The concepts of meditation and mindfulness have become so fashionable the last few decades that they are easy to dismiss and ignore. But at the heart of any such practice is an awareness of your mind and body and the connection between the two. However trendy these practices may be, the state of mind that they foster is undeniably fundamental to playing music.
When we’re playing an instrument, our mind and body are intricately linked, and we need to be in a focused and relaxed state in order to execute our intentions. Left unchecked, our minds are prone to distraction, and our bodies tend towards unproductive tension and over-exertion. Mindfulness doesn’t ‘cure’ distraction, nor is it the secret to a perpetually relaxed playing technique. But it helps us to recognize distraction, tension and any other obstacles as they arise. Only in recognizing these obstacles are we able to let them go and play music.
My first introduction to meditation came around the time I started playing music. Sharing my music with people made me really anxious, and I needed a reliable method of calming my nerves enough to function mentally and physically. I was a bit sporadic for many years as I searched for an approach that worked for me. Some approaches like meditation groups, yoga, and continuum, are more active and social (or at least, often are often practiced with others). Other approaches incorporate spirituality and personal reflection. I’ve gradually learned that a solitary, short routine is the most sustainable for me. Over many years I have developed an almost daily routine of ‘centering’, as I call it. I really like the meditation app Headspace, though I sometimes prefer to center without guidance.
Who else has found some sort of mindfulness routine to be essential to their musicianship and/or daily life? What practices work for you? What practices don’t work for you? Do you prefer solitary meditation or meditation in a group?
If you've never explored any sort of mindfulness or meditation practice before, do you think it's worth looking into in 2019? Why or why not? If you're sure it's not for you, how do you deal with obstacles like distraction, performance anxiety, or excess tension?