It’s been a full month since I returned from my travels to India and month-long stay at an ashram, and I’m still making the transition back to “normal” life here in the States – while I’m also very conscious of moving forward into a NEW personal normal, as I’m creating it for myself.
Since I’m hyper-aware of the current transition period in my life, which is a time of deeper self-reflection and vigilance in continuing with good new habits I picked up while I was away, I thought I’d write a bit about transitions.
In fact, this is a topic I talk about quite a bit with my students – especially in terms of the time before an event (what I call “the Golden Period”) and the time afterward (“the Silver Period”). When you’re fully present to both of those, you come to discover that every beginning is also an ending, and vice versa. The transition period is their magical merging, which is sometimes obvious, and at other times elusive!
In both everyday life and music, paying attention to transitions is so important to improve the quality of your experience!
As a musician, you know how important it is to pay attention to the end of a phrase and the beginning of a new one – and how much of a difference it makes when you take just the right amount of time in between.
Sometimes, that means taking a little extra moment to ‘stretch time’ over a bar line, during a rest, or before you make the return at a repeat sign.
You know it usually doesn’t work to simply barrel on through to the next section without giving the previous section its due. You and your listeners need a little time to ‘digest’ what came before… to savor the sound and let the meaning, colors, and textures linger a moment before introducing something new.
The same goes for life… but how often do we honor the transitions savor the experience as we move from one activity to the next? One day to the next? One week to the next? How aware are we as we engage in movements and make fresh decisions about what to do next?
Many of our transitions are built into society and how we function. For example, weekends and Sundays are traditionally days of less work, helping us rest from the week and get ready for the next one. Stores are closed in the evenings; we have bedtime and early morning routines to get ready for sleep or waking.
How well do we let these transitions work for us the way they’re designed?
It took me YEARS of good intentions before I was finally able to say ‘no’ to working on Sundays and stick to it most of the time! I’m still working on a better evening routine that helps me transition into earlier sleep, since I want to be getting up between 4:30 and 5:30AM most days.
Then, there are those small transitions from one activity to the next (gathering up your wallet and keys, locking the door, starting the car…), and the tiny micro-transitions we barely notice between movements (as I write this, I’m suddenly more aware of the transition from one thought to moving my fingers onto the keyboard… to pausing and considering my next idea… then writing it down).
These micro-transitions are analogous to moving from one note to the next in a piece of music, or from a down-bow to an up-bow… what happens in between?
What happens to YOU, not just your instrument?
What happens to YOU within the silent spaces between sounds? What happens when you move one hand from one register on the piano to another, or when you lift your bow to make a new articulation? Where is your mind, and what is your body actually doing? Are you thinking ahead while fully present?
In The Art of Freedom® Method, we use a very specific method to increase our awareness of what is actually happening to us when we think and move in certain ways, called Primal Alexander. Created by Mio Morales, Primal Alexander is a revolutionary way of going back to the origins of the Alexander Technique without needing the guiding touch/hands of a teacher to make huge improvements.
When I’m sharing The Art of Freedom, I teach my students how to do little self-studies on a daily basis, called Primal Alexander Awareness Etudes. We do these little experiments for just a few minutes a couple times a day, and the results are truly incredible.
Simply by shifting your attention in a very specific way and getting curious about what’s happening in your mind-body-self in any given moment, as you engage in a simple activity such as lifting your arms (to reach a shelf or place a violin bow), you gain so much insight into how you might be interfering with the natural ease and flow in your system.
Learning how to stop interfering
And, very importantly, you learn a very particular way to very easily stop and let go of the oft-invisible tension that blocks natural ease and flow.
Once you become more sensitive to the ways you block flow in the silly little things you do in daily life – like how you rush through transitions in your day (“Where are my car keys??!!!!???” as you race towards the door) – and how your mind wanders (“What will I make for dinner?” as you’re in the middle of a lesson) – and how your body tenses (“Why does that bill keep getting more expensive every month?!?!!” as your fingers grip the keyboard or the pen writing a check)…
….once you’re more aware, you can start to see how you do this when you’re playing music all the time. That’s when you can finally do something about it in a way that doesn’t just last for a few minutes, but becomes a new way of playing with ease more and more often – whenever you practice what I’m teaching.
Awareness is everything.
Along with patience and faith.
And honoring the present moment.
Getting to know yourself
So…can you notice what happens to you today just a little bit more, as you transition from one activity to the next? Can you wonder about the state of your mind-body-self as you finish reading this email and move onto the next? Can you treat it like a phrase that requires a moment of savoring before rushing onto the next phrase?
The Art of Freedom® Method for conscious living and masterful artistry is all about getting to know your habits of mind, body, and soul… in everyday life and music… so your whole life can become more integrated: your life will become musical, and your music will have more LIFE in it! 🙂
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ideas – just post a comment below or send an email to Jennifer@ArtofFreedom.me. I look forward to hearing from you!
With Love & Enthusiasm,
p.s. Registration for the spring edition of my introductory program is now closed, but don’t hesitate to ask me about my current online programs for musicians if you’re ready for a breakthrough in your life as a musician! My students are typically looking for help with physical pain, tension, stress, performance anxiety, and/or fundamental skills improvement with effortless EASE.
ALL instruments, ALL skill levels welcome!
My work is NOT just for violinists!
Message me if you’re curious! 🙂