When Vanessa and I first embarked upon the Flying Flutistas Project, we decided our tagline should be “Learning to Learn Again”. There are wonderful stories about how we came to flying trapeze, but a large part of the reason we continued to return to the rig over and over (now branching out to static trapeze), is because we had found a way to reignite our creative flow at our flutes.
Trapeze has provided an opportunity for us as individuals, and as an ensemble, to once again become observers and an explorers, rather than judges. It can be difficult to recognize during the day to day ‘grind’ of practice, how that constant flow of mental critique can be stifling to the creative process. I have found myself at different times feeling as though I wasn’t doing my job properly if I wasn’t running a constant critique of my playing. My self identity and my ability to make a living are both attached to how well I play, so of course I want to play my best every time. But expecting that I will play my best every single time, and trying to very directly control the quality of my product through constant critique have only ever led to results that I was less than happy with.
At the trapeze bar I very naturally have a lot more patience and compassion for myself. I regularly feel that what I’m trying to execute at the bar is completely ridiculous, so I never have expectations or worries, and I never walk away wondering whether what I just did was good or bad. Instead, there is an atmosphere of exploration. I simply observe what I am doing, and compare that against other possibilities that I could try. I might try to execute part of a trick differently, and then ask myself, “Was that easier? Was that more fun?!” There is an atmosphere of joy and excitement in finding possible new ways of doing things.
This sense of joy and exploration (which seems to neutralize my negative self talk) is something that I am able to carry with me into my flute playing. Seeing how well this mind set or atmosphere works in another activity gives me the confidence to try it with music making. It trains me how to be in the moment, without any expectations. It trains me to have patience and compassion for myself.
You don’t have to fly from a bar 30 feet up in the air to reignite your own sense of joy and exploration in the learning process. Many musicians find these same benefits from activities like yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Gyrotonics, or maybe cooking or painting. Have you found similar benefits from another activity? Please share your own experiences with us below in the comments section. Have you made a New Year’s Resolution to try something similar? I would love to hear about it. Namaste.