Mindfulness is a term that gets tossed around a lot but what does it mean? Do you think of sitting in a lotus position and chanting “OM”? Do you think that it’s something that can only be done if you have a lot of time or exceptional focus?
There are a lot of ways to approach mindfulness. I tend to gravitate to the definition of mindfulness given by Marsha Linehan in her DBT Skills Training Manual. “’Mindfulness’ is the act of consciously focusing the mind in the present moment without judgement and without attachment to the moment.” If you have ever taken instrumental lessons or learned a new sport, you may remember the process of picking up that instrument or trying that athletic skill for the first time. You may have been extremely focused on how you were doing. Mindfulness is kind of like that. In mindfulness, you focus on what you are doing on the present moment without getting stuck there. In time, you may be able to expand your awareness to not only how you are holding your instrument but how you are sitting in your chair and how your part interacts with the other musicians.
Why is this important? The more time crunched we become, the more tempted we are to multi-task. This is rarely effective and may actually lead to less productivity. I have some chronic over-use and mis-use injuries because it is too easy to not focus on my body.
The first thing to keep in mind when implementing a mindfulness practice is that there are a number of ways to do it. Find that practice that works for you. Music can be a focal point when incorporating a meditative practice. Also, remember that the goal is not to eliminate extraneous thoughts but to learn how to let them go and bring your focus back to the task at hand. It may also mean finding some ways to deal with those “popcorn thoughts”. I find having some notepads on hand to write things down can be helpful. Mindfulness is a skill that needs to be practiced and can get better with time. Just because a certain practice doesn’t work for you now doesn’t mean that it won’t work later when you have become more skilled.