I wrote recently about the importance of remaining in the moment when practicing. One must practice in the same mindset in which one meditates, does yoga, or backpacks (which is how I view it). Here are some ways of practicing in (what I think of as) the Zen mode.
I really like the meditation tutorials laid out by the free website/app “Headspace“. I have not been paid to promote the site, I have just been extremely influenced by its message. Much of my practicing is now based on the principles discussed in those free modules.
The key is to allow the mind to settle into the present moment and let it become aware of all that is going on: how the body feels, how the instrument sounds, how the room sounds, and how much energy is being used to make something happen.
The word choice here is key: “allowing it to happen” rather that forcing it to happen. I have found that forcing the conscience to do something can make it push back. If I am ever fighting to keep my mind in the present, I just take a break. It is like trying to concentrate while reading a textbook and the mind is wandering. Rather than push through and possibly miss some key points, it is good to take 5-10 minutes and take a lap around the house before returning to the work.
It is also important to remember that, while being aware of the whole situation, it is not necessary to judge it. Certainly it is important to have a goal in mind while practicing and for me this has a lot to do with making things feel easy and effortless. However, missing a note doesn’t make me a bad person. I allow my conscience to be aware of tension a lot but if I start to view tension as a “bad” thing, I might get tense about having tension and the situation will spiral out of control.
Just being aware of the situation of things and allowing them to move toward a goal feeling should be enough to achieve one’s aims. This is only possible through a meditation-like state in which the mind is allowed to pay attention to the whole body and the whole practice area.