Imagine working towards a high-level performance: tensions build, expectations rise. Breath tightens. Cortisol flows increasingly into your bloodstream to cope with the stress, leading to eventual disease of body and mind. We justify it all as perfectly acceptable, because “the music demands it.”
I certainly endorse the pursuit of musical excellence, the honing of skills, and the focus of polishing. But we need to balance the stress. Creating that balance begins with the WHY.
Why did you start down the path of music? Most likely because it gave you joy.
Too many of us have lost that joy. It seems so ironic that so many of us musicians, supposedly doing what we love to do most of all, have lost the deep fulfillment that music can bring.
We blame our loss of joy on:
- incompetent colleagues
- ineffective administration
- imperfect conditions
- unappreciative audiences
- ______________(by no means a complete list)
Day after day, year after year, if the stress of the job is not balanced by the development of joy, we quickly burn out. Cynicism sets in and spreads like a disease into susceptible students and colleagues, as well as our playing, conducting and teaching. We strive harder and harder for musical perfection, deluded by the hope that outer achievements will give us that inner joy we tasted years ago.
If we cultivate the inner faculty for joy, we allow the music to transform our consciousness. We find our way back to our WHY. The tangible joy we find within allows us to thrive under a tyrannical conductor or difficult administration. No matter the challenging circumstances, we have the right, the means, and the capacity to develop tremendous inner freedom.
We can learn techniques to develop and share this capacity for joy and inner freedom in ourselves and in our students, and we can change the course of the psychological health and wellbeing of musicians for generations to come.
Joy and inner freedom, like the cynicism above, are also contagious. They are conveyed through every note we share. Daily I see a sense of centered happiness spread from myself to colleagues and students. It is thrilling.
This is my WHY of music: to uplift consciousness wherever I can.
Today, more than ever, I invite you to expand your WHY of music to include offering true service to others, not simply to please them or your ego. Music is one of the most powerful tools for the positive evolution of our planet, and we need to use it with the greatest skill and intention.
So now back to that high-level performance preparation:
Imagine beginning your practice or rehearsal with a few minutes of centering meditation to focus the mind and calm the body. Follow with a simple warmup to magnify the awareness of joy that the simplicity of beautiful sound can bring. Spend a minute to awaken true enthusiasm to improve ensemble and increase positivity. Focus the rehearsal to go beyond technical precision and into the magic of inspired performance.
Tensions ease. Expectations give way to focus awareness and discrimination. Breath becomes deeper and oxytocin is released, leading to longevity and wellbeing.
Now further imagine expanding from your own personal joy and wellbeing into a realm of real service to others.
Come to the Meditation for Musicians Teacher Training August 12-13 to learn practical tools to use in the practice room, studio and classroom to reduce stress and create the space for joy to flourish.