What is Mindful Music?
It's an integration
Mindful music is an integration of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) through the vehicle of music performance and education.
These approaches include:
Feeling into the body, or interoception, allows us to distinguish between our direct experience of the arising moment and our concepts about our experience. It points us back to the experience itself before our conceptual mind creates a story. It can be the distinction between "what are others thinking of me" and "how do I feel in this moment right now? What is the felt sense of this emotional texture?" Both ways of relating to our experience are helpful and important. Because we largely favor our thinking mind over our direct experience of the moment, discovering embodiment opens up new possibilities of relating with our experience, as it is.
Tracking our felt sense in the body allows for greater connection to ourselves. It provides a means of feeling emotion with more depth and accuracy, increasing our ability to process stress, self regulate, and be less reactive and more responsive. Knowing how to come back to embodiment when the mind is in discursive thinking is foundational for helping students with focusing on any given subject. Continued practice helps us build emotional resilience, the ability to bounce back when faced with stressors, and ultimately leads to social resilience; the ability for a group to thrive in collaboration with generosity and diversity.
In music we practice connecting to our bodies as a means for active listening. We learn how a piece of music moves in us. We practice being in our bodies as we move with our bow; what it feels like in the hands to play a particular passage; the feeling of the embouchure as you play with a full rich sound. With this directness we touch in on a personal knowing, something that words point to but can only be actually experienced directly by a student in their own experience.
In practice we begin to notice we are bigger than thinking; that thoughts arise in the spaciousness of our mind but are not the totality of our mind. Even when we are most distracted we have gaps in our discursive thinking. We notice when we've been distracted and touch into that experience of awareness, without judgement or critique, but with gentleness and curiosity.
This allows for some space between negative self talk and how we are feeling. If a student is stuck on a belief of "I'll never be able to play this! I'm not a good musician..." students can begin to see the thought as an expression of frustration; not as a fact but as a reaction. Thoughts are more information of how we are relating to our present experience. We can come back to the body, be with our experience of frustration, and with time and practice improve. We then shift to the feelings of achievement and success, with greater self confidence.
Creating a Safe Environment and Community
Through learning to relate to our art in this way we cultivate a safe environment in which students have greater willingness to share in creative expression. This still includes focusing on areas of improvement, working with challenges in performance, and assessments both from themselves and from teachers. Rather than seeing these things as a threat, we can more readily see them as opportunities for growth.
As we cultivate emotional and social resilience - we learn to thrive with empathy and compassion. This furthers our ability to thrive in our ensembles and in our group activities with prosocial skills that continue through the students life outside of the classroom.