This past Friday at trapeze class something interesting DID NOT happen: I didn’t get very nervous. I am definitely a Type A personality. Normally I will rehearse things over and over in my mind and body until it’s time to perform. Even once I start performing, I’ll often have a dialogue going in my head: “Make eye connection….listen for the command…inhale, and arch on exhale…” I want to control everything.
This last class I was allowing myself to ‘be lazy’. I would still kinesthetically (in my mind and body) rehearse my trick, but only while I was still on the ground. Once I started climbing the stairs I was getting to know my classmates and watching others perform. Just before I walked to the edge of the platform I reminded myself of one thing that I wanted to do better. I performed better (even made all of my catches that day!), progressed quicker, and everything just seemed to flow more easily.
Today it occurred to me why this worked: AWARENESS, INHIBITION AND DIRECTION! I use these Alexander Technique principals for body movement, but they work for mental thoughts as well. I can’t exactly take credit for the awareness portion that day, but I had made a deliberate decision about how I was going to spend my mental energy (getting to know my classmates). That decision provided me with a direction for my thoughts which inhibited my normal thought pattern.
This concept can work for music performance as well. The key for me personally lies in providing myself with a clear direction for my thought process. Putting a small post it note in the corner of each piece of music (or excerpt) with ONE thing to remember is a great tool. Then you’re not searching through your mind immediately before a performance/audition for all of the different things that might possibly go wrong–things that you need to remember. Cultivate an awareness of your thought patterns, and have a plan in advance for a different place to direct your thoughts.
I suppose some of us (ME!) need to consciously train our minds just as we do our bodies. I’m excited to continuing my mental training this Friday at trapeze, and Sunday at church with my flute.