Inspo Topics and Tips

Inspiring musicians to thrive!

Topics and tips to inspire reflection, experimentation and exploration of mind+body awareness within your current creative routine.

Drip-feeding ListenFeelPlay philosophies in digestible, bite sized portions, to support your discovery of greater creative success, rewards and enjoyment.

TOPIC: Foundation from the Inside Out

Building your foundation from the inside out, is a critical element of my ListenFeelPlay approach and locating your centre is a vital first step towards building that foundation from within.

The idea of creativity and self-expression originating from the heart of our central core is powerful and liberating. It is also a key to mind+body balance and ease, as well as authentic and rewarding self-expression.

With a strong and conscious knowledge of our physical centre, we can develop a powerful barometer for all aspects of our creative expression.

Click on each tip for the full inspo…

Tip #1: Locate your Centre

EXERCISE: LOCATING YOUR CENTRE

The overall goal of this exercise is to connect with your centre and discover the most powerful location for it within your body.

Trust your feelings and explore with curiosity, keeping in mind that there are no right or wrong feelings. The key is to start noticing how you feel.

Initially you may not notice or feel much, but with practice your awareness will grow and your body will guide you more and more with its own intelligence.

LOCATE IT:

  • Begin by sitting or standing with a balanced posture and close your eyes.
  • With an attitude of curiosity, notice where your centre is within your body.
  • As you locate your centre, notice how it makes you feel. This impact could be physical, emotional and/or mental – or you may initially feel nothing in particular.

CLUE: If you have trouble locating and feeling your centre, try noticing a spot just below your belly-button and within your body, just in front of your lumbar spine. 

MOVE IT:

  • Having located your centre, move it to different places in your body – up and down (way up and way down), to the front and to the back and perhaps even outside your body. With each location, pause and notice the impact of that location on your physical, emotional and mental state.

CLUE: While moving your centre to different locations, you might feel more or less calm, lighter or heavier, more of less grounded, more or less balanced, more or less spacious – and even more or less confident. Stay curious and really pay attention.

CHOOSE IT:

  • Having explored lots of different locations for your centre, now consider where it feels most powerful. Choose the place that gives you the best feeling overall.
  • With practice, you will find it easier and easier to both locate your centre and move it to the optimal position within your body for comfort, balance and ease.

Whatever your creative pursuit, practise this exercise before you start and then regularly re-engage the exercise throughout your practice.

Whenever you reconnect with your centre, notice where it is and pay attention to the physical, emotional and mental impacts of your re-engagement with your centre.

Tip #2: Size, Shape and Substance

EXERCISE: Discovering the size, shape and substance of your centre?

Having located your centre and begun to search out the most powerful placement for it within your body, the next step further builds your knowledge and awareness of your centre.

By noticing the specific characteristics of size, shape and substance of your centre, you will gain a more powerful connection with it.

WHAT SIZE IS IT?

  • Is it like a pin point, or perhaps the size of a grape, or a tennis ball…or bigger, or smaller. Pay attention and simply notice. It may change while you notice it, or on different days it may be a different size altogether.
  • As always, pay attention to how this new awareness of the size of your centre impacts your body+mind.

WHAT SHAPE IS IT?

  • Is it round, oblong, square…notice what shape it seems to be right now.
  • Again, notice how this new awareness impacts how you feel physically, emotionally and mentally.

WHAT CONSISTENCY IS IT?

  • Is it watery or solid like stone. Perhaps it is like soft play dough or putty, or like rubber. Maybe it is airy with very little texture at all?

Clue: 1 Don’t expect the dimensions of your centre to remain the same. They may change with each day, or between morning and afternoon, or even at the moment you become aware of them. Noticing the changes is all part of the fun and you’ll be honing your observation skills at the same time.

Clue 2: It is fun to consciously experiment with changing the dimensions of your centre. Get really creative, change the size, shape or consistency of your centre and pay close attention to the impacts on how you feel as a result. 

Clue 3: Always be curious and finely attuned to the impacts on your mind+body.

Explore, have fun, and keep paying attention!

By regularly connecting with your centre, in all its dimensions, you will be building a foundational awareness that will have profound impacts for more easeful, authentic and rewarding self-expression.

Tip #3: Colour and Texture

EXERCISE: What is the colour and texture of your centre?

Now that you have located your centre (Tip#1) and started to discover its shape, size and substance (Tip#2), by colouring it up and discovering its texture, your centre will become even more characterful.

WHAT COLOUR IS IT?

  • First locate your centre, noticing its size, shape and substance.
  • Now notice what colour it seems to be. Is it red, blue, green, black, white…or perhaps no colour at all?
  • What specific shade is it? Is it dark or light, bright or pale, primary or tertiary.
  • As you become aware of the colour of your centre, notice how this new awareness impacts you physically, emotionally and mentally.

Clue 1: If at first you don’t notice a colour, try a few out and choose one that feels the best. Then keep experimenting and noticing the impacts.

Clue 2: Always be curious and really have fun with this. Allow your imagination to run wild.

WHAT IS THE SURFACE TEXTURE?

Have you noticed the surface of your centre?

  • Does it glow or shine, or maybe the surface matte?
  • Is it textured like velvet or leather, or perhaps it has no surface at all?
  • Does it radiate like the sun or pull itself inward?

Clue: Be prepared for all characteristics of your centre to change. As you become aware of one characteristic, it may impact on another. Being aware of these changes is all part of the fun.

Overall, these explorations are about developing powerful ways to connect with your central foundation, so no matter what you do or don’t discover, the key is in the process of noticing.

Simply pay attention, discover and connect…AND HAVE FUN!

Tip #4: Change it up

EXERCISE: Change it up

Notice the different elements of your centre – location, size, shape, substance, colour, texture – THEN CHANGE THEM UP, get creative and notice the fascinating impacts on your mind+body.

The sorts of things you might notice are whether you are more or less…

  • grounded
  • focused
  • calm
  • anxious
  • free
  • spacious
  • constricted
  • heavy
  • light
  • connected with your body
  • optimistic
  • confident
  • creative
  • …the list goes on…

As always, simply pay attention – and have fun.

You’ll soon have a valuable asset in your centre – a vital foundation from the inside out – to build upon to unleash your creativity, confidence and self expression.

AN INSIGHT INTO MY CENTRE

As I wrote Inpso Tip#4, I was paying attention to my centre and this is what I was noticing:

Locating the feeling of my centre, it instantly puts me in touch with my whole body. In particular it connects me with my lower body and I notice my feet. Quite suddenly I feel more whole and connected. It’s a great feeling.

As I notice this, I become more conscious of my breathing which becomes more free and spacious.

My centre is white and airy, centred below my belly button and back towards my spine, and fills up the space of my body there, feeling like the size of a small basketball.

Unlike a basketball however, my feeling of centre is not contained in a skin. Instead the white, airy-ness glows. It’s vibrant and radiates effortlessly. When I really notice this, it makes me feel more calm, spacious and confident. Right now, it makes me feel more optimistic too (bonus!)

If I move my centre up my body, I instantly feel more anxious, stiff and constrained…if I move it much lower, I feel heavy and depressed. Just moving it as I write, it is rather remarkable how strong these feelings are. Moving it back to where it feels best, I feel relieved – suddenly again more spacious and happy (phew!).

Changing the size of my centre changes my feeling of space.

Changing the colour changes my what I am feeling emotionally.

Changing the substance affects my sense of containment, turns my awareness more inwards, or more outwards. When my centre is airy and radiant, I feel so much less contained and instead part of a greater whole. This is definitely a good feeling!

Having gone through this experiment of ‘changing it up’ I most definitely feel much less in my head and more within my body.

Staying connected to my centre, I am again conscious to my breathing…breathing that is now more easeful and calming – which in turn again connects me to my whole body.

TOPIC: Building around your foundation

By developing a strong and conscious knowledge of physical centre, its changing characteristics have the potential to become a powerful barometer for physical, mental and emotional performance processes.

This same central foundation can function as a powerful point of reference to build from – a primary function of any well constructed foundation.

Personally, having an ongoing connection with my centre has been a key to mind+body balance and ease. Also, the idea of my creativity and self-expression originating from this foundational centre has been both empowering and liberating.

Click on each tip for the full inspo…

Tip #1: CENTRE + BREATH

EXERCISE: EXPLORING CENTRE + BREATH

Keeping our awareness of centre at the heart of our focus allows for balance and freedom within the whole body, and this week, we start with breathing.

There are many ways to learn about breathing and many different techniques you can explore. I have found one of the most powerful ways to positively influence my breathing is to relate my breathing to my centre.

Exploration # 1: Your everyday breathing

  • Sit or stand in a balanced posture.
  • Attempting to not manipulate your breathing in any way, place one hand on your upper chest and one on your belly and notice how they move relative to each other.
  • Does one move more than the other, or do they move the same way?
  • Do you breathe more into your chest, more into your belly, or quite evenly?
  • Simply notice and take note.

Clue: do you feel the air is moving more into your chest, or into your belly?

Exploration # 2: Breathing with awareness of centre

  • Retaining the same balanced posture with one hand on your chest and one on your belly, now engage fully with your centre and all its characteristics.
  • Be sure to locate your centre where it is most comfortable for your whole body. If you are not sure, try placing it approximately 5 cm below your belly button and back towards your spine.
  • Notice its size, shape, substance, texture, colour…really connect with it.
  • Now that you have full awareness of your centre, notice how you are breathing.
  • How are your hands moving now? Is there a change?
  • How does your breathing feel to you now? 
  • Simply notice and take note.

Clue: do you feel you are directing your air more into your chest, or perhaps more into your belly?

Exploration # 3: Moving your centre and noticing the impacts

  • With the same posture and hand positions, now have fun moving your centre around your body and noticing the impacts.
  • Move your centre right up into your throat. What happens to your breathing? How does it make your feel?
  • Move your centre into your chest. What happens to your breathing? How does it make your feel?
  • Move your centre into its most comfortable spot. What happens to your breathing? How does it make you feel?
  • Keep exploring and simply notice the impacts.

Clue: You can be observing physical, mental and emotional changes in your body.

INSIGHT into my centred breathing...

When I breathe with full connection to my true centre, my breathing is much more directed into my abdomen and my chest is soft and relaxed. I feel calm and spacious.

When I move my centre up my body, my breathing becomes more focused in my chest. My shoulders get involved, my neck and chest muscles are tighter and I feel more anxious. It’s not a nice feeling!

Moving my centre back down to where it loves to be, I feel an instant sense of relief. Relating my breathing to that true centre, my shoulders are relaxed, my chest is calm and I can more easily take deep, slow and easeful breaths into my belly. It’s a great feeling.

Tip #2: CENTRE + POSTURE

EXERCISE: EXPLORING POSTURE RELATIVE TO CENTRE

Our multi-dimensional central foundation has the ability to instantly inform our posture for balance, alignment and ease.

As with breathing last week, there are many ways to approach posture, but for starters, I have found that being guided by my centre simplifies balance and alignment. It gives me instant access to comfort and freedom.

Exploration # 1: Noticing your starting posture (as a point of comparison)

  • Stand or sit as you normally would to play. Do this as automatically as possible.
  • Scan over your whole body and notice how this starting posture feels.
  • Where are you comfortable, where are you uncomfortable?
  • Notice whether you feel balanced and aligned (or not).
  • Simply notice how you feel.

Exploration # 2: Noticing postural BALANCE relative to CENTRE

  • Now fully connect with your centre and all its characteristics. As you do so, notice if anything changes.
  • Holding your awareness of centre, SEARCH for BALANCE through your whole body, from head to toe.
  • Relate the balance in your body directly to your centre.
  • Take your time and really explore the concept and feeling of balance.
  • Letting your feeling of centre guide you, move your balance from side to side, back to front, and even consider upward and downward until you feel supremely balanced.

Clue#1: If you are standing, notice the soles of your feet: between left and right, front and back, and notice if the pressure is heavy or light. If you are sitting, you can notice your sit bones in the same way.

Clue#2: Notice how your head balances above your centre.

Exploration # 3: Noticing postural ALIGNMENT relative to CENTRE

  • Again sit or stand as you would to play.
  • Fully connect with your centre and all its characteristics, and again notice if anything changes when you do so.
  • Holding your awareness of centre, now SEARCH for ALIGNMENT within your whole body.
  • Relate the alignment in your body directly to your centre.
  • Can you imagine your skeleton as you do this, all your bones aligning (and perhaps hanging) naturally.

Clue#3: As you consider your whole-body alignment relative to your centre, scan up your body, noticing the alignment of your knees relative to your feet, your hips relative to your knees, shoulders to hips and head to shoulders. You can also scan down the body from head to toe.

Clue#4: You can also consider the alignment of each part of your body separately to your centre. How is the position of your feet informed by your centre? Then your knees, your hips, your shoulders and perhaps most importantly, how does the position of your head relate to your centre.

WHAT DID YOU DISCOVER?

And now imagine having this awareness before you play, every time.

As musicians, our bodies are part of our instrument. Postural balance and alignment allow us to play freely, using the minimal amounts of tension required.

A balanced and aligned body produces a higher quality for sound, and we are more able to access our natural self-expression.

Our foundational centre can guide us intelligently when we pay attention to its wisdom.

INSIGHT into my posture process

What I discover when I explore my standing posture with awareness of centre:

Standing up, at first I feel stiff in my legs and like I am holding on. I feel awkward and lopsided.

Connecting strongly to my centre, paying attention to balance and alignment through my body, I now notice how my feet are interacting with the floor. They release and broaden. My weight becomes more evenly spread across the soles of my feel – front to back, side to side.
I now feel more grounded but interestingly, my whole body feels lighter and also taller.

Staying with my centre, and scanning up my body, my hips want to release back a little and the front of my hips consequently open up.
My legs lengthen and my buttock muscles discover they can release.

Relating my upper body to my centre, my shoulders settle down and my chest opens, my shoulder blades easily sliding down my back.

The best feeling of all comes from relating my head placement to my centre. My chin drops and the back of my neck lengthens, significantly impacting the breadth of my whole back.

I feel wider, taller, spacious and malleable – a completely different feeling to how I started.

This is the awareness to start playing from.

Tip #3: CENTRE + MOVEMENT

EXERCISE: EXPLORING MOVEMENT RELATIVE TO CENTRE

Our multi-dimensional central foundation can powerfully inform free, balanced and natural movement in the body.

By connecting with your centre and using it as a point of reference for your movement, you become aware of your body’s intelligence, gaining valuable insight into how it can move effortlessly.

Exploration # 1: Noticing normal movement

  • Stand or sit as you normally would to play. Do this as automatically as possible.
  • Choose a part of your body that you move when you play, and move it as you normally would (just imagining you are playing). Move it in other ways too.
  • Simply notice how this all feels, noticing the quality and character of the movement.

Exploration # 2: Noticing movement relative to your centre

Setup:

  • Stand or sit in your normal playing position and connect with your centre in all its dimensions (as per May’s Foundation from the Inside Out).
  • Observe your breathing relative to your centre (June#1).
  • Observe your posture (balance and alignment) relative to your centre (June#2).

Now, experiment with the same movement as in Exploration # 1:

  • Keeping full awareness of your centre, move the chosen part of your body consistently relating it to your centre.
  • Feel its distance from your centre, when it is closer, further, higher, lower…
  • Notice if the movement disrupts your sense of centre or any of its characteristics.
  • Keep moving, taking care of the integrity of your centre.
  • Notice how the movement feels, noticing the quality and character of the movement, particularly in comparison to Exploration # 1.

Choose different parts of the body to experiment with in the same way remaining constantly curious.

Once you feel proficient with this awareness of movement relative to your centre, introduce it while you play and notice all the impacts.

As musicians, when our foundational centre guides our movement within a balanced and aligned body, movement becomes more natural, free and comfortable. 

With this comfort, technical demands are simplified and the quality of sound improves dramatically.

We are more free to access our natural self-expression.

Our foundational centre can guide us intelligently when we pay attention to its wisdom.

INSIGHT into my movement exploration

What I discover exploring the movement of my right arm relative to my centre:

Standing up, I move my arm as I would to play the violin and introduce bigger broader movements too. I notice all these movements feel quite rigid and random. My hand feels isolated, my movements jerky. My balance is unstable. My body actually feels quite disjointed and I feel quite distracted by my surroundings.

Connecting strongly to my centre, paying attention to balance and alignment through my body, I gain a new sense of balance (which is further back than before) and my body then easily falls into alignment. This feels stabilising and comforting.

Now moving my arm, keeping full awareness of my centre and how my arm moves in relation to it, I enjoy its movement. My arm feels more unified. It feels connected to my body and moves with a wonderful sense of fluidity and poise that it didn’t have before.

My whole arm discovers a feeling of balance, all the joints free and working together effortlessly. I notice how easily my shoulder joint is moving. It feels good.

I am conscious of all the space between my hand/arm and body – and in fact around my whole body. There is no tension – just space.

I am not distracted by my surroundings. Instead, they have become an outer layer of my awareness. This is a new discovery for me – and it feels cool!

I am aware of my whole body, this awareness generating from within me.

Tip #4: CENTRE + SPACE

EXERCISE: EXPLORING SPACE RELATIVE TO CENTRE

When it comes to space and spaciousness, too often we diminish and constrain ourselves both internally and externally without even knowing we are doing it. These constraints limit our comfort and ability to freely move and express ourselves.

Using awareness of our foundational centre, we can generate a liberating sense of space both within our bodies and outside of them.

Exploration # 1: Noticing your default sense of space.

Internal:

  • Stand or sit as you normally would to play. Do this as automatically as possible.
  • Notice how the space within your skin feels.
  • What part of the body do you notice?
  • What sort of substance is it made from?
  • What sort of energy does it have?
  • Does it feel spacious or constrained, or somewhere in between?
  • Is there an emotion that is attached to this space?
  • Simply notice as much as possible about how the space within your body feels – its quality and character.

External:

  • Now notice how the space outside your body feels?
  • What is surrounding you? Can you describe how the space feels?
  • Does it feel spacious or limited…or something in between?
  • If the space is limited, what is it limited by? How far does your sense of space go before it stops? What stops it?
  • If you feel constrained, what is constraining you? Perhaps there are walls, or a fence, or a bubble – something else? Can you feel it and describe the substance?
  • Is there any emotion within this external space?
  • Simply notice as much as possible about how the space around your body feels, its characteristics, its energy…

Exploration # 2: Noticing space relative to your centre

Connect to your centre:

  • Stand or sit in your normal playing position and connect with your centre in all its dimensions (as per May’s Foundation from the Inside Out).
  • Observe your breathing relative to your centre (June#1).
  • Observe your posture (balance and alignment) relative to your centre (June#2).
  • If you want to refer back, you can find all Weekly Inspos on my website.

Internal Space:

  • Holding onto your awareness of centre, notice the space within your body as you did in Exploration # 1.
  • Does it feel different?
  • How spacious do you now feel within your skin?
  • What sort of substance is it now made from?
  • What emotion is present in the space?
  • How does your whole body feel now?
  • Notice all the changes.

External Space:

  • Sill holding onto your awareness of centre, notice the space outside of your body.
  • How has this space changed?
  • How does it relate to your centre?
  • How far does the space go now? Are there limits…have they changed?
  • What emotion is within this space now?
  • Simply notice the characteristics of the space around you.
  • How does it feel?

Imagine if you always had this sense of space both internally and externally as you play.

How would  your performing experiences be changed?

As performers, having a sense of unlimited space within and around us is liberating.

Without the unnecessary protective shields and barriers, our bodies become free to move without constraint.

Positive emotions have the chance to flow without fear and restriction and we are able to fully connect with ourselves, our colleagues and our audience.

We are free to generate and share our true and authentic creative voice and enjoy it.

INSIGHT into my space exploration

What I discover exploring space relative to my centre:

UNCENTRED: 

Drawing attention to the space within my skin, it feels tight and constrained. I am particularly aware of the central area of my abdomen – it feels pretty solid and has a strong ‘pulling in’ and ‘twisting’ feeling, a little like it is being wrung out. It’s full of tension and is not a great feeling.

The emotion associated within the space is one of anxiety – actually a sense of worry and fear. This is quite remarkable and unsettling to notice!

Externally, the space around my body also feels constrained – almost like there is a second layer of invisible skin about 20cm around my whole body. It is hard to feel any further than that. It seems that I have put this layer there for protection. The layer feels very heavy and it’s weighing me down – particularly my shoulders and neck.

CENTRED: 

Connecting with my centre, it feels like the sun comes out. Everything broadens and the weight lifts off – phew!!!

My internal space is now instantly fluid and almost airy and there is so much more space. I breathe easily. I become aware of my whole body – my awareness emanating outwards (rather than pulling in as before). My feet start to tingle.

I am less aware of the limits of my skin. It’s more like my internal space is connected to the external…with no barrier between.

The space outside of me also feels limitless, without barriers. My awareness spreads out from my centre and there is a wonderful sense of optimism within the endless space. This is a relief to experience and puts a smile on my face.

My body feels light, free to move and its buzzing with energy. 

I feel confident and at ease!

TOPIC: Balance

Seeking balance requires curiosity and experimentation. Paying attention to balance, our awareness is instantly heightened, we make discoveries and we gain valuable insights.

There is something pristine about balance – it simplifies, it unifies and it nurtures poise and a wonderful feeling of natural movement.

Balance is always enlightening.

As performers, being balanced in our movement and actions allows for a greater sense of ease and natural movement.

Balance supports strength through alignment.

Balance minimises muscular effort.

Balance encourages poise and unleashes a wonderful sense of physical freedom.

Balance is to be enjoyed!

Click on each tip for the full inspo…

Tip #1: BALANCE + MOVEMENT

EXERCISE: BALANCE + MOVEMENT

This week’s exercise is simply about applying the concept of balance to any movement or action you are doing while noticing the impacts.

I suggest three possible scenarios below, but no task is too simple or too complicated to experiment with. Try it while washing the dishes, driving the car, while your exercise or during a complicated musical passage.

Consider balance, seek it out, and notice the effects.

Exploration # 1: Cleaning your teeth (or another similar task you do regularly)

  • Start as usual.
  • Now notice balance in your body.
  • Where do your feel balance – where don’t you feel balance?
  • Does the arm you are using to brush feel balanced? Allow it to move to seek out a more supreme sense of balance – and notice the impacts.
  • How about other parts of your body? Are they balanced – your head, the balance between your two feet, the other arm that is not brushing your teeth? Consider whether you feel balanced in these parts, always searching for that ultimate sense of balance. Again notice the impacts
  • Remember to engage your awareness of CENTRE and pay attention to what this awareness does for your whole body balance – again just notice.

Exploration # 2: Sitting with your instrument before you play (or your paint brush, or at your computer…)

  • Before you play a note, consider balance.
  • As always, engage your sense of CENTRE – and notice the impacts.
  • Is your whole body balanced?
  • Which part of your body feels least balanced?
  • Really pay attention to that part, and seek out a new feeling of balance.
  • Seek out a sense of balance throughout your body before moving on to play your instrument (or lift your paint brush or move your fingers to your computer keyboard).

Exploration # 3: Moving to begin playing your instrument (or paint, or type…)

  • From the awareness of full body balance, now move to start playing your instrument.
  • Be fully attentive to the balance in your body and whether it changes as you move.
  • Pay attention to the part of your body that moves most...does it move with a sense of balance? Seek balance out in that movement.
  • Pay attention to the part of your body that moves the least…does it move with a sense of balance? Seek balance out in that movement.

Simply observe your actions from the perspective of balance and notice the effects.

Tip #2: BALANCE + CRITIQUING

As performers, one of our greatest strengths is our skill in self-critiquing. We are highly trained in evaluating every aspect of our playing from second to second – a skill that is vital for our ongoing development. 

However this very same strength has the potential to be our greatest weakness. If we disproportionately focusing on what needs to improve, forgetting to acknowledge what is already working well, over time we lose the ability to robustly back ourselves. Our confidence is undermined and our enjoyment is eroded.

Developing the skill of observing both the positive and the negative in balance allows for much more successful, rewarding and enjoyable performance experiences.

EXERCISE: BALANCE + CRITIQUING

Pay attention to your self-critiquing voice with the aim to catch each negative or hyper critical thought.

  • Firstly, being aware of your critical thoughts is something to celebrate. These moments of awareness hold great power for change and evolution.
  • So, when you notice your inner critic piping up, celebrate your conscious awareness of the thought.

Then, aim to find positive and successful elements in balance.

  • Initially, you may think there will not be enough (or any) successful elements to acknowledge, but this is your over-active self-critical voice kicking into action.
  • Simply start acknowledging the positives, no matter how small.
  • Practising the acknowledgement of success over and over is key – just as you have practised the awareness of what needs to be better over and over.
  • With time and practice acknowledging the positive in balance with the negative, this more healthy and supportive process will eventually become second nature.

Just like a muscle that needs to be exercised to build strength and resilience, we must ‘practise’ self-support and acknowledgement of the positive in order to build the ability to support ourselves effectively.

Practising awareness of the positive in balance with the negative, builds a strong habit of self-support allowing for more successful and enjoyable performing processes – and a much more fulfilling career.

Tip #3: BALANCE + SITTING TO PLAY

If you are a professional musician, chances are you rehearse and perform sitting down (with the odd exception of course). But oddly, we often practise standing up.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that many instruments are taught while standing, so our habit is to practise that way. As a result, we often feel more expressive and free while standing – which reinforces our preference for playing that way.

Often we haven’t been taught how to sit well in order to play with freedom and comfort. Considering that we also don’t regularly practise ‘sitting’, we simply put up with restriction and unease while sitting to play in our professional settings.

It is however entirely possible through conscious and regular seated practise to experience comfort, freedom and expressive ease when we sit and play, and paying attention to BALANCE greatly supports this potential.

EXPLORATION: BALANCE + SITTING with instrument in resting position

Before starting to play, simply sit with your instrument in resting position. As per earlier inspos, spend time noticing whether your body is centred, aligned and balanced.

  • Moving freely, explore balance within your whole body, exploring where your ultimate balance might be.
  • Are you balancing on your sit bones? Move forward, back and side to side, sensing the impacts on your balance.
  • Notice where you are balancing on your chair or stool. Have you found the best place to balance – further forward, further back? Keep exploring.
  • Does the height of your seat feel perfect? (Consider a different chair or stool if not).
  • Where do your feet want to be?
  • Are your shoulders balanced between themselves? Are they balanced over your hips and over your ribcage?
  • Is your head balanced on your spine?

Notice how you are sitting now and how it feels. Is this different to how you normally sit to play?

EXPLORATION: BALANCE + SITTING with instrument in playing position

Having found a balanced resting position, holding onto your awareness of centre, balance and ease in your body, assume your playing position/posture.

  • As you interact with your instrument, notice what happens to your sitting balance and the balance within your whole body.
  • What has happened to your centre?
  • How are you now balancing on your sitting bones?
  • Where do your feet want to be now?
  • Perhaps your balance needs to change with your instrument in the mix? Perhaps not?
  • Keep scanning with curiosity to notice any imbalance. Move to find balance on your chair and within your whole body.

How does this seated playing position now feel?

EXPLORATION: BALANCE + SITTING AND PLAYING

Having found a balanced playing position, begin to play your instrument with the same curiosity for balance.

  • Where do you have balance and where do you lose it?
  • How long do you experience balance before you lose it – and can you notice that moment?
  • Explore and search to bring the balance back – and enjoy that feeling.
  • Remain curious and engaged with balance – and notice the impacts.

How does this way of playing feel?

Balance requires ongoing awareness, exploration and adjustment.

With balance comes fluidity.

Free and expressive movement evolves from a central balance.

With balance comes poise and connection to oneself.

Tip #4: BALANCE + 3 DIMENSIONS

When we think of balance, we are most commonly aware of our adjustments from side to side and from front to back – whether sitter or standing. But how often do you think of our vertical axis, balancing our awareness between up and down?

As we stand (or sit) on this earth, the concept of balancing our awareness of the downward direction versus the upward is rather conceptual. We can easily explore our balance in other dimensions – swaying back & forth and from side to side – but paying attention to our grounding into the earth versus lightening into the space above us allows for enlightening physical, mental and emotional discoveries.

With all three dimensions fully at play within our awareness, we are able to experience a true sense of multi-dimensional balance – a balance that allows for a liberating sense of space, as well as ease and freedom within our playing and self-expression.

EXPLORATION: BALANCE + 3rd DIMENSION

Previous inspos have explored balance in the first and second dimensions – discovering balance from side to side and from front to back. These next explorations encourage the addition of the 3rd dimension.

Either sitting or standing in preparation to play, as in previous inspos, connect with your CENTRE in all its dimensions – location, size, substance, colour, texture…and notice the impacts.

Next, explore your BALANCE from side to side and front to back, seeking a natural and balanced alignment within your whole body.

DOWN: Once you feel poised, notice how you are connecting to the GROUND BENEATH YOU:

  • Feel the connection between your feet and the ground?
  • Can you feel this connection continuing deep into the earth – like a tree growing its roots.

How does this awareness make you feel?

UP: Now bring your awareness of the SPACE ABOVE YOU, paying attention to how much space is there – to the ceiling and even beyond:

  • Feel your body connecting to the space above you?
  • Can you feel the connection high into the sky, like a helium balloon rising effortlessly into the air?

How does this awareness make you feel?

DOWN AND UP: Bring your awareness to both your grounding and your lightening at the same time?

  • Seek to discover the perfect balance between the two.
  • How does it feel?

Balance requires ongoing awareness, exploration and adjustment.

With balance comes ease and fluidity.

Free and expressive movement evolves from multi-dimensional balance.

With balance comes poise and connection to oneself.

INSIGHT into my 3rd Dimension Exploration

What I discover in my 3rd Dimension Balance Exploration

While I am playing seated, I notice my feet connecting with the ground and instantly feel more supported by them. I become more conscious of where my feet want to be and also the ideal position of my legs. I can easily adjust them for more balance and comfort. The souls of the feet broaden and relax.

As I notice the space above me, it is with quite a sense of relief that I can release substantially up into that space. My whole body lightens and broadens at the same time and my spine starts to feel suspended, as if by a string – perhaps even with a helium balloon on the top of that string.

My whole upper body opens up and I feel much more optimistic and positive. It’s a great feeling.

Paying attention to both the grounding down into the earth and the releasing into the space above me, I feel longer in my body and also broader in my shoulders. I enjoy the feeling of taking up more space and I feel so much more free and poised.

It’s quite a revelation – and I realise I must pay more attention to this liberating dimension!

TOPIC: Ease

Dictionary definitions of Ease (noun):

  • The state of being comfortable such as freedom from pain or discomfort, freedom from labour or difficulty, freedom from embarrassment or constraint (Merriam-Webster)
  • Absence of difficulty or effort, absence of rigidity or discomfort; poise (Oxford Dictionary)
  • Freedom from labor, pain, or physical annoyance; tranquil rest; comfort; freedom from concern or anxiety; a quiet state of mind (Dictionary.com)

Click on each tip for the full inspo…

Tip #1: INTRODUCING EASE

EASE AND YOUR CREATIVE PURSUIT

Having read the definitions above of ease, now re-read them, this time imagining yourself performing your creative pursuit. Notice your reactions and what comes up for you. Consider such as the following:

  • What thoughts and feelings arise around the idea of ease?
  • How often do you experience ease?
  • What ease do you experience?
  • What sort of ease would you like more of?
  • What stands in the way of you experiencing more ease?

PS: If you feel so inclined, let me know your discoveries (just respond to this email). Perhaps you have a particular aspect of ease that you would like me to delve into…I am all ears!

Tip #2: EASE + ATTITUDE

Ease can be an attitude, an intention, an expectation – and I am keen for you to explore this mental state of ease. You can apply an awareness of ease to absolutely any activity – and of course within your playing and creative pursuits.

THREE EXPLORATIONS:

Right now:

  • As you read this inspo, right now, simply introduce an attitude of ease into your awareness and notice the impacts.
  • At the very moment that you introduce ease, what changes?

Doing a regular activity that requires your focus – perhaps a sport or whatever you do for exercise:

  • Start as you normally would, then consciously add an attitude of ease.
  • As always, notice the impacts.
  • Does it give you insight into your normal attitude?
  • As you continue your activity, keep checking in with your attitude. If you have lost ease, simply add it back into the mix and again notice the impacts.
  • What do you learn from this process?

With your instrument:

  • Nominate an amount of time to consciously apply ease into the mix, no matter what you are practising. It could be for 10 minutes, 1 hour, a whole practice session.
  • Make the ATTITUDE OF EASE your number one priority. Keep coming back to this awareness regularly and as you do, notice the impacts on your playing at the very moment you regain ease.
  • Stay vigilant and aim to catch yourself when you have lost your connection with ease. Notice what attitude is there instead, then simply add ease back into the mix.
  • What does this process unveil for you?

INSIGHT into my Ease Explorations

When I added the ATTITUDE OF EASE into my skiing…

Yesterday morning I was fortunate to be on the ski slopes of Cardrona ski field – one of my favourite places at this time of year (lucky me!) and I had a great time experimenting with the ‘attitude of ease’. 

Every time I added ease as an attitude, my mind softened and I felt my body ‘let go’. I experienced a greater sense of fluidity and malleability in my body. As a result of ease, unnecessary effort faded away and my skiing improved. I felt more connected to the snow and consequently I was much more in control. It felt wonderfully freeing. Pretty extraordinary!

I learnt that by adding ease into my skiing attitude, simplicity, balance and freedom came with it. Ease unlocked confidence and put an even bigger smile on my face 🙂

When I added the ATTITUDE OF EASE into my violin practice…

As I write this inspo, I have just finished a violin practise session in which my priority was to apply an ‘attitude of ease’ at all times – so I could report the impacts (of which there were many).

When I added ease, I often realised that I am ‘trying’ much more than necessary – with ease in the mix, space opened up and unneeded effort evaporated. Without that surplus effort EVERYTHING became so much more simple, unified and easy. Ease uncovered for me that I put barriers of trying and effort in my way without even noticing. I make it harder than it needs to be.

I kept catching myself without ease. Adding it back in, I released. It informed my balance, instantly allowing for more free and natural movement. Ease was allowing me to let go and go with the flow.

When I noticed something that was awkward or not working well, I first experimented with adding ease. Every time it offered solutions, informing me of more easy movement and flowing technique. My listening gained new clarity too. I often became aware of much simpler, more natural and comfortable solutions.

In this one session, I learnt that through my habits of ‘trying’ and ‘effort’ I unconsciously put blocks in my way. Adding ease in my attitude, those blocks rather miraculously evaporated and my path forward was so much more clear and ease-y.

Perhaps best of all, with ease in the mix, doubt naturally and simply gave way to confidence. Fabulous!

Tip #3: EASE + ATTITUDE + GOING WITH THE FLOW

This week things have been turned upside down again here in NZ with a community outbreak of COVID-19. Though I don’t live in Auckland where Level 3 restrictions are in place, my week ahead now looks drastically different than it would have.

Today I was supposed to be flying to Wellington to begin rehearsals of a challenging and exciting programme as guest-concertmaster of Orchestra Wellington. Next weekend we were to be performing to another packed Michael Fowler Centre.

But of course, with Wellington under Level 2 restrictions, inside gatherings are restricted to 100 and the concert has been postponed til mid-November. 

I understand and support the reasons for this current upheaval and luckily can look forward to performing the concert later in the year. In the mean time however, I witnessed my energy levels take a dive, along with my general motivation. I suspect this is a common reality for many at the moment.

So, where am I heading with all this?

In this month of EASE inspos, I found myself struggling to order my thoughts for a new inspo to share. In the process, I realised that actually I could do with a big dose of my own medicine…I needed to allow an ‘attitude of ease’ to flow into my reality! I needed to take my advise from last week and put it into action.

In doing so, interestingly I became immediately aware that I was resisting something. It was a general but powerful feeling of resistance – perhaps a resistance to the change to my week or maybe even to all the uncertainty itself?

Wonderfully, as I recognised and acknowledged this resistance, it released. The ease I was consciously adding took its place in that moment. With ease in the mix, I felt more part of a general sense of flow. 

Indeed, this week will be a different flow than what I was expecting a few days ago, but one I can flow with just as well – if I allow myself to.

So, this week it feels entirely appropriate to keep experimenting with EASE as an ATTITUDE.

I also want to keep it super simple.

EXPLORATION:

No matter what you are doing, no matter what time of the day, experiment with adding an attitude of ease into the mix and notice the impacts. 

Each time to add ease, you have an opportunity to learn.

Tip #4: SCANNING FOR EASE

Somewhat contrarily, by scanning the body for precise locations of dis-ease we can gain invaluable insights that inform more comfortable and rewarding ways forward – no matter what we are doing.

By discovering the spot in your body that is most UN-comfortable, the clarity of this awareness instantly allows the body to release into balance, alignment and ease.

Objective acknowledgement is key. When you precisely feel the location of the discomfort with pin-point accuracy, along with total clarity of its various characteristics, it is then that your body knows how to resolve the discomfort into ease.

In the process you fully connect with your whole body and perhaps most importantly you connect with its intelligence.

If we listen intently to our bodies, the instructions for how to align, balance and move with ease are clear.

This scanning method is one of the quickest and most effective ways I know to locate and release tension, imbalance and discomfort.

Simply scan, observe and discover. 
 

EXPLORATION: SCANNING FOR DISCOMFORT

SCAN: Scan your whole body for the place that is the most uncomfortable.

LOCATE: Once you have located the area, clarify the specific spot in your body, to pin point accuracy.

ACKNOWLEDGE: Acknowledge exactly where it is and exactly how it feels.

LISTEN: Listen to and be guided by the wisdom your body is feeding back to you in this process.

FEEL: Feel the release into balance, alignment, comfort and ease.

 

You can scan for discomfort any time and any where, no matter what you are doing.

You can always learn from it and the rewards always feel good.

The intelligence in the body is remarkable – if we really listen to it.

INSIGHT into my scanning discoveries

When I scan while playing…

I discover ‘ease’-ier approaches to the multitude of technical and musical challenges. I often discover unnecessary physical struggle – struggle that is counterproductive and that I was completely unaware of. I always learn something from the discomfort and tension I locate and I never need it!

By locating the specific discomfort and paying close and objective attention to it, the next step to balance, alignment and release is always clear to me. Rather than having to make any changes, I simply find myself in that new physical reality. My body has found its own way – and it feels great.

This is a technique I use over and over again and every time it is rewarding. The positive impact on the quality of my playing is undeniable.

Tip # 5: EASE + EXPECTATIONS

I have some questions for you to highlight your EXPECTATIONS of EASE in different situations.

Take your time to really consider each situation, noticing your different responses.

EXPLORATION # 1: Registering your usual ease expectations…

  • Think of a simple task you do every day. When you are about to do this simple task, what are your expectations around experiencing ease?
  • When you are about to start a practice session at home, what are your expectations around ease?
  • When you are about to rehearse with others, what are your expectations around ease?
  • When you are about to perform on stage, what are your expectations around ease?
  • When you are about to go out walking in nature, what are your expectations around experiencing ease?

How did your answers compare? Do you have different expectations depending on what you are about to do? Do you even normally expect ease at all?

What if you fully embodied the expectation of experiencing ease before, during  and after every task? What would that experience be like?

EXPLORATION # 2: Imagining ease before, during and after…

  • Imagine (and take your time with this) the same simple daily task as above, this time fully embodying the expectation of total ease before….during…and after the task.
  • Imagine a practice session at home, feeling total ease before, during and after.
  • Imagine rehearsing with others, feeling total ease before, during and after.
  • Imagine performing on stage, feeling total ease before, during and after.
  • Imagine walking in nature, imagine feeling total ease before, during and after.

How was that experience? Any different than the first? Want to try it out in real time? 

EXPLORATION # 3: Embodying the full expectation of ease, before, during and after…

Next time you actually do these activities, explore carrying the expectation of ease throughout, having the expectation before you begin and still having it after you have finished.

If you notice you have lost the expectation of ease, register what expectation has replaced it. With that recognition, reignite the expectation of ease – and, as ever, notice the impacts.

WHAT IS YOUR EXPECTATION HABIT?

When experimenting with your EXPECTATION of EASE, take care to notice if you lose connection with it – and if so, pay attention to what expectation has replaced it.

This expectation is probably your ‘expectation habit’ and there is great value in discovering this.

  • Does this habit of expectation serve you?
  • Do you want to keep it?
  • Would you like to try other expectations on for size?

By paying attention to your expectations, you discover what path you are choosing for yourself.

Expectations are all powerful, so choose carefully.

Perhaps even CHOOSE with EASE 🙂

TOPIC: Conscious choices

We make choices multiple times a day and every choice we make has an impact on our future.

Sometimes the choices we make are not even conscious, instead driven by habits we have built up over time or simply what is most familiar. 

There is however great power in being conscious of the choices we make and being able to take ownership of them.

Only when we own our decisions do we give ourselves the opportunity to make better choices.

Click on each tip for the full inspo…

Tip #1: CONSCIOUS CHOICES + THE BRAIDED RIVER

The River:

Water flowing down a river follows the path of least resistance. Most of the water flows through the largest channels, each time it does so carving a wider, deeper and stronger channel to flow through.

But there are also thinner, shallower and weaker braids in the river. Because they provide more resistance, less water flows through them. As a consequence, they don’t grow in strength.

But if the water in the river is actively diverted away from a stronger channel into a weaker braid, this braid can be developed.

With a diversion placed in a precise spot, little by little with continued encouragement, that braid will grow. Eventually, with more and more water carving into this braid, it may even become the strongest channel.

Our Choices:

Consider the choices we make being like the different braids in a river.

Like the strongest braid where the water forges through the path of least resistance, we are often the victims of unconscious choices and habits. Before we know it, we are well down that free flowing river, the choice to take a different path far behind us.

However, if we can be conscious of the exact moment we are about to make a choice, we have the opportunity to actively choose a different outcome. Diverting ourselves away from the path of least resistance and instead down a different braid, we can choose a completely different outcome.

By developing our awareness of the moment of active and conscious choice we gain great power to actively choose, rather than be at the whim of our habits.

As with the new braid that becomes wider, stronger and deeper over time, we can develop our strength of ability to recognise the moments when we can make different choices.

We can then consciously choose to forge new pathways that support us to flourish and thrive!

Look out for the exact moments you are making your choices. Watch them closely and see what you discover.

Tip #2: CHOOSING YOUR FOCUS

What you choose to focus on directly impacts your experiences.

Recognising that there is choice involved in where you place your focus gives you great power to influence your experiences.

Owning these choices magnifies this power.

THE CAMERA LENS + CHOOSING YOUR FOCUS

Focusing the camera lens:

A powerful camera lens can be adjusted to change the scope and focus of the image it captures. The lens can be opened to capture a wide landscape full of many things but with no particular focal point.

In contrast, the lens can close right in, focusing in on a smallest detail and blurring everything around it – like the beautiful photo above.

Focusing our awareness lens:

As with a camera lens, we can manipulate our awareness in the same way, altering our perspective and experiences accordingly.

By broadening the focus of our awareness, opening our awareness lens outwards beyond ourselves, we become more aware of our external world. Opening the lens more allows more information to flood in – the more information, the less specific the focus.

By refining the focus of our awareness, zooming the lens inwards within ourselves, we become more aware of the internal world. The more focused our internal awareness becomes, the less we are aware of the external, that awareness disappearing out of focus – again just like the photo above.

Having the ability to consciously manipulate this awareness from the broad to the refined, or from the external to the internal – and vice versa – is a valuable skill.

CHOOSING MIND + BODY BALANCE

In essence, the process of directing focus inwards and connecting ourselves with our bodies is the most powerful method to quieten the busy, distracted mind – a problem that plagues performers regularly.

Often we are too externally focused. Our minds worry about what others are thinking, about what is coming up or worse, it is dishing out reprimands about what has already happened. Our minds, and their anxious thoughts, can so easily dominate.

But by focusing our awareness lens inwards, we can connect more with our physical body, gain feedback in the current moment and connect with the now. This is the only place where we can action conscious choice (just like in the river – last week’s analogy – at that moment of power when we have the consciousness to be able to direct ourselves down a new channel).

The process of focusing inwards in order to fully connect with the body and quieten the mind is at the heart of so many of my inspos to date: being centred, grounded, balanced, aligned, feeling ease…and we can consciously choose where we place our focus.

Simply by developing the ability to adjust our ‘awareness lens’ both inwards and outwards, we can keep searching for and choosing the perfect balance of mind and body engagement in order to perform at our best.

Wonderfully, this process is both engaging and rewarding.

EXPLORATION: ADJUSTING YOUR AWARENESS LENS

As you read this inspo, experiment with broadening your focus externally. Become more aware of the whole room you are sitting in, aware of the sounds around you, the things in the room, the amount of light, the colours….broaden your awareness as much as possible.

Now start to focus your awareness more internally. Become aware of your centre in all its dimensions (size, shape, substance, colour). Notice your breathing, how it is moving your body. Become aware of your hands and your feet. Can you feel a specific toe, or a specific finger – then even a particular joint…

  • Now experiment with different amounts of both external and internal awareness.
  • Are you able to hold both at once?
    Is one awareness easier to conjure than the other?
  • Can you choose different points on the external/internal scale to rest your awareness?

As you play your instrument, experiment with the same adjustment of focus between your external and internal awareness and pay attention to the impacts.

Is there a sweet spot when you feel most balanced, alert and in flow? Does this change depending what you are playing, when and where?

Stay curious about your choice of awareness focus – and have fun with it.

My sense is that we are generally more practised at focusing our awareness on the external than the internal – our outward focus simply being more highly developed.

This is especially so when we are under more pressure – like performing, for example!

Over time, practising more consistent and skilled inward engagement, it is possible to master the full range of outward and inward awareness.

With practice, we can choose the most liberating balance of the two from moment to moment.

Tip #3: CHOOSING YOUR LISTENING

How conscious are you of what you are listening for when you play?

Are you taking ownership of your listening choices?

Owning your choices empowers you to improve and develop your playing.

CHOICES + TAKING OWNERSHIP OF YOUR LISTENING

As musicians, I believe the quality of our listening directly defines the quality of our playing. We play what we listen for, so there is great value in developing our creative listening skills.

The first step is to own what we are listening for and doing this is actually quite straight forward:

  • Assume that what you just played is EXACTLY what you listened for (so if you were out of tune, or played a wrong note, assume that you heard it that way).
  • If you are 100% happy with a result, listen for exactly the same thing next time.
  • However, if you want something to be different (for that note to be perfectly in tune, or to play the correct notes) you must change what you are listening for to precisely incorporate this difference.
  • To play differently, you must listen differently.

Helpful hint: Sometimes rather than being something you listened for, it is more accurate that you didn’t listen at all. But by assuming that you heard it that way in the first place gives you power – you can now listen more precisely for what you want the next time.

TRANSISTOR RADIOS + FINE-TUNING OUR EARS

Fine-tuning our listening is similar to the process of fine-tuning a transistor radio.

THE RADIO: Adjusting the radio’s tuning knob, you can tune the radio station to its precise frequency.

Depending on the feedback from the radio, you keep adjusting until the clarity of the broadcast improves. With each adjustment, the static diminishes and the sound becomes clearer and more focused. Based on what you are hearing, finer adjustments are made until the station reception is spot on.

OUR EARS: The process of fine-tuning our ear is similar. As we build musical interpretations, we create an aural picture within our imagination which we in turn listen for when we play.

At first this aural picture is rough and unrefined (as is our interpretation and playing), but over time, through a consistent process of making conscious choices and adjustments, we fine-tune what we are listening for. With each adjustment to the aural picture, it becomes more focused, the details of pitch, rhythm, articulation, colour, character etc. becoming more defined and clear. We keep making adjustments to details and fine-tuning what we are listening for until we are completely satisfied with our interpretation.

Albert Einstein is broadly credited as saying:

the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”

I love how this quote can directly relate to our listening.

In essence, if you keep listening the same way, you’re insane to expect a different result.

If you want to change your playing in any way, you must change what you are listening for.

The key is to choose precisely what you want to change – one detail at a time – then listen for exactly that.

Building your interpretations from notes and rhythms to colours and characters is a step by step process. Pay attention, make new choices and explore different ways to express yourself through developing the detail of your listening.

Enjoy this fine-tuning process!

Tip #4: CHOICE + SETTING YOUR SPACE

 

 

I love the photo above for so many reasons. It’s optimistic and lighthearted, and there is such a wonderful sense of space and clarity.

The chair is grounded on its four legs and at the same time the balloon adds a lovely sense of lift and lightness.

The attitude is joyful.

The feeling and attitude intrinsic within this image offers an opportunity. Imagine what it would be like to play your instrument while sitting on this chair, fully embodying its energy.

  • How would it influence your playing experience?
  • Would it inspire a different sort of energy and awareness of the space around you than usual?
  • What sort of attitude would it encourage within you?

Then, perhaps imagine playing on this chair within an orchestra or ensemble that you frequently find yourself in.

  • Would it change how you usually feel in this setting?
  • Would it inspire a greater sense of space around you?
  • Would it inspire a different attitude in you?
  • What would the differences be compared to how you normally feel?

SETTING YOUR SPACE

Do you consciously take the time to ‘set your space’ before you play?

Do you choose to be physically centred?

Do you generate your sense of space from that centre?

Do you set yourself up to feel grounded, lighthearted and spacious, or do you actually expect to be uncomfortable, distracted and cramped?

Are you making the best choices to support your playing comfort and success?

CHOOSING TO CREATE YOUR SPACE

By taking some conscious time to choose how you set your space within your ensemble environments makes the world of difference to your overall experience.

While surrounded by the busy-ness and distraction of the people around you, taking time to LOCATE YOUR CENTRE within your space is an important step.

When you are centred, you can then generate your personal sense of space OUT FROM YOUR CENTRE, consciously dissolving any self-imposed barriers and limits around you.

You then have the ability to feel spacious and free within your ensemble environment.

At the same time, through being fully connected to your body, you are free from distraction.

You can then choose your attitude, setting the scene for success and enjoyment.

 

The over-riding attitude I choose to bring to performance is one of enjoyment in the whole process.

Enjoyment in making music with my colleagues and sharing the music with the audience.

What is the over-riding attitude you choose to bring to your performances?

TOPIC: Appreciation + Gratitude

Conscious appreciation of what and who we value within our lives can reap great rewards for both ourselves and those around us.

As performers, learning to fully appreciate our own achievements, as well as the achievements of others, supports us to build our confidence and enjoyment in performing.

By regularly acknowledging our appreciation and gratitude we gain more balanced and supportive perspectives of ourselves and others – and perhaps most importantly a more joyful outlook on life.

Click on each tip for the full inspo…

Tip #1: APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE EXPLORATION

What part do appreciation and gratitude play in your general life?

How often do you exercise your appreciation and gratitude muscles?

This week I am keen for you to exercise them daily with a simple acknowledgement. Each day, take a few moments to jot down the following:

Three things that I appreciate right now:
1)…
2)…
3)…

Three things I am grateful for today:
1)…
2)…
3)…

It will be helpful to pick a particular time of day – for example when you have a break for morning tea, or when you first wakeup, or before you go to bed at night.

Try not to repeat yourself from day to day and there are no right or wrong answers.

This is just for you, in order to become conscious of what you value in yourself and your life – nothing is too big or too small.

Try this for one week and observe the impacts.

By consciously strengthening your awareness of appreciation and gratitude within your general life, it will become easier and more natural to apply this awareness specifically to your performing life. 

In turn, this awareness can become a valuable tool for developing a balanced and supportive approach to your creativity and performance.

Til next week, enjoy your discoveries 🙂

Tip #2: APPRECIATION + ACKNOWLEDGING THE POSITIVE

There is no doubt we are living in challenging and uncertain times – especially in the musical arts, with performances cancelled and postponed left, right and centre.

So many people are reporting to me that they are experiencing great swings of energy and motivation – just as I have been. 

This is one reason why I have chosen to focus on APPRECIATION + GRATITUDE this month, as we can all do with more of the positive right now – for the sake of our mental health.

This week, I’m focusing on balancing our acknowledgement of the positive and negative in our creative pursuits – something that doesn’t necessarily come easily to high-achieving musicians!

 

 

BALANCING THE SCALES

The set of scales above provide an opportunity for assessing the balance of our positive versus negative thoughts.

Imagine what runs through your mind as you play your instrument, or think about playing/performing. If all your negative thoughts weighed down one side of the scales and all your positive thoughts weighed down the other, what would the balance look like? Give each side a percentage score – and note this down – for example 60% negative v 40% positive.

Just for a moment, imagine a scenario where the positives outweighed the negative…

This week I am keen for you to simply observe your thoughts in order to notice what balance you have while you are playing. In the process, you will likely become more aware of the thoughts you have and the messages you send yourself.

These are gold! Take note of them. Write them down. Really get to know what messages are potentially running over and over in your mind – helpful and unhelpful.

Being fully aware of your thoughts is the first step in being able to change and evolve them if they don’t serve you well. Then you can start to tip the balance in the positive direction.

ACKNOWLEDGING THE POSITIVE EXPLORATION

Acknowledging the positive actually takes practice. In addition to the general appreciation and gratitude exercise from last week, this week you can turn the focus more specifically onto YOU.

Each day, take a few moments to jot down the following:

Three things I appreciate about myself today:
1)…
2)…
3)…

Three things that I did well/accomplished today in my playing:
1)…
2)…
3)…

Try this for one week and observe the impacts.

By consciously strengthening your appreciation for yourself along with your acknowledgement of the positive within your performing, your confidence will grow, as will your enjoyment of playing.

Tip #3: CELEBRATING OUR WEAKNESSES AND MISTAKES

On the topic of APPRECIATION + ACKNOWLEDGING THE POSITIVE this week I’m keen to draw your attention to an area of your awareness that can easily be soul-destroying as a musician – our weaknesses and mistakes.

It is easy to allow these gremlins to knock you down, but by facing them fully and knowing them in detail, you actually have a reason to celebrate.

Only when you see your weaknesses and mistakes clearly for exactly what they are, do you have a chance to truly evolve, improve and overcome them.

Awareness is the key, and when you have awareness, you can celebrate.

 

FURTHER BALANCING THE SCALES

As a musician continually striving to improve, I am very conscious of being up against my limitations and weaknesses on a daily basis. The particularly hard part of this reality is that once you overcome what’s right in front of you, there is always more to follow.

We are always up against our limitations, weaknesses and mistakes as musicians, so how we handle them is critical for our success and enjoyment.

Learning to face your weaknesses and mistakes in a supportive framework can make a huge difference to your performing experience, and facing them directly is the key to overcoming them.

Rather than running yourself down, or even worse not having the emotional strength to confront and overcome your weaknesses and mistakes, there is always an opportunity to celebrate.

There is gold on each side of the negative/positive scales – as the picture above beautifully illustrates.

Having fun with the balance and using your weaknesses and mistakes to help tip the scales towards the positive is a valuable skill to develop, supporting your ongoing improvement and all important enjoyment in the process.

 

DIAGNOSIS IS THE KEY – AND CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION

Our weaknesses and mistakes offer us an opportunity for positive change.

Only by fully facing each issue without fear, bias or judgement can we accurately diagnose the cause.

And once you have an accurate diagnosis, the solution is usually very clear.

At the point of diagnosis, you have an opportunity to celebrate the weakness or mistake that showed you a positive way forward.

Make sure to take every opportunity to recognise the positive and celebrate your achievements.

Tip #4: ENJOY THE PROCESS

Being a striving musician is challenging.

To improve we have to constantly face our weaknesses.

We overcome one challenge and another appears to confront us.

Also, the more we improve, the more we are aware of what else needs to improve.

It’s a classic case of ‘the more you know, the more you don’t know’.

You get to the top of one peak to find there is yet another higher peak now ahead of you to climb.

So when do we get to really enjoy ourselves?

As well as enjoying our achievements, there is great value in being able to appreciate and enjoy the process.

We can enjoy the pathway we are currently on, like this luscious grassy one, as it leads us to the next peak.

 

ADDING ENJOYMENT TO THE MIX

As with adding EASE in my August inspos, ENJOYMENT can be an attitude, an intention and an expectation, and we can consciously choose to add enjoyment into the mix (or not).

THREE ENJOYMENT EXPLORATIONS

Right now:

  • As you read this inspo, right now, simply introduce the idea of enjoyment into your awareness and notice the impacts.
  • At the very moment that you introduce enjoyment, what changes?

Doing a regular activity that requires your focus – perhaps a sport or whatever you do for exercise:

  • Start as you normally would, then consciously add enjoyment.
  • As always, notice the impacts.
  • Does it give you insight into your normal attitude?
  • As you continue your activity, keep checking in with your awareness of enjoyment. If you have lost it, simply add enjoyment back into the mix and again notice the impacts.
  • What do you learn from this process?

With your instrument:

  • Nominate an amount of time to consciously add enjoyment into the mix, no matter what you are practising. It could be for 10 minutes, 1 hour, a whole practice session.
  • Make ENJOYMENT your number one priority. Keep coming back to your awareness of it regularly and as you do, notice the impacts on your playing at the very moment you notice your enjoyment.
  • Stay vigilant and aim to catch yourself when you have given enjoyment away. Notice what attitude is there instead, then simply add enjoyment back into the mix.
  • What does this process unveil for you?

 

ENJOYMENT is not something you need to wait for or earn!

You can experience enjoyment in the process of climbing that mountain or practising that new technique. You can actively appreciate the value of your efforts and struggles during the process.

With regular practise adding ENJOYMENT into the mix, we learn to appreciate and even be grateful for the challenges and roadblocks we face each day, trusting in and valuing their place within our process and path.

ENJOYMENT is something we choose to welcome in and generate.

Appreciate where you are right now and embrace ENJOYMENT in THIS MOMENT.

2 Comments

  1. Frances Shaw

    Recently back in the saddle with my cello am saying notes aloud in scales instead of just using muscle memory to place the intervals right. Takes a bit of effort but helping my intonation. Hoping to start down a new path of awareness that will help with larger interval shifts in the music. Thanks for these tips as perfect for a return to playing with a new approach!

    Reply
    • Justine

      HI Frances. Great to hear that you are getting back into the saddle and that these inspos are helping you to develop a new approach. Intonation is a lot about supreme balance – from your finger tips to your toes – and so much about really hearing your notes perfectly in tune. Enjoy your discoveries.

      Reply

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