My grandfather also called it the crab-walk: three steps forward, two steps back.
In Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha the ferryman says the river has taught him everything he knows. This is true for many things we study intensely and I could say the same about the guitar – it taught me everything. When I began to meditate, it didn’t feel very different from playing guitar. When I went on my first Sesshin I was asked how I was holding up to the many hours of meditation. My answer was, I am a musician and I am used to this.
It’s not a straight line up the mountain. As anyone knows who has driven in the mountains, whether in Austria or France or Colorado, the road rises and and then plateaus. It may even go down for a while before it rises again.
I think the mountain road mirrors how the aquisition and development of a skill works excatly.
If you watch Jon closely you will notice that the fingers on his right hand do much more than strike the string to produce a sound. Playing the correct note at the right time is important but it is only one step in becoming a truly great bass player. The great bass player will use a finger to produce the correct note, then this finger, or another one, gets ready to strike the next note. But if that next note is part of a different key the excellent bassist will use a finger to dampen the previous note so that it doesn’t deter from the new key.
I think this is a great example of how an ability plateaus. At first we are happy to simply play the right note at the right time. Eventually we realize that we can improve and that a note needs to not only be played in time but also should be stopped in time.