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February 18, 2016

Alexander Technique and performance anxietyDo you experience performance anxiety sometimes?

I do. Not very often, but sometimes. And not just in the context of musical performance. Sometimes, it's just in conversation with a person I've never met, or in a place I've never been, or triggered by a very new and unfamiliar situation.

What is this anxiety? At root, of course, it is a variety of fear. Fear of the future, fear of unknown possibilities. It doesn't really matter what the context is; what matters is how we experience it.

Anxiety and fear may come in a thousand varieties, but at root it's always the same thing – a separation from an essential part of ourselves, a lack of awareness of another possibility, a certain lack of presence and mindful awareness of this present moment.

Whenever I feel anxious or scared or afraid, there is something important happening that I'm usually not aware of right away, and that is how and what I'm thinking.

When I'm scared, something in me is thinking, “I'm scared” and BELIEVING this is essentially true, and I'm identifying myself with this experience. To believe “I'm scared” is to identify myself with the experience of fear. I am tricking myself and convincing myself that there is no other reality beyond my awareness of this experience.  Ultimately, I'm thinking and believing, “I am fear”.

But is fear really who we are?

In that moment, perhaps it is. But, that can only be a fraction of who we are!

The key is to question our thoughts and our belief in those thoughts. I can ask myself: “If I believe I am fear, what is the result of thinking and believing that thought?” How do I react? What happens in my body, my thoughts, my mood, my attitude…and how does it lead me to behave?

When you believe you are afraid, what happens? Try it out. I can guarantee you that if you believe you're afraid, you will in fact feel afraid – and the sense of fear will increase the more you think about it.

But what would happen if you noticed yourself thinking, “I'm afraid,” but you stopped to wonder if it's actually true. Is it true that you are afraid? Is it true that you are identified with fear? Is it true that this is who you really are? Is it true that you are made of fear – that fear is your essential nature?

Impossible! Here's why. Have you ever noticed that the part of you that is observing your fear is simply observing your experience of fear, but it is not itself afraid?

Can you stop identifying yourself with your experience of fear for a moment and shift your attention to the observer in you? Can you identify with the part of you who notices and wonders and gets curious about the fear? Can you shift your attention to that objective Witness within you and focus on that “You”, even as you continue to experience and feel what your body-mind is feeling?

Now, let's pause for a moment and ask another important question: What is Love? What is unconditional Love? What is true Love?

To me, real Love is embodied in exactly what the Observer-Self is doing:

The Observer-Self notices and observes, without judgement.
The Observer-Self pays attention to the suffering part of me who is getting sucked into and lost in the scary land of fear.
The Observer-Self watches and cares for that small, compressed, tight, and scrunched-up part of me.
The Observer-Self is loving me by staying with me – totally present – closer to me than anybody else could ever be – filled with compassion and understanding – loving me unconditionally – allowing me to be who I am in this present moment – letting me have my human experience – giving me the freedom to express an infinite range of human emotion – listening to me and my every innermost thought – following my movements of mind and body – and caressing me with its tender, light touch of awareness.

The Observer-Self is not other than Me.

Alexander Technique and LoveChoosing to identify myself with THIS aspect of myself is choosing to focus on Love. Fear may still be present, but the more I identify with Love, the more my fear dissolves. Ultimately, the light of my Self-Love shining into my soul will dispel the darkness of my fear.  Fear tends towards death; Love is Life itself.

“Even though I walk in the shadows of the valley of death,
I shall not fear, for Thou art with me.”

And where else would that reassuring, comforting Presence reside, but within my very own heart? If that loving Presence lives within my every cell, how could this guiding Observer-Self be anything other than That which dispels my fear?

So…. “Seek and ye shall find”!

Seek love and you will find it. Seek fear and you will find it. Which one do you want?

Don't you want the love to live within you, so you can live in it all the time, and feel it, and swim and bathe in it, and send it all out from your heart and into your music, to touch and warm and soothe yourself and the hearts of every soul you make music for – and more?

This is what I choose to think. It makes me happy. It lifts me up out of fear and darkness. And I know it helps others to feel lighter and happier, too.

Examine your thoughts… and notice the results.

You can choose. What do you really want?


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anxiety, fear, love, performance anxiety, thinking

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  1. I read somewhere that FEAR is “False….Evidence….Appearing….Real” Thanks for taking the time Jennifer to post another thought provoking blog.

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