Our guest writer, Gideon Waxman, introduces you into mindfulness as a technique for musicians and some top tips for cultivating this mindfulness.
The way we listen to music has forced a drastic change in the music industry over the past decade, and this transformation to meet consumer buying habits has seen the rise of digital titans such as Spotify and YouTube.
A study showed that in 2017, digital downloads and streaming made up 82% of the total revenues of recorded music in the USA. This monumental change has forced an incredible shift in the way the entire music industry operates. And it’s not good news for the artist, or any music company. It would seem the only clear winner is the consumer.
Coincidentally enough, this 82% statistic presents itself once more, this time reflecting the impact of the change of the music industry. A brand new study reveals a shocking statistic that 82% of music industry workers are subjected to “continuous levels of stress”.
And perhaps even more alarming is the fact almost half of the music industry workers surveyed said their work in music has even led to a “constant feeling of anxiety and sadness.” Lack of income and support were noted as the largest causes of worry.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the activity of being fully engaged in the present moment. The mind is given the freedom to rest in a natural state of awareness and is gently undistracted from the persistent chatter of everyday life.
Humans have been involved with the practice of mindfulness meditation for thousands of years. Meditation may conjure up images of monks having achieved enlightenment with incredible skill. The reality, however, is that mindfulness is a practice that can be learned by anyone.
The intention of mindfulness is to draw the mind to focus on the senses. As a practice it is not about achieving a particular goal, but to simply be absorbed in what can be experienced in the here and now.
It is not about having expectations to eliminate negative thoughts or sadness, but to be kindly accepting of any thoughts or feelings that arise during mindfulness. The approach encompasses a lighthearted attitude towards internal dialogue.
The mind is a story-telling machine. It loves to plan, scheme, look to the future, overthink past events, create story lines and organise itself in a way that isn’t always beneficial. And often what we do, and is so hardwired by our evolutionary biology, is to fight or run away from painful thoughts and feelings. But instead of doing this, we possess the ability to train the mind to let thoughts come and go without buying into them tirelessly.
How To Learn Mindfulness
The best part of mindfulness is that it does not require any tools or any particular framework to enjoy its benefits. As a practice it can be applied towards any of life’s activities!
A great exercise to begin with is a short breathing exercise, whilst sat on a comfortable, upright chair. All that is required is to relax and focus on your breathing for 10 minutes, taking in deep breaths through the nose, and then exhaling out through the mouth.
Really bring a sense of curiosity to all the sensations that may arise. Feel the sensations everywhere in the body, from the top of your head all the way down to the soles of your feet touching the floor.
Applying Mindfulness Within Music
Performing music is an excellent focus for the mind, and mindfulness training allows you to absorb all of the sensations to enable you to enjoy exactly what is happening in the present moment.
Performing an instrument or singing is a full-body experience, with a host of sensory information to have the opportunity to pay attention to. The sounds, visuals and sensations will all be available for you to engage with.
Learning to let thoughts come and go will allow you to perform free from judgement, expectations and also self-doubt. Mindfulness encourages individuals to engage with a sense of child-like curiosity that exists within everyone.
The nature of the music industry is business-oriented and thus demands performance and strong results. This often brings unnecessary judgement, criticism and comparisons to the forefront of the mind. Mindfulness counteracts these by giving you the freedom to not have to engage in these thoughts, but rather to simply enjoy performing music!
Mindfulness is often misunderstood to be a ‘fluffy’ concept or something that is far too good to be true. It is very real, and freely available to everybody. The NHS has introduced mindfulness as advised by NICE (The UK’s National Institute for Health and Excellence) as the most effective tool for helping patients suffering with relapsing anxiety and depression amongst other illnesses.
Mindfulness also has the ability to increase energy levels and provide greater self-acceptance whilst instilling positive feelings of calm and relaxation.
There are lots of great resources available to help train the mind with mindfulness meditation. For more information check out the following websites:
Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer with over 13 years experience, and is qualified in mindfulness based stress reduction. You can find more of his tips at Drum Helper – a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.