You can’t go very far on the internet without coming across an article advertising the benefits of mindfulness.
Authors of a recent Harvard Business Review article go so far as to call mindfulness practice a “must-have” for business executives.
In the article, they describe mounting evidence that mindfulness is an excellent “way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.”
Sounds pretty great, right?
What musician doesn’t want more protection from toxic stress?
But if you want to start a mindfulness practice, you might not know where to start. If it’s such a powerful practice, it must be pretty hard to learn…
Actually, mindfulness is not as complicated as you might think.
In fact, Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer describes mindfulness as “the simple process of actively noticing new things.”
And there are numerous ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life as a musician to reap its brain-altering benefits.
In this first part of our 3-part series, The Musician’s Guide to Mindfulness, we’ll look at what mindfulness is, how to use it in everyday life, and how to start a daily mindfulness practice. Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3!
What Mindfulness Is
Mindfulness is “the simple process of actively noticing new things.”
At its most basic, mindfulness is an incredibly simple practice.
Notice your hands. Observe the curve of your fingers. If you’re reading this on a phone, feel the weight of your phone in your palm. Does it feel warm? Does the weight of your phone shift in your hand when you wiggle your fingers?
By actively bringing your attention to how your hands feel in the present moment, you are practicing mindfulness.
What would happen if you spent a few minutes each day fully aware in the present moment? You might be surprised. Here are a few ways you can start using mindfulness practice in your life today.
How to Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life
You don’t have to commit to a long-term meditation practice to incorporate mindfulness into your life. Discover your innate capacity for mindfulness with these exercises:
1. Next time you take a sip of water:
Notice how it feels to lift your glass or water bottle. Observe its weight. Feel the water moving within the container.
As you sip the water, feel the water move past your lips, into your mouth, and down your throat. Observe the cool fluid wave. Then take 1-2 seconds to simply observe your thoughts.
2. Next time you stand up:
Notice how it feels to go from sitting to standing. How do the muscles in your legs feel? What about the muscles in your back?
Give yourself 5-10 seconds to stand and feel your body balance over your feet. Do you notice any points of tension? Can you feel any small movements as your body sways?
3. Next time you walk (to a rehearsal…to your car…into the grocery store…):
Observe your steps. Notice your usually-subconscious pattern of walking: your heel touches the ground, your weight rolls over the ball of your foot, and the other foot strides forward.
Feel your hips open and close as you walk. Notice your body’s balance change as you move.
For each of these exercises, notice when your mind wanders. When it does (and it probably will!), simply bring your attention back to the task at hand.
You may start to notice habits that you didn’t know you have. Observe your newly-discovered habits and simply consider if they are helpful, unhelpful, or neutral.
Stay tuned: next week, we’ll take a deep plunge into how to be mindful in the practice room, while teaching, and on stage.
How to Develop a Mindfulness Practice
Developing a daily mindfulness practice can seem overwhelming at first.
So keep it simple and let your practice grow organically.
Just like when you practice music, consistent daily practice is much more beneficial than inconsistent practice.
To get started, pick a simple, actionable goal. Here are a few examples:
I will sit and observe my breath for 5 minutes each day.
I will eat lunch mindfully, observing the flavor and texture of each bite.
I will use social media intentionally to connect with friends or colleagues rather than mindlessly surfing.
I will listen to music mindfully for 10 minutes each day.
Once you select a goal, find a way to track your progress.
I currently use a habit tracking app to reinforce new habits that I’m trying to build. I’ve also successfully used a paper calendar (if you prefer the feel of pen and paper). Whatever you use, find a way to mark each day that you successfully complete your new habit. As the days add up, your discipline and your commitment to your habit will grow, making the habit easier to maintain.
Mindful Practice Mini Course
Interested in incorporating mindfulness techniques into your practice sessions? Join the 5-day Mindful Practice Mini Course today:
Next week, in Part 2 of this 3-part series, we’ll dive into how to use mindfulness skills in the practice room, when teaching, and on stage. Sign up below and never miss an update!
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