No, making music is NOT just a mental activity!
I admit – that’s what I thought when I was young. Like so many people in our culture, I used to think there was a clear division between so-called “mental” activities (like playing the violin, reading a book, or doing homework), and “physical” activities (such as playing sports, going for a walk, or cleaning your room).
In reality, the notion that the mind and body are separate is simply incorrect (after all, you can’t read a book without using your eyes – or fingers if you’re blind – and you can’t play football well if you don’t know the rules and have no idea what your next play ought to be).
Thinking of the mind and body as separate can lead to serious and painful difficulties later on down the road, as our body is left to its own devices and operates largely out of habit without the conscious direction of the mind, and the mind is allowed to wander all over the place and away from the “here and now”, without taking our body into account. Using the mind-body as one unified entity – your mind-body “self” – is not only in accordance with reality, it’s healthier. And everything works better that way, too, since you’re not splitting yourself into warring parts that pull you in many different directions.
Every single thought you have has an effect in your body – whether you feel it right away or not. That means that you can choose which thoughts you want to think in order to get certain results in and through your body. That’s how you can get rid of the excess tension that may be blocking the technical or musical execution of difficult passages in your music, for instance.
Your mind uses your brain (consciously or unconsciously) to send directions to your body – it cannot do otherwise. So you might as well learn about what directions (thoughts) you are feeding your body unconsciously, so that you can stop the ones that aren’t helpful and replace them with more helpful ones. How? The answer to that is simple and easy and instantaneous – but it requires two things for it to “stick” and turn old, unhelpful habits into positive new ones. Those two things are:
1. Trust – in yourself, in the fact of your mind-body whole, in Life, and in the process of change
2. Repetition – lots of repetition of the new way (awareness + stopping the old + practicing the new)
This is what my students learn to do through practicing the Alexander Technique – an essential component of our work with The Art of Freedom.
So what can you do NOW, to start healing your mind-body split and make better music, in a healthier, happier way?
The good news: if it makes sense to you that the mind and body are an indivisible unity, simply remembering that and becoming aware of how your mind and body work together as one is already making a huge change for the better. Knowledge is power. In this case, it is so true!
Next time you’re practicing your instrument, remember that it’s a mind-body activity. Pay attention to what you’re thinking AND what you’re body is doing. Don’t just pay attention to the notes, the phrases, the intonation, the articulation, the sound… where are your feet? What is your spine doing? How about your breathing? Watch your thoughts and see how they are reflected by your body. You can’t learn a new passage without your mind-body being involved as a whole, right?
After all, even a THOUGHT is a physical thing: it’s neurons in your brain firing and wiring together, with chemicals and all kinds of other PHYSICAL things moving around inside. So… if you want things to work well, remember this, and pay attention to what is already happening. Let your mind-body get fully into the music, and let the right thing “do itself”. Just watch and enjoy how things change for the better once you start widening your field of attention to include all of you!
If you enjoy this blog, please subscribe via email and sign up for our newsletter on the right.
You can also help a musician by sharing this post!
Thank you for reading! 🙂