation. There is a direction in which I envision a path forward. But to conflate planning with tension is simply a mistake.

Instead, we can reflect on the tension as a message. By slowing down, we can ask, what was the tension trying to protect? What was the mistake I was trying to avoid?

When I’ve slowed and allowed my muscles and mind to release their tension, now I can rebuild with that relaxed state as a part of the practice.

The practice is one of deliberately breathing space into the work.

Doing so, weaves that space throughout creating a channel for play to better find a flow.

I believe the same principle applies in all things.