Based on personal experience and observation, I believe that meditating helps individuals THRIVE.
Therefor, I’m devoting a blog series on MEDITATING techniques I have used in my teaching practice as a way to GIVE forward. So - please feel free to share these blogs and employ for yourself.
I began meditating in 1972 and I began teaching meditation in 1992 as a part of private music lessons.
In 1993 when I opened a private music school location, I did a private study for a full year regarding the effects of students who did and didn’t meditate. I randomly selected (wrote names down and pulled out of a hat) 50% of my students to regularly meditate at the start of each lesson. Reason being, 5 to 10 minutes out of a private 45 or 60 minute lesson is a lot of time, and out of concern and respect to the time and money of my employers, I thought it ethical to do this test study to justify all that time spent in what was usually a once a week music lesson.
I learned this:
100% of students who DID meditate at the beginning of each lesson:
1) learned more than those who didn’t
2) retained more “ “
3) connected better with music emotionally and intellectually ““
(thereby having a more fulfilling experience)
4) had a better connection with me ““
5) remained a private student longer ““
6) continued longer with their private relationship with music ““
7) had better concentration during their lessons ““
What is certain is that they clearly made more progress and advancement in their ability to play their instrument than those who did not. They clearly went further in their books, skills, musicality and capabilities as an instrumentalist even though a chunk of lesson time was spent meditating and not focusing on playing the instrument.
As a result of this test, I made meditation at the start of most music lessons, a ritual. (With oboe students - while the reed soaked and while the top joint of the oboe got warm nestled under the armpit!)
There have only been a handful of students in which I did not, start lessons with meditation simply because it seemed like it was too weird for them, and it would have put them too far out of their comfort zone. Since emotional comfort and safety and security is paramount in the art of private tutoring, I didn’t insist, out of respect for their emotional health based on their personal relationship with life. Even so with those students, they benefited with a few deep breaths, improved posture, firmly getting their feet connected to the ground, making eye contact and using long tones, or relaxed breathing and observing a moment of silence FIRST - as an essential “substitute” to a formal meditation
There is no “one size fits all” in the art of teaching …. especially, in music.
Interesting to point out, now, YEARS and even decades even, I have heard back from a few students who have told me that learning meditation from me (especially the 5 step focus) was one of the most valuable things they’ve learned influencing their quality of LIFE and wellness.
Speaking for myself, my life quality is increased through meditation regarding :
Simply put, here is the outline for the 5 step focus:
Step 1: focus your attention on breathing (just observe) and practice excellent meditation posture *
Step 2: continue step one and add to your awareness/concentration ALL you can hear
Step 3: continue step 2 and now, deliberately breathe fuller, deeper and slower. Also, notice what you can smell as you inhale. Sweep mind from head to toe and relax any tension you may notice.
Step 4: continue step 3 with some sort of greater awareness ^
Step 5: continue step 4, put your fingers together (pinky to pinky, thumb to thumb and so on), and open your eyes adding sight to your awareness WITHOUT ALLOWING SIGHT TO ECLIPSE YOUR OTHER SENSES
There is an art to this meditation and it’s important to observe excellent posture to avoid injury - especially eye strain! Please note: Details to excellent posture can make or break the efficacy of this meditation.
* excellent posture includes the following observations
1) establishing a strong connection with the ground - some call this GROUNDING
Since my students were sitting in a chair for their music lesson, I’d say, pretend your feet and seat are attached with velcroe to the chair and floor. Pretend the weight of your body is a rock and is securely and solidly resting on the chair.
2) elevate rib cage and comfortably elongate the spine, stretching top of spine at base of head up
3) gently and slightly lower the chin
4) relax muscles around eyes, cheeks, and belly button
5) relax tongue and throat, put tip of tongue touching and resting behind upper teeth
6) note specific hand positions - individually led - palms up resting on lap with thumb and selected other fingertip touching a good habit
7) eyes fully or partially closed - FREE OF EYE MUSCLE TENSION - make sure eyebrows are not furrowed!
^ examples include - special awareness to quality of air in room such as humidity, temperature, vibe even, acoustics - all helpful for oboists, also, could be greater awareness to nuances of physical changes from inhaling to exhaling, or greater awareness to qualities of what one hears…. it’s nice to allow this step to be flexible to change up and keep fresh the meditation and still maintain consistency of steps
It’s important that a student or one meditating feels emotionally safe and meditating at the beginning of a lesson creates a safe haven for intellectual and emotional artistic exploration.
Each step of the 5 step focus can last as long as you choose. For a normal music lesson, I simply approximated ONE minute per step, with very advanced students - 30” a step was sufficient.
The IDEAL is to life perpetually in the state of the 5th step - albeit with hands free.
There is a 6th step for those interested.
Step 6: continue step 5 and ask yourself “WHO is listening through these ears, WHO is seeing through these eyes….” I’d only recommend step 6 for adults or philosophical teenagers ready for an intellectual challenge and even then - with careful discretion. So, if this doesn’t appeal to you - forget it.
Last but not least:
Once this meditation has become a habit - one can simply put fingertips together, get soles of feet connected with the ground and/or seat, take a deep breath eyes closed, then deep breath eyes open and by conditioning experience a strong sense of presence regaining that usual state of the onset of step 5.
EXTREMELY useful to do this before performing, teaching, writing, public speaking, taking a test, studying, being interviewed - etc. !!!
Feel free to email me questions for free and/or schedule a SKYPE session or phone call for personalized instruction. $ 1 per minute by prepaid appointment via PayPal. 10 minute minimum for meditation coaching. Minors must be accompanied by a legal guardian.
More blogs to come on this subject.
Thank you and all the best,
August 4, 2019