Inclusive attention was the most difficult piece of the puzzle for me to put in place when I first began my journey with mind-body work. Perhaps that’s why I’ve written about it from so many different angles. I love collecting a variety of tools to keep in my ‘teacher toolbox,’ because each student (my self included) responds differently to different strategies at different times in their lives. This week I came across a variation of a strategy my students and I have used on many occasions, along with an explanation of why it works. I love learning WHY things work. Learning that there might be a shred of scientific evidence behind something, and that it’s not just hocus pocus, is always thrilling for me.
THE BENEFITS OF INCLUSIVE ATTENTION
After a practice session where I feel wide awake to the information coming to me from inside my body as well as information coming to me from outside my body (a.k.a. inclusive attention), I always feel great! My husband always notices I’m in a terrific mood afterwards, and any tension or anxiety seem to magically dissipate. Not only that, but I also notice that I’m able to think more clearly, and find creative flow.
A SMOOTH OPERATING MACHINE
Much like the human body, the central nervous system seems to operate more efficiently, and is more resilient, when we learn to allow it to operate the way it was designed to be operated. Many of us are pros with activating our central nervous system’s emergency response system, but as it turns out, the brain prefers to spend most of its time in a more low-key state. Synchrony is the term used to describe the state of the brain when one or more areas of it have electrical activity (i.e. brain waves) that are synchronized. Slow cortical rhythms seem to relax the central nervous system, and allow for a relaxed, yet alert state of being.
A COOL EXPERIMENT
So here’s a cool experiment that Les Fehmi tried out with a group of student volunteers as their EEG (a test that detects electrical activity in the brain) was monitored. Fehmi lead the participants through a laundry list of common relaxation methods without much result. Then he asked participants, “Can you imagine the space between your eyes?” Bizarre? Try it out and notice how your mind and body respond. The EEGs of the participants showed an instant change to synchronous alpha brain waves. The researcher coined the term, “Objectless Imagery” to describe this strategy: “the multi sensory experience and awareness of space, nothingness, or absence.” (Fehmi, “The Open Focus Brain”)
A STRATEGY TO TRY AT THE FLUTE
I’ve used variations of this strategy in combination with Body Mapping since I first saw one of my Body Mapping colleagues use it. (I’m going to guess it was Dr. Lea Pearson.) When I first began refining my body maps, I had a tendency to focus strongly on a singular point in my body. [I didn’t have that inclusive attention piece yet.] Thinking about the space between parts was an effective strategy for me to opening my awareness. Here are a couple different one’s I’ve enjoyed thinking about during my practice:
-The space between bones (a.k.a. joints). For example, the space between the atlas (top vertebrae of the spine) and the occipital lobe (the lowest part of the skull). [By the way, if the idea of space between bones blows your mind, as it did mine, check out these cool x-ray videos from 1948 on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQwVUFdVek4]
-The distance between your two hip joints.
-The space between your A.O. joint and your hip joints.
-The space between your A.O. joint and the bottom of your feet.
Try one of these on while you are practicing. Notice how it affects you. Do you notice new sensory information coming to you? Do you notice a change in your emotional state? Notice how it affects your playing. How does it impact your movement as you play? Imagine the ramifications if we extended this concept beyond our own bodies! (That’s another blog post for another day.)
Having fun and want to continue exploring this topic? Check out some of my other blog posts about training attention: