6 Reasons oboists should meditate
I am a huge proponent of meditation for personal well-being. It plays a huge role in my life to reduce stress, increase focus, increase creativity, relieve and prevent tension within the body, as well as provide numerous other benefits. There has been a lot of studies recently promoting the positive benefits a meditation practice can play in an individual’s life. I have been practicing intensely for several years and have observed great returns in the time spent practicing. I feel while it is a beneficial process for everyone, from my own experience there are at least 6 Reasons oboists will benefit from developing a mindful meditation practice.
Meditation can prevent the mind from wandering in long rehearsals and performances.
Sitting in rehearsals listening to the string section be rehearsed for 30 minutes while the winds and brass sit and wait can present frustrations and negative thoughts. This is a great time to sit and observe the mind. Begin to watch all the thoughts that pass through the mind, and the feelings they bring with them. Notice how identified you are with the thoughts. Are you thinking the conductor does not know what they are doing? are you feeling frustrated from sitting with no stimulation? Are you worried about a project that needs to be finished? Be aware of these thoughts and sensations. Notice where they are coming from, and allow them to come into the mind and pass. Practicing meditation will make the mind more focused and less irritated, allowing for more enjoyable experiences. The focus developed in rehearsal settings will carry over to performance. We must be very focused when we are performing. Having a focused mind in rehearsal will allow us to have greater focus in performance. Being attentive to the workings of the mind will make it wander less and less over time. Sitting in long rehearsals is also a great time to begin a meditation practice! We need to be there anyway, we may as well do something very productive with our time.
Meditation will allow practicing to be more enjoyable.
The greater a meditation practice becomes, the less we feel negative thoughts and emotions associated with things. With meditation comes a peaceful mind not troubled by the repetitive form that practicing sometimes needs to take. The practice session itself will be more focused and the brain will be able to learn more efficiently. Thoughts can be a form of multi tasking and multi tasking is actually very inefficient. We can focus on the task, or we can focus on the thoughts we have about the task. Meditation will provide the deeper focus we can all benefit from in practice.
Mindfulness meditation allows us to be more aware of our body and the tensions we hold within it.
We oboists are often tensing all sorts of muscles that do not need to be used in the process of oboe playing. Alexander technique is a awareness practice that teachers us to be conscious of the way we are using our bodies. Alexander technique is at its root a practice in mindfulness. We bring awareness into the body and feel the sensations that may have become unconscious. We often hold ourselves in such a way that we forget we do it after some time. I personally had a lot of tension within my body in the past and still work to be aware of the tension I create. This is an ongoing, never ending process. The more we can be outside of the mind and in the body the more we can perceive the problems we create in our bodies. This is important for reed making as well, where we can often create tension in our hands, arms, necks, and backs from sitting hunched over a desk for long periods. Being mindful of the body as we play and make reeds will bring more ease to playing.
Meditation can make reed making less frustrating.
Reed making can be a very rewarding process. An hour spent making a beautiful reed can feel like instant gratification on an instrument that often takes many years to learn to play, and a lifetime to master. We spend hours practicing with small returns. A great reed can make us sound better in seconds. The process can be frustrating when things are not going our way. We may spend an hour making a reed only to hack off a tip and ruin it. Meditation can separate us from our attachment to the process. The end product becomes less meaningful than the learning process and progress. The attachment I mention is the feeling that we are somehow attached to the outcome of the process. I find with a meditative mind, the process itself is the goal The mental chatter of “I cant believe I just ruined this reed”, “I am a terrible reed maker”, ” I am a hate making oboe reeds”. The setbacks become more of objective observations we can grow from. Meditation can give us emotional stability when we have moments of frustration and allow us to escape our reed ruts more easily . A meditation practice will also give the reed maker more focus within the process, allowing them to reach deeper levels of intuitive understanding.
Meditation can drastically reduce performance anxiety.
“The Inner Game of Music” is a book that has been in the consciousness of musicians since it was written. The book talks about the inner chatter we musicians face, often the chatter is negative in nature. This inner dialog often talks us into worrying about all sorts of aspects of performance. “here comes that hard part”, “ohh no, I always miss this section”, “I hope my reed works for this low Bb”, or even “I am the greatest oboist ever”. This mental chatter is often referred to as the “Ego” in self development and spiritual circles or self 2 in the inner game of music.. This “ego” is slightly different than Freud’s concept as I understand it . The “ego” in this case is the mental definition, perhaps more accurately, mental limitation of self. The mind defining the self, vs the mind observing the self. The mental chatter is often present and becomes part of our experience to the point that we forget to step back and realize it is simply a thought within the mind. Meditation will help to stop the mental chatter over time, allowing us to experience the event without the interference of the mental voice.
The anxieties we have in performance is often made worse because the judgments we have of the feelings we are experiencing. “I hate feeling anxious” is the mind defining a feeling. The feeling itself is natural and can help with focus, but the mind interprets it as somehow negative, creating more anxiety. The mind and feelings we experience can often create a downward spiral of more thoughts and stronger feelings of anxiety. Mediation can allow participants to step back from the thoughts and not get too caught up in the anxieties that performance can bring us. Excitement and anxiety are similar feelings, the major difference is how we perceive them. Meditation can help the mind to perceive anxiety simply as it exists, without the need to get so caught up in it.
Meditation will make oboist experience more self confidence.
I define confidence not as something we have, but as the things we lack. Lack of doubt, lack of fear based limitations, lack of negative self talk define confidence within a situation. Confidence is not the mind thinking ” I am great” or “I am better than you”, those are signs we are being defined by our minds, not using the mind as a tool for observation and growth. That is not to say there is not a place for positive mental self talk, but it should be recognized as a tool, and not as the goal. Confidence is not lack of anxiety within a performance situation but recognizing it, feeling it, and using it as a tool to add excitement to the experience. Meditation can allow the oboist to step back from the feelings of fear, doubt, and self talk to observe the whole situation objectively. With time and attention we stop being attached to thoughts and feelings and they fade away. We are not afraid, we feel fear, we are not doubtful, we experience doubt, we are not the mind, we have a mind, we are not our emotions, we feel emotions. Meditation will allow the student to recognize this as a reality over time and not simply an intellectual exercise.
Feel free to leave any comments in the comment section. Subscribe to my blog to keep up to date on all sorts of oboe, oboe reed, and learning resources. Happy obo(e)ing.