We live stressful lives! While stress comes from different directions, a prime example is the encroachment of technology in our lives. It has taken away much of our downtime and has blurred the lines between work and home. Most of us struggle to find any time where we are “unplugged.” To deal with stress, many are exploring mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation. Alternatively, engagement in sports and the arts can reap similar benefits. Here, we will explore how piano playing can serve as a mindfulness meditation practice which will improve the quality of your practice at the same time as alleviating stress.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation involves directing our awareness. There are two spaces we can inhabit in our mind. The first is our storytelling mind. In this space, we are either in the past or the future, and our mind spins off into stories or movies. In our stories, we ruminate about how inadequate we have been or how we have been unfairly treated. In addition, we predict disasters and calamities that are about to bestow upon us. As a result, we experience resentment, loneliness, and fear.
Alternatively, we can inhabit the present moment and occupy our senses. Here we experience calmness, serenity, loving-kindness and a sense of connectedness with others. By default, we inhabit the storytelling mind. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of non-judgmentally redirecting our attention to the present moment. As we exercise the “muscle” that redirects our attention, it becomes stronger. This enables us to spend more time in the now and less in our own unique brand of neurosis. We will experience an heightened sense well-being and more happiness.
Mindful Piano Practice
To engage in mindfulness meditation we use an anchor for our awareness which helps us stay present. Frequently, the anchor used is breath. If we are aware of our breath we are in the present moment. It is not possible to breathe in the past or the future. We can also use our breath to anchor our awareness when practicing the piano. Anchors also may include sound, notation, fingering, and rhythm among others. When our mind wanders, as minds like to do, without judgment we redirect our attention to the anchor. If we do this, not only will our practice be more efficacious we will also find relief from our daily stress. One of my students told me that after he practices the piano for 30 minutes he feels a slight buzz. This a result of mindful piano practice.
Mindfulness: The Piano Collection. Published by Faber Music. This book contains 20 intermediate piano pieces. Accompanying each selection is a suggested mindfulness exercise.
Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. Book by Jon Kabat-Zinn
When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress. Book by Gabor Maté