Practice in the Moment

“Live in the moment” is conventional wisdom; “don’t let life pass you by.”  When hiking, one often hears “stop and smell the roses.”  I once met a man who had thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and had taken 8 months to do so.  He told us, “I stopped and smelled ALL the roses!”

But what does that actually mean?  I think it boils down to just being acutely aware of everything that is happening at a particular point in time.  And that it is easier said than done.  The mind (or at least my mind) too easily wanders off to think about what is happening later that day or even later that month or year.  This is not to say that keeping the future in perspective is a bad thing but it is important to know when to turn it off.

Backpacking is good for practicing this.  If I am on some mountain top in the wilderness, there is very little I can do about my bills that need paying or my website that needs updating, for example.  When my mind wanders, I can allow it to settle back into the present because the present is the only thing I can control.  In that way, I can allow myself to become aware of all of my surroundings in that moment and appreciate the beauty around me.

Musicians have to practice in this frame of mind.  Allowing the conscious to become aware of all that is happening in the practice room (or practice space) is the only way to be productive.  When reading, if the mind drifts off to daydream, you might find that you have read a whole page but can’t remember any of it.  If this happens while practicing, whole scales or passages of music will have drifted past unacknowledged and unremembered.  More crucially, mistakes in music may have drifted past unmarked and unfixed.  In some cases, this could be disastrous.

Allowing the mind to be present in the moment in the practice room will make practicing efficient and productive.

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