There's nothing quite like a day with nothing to do but practice. First of all, it doesn't happen often. Second, it's like any other day practicing. Which is to say, like no other day before.
Does Sisyphus feel different each day he pushes the boulder up the hill, only to find it at the bottom again the next day? I say he does.
Perhaps it's just me, but each time I play the instrument, I can't believe I can play it. It seems new. I re-invent the way I play every day, partly to be sure I'm not slipping into bad habits, but partly because there is always something new to learn about the intricacies of playing the instrument.
Some of the questions I ask as I play are:
Am I playing with my whole body? Are my feet in touch with the ground? Are my hips free? Is my neck free? Am I voicing naturally? Am I doing ANYTHING I couldn't do "forever", meaning, is it nearly effortless? Can I play a double high "C" at any given moment? Can I crescendo or diminuendo indefinitely at at any point? Can I easily move any note from any other note without compromising hand position?
Today I also paid close attention to issues of pain which often plague my body when I play: lower back, neck, shoulder and jaw cracking. This is not debilitating pain, but persistent and potentially serious if not addressed. I probably stretched and reset my body position as much as I practiced, trying to bring length and poise to the natural physical engagement of playing. It paid off. At one point near the end of a 3 hour practice session I gained enough physical poise to play without pain for an hour straight.
But the big question is, can I build all these questions into one overall "answer" which stays put from day to day?
So today I felt like I did a good job of pushing that boulder up the hill, and at the end of the day, it felt like it might stay there. But I can pretty much count on it being somewhere near the bottom again tomorrow. And so it begins again.