I talked in my blog on joyous practise about playing the violin. I have played since I was a child of just 8 years old.
Recently, I used my lack of playing during the Covid-19 lockdown to wipe the violin slate clean. Going back and picking it up after not playing for over a year meant I could really feel the bodily contortions I inadvertently get myself into. All the habitual tensions, the “oh no, this will sound really dreadful” downward negative judgements beginning before the bow hads even hit the string.
And, I’ll be completely honest it did sounds dreadful. It sounded awful because my ear was not as out of practise as my fingers and my musician’s critical faculties were in fine fettle. And, it sounded dreadful because I was not able to offer myself the compassion I would to others.
How to wipe the slate clean?
I’ve started Alexander Technique lessons with Julia Duschenes in St Albans. Alexander Technique is a form of body re-education, a way to ‘get out of your own way’, to notice tension and release what’s not needed. Julia’s marvellous AND she plays a stringed instrument AND she works with lots of string players. She is helping me re-build my body and change my body’s reflex response to the violin. I don’t have to take up a ‘violin posture’ before I’ve even lifted it out the case. I don’t have to assume it’ll be hard work, tense, self-critical, not good enough. What joy it is to begin to remove those things from my playing.
During a recent weekend of playing, I’ve noticed the “argh, that’s a lot of very fast notes” tightening in my left hand and aimed to let go of as much of it as I could. I’ve released the “got to be perfect” self-pressure and whilst the habit is not yet gone, it was so joyful to have those moments of freedom, enjoyment and a sense of largesse in my playing.
And, beginning to be freed from my own fearful sense of being ‘not good enough’ I could enjoy being what I am. Fancy that. Enjoying being what I am, in this moment.
So, what am I actually doing?
I’m inviting change. It’s not easy. There are a lot of years of withheld tears in those muscular habits, lots of time suffering from the ‘not good enough’ belief and years of believing that musicians strive for something they’ll never attain: perfection. In truth, I won’t reach that place of CD perfection because I’m a human being not a robot, I don’t practise 4+ hours per day, every day and I don’t want to. It’s simply not that important to me. I have chosen another path. So, my musical mind, my musical body is learning to let go of that pressure and accept that good enough really is.
As with any change, noticing a way to be positively different is key. Start interrupting the usual pathway and asking how it could be different. I learned this from Julia. What now sounds soo obvious, and just wasn’t a few short weeks ago, is changing from self-flagellating for a mistake and feeling worthless as a result of that mistake to asking how did it happen and what could I do differently to avoid it next time? Using curiosity rather than harsh self-judgement. Being my own teacher rather than judge and jury.
Why write about change?
I ask my patients to be ready to, and support them in becoming ready for, change. It might sound obvious that there’ll be change but it’s generally the hardest part. We like the way we do things. That’s why we do them that way. We might not see the connection between the outcome and some of our actions and choices. So, it is my job to aid in seeing things differently. Or, we might feel powerless to make positive changes as we feel as though we are losing something important, secure and familiar. But, it is only in adopting changes that we can bring about change.
If we want our bodies to BE different, we have to DO differentLucy Blunden
My role is to engage you in those changes, enable you to feel it’s possible and help you notice that it feels good when you stick with it.
Having spent years fighting myself over habits which were doing me no good, I really understand how hard it can be to being about change. I recognise that change requires all sorts of different parts of us and sometimes those around us to be on board. Coralling all of those things can be tricky as well. Taking baby steps with my guidance will help you find your way forward moving towards those changes you desire. This is one of the things which I love about my job; helping people to find that a-ha moment enabling them to step into the new concepts positively and with confidence.