The Mission of Mindful Music Academy is to use music as a practice of Mindfulness. What is Mindfulness? Mindfulness is being Being here, now. Music can serve as a vehicle to practice Mindfulness, for music IS happening in the present moment. Music involves breath, and not only when one plays a wind instrument. When we worry too much about how we are performing or what difficulty is coming up next, we are NOT in the present moment. When we regret past mistakes as we play or sing music, we are NOT being in the present moment. The best way to return our mind and body to the current measure or section of a piece of music is to be right there, right then. "This is it." This sound and my perception of it is the only thing that counts right now.
Mindfulness while experiencing music helps us stay clear of anxiety, that negative voice in our head, our fear of not being perfect, or our fear of being ridiculed. The verb most often used for music is “play.” We play music. Let the playfulness be part of our daily practice in music. Let us rediscover the child-like joy of making beautiful sounds, even as we produce a simple, single tone. One single note can be beautiful if taken in the right context.
Mindfulness is being open to all sounds As one listens to music, one can also practice Mindfulness by trying to absorb the sound without preconceived ideas of what a beautiful sound should be like. Cultures have different preferences in voice timbre, vocal range, scales, harmonies and rhythm patterns. Opera singers in South East Asia often have nasal high-pitched voices while Bulgarian women's choir aim for a high chest voice; Tuva and Mongolia have traditions of singing very low bass voice with the flute-like harmonics on top. In Africa, many attach metal bottle caps to instruments to add a preferred buzzing sound, and sliding voices are preferred in many cultures while others prefer a predetermined pitch. Contemporary music can challenge our ears because they also challenge our preconceived ideas about what is beautiful music. Does beautiful music necessarily mean beautiful sound? And if so, what would this beautiful sound be measured by - Amplitude? Frequency range? Patterns? A balance between familiarity and surprises? As one is mindful, one can enjoy sounds from nature. As we learn HOW to listen to unfamiliar sounds or music pieces, we learns HOW to keep our ears, heart and mind open to a new appreciation of sound.
Mindfulness as a regular practice with sounds By stopping to breathe and restore our calm and our peace, we become free, our work becomes more enjoyable and the person in front of us becomes more real. We can use the ringing of our telephone, the local church bells, an alarm app, or even the sound of fire engines and ambulances as our own chosen signal to stop and breathe. With just three conscious breaths we can release the tensions in our body and mind, be more aware of what we were saying, hearing, tasting…. and return to a cool and clear state of being. The regularity of this practice, through practicing music with lots of stops for breathing, is a way to nurture small joys.
As a learner, one can only catch oneself in the state of daydreaming or out of focus if one has practiced stopping to breathe OUTSIDE of the important moments such as during a test or a performance. One can only catch oneself being emotionally stirred, negatively or positively, if one had stopped regularly just to notice inner emotions OUTSIDE of those moments of passion.
Mindfulness Practice with our posture Playing an instrument is a physical act. Mindful practicing brings good posture and the least effort in producing a good tone, or getting faster our technique at the instrument. Practicing Mindful Movements and Deep Relaxation allows us to listen deeply to our bodies. We learn to be aware of our own posture, recurrent gestures, and we learn to give ourselves space to understand them and to grow. Practicing in this way, our body becomes our friend and will signal to us more clearly when some areas are starting to become tense. Students who develop an acute sense of physical-awareness will rarely practice to the point of injuring themselves. How we walk, move, sit, stand, and hold our body are reflections of our state of mind. When we move with ease others around us will also feel light and relaxed in our presence. Musicians playing in an ensemble communicate through body language. First impressions last, and body language is a big part of that first impression. Performers of any medium know how important it is to walk on stage a certain way, to take bows a certain way, or to communicate our joy of music as we perform. A research study had participants hold a pencil between their teeth and then assign emotions to a group of pictures of neutral faces. Those who held the pencil across, horizontally, using the same muscles as the ones we use when we smile, had a more optimistic outlook than those who held the pencil at the eraser end, because the muscles used were the ones used when we frown.
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