Practice is something that is a big part of my life. It used to be that the term only applied to practicing my trumpet, which I do on a daily basis. As I mentioned in the post First, A Little History, when I was younger I hated to practice. My mom had to pay me to get me to practice piano! But as I’ve gotten older I have come to understand that slow and steady practice is the only way to improve at anything. Now, the moments I spend in the practice room are some of the happiest and most contented moment in my day. It’s a time when everything else recedes into the background and I can focus on one thing – SOUND.
All of these things are related and speak to something that has become very important to me: living fully in the present moment.
In his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Zen master, poet, and peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about using doing the dishes as a meditation. His point is that anything can be used to lead you into mindfulness, or presence. When you’re doing the dishes, be fully present and do not think about all the other things you need to do or what you’re going to do when you’re done. Just do the dishes! Sounds simple, right? Give it a try and you’ll see that it takes…practice!
I feel very fortunate that one of the most important aspects of my job also helps me practice being present. Sitting in my studio and playing long tones, scales and exercises is one of the best ways to center my mind and align myself with the present. That’s the only way to make the practice time effective. If I’m daydreaming or thinking about all the emails I have to reply to while I’m practicing then I’m not listening. And if I’m not listening I’m not doing my job. It’s like when you read a page in a book and get to the bottom, only to realize that you have no idea what you just read! That doesn’t do any good for my trumpet playing or my desire to be present.
In this day and age when email, Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feeds and 24-hour news cycles are constantly begging for our attention, it’s harder than ever to slow down and focus on the present moment. So find something you can do for a few minutes each day that clears your mind and brings you back to the present. Whether it’s doing the dishes, yoga or practicing an instrument, try to do it with mindfulness and let all the stresses of the past and the future float away as you focus on your task.
If you need some help getting started, follow the links to the teachers above. They all come at it from different perspectives but are all focused on being present.
Me, I’m going to go practice. 😉
P.S. – This post was inspired by my friend Michelle and a recent post on her blog Sage Wedding Pros. Thanks Michelle!