Let’s face it, if you’re a musician you may be in a constant state of stress. This may be because of too many rehearsals, deadlines, concerts, too many scores to learn, and or teach. Sometimes we even have to bring our work home! To everything that may be happening in our professional lives, we have to add this to the stress we may encounter in our personal lives. So what can we do to relax and achieve a state of mindfulness? First of all we must properly define those two terms.
- Relaxation (noun): the state of being free of tension and anxiety.
- Mindfulness (noun): inclined to be aware
- Aware (adj): having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge
If we were “normal people” (and I use this term for non-musician or artsy people) we would do what “normal people” do when they want to be stress-free, turn up their music and drown the world. Now, I’m not saying that this works, because sometimes it does but this may be counter-productive. Why? Because as musician’s a chord progression, motif in a song or a bands name may remind us about all our stress from our work.
How to achieve mindfulness
In zen, the way to approach mindfulness is by breathing and in quietness. So what we must do is to stop, before or after a rehearsal or project and do the following
- Find the silence
As musicians we know what the power of silence can do. It can create tension or release, it prepares for a new theme, in short, silence is good. If you’re like me I over think things (a lot) and these random (and not so random) thoughts can hurt us more than they should. We have to stop, and “look” or distance ourselves from our thoughts.
- Balance We must achieve a balance between our personal and professional lives. We have to start asking ourselves: am I biting more than I can chew? Do I have too many projects running at once? What are the pros and cons of each project? What is the priority right now? Remember to do this objectively and distant. As you were an observer of your own life, instead of actually living it. To achieve body balance also helps. I remember my choral conducting courses and Prof. Ruben Colon always told us that as a conductor you must align your body so that you feel no tension anywhere. To achieve this I always think of being as relaxed as a rag doll and slowly widening and stretch my back.
- Breathe my child! Breathe! I’m an asthmatic. I am also a singer. When I get in stressful situations I feel like I’m about to drown! When I feel like this I always curse (inwardly, of course) and ask “Where the hell (or other nouns) is my inhaler?!” Then, just when I’m about to drown I listen to that annoying little voice in my head, and he screams BREATHE MY CHILD! BREATHE! Allow yourself to breathe! I’ve noticed that if you’re a musician, even know that we KNOW the importance of breathing, when we’re not what I like to call “musician mode” in a magical way we forget that we have to take deep breaths. We have to permit ourselves to breathe and connect our body, mind, and soul.
- Accept what we can and can’t change. In this year where I have called “The year that Never was”, where I made plans and every single one of them failed, I realized that I have to learn to accept things, life and it’s difficulties. I have to learn to accept what we can and can’t change professionally as well as in my personal life. I had to acknowledge my failures as well as triumphs, the sorrow, pain, sadness, happiness. We must put (want to or not) some things past us so that we can grow.
- Accept resistance
You may want to kill him/her because they don’t do their job. You may want to think of all the negative aspects of your life and the dreadful “What if?” All of this may happen but life is full of resistance. We must always try to make a conscious choice as well as try to maintain that distance between thoughts, especially when you’re going to make important choices in your life.
- Hobbies We must, must, must, MUST find a hobby that is non-music related. In this year this has “evolved” in devouring series such as Doctor Who, Survivor, Merlin, Sherlock, and many, many more. Try to do this with friends. Maybe go out on a walk. A friend of mine started to do 10-mile bicycle runs (a little extreme for me), but find something to do when you’re not in “musician mode” or just want to relax.