Blog: The Important Things

Blog: The Important Things

February 1, 2013

It is such a blessing to be able to play and live music daily.

Sometimes there’s a lot of stress involved. There’s no question, that preparing for so many events at once and staying on top of your game can be stressful. Constant practice and performance pressure keeps you on your toes, or fingers as the case may be. But I wouldn’t give up playing music for anything … and especially playing harp!

Sometimes though, it’s really hard to drag your butt into the practice room … yet again! Or to the yoga mat either, the laundry room, the dishes in the sink, the oil change, the bank, etc, etc, etc. We feel like there’s something better that we have to get to and all this little stuff is keeping us away from our [      ] what? What are these things keeping us away from? If it’s hard to go into the practice room, then what else is there that’s so important to do that we sometimes feel that practicing is getting in our way? The big news is; the practice is it.

Those little chores that we do everyday are important to our life. Clean clothes, a smooth running car, food on the table are tending to the basics of life. We feel safe and secure when the basics are taken care of. They are important to our well-being. Paying attention to those phrase markings, the actual notes on the page, the dynamics, are essential to the full potential of the piece, within you. You pull them out. When you’re in the moment playing, they feel good, safe and secure because you have really taken care of them daily, mindfully and with love of the task at hand. It’s practicing mindfulness.


Musicians need goals, and the biggest sense of accomplish we can tangibly see or hear is the concert. The final concert. All the hours of work, preparation and sweat coming to fruition, sometimes in one 1-½ hour shot. Hopefully, we get to repeat that particular concert, but many times not.

When we practice again and again and as our talents and postures grow, and as we mature physically, it’s easy to just want to get to the concert. Just get me to that end-all, ultimate experience. I’m going to cram the notes and try to play faster and louder, in two days. Or, I’m going to go directly into hand-stand without that breathing, consciousness, aligning stuff, or even, I’m thinking about who I’ve got to call when I get out of handstand or done cramming these notes so that I don’t even remember doing the handstand or cramming the notes!!

If we can change how we are thinking as we practice, we can allow ourselves the concert experience every time. This time as I play, I am going to remember it. Notice how it feels in each finger, each breath. Listen to the vibrations in the room, feel them against your body, take that breath and direct it into a place in the body/mind or into the energy of the self. That is the experience. That’s the “thing” you have to do. It’s experiencing your highest potential every single time, not just in the concert.

I took a weekend yoga workshop, where the guru-maestro, (my title for an awesome teacher/leader) had us mathematically figure out how many breaths we had left in this life. It was stunning to say the least. Especially since someone had just turned 50. When you see it on paper in front of you it awakens you to your immediate moment. It’s more than an “aha” moment. It’s screaming at you that today counts. How many more practices is it going to take you to reach your full potential? Your full potential is right now, no matter where you are in your study, your are the best you can be right now, open into it, let all judgments go and relish every note, so that you remember the experience of it.

Teaching ourselves the habits of unconscious practice

So many of my students, harp and yoga, come to a lesson having practiced unconsciously. Because of this, they can’t remember parts of the piece, or play it so fast that its messy, uneven or basically unloved, just to get it done. We all do this. In all of our work. We have learned to do this. Teaching ourselves the habits of unconscious practice. We feel the performance deadline looming, feel the need to be perfect, or that we’re not at a certain performance level. We concentrate only on technique perhaps and worry about what might happen if we mess up, which is usually nothing. But if we love all the moments we have at the harp, then we will understand that it’s the practice that is life. Or I could say, it’s the playing that is life. From the love of playing comes joy, fulfillment and more love. We can reach down deep and pull out our full human potential in that moment.

What else do we have to do that is more important than that?

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