My way of teaching piano uses mindfulness. You might not know that because I haven’t used that word much lately. That’s because it has connotations I’m trying to avoid. But, I got an email from someone who’s interested in mindfulness. So, let’s talk about it.
(The email is in a bold italic font, and my responses are in a regular font.)
“Hi Michael! I read your page about mindfulness for musicians. I think it’s great because we need more mindfulness in the world.”
There’s a blast from the past. That article was among was first I wrote after I decided to make mindfulness the core of my piano teaching. Now that you mention it, I’m going to have to go back and clean it up. I haven’t changed my mind on anything, but I’d use different language today.
But still, I’m glad you’re inspired by it. We do need more mindfulness in the world.
Hold on, let me pause here because the word “mindfulness” has connotations that I’ve got to address.
Take a stroll through the Mindfulness section of the bookstore. You’ll see books about relaxation, aromatherapy, self-esteem, as well as something called “adult coloring books.”
None of that is what I’m talking about when I use the word “mindfulness.”
Real mindfulness is deep training for your mind.
“I’m not sure if I qualify as a musician or not. I took piano lessons when I was a kid but I barely remember any of it.”
I’m not sure I qualify as a musician either (that’s why I sometimes use the term “KorMusic” for what I do).
Let me be more straightforward. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a musician if you make the decision to call yourself a musician. You don’t need a license.
“Now, I’m 35 and I want to get back into it.”
No time like the present.
“I also meditate and found that it’s helped me with my anxiety. I remember piano lessons being very stressful and I’m worried that will happen again.”
My guess is you were taking piano lessons against your will.
As an adult, you’re now free to come and go as you please. But, if you’re like most adults who’ve been traumatized by school, you still act like a child. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. But, it will hold you back until you fix it.
Learning piano should be stressful. Your mind’s job is to conserve energy, to maintain the status quo. That means keeping you in your comfort zone. Stress happens when you leave your comfort zone. To learn a new skill, you must leave your comfort zone.
Stress is unavoidable, so don’t try to avoid it. Instead, face it head-on and use it to help you learn.
The solution is the same whether you’re learning on your own or with a teacher. What you’ve got to do is get clear on what exercises you’re using to train yourself with. Then, do those exercises (even if they’re stressful). The exercises will teach you.
(If you want to work with me 1-1 online, I have a great deal right now.)
“I like how you say it’s important to be nonjudgmental. Do you have any tips about how I can avoid judging myself as I get back into piano? Thank you.”
At this point, you can’t avoid judging yourself. Your mind has been trained from a young age to judge, so don’t fight it. Let it happen and keep doing the exercises.
Thanks for your email,
If you have a question you’d like me to consider answering in a future article, you can send it (3-4 paragraphs/500 words max) to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.