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Mindfulness & Music

I try to maintain a daily mindfulness/meditation practice. It's nothing elaborate or specific -- it's just a commitment to setting aside time to pay attention to the sensations of the present moment. That may sound simple, but it can be SO challenging!

Mindfulness and meditation practices can be done differently, depending on the purpose, context, or focus. When I am asked about my general mindfulness practice, I usually explain it this way:

For me, mindfulness and meditation are not about "clearing my mind," feeling peaceful, or adopting a certain posture. Do I often feel as though my mind cleared? Yes. Do I usually feel more peaceful? Yes. Do I usually sit a certain way while I meditate? Yes. But none of those things are required in order to be mindful -- they are the happy outcomes, along with many others.

Mindfulness is not about eliminating thoughts as much as it is about redirecting them. That's why it's called a "practice" -- it is something we strengthen through repetition and focus. If I have a distracting thought -- usually about my "to do" list -- my job is then to redirect that thought into this moment, being aware of my senses and my breath.

The everyday practice of mindfulness and the everyday practice of music tend to intersect, not only in the commitment it takes to carve out daily time but also in how I approach both exercises mentally. Both require presence in the NOW in order to be effective.

If I am thinking too much about a future performance or a past "failing," my current practice is not nearly as effective as when I'm completely engaged in what I'm doing in the moment. If I get too caught up in something that's not going the way I want it to, I usually make things worse by NOT paying attention to the moment -- I forget to use my air well or I tense my body.

I try to approach both practices -- being mindful and playing my horn -- with commitment toward my long-term goals, self-compassion, curiosity, and openness.

Mindfulness has helped my overall health, my depression, my ability to "ride the wave" of emotions through difficult times, my teaching, and my playing. Perhaps you will find benefits from exploring both practices, as well!

If you are interested in exploring mindfulness or meditation, there are a LOT of resources. Here are only a very few...

For some of the science behind it, I like "The Best Brain Possible" -- here's an example:

For some tips to getting started:

For one writer's take on how meditation can help musicians:

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