By: Konner Scott
Whatever your thoughts on spirituality and spiritual practices, the science behind meditation is undeniable. It’s been clinically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, boost emotional health, enhance self-awareness, improve attention span… and the list of benefits goes on and on.
I have had a meditation practice in the past, and I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact it can have on my life. Currently, though, I’m too busy most days to step aside for 10-15 minutes and clear my head. I had to make a choice between consistent piano practice and consistent meditation, and piano practice won over.
What I’ve realized, though, is that I can combine the two without losing anything from either! As I returned to piano a couple years ago and began to practice more regularly, I began to see the parallels between meditation and certain elements of my practice routine. In particular, when I was working through difficult passages, breaking them down slowly, and playing them on repeat for minutes at a time, I found myself in that meditative trance- completely immersed in what I was doing without distraction, but also without consciously thinking about what I was doing. It was the sort of “detached focus” that seems to be the goal of meditation.
Many years ago, I read a book called “The Inner Game of Tennis”, recommended to me by my best friend’s bass instructor. He told me that, although the book was technically about tennis, the concepts could be pared down and reapplied to musicianship. I took his word for it, and gave it a chance. That book changed my life, and also helped inform my current philosophy of music as a meditative practice.
The basic idea is that “passive observation” is the gateway to progress with a physical skill. The author explained at length how his tennis students that made the most progress were the ones who passively noted whether or not they were doing something correctly, instead of reacting with judgment against themselves. In that “zen” state, they found their body naturally made the necessary changes to improve their form, and they were able to develop their skill set much more quickly.
For me, thinking about music practice this way has been a double blessing: it’s granted me the same psychological and physiological benefits as meditation, and also been an asset to improving my musical skill more quickly. The best way to practice is to get lost in it!