As you look at this photo, see the trees, feel the ground underneath you, notice your breathing and hear the sounds in your space. This is what mindfulness is, being in this moment. This year I am mindfulness exploring meditation to see what I can learn about attention and awareness for playing. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work is really resonating with me. He developed a mindfulness program (MBSR) at the UMASS Medical Center.
What is mindfulness? Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” When I read this definition, I knew that I had to know and experience this for my own playing, teaching, and life. My exploration has evolved to include: daily meditation, weekly group meditation, podcasts, and reading.
Early on, I recognized how closely Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness is to the Body Mapping concept of Inclusive Awareness. Inclusive Awareness cultivates a state of internal and external awareness allowing one to be present in their surroundings, aware of how the body is moving, and access to making changes or shifts in movement or focus.
When I teach Inclusive Awareness, I systematically train “the 4 music-making senses,” visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic. We explore each sense without our instrument to see how it changes our experience of standing, sitting or moving. We then integrate the sensory awareness into creating sound. The outcomes often include increased comfort and more fluid, natural movement which translates into increased expression in performance.
Once we become familiar with noticing each sense as we play, we begin to combine them to begin the process of optimizing awareness by creating Inclusive Awareness. This state includes awareness of all four senses as we play. There is a focus that can easily shift, but the other stimuli reside in the periphery of awareness. For example, I might be focused on the movement of my ribs in a piece so that my air moves as needed, but I will also have a sense of my feet on the floor, the space I am in and the sound. My focus may shift to how my fingers dance on the keys in a technical section.
What emerges with Inclusive Awareness is beautiful and profound. Expression becomes almost effortless and the performer invites the audience into the performance in a powerful way. The connection between performer and listener is deep and moving.
My dive into mindfulness is allowing me to access new sensitivity in my playing. This process fills my tool belt with tools that I am learning to utilize and access in performance. I also have new perspectives to share with my students and clients.
Have I piqued your curiosity about mindfulness a.k.a. inclusive awareness? Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness for Beginners is where I began. Check it out!
What I have learned from my almost two months of mindfulness meditation…
I have even more choice in how I organize my awareness as I move through my day and as I play.
I am more able to release into control, instead of focusing on challenges.
Learning to be aware of sensation at a new level is opening up even more expressive possibilities.
I am even more grounded and present.
I can be with someone who is upset or very emotional and not take on their negative energy.
Stay tuned for ways to integrate the senses into your playing.