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Practice: Music, mind, & body

(3 min read) I subscribe to ‘The Daily Stillness’ which is a collaborative, maker-type, Daily Create / Connect type activity that is based here. Today’s short blurb hit me like walking out into a field after being in the woods. The message in a very few words:

Practice: Do it.

 

that was what I read via twitter on my phone early this morning, and then I looked at the actual email and saw it said more than that:

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For me, this means a lot on many different levels. Let’s take the most literal first:

 

 

1. It kindled a memory:Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 07.49.48

A little over a year ago, 5 students and I did an impossible journey where we raised lots of money and went to California to learn and teach- together and with others. It was a living, collaborative educational experience in the true sense of those words. We even had a poster designed for us and our theme/slogan was Don’t you quit!

We called ourselves Musiquality and it was all about bringing quality and connection through music. The experience was so epic that we decided to write about it, and make a book. That has been this summer’s project – to write the book, and I have been doing it with my student (recent graduate) co-authors.

2. Do it and don’t quit.

Writing a book is tough. Sometimes words pour out and other times, well, it has beenScreen Shot 2016-08-11 at 08.37.19 two weeks and I haven’t written a thing. I see people use the #dailywords hashtag on twitter, like here —> . When I am writing these act as a positive influence, but when time passes without writing it is like a tug on the skirt by a small child to remind me that I haven’t done it yet. Today the ‘do it and don’t quit’ was not a negative annoyance, or a reminder of my own failing, but a reminder that I can – and I will. Watch for my own #dailywords report later today.

That brings me nicely to the third point:

3. Self-efficacy.

What can I say about this? It just makes me smile. In a sentence – YES YOU CAN. I never cease to be surprised by what people can accomplish, and it doesn’t take Olympic greats to make me say this – although it is impossible to not be completely impressed by the refined dedication of those international athletes. Every day, every person can do something that has an impact and makes a difference and that allows them to grow. To live. I know I am optimistic, but I do genuinely believe that.

4. Every day.

Coming back to the Daily Stillness post, there was more – there was text. The suggestion was to read a short post by the author Kathleen Hirsch about practice (HERE). It is a fantastic post about finding stillness in mind as a daily practice – through religion, through breathing, through whatever- but every  day. As a musician practice is part of daily life – and routine gets into your blood.  I have woken others by shouting PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! in my sleep. Really. (ok, it was my husband, and he forgave me) People say if you don’t practice for one day then you know it, if you don’t practice for two days your friends know it, and if you don’t practice for three days the whole world knows it. It is like eating or washing –

and then it hit me:

It is all connected. 

Yesterday I had a physio appointment because I pulled a muscle very deep and it was causing me pain. The lovely physio gal and I were talking about being fit for purpose. I love to talk sport and fitness, and have had a blissful summer full of running and yoga (and typing and practising) and she loves to talk about Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 09.26.32people and how their bodies work. I was saying that as musicians, we often do not realise what strength and stamina we need to support the specific muscles we use in music making.

Anyone who has seen a string player hold the bow will know that the positioning looks relaxed but takes a whole host of different muscles to, say, holding a fork. The physio gal commented that it is about awareness. Knowing how we work, what needs supporting, what basic levels of activity and fitness we need to prevent injury all help as we spend hours practising musical instruments.

It is all connected.

I wrote about my concert last week in a series of posts, and the bits that I wanted to go better, happened when I was not still – when my mind was not still. It is something I don’t practice enough, quietening my mind.

Mind. Body. Music.

They all go together. Practising one without the other is like eating without drinking. Sleeping without waking. To me they suddenly seem that polar and connected.

Why is it then that it is so easy to push one aside? I will work hard and not take care of my body, or not eat well, or… the list could go on. These things are important and sometimes it takes a proverbial slap in the face – like my gimpy leg – to remind me just how important it is to take the time, to make the balance, to practice.

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Image CC BY-NC-ND byEmma Duran , Featured image CC BY by Evonne

 

 

 

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mariana will be excited to read your reactions to the Daily Stillness. I love reading how two of my favorite musician friends can understand a textual description of the *feel* of music.

    I wonder about that transition from practice as a chore to where it’s as enjoyable as you describe. Where it feeds yourself, not just your goals, ambition.

    I might also add some forgiveness and that lapses are natural, if you “un-lapse” back. We are human, not mechanical. A long time friend and I share our progress as we each try to lose some middle age mass accumulation. You can get obsessed with number checking or berating yourself when you fall off the plan, and he reminds me that it’s part of the process to stray, to have a small setback, if you keep on the longer term path.

    And now I look up and see a guitar with dust on it.

    Thanks for sharing this Laura, I so enjoy reading about how you think and be in this world.

    August 11, 2016
    • Laura #

      Thank you Alan, your comments take me right back to that mesquite tree and makes me smile. Forgiveness definitely. It is good to be human.

      August 11, 2016
  2. Great post Laura!

    For me an impetus to practice is the stillness that it creates – I’ve lost count of the number of the times that I’ve solved problems that otherwise seemed impossible just by sitting at a piano and improvising for an hour.

    I sometimes find that the nature of the improvisation changes as it progresses, from (sometimes) angular clusters and fast discordant lines to sustained “open chords” and slow melodies in octaves or sixths as I become stiller. Do you find this?

    August 11, 2016
    • Laura #

      Well put! Absolutely I do find things change when I allow time. The biggest thing for me is the allowing. As a late starter on the cello, as a student I always strove to catch up with those around me, and while being driven can be very beneficial, being breathless is no good at all. It is only in recent years that I feel I have begun to really listen and allow for options and answers that that either weren’t expected or by the book. This goes for what happens when I sit down to just play, and also for how I can use music as a tool to connect different types of stillness – elements of that musical stillness can be brought to other areas of life. (still working on that one!)

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Dave! 🙂

      August 11, 2016

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