PRACTICE: Make good on the good

This practice is inspired by and adapted from "Take in the Good" in Rick Hanson's book Just One Thing and it is all about the deliberate cultivation of positive states of mind. I have posted a bare bones version without the backstory over on the Practice page. But the backstory is kind of interesting, so if you're up for it, read on...

Aim and connect

We've covered taxidermy...and now broccoli!

In secular contexts (e.g. education, mental health, etc.) mindfulness is often described as having two primary benefits. One is increased self-regulation -- essentially the ability to respond thoughtfully rather than react -- and the other is the stabilization of attention. So far, we have talked a lot about the former but not much about the latter. And knowing how to pay is kind of important for musicians, wouldn't you say?

I can see clearly now... (Judgment vs discernment)

To make up for last week's slightly incoherent post, and to give myself a bit of extra time to work on some more research-intensive posts, I'm going to (try to) keep this one short and sweet.

We haven't really talked much about judgment except to say that the practice of mindfulness involves paying attention to experience in non-judgmental way. My sense is that non-judgment is right up there with acceptance as a concept that is counter-intuitive for musicians and other excellence-minded folk. Judgment seems kind of integral to the whole process of getting better, doesn't it? We play it, we judge it, we play it again -- isn't that pretty much what practicing is?  

Just Say Yes: Practicing Acceptance

One of the big goals of mindfulness practice is to learn to accept what is -- whether it's good, bad, or indifferent. (Another goal is to stop categorizing experience as good, bad, or indifferent...but we'll save that for another post...) But the whole idea of acceptance -- particularly the acceptance of mistakes, practice ruts, or poor performances -- can be a tough sell among classical musicians. After all, we attain mastery by refusing to accept anything but the very best, right? Well, that depends on how we define acceptance. 

How mindfulness works

Quick recap: In Part 1, I described how I came to mindfulness practice and in Part 2, I talked about what mindfulness is and isn't. But you may be asking yourself why you should care. Great question. In this post, I'll talk a bit about how mindfulness works and why I think it can be so helpful for musicians.

What mindfulness is (and what it is not...)

In Part 1 I threw around terms like "mindfulness", "yoga", and "meditation" as if they were all the same thing. But they're not. I'll devote this post to describing what mindfulness is as well as dispelling some common myths about mindfulness. 

In a nutshell, mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention. It is the capacity to purposefully bring your awareness to your present moment experience with an attitude of openness, curiosity,  and non-judgement. Let's break that down a bit:

How I got hooked on mindfulness

Hello and welcome to Let's all meet in child's pose, a blog about the connections between music and mindfulness. I'm glad you're here.

So far, writing a blog is weird. Where do you start? I read a lot of blogs and I know that how I start will absolutely not matter once I get going. After all, nobody goes to a blog, starts at the first post, and then proceeds to read all the posts chronologically...right? But still, I feel compelled to set up some sort of context. So, I'm starting with a 3-part introductory series. Here, in Part 1, I'll briefly chronicle my own introduction to mindfulness and how it has changed my relationship to music practice and performance. Part 2 will provide a quick overview of mindfulness, describing what it is and what it isn't. Part 3 will explore how mindfulness works and why it might be useful for musicians. What happens after that is anyone's guess.