A spontaneous test for you—attune yourself to gratitude right this moment, without any specific thing for which to be thankful. Just BE in gratitude. See how close to gratitude you can get in just the space of 3 deep relaxed breaths.
Now please rate on the scale of 1 to 10 the ease in which you were able to do this:
1 being super easy and 10 being impossible.
Two days ago I was at a 12. I was pushing so hard to get things done on MY timeline and on MY terms that the thought of practicing gratitude meant giving up my drive and admitting failure. In that moment the thought of gratitude took me back to:
“no, david, you can’t have that toy—be grateful for what you have.”
How could I possibly feel grateful when I’ve got so much to do?
Imagine practicing a difficult piece with frequent missed notes. The frustration builds. The inner tension mounts. Time is running out.
Why in the world would you ever want to practice gratitude in that moment? How could the seemingly soft, uncompetitive feeling of gratitude have any possible benefit for your music?
Because being in tune with gratitude upgrades your every note. It decreases the negative stress responses that get in the way of everything.
Being in a state of gratitude:
- relaxes your heart rate for better physical control
- allows you to breathe more deeply for better oxygenation
- calms and focuses your mind for increased concentration
- centers you completely in the moment
- enhances your musical intuition for non-verbal communication
- creates a feeling of safety, turning off your fight or flight impulse
Can you see the similarities to being in the flow of an inspired performance?
But it doesn’t mean that all you have to sit back and relax to achieve success. You must practice gratitude when it is easy so that it can be there when you need it the most. You must actively engage your will power to stay in that state even in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Here’s how to practice gratitude to fill your notes with a magnetic presence that people will sit up and notice:
- Get into the flow of gratitude—before you sing or play, think of something that cannot fail to bring you into gratitude, or write a sincere thank you note to someone who has been a blessing in your life.
- Extend that genuine gratitude to fill your warm ups and scales before trying it out on more challenging music.
- Practice gratitude for your mistakes—make friends with your wrong notes, for they will be with you for the rest of your life. The more you are not afraid of them, the less power they will have over you.
- Practice gratitude in your ensemble—even if the ensemble is less than ideal. The more gratitude infuses the ensemble, the greater the synchronicity becomes.
- Practice gratitude in your least favorite music—use it as a challenge to see how much inspiration you can extract, helping you to overcome preconceived feelings about a piece.
- Practice gratitude for your teacher—your gratitude completes the powerful dynamic circuit of attunement in which their magnetism, experience and unspoken wisdom gets passed on to you.
Practicing gratitude makes you a better musician. Period.
I’m starting today.