I’m thrilled to welcome musician and certified yoga instructor Brianne Borden to be today’s guest on the Honesty Pill blog! Be sure to watch her five minute guided practice break meditation video a the end of this article!
About Brianne: As an ERYT-200 & YACEP certified yoga instructor, Brianne teaches and regularly leads trainings through CorePower Yoga. Brianne currently attends Arizona State University as a DMA candidate in Trumpet Performance, where she served as Teaching Assistant from 2016-2018. See below for Brianne’s complete bio.
Thanks to Brianne for contributing, and enjoy the post!
Practice Room Mindfulness in 5 Minutes a Day
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably seen the word “mindfulness” popping up more and more these days. Musicians are getting on board with seeing the significance in this practice, and I’m here to tell you that they’re right! It is so important and I’ll get to that in just a moment.
First, let’s define mindfulness.
Good ol’ Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
I personally love this definition purely because it includes the words “practice” and “nonjudgmental.”
When I first started acknowledging mindfulness, I wanted more than anything to be good at it. As a Type A, color coded note taker and obsessive direction follower, I really wanted to be able to sit down, practice mindfulness, and master it. After a rude awakening, I have come to terms with the fact that I may never master it. In fact, that may not even be possible, and that’s okay! It has still changed my life in truly drastic ways.
This brings us to the word “practice.” Just like playing an instrument, there are always things to improve on. But just like playing an instrument, the more you do it, the more it starts to feel like home. The first couple of times may feel a little awkward and uncomfortable. Eventually, you will grow into it and it will integrate itself into every part of your life. You will be able to find a sense of mindfulness in a lot of things you do – homework, practicing, dishes, conversations, the list goes on and on.
Now let’s talk about the “nonjudgmental” aspect of the definition. If you resonated with my earlier words on being Type A and you are competitive, goal oriented, and fall in the same categories as most classical musicians – this part might be really hard for you.
We are primed to criticize. I started classical music at an early age, which means receiving feedback and criticism, and providing it for myself in the practice room, have been an integral part of my development as a musician and human. Many young musicians are graded extensively at solo competitions and ranked against their peers for top ensembles. I’m not against this system by any means. I am, however, against what it instilled within me and has for many of my students. I became attached to my mistakes. I felt and sometimes still feel (it’s a practice, remember?) like my worth is defined by my range and how fast I can multiple tongue. If I could compete with the Jolivet Trumpet Concerto, then I’m good, right? If I missed notes, played too sharp (cough, I did…), then I’m not good.
Ahh how wrong I was… I was playing a challenging piece that I loved, and put my heart and soul into it. If you ask me, that’s pretty darn good. The second we add attachment and labels to a moment outside of the present, that’s when we no longer set ourselves up for success. So, you missed a note? There is absolutely nothing you can do about it after the fact, and judging yourself and lingering in that past moment will only alter the moment you’re currently in. I have seen so many musicians miss one note that they have placed significant value on for one reason or another, then proceed to snowball and miss a whole bunch of other notes they could’ve easily nailed.
Feedback and self awareness are important tools to succeed. Judgement, doubt, and attachment will often just cause self-sabotage. Through the practice of mindfulness, it is possible to provide feedback for yourself in the moment, without getting down on yourself.
Important things to know about mindfulness:
Mindfulness is takes many shapes and goes by many names.
Mindfulness does not have to be an additional practice. You already have the capacity to be present. You can cultivate the ability to be mindful through simple practices that are scientifically demonstrated to benefit other aspects of your life.
Anyone can do it. Anywhere.
It’s evidence-based. You don’t have to take mindfulness on faith. Both science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships.
Why mindfulness is important:
In short, it teaches us to respond instead of react. Allowing yourself to asses the present moment lessens stress and worry about things out of your control. It gives you the ability to give yourself constructive feedback on what’s happening in the present moment, and if anything needs to shift in order for future moments to be great.
Let’s go back to missing notes (can you tell I’m a brass player?) – Hypothetically, I miss a note in a performance. I have an option. I can either: A. react with stress, become mad at myself, tense up and ultimately very likely miss more notes. OR B. respond with assessing what’s happening and ask myself questions. “Are my lips getting tired? Am I taking shallow or deep breaths? What’s my posture like?” This option is accompanied by non-judgment and problem solving, instead of the anxious spiral that accompanies option A. Option B is however, a bit more difficult for most people and requires a lot of practice. But it is SO WORTH IT.
As I previously mentioned, mindfulness can be practiced during pretty much every activity. I like to practice it through meditation in an attempt to isolate myself from any distractions that could pull me away. When I meditate regularly, I am able to put that practice to use when busy doing other things as well.
ACTION ITEM: Take a couple minutes to be mindful today and share with the community what your experience was. Was this your first experience with practicing mindfulness? Were you practicing your instrument? Meditating? Vacuuming?
You can practice on your own right now by following this checklist (I recommend journaling about what you notice):
Find a comfortable seat and posture and set a timer for just three minutes
Start to tap in to your inhales and exhales
Acknowledge the sounds around you
Assess how your body feels, areas that feel relaxed and areas that hold tension
Notice any thoughts entering your mind, but let them float away with your exhales
Bring your attention back to your breath and the present moment any time you feel your mind wander
Continue until your timer goes off and carry on with your day!
If you’d like to be guided through a mindfulness practice, here’s a meditation for you, whether you’re brand new to the mindfulness journey or have been practicing for years.
Brianne Borden currently attends Arizona State University as a DMA candidate in Trumpet Performance, where she served as Teaching Assistant from 2016-2018. Throughout the years, Brianne has competed nationally as both a soloist and an ensemble member, and performed on an international level. She is also an avid freelancer and private studio teacher within the Phoenix valley. As an ERYT-200 & YACEP certified yoga instructor, Brianne teaches and regularly leads trainings through CorePower Yoga. Brianne melds her two passions and is a devoted researcher in the field of wellness for musicians. She has published multiple articles and created workshops on ways to incorporate yoga into a musician’s lifestyle in order to counteract repetitive motion injuries, battle performance anxiety, and live a healthier life. Brianne is an active clinician and performer, having presented at numerous universities and conferences around the country. She shares tools for musicians through videos online at her website at www.yoga-for-musicians.com