What is the secret to FOCUS?
There are many distractions in life, often it becomes a barrage of information, lists of things to do, places to be, deadlines to meet. There is physical clutter and emotional clutter, all vying for our time , attention and energy.
Every day I hear:
“I’m so busy… we’re all so busy… I haven’t stopped… I just keep going…there’s no time to THINK.
As a musician, I practice to STILLNESS and THINKING with FOCUS. It involves setting aside time and creating space for observing, understanding, sensing, listening, enjoying, playing or allowing oneself to BE with the music.
If I choose to play a piece of music I can rush into it, start to finish, glossing over the notes and finger patterns, eager to create the sound I want or alternatively I can go GENTLY. These days when playing a piece of music I CHOOSE to go gently, with patience and openness. Thousands of notes on the page to a novice may look like jumbled chaos, and finding the ordering of the notes, the correct articulation and phrasing combined with dynamic contour can be overwhelming.
Next time you start a new piece of music, go gently, one note at a time, listen to how one melodic note leads to another. Notice the flow of tension or support from one phrase to another, and listen intently to the subtle changes in harmony. Repeat the smaller sections many times until it becomes automatic. Then add another layer, some refinement of articulation and colour with dynamics.
It is the same with composing, it takes patience, time and listening, appreciating the beauty in the small, allowing yourself to enjoy your own time, your ability to interpret and understand.
Go gently and the music will follow. This is how I allow myself time and energy to nurture myself. In this I am not being overly BUSY, but FOCUSED in a healthful way.
Three years ago I started my BIKRAM YOGA journey. For anyone who practices yoga in 40 degree heat, the mental journey is as hard as the physical one. Not before too long I realised that I had an ability to focus which became a source of curiosity. When people were falling out of postures, I would hold on strong, drawing upon inner strength and zoning out on what was happening around me. I just listened to the instruction, moved with the dialogue and held on beyond the pain threshold. After 12 months of classes, my instructor asked me whether I would like to compete in the state yoga championship!
Whilst deciding it wasn’t the right time to launch into championship preparation mode, I recognised the connection between focus in music learning and the concentration required to perform difficult postures in yoga. The focus came from the same place – a gentleness, a softening, a surrender to time and space in an unforced way. The yogis that I really admired all had this calm presence about them, unhurried, focused and energised but without fuss and busy-ness.
This is why music is my life, education is my passion and yoga is my discipline to keep everything balanced and in perspective.
Go gently when you play music, allow yourself to BE.