By Gideon Waxman
Mindfulness can benefit your music career in myriad ways. It helps us to reconnect to the present moment rather than focusing on the future or overthinking past events. While practicing mindfulness, we are kindly accepting of everything we experience in the here and now, and we bring our deliberate attention towards all of the bodily sensations and sounds that arise.
Here are five ways that mindfulness can benefit your music career.
1. Reducing stress
Mindfulness is not just a fluffy concept, it is scientifically proven to boost wellbeing. Neuroscience research indicates that regular mindfulness practice changes the biochemistry of the body. It decreases amygdala activation, helping us feel more calm and relaxed. It also boosts the areas of the brain responsible for attention, emotional regulation, and perspective.
While music making is an art form, the nature of the music industry is business-oriented and demands strong results. Musicians and artists are often in direct competition with others for career-boosting opportunities such as festival appearances, record deals, and TV features.
Pursuing such an incredibly challenging career path in music will undoubtedly bring stress and anxiety along the way. Mindfulness reduces stress by helping musicians to not feel so stuck in the past and future, but instead facilitates enjoying the present moment with clarity and enthusiasm.
2. Managing Performance Anxiety
Most of the time performance anxiety arises as a fear of failure, or the fear of being humiliated on stage. Musicians tend to buy into worries and illusions about events that haven’t occurred yet, and are in most cases unlikely to even occur.
While we may not be able to stop these negative thoughts and feelings from popping up, we don’t have to take them so seriously.
Through mindfulness practice, we allow thoughts and feelings to arise without being swept away by them. We realize they are not inherently good or bad by nature, but it’s the thinking mind that labels them as such.
We learn to see unwanted thoughts as random mental occurrences. We don’t need to give them power by expending emotional energy fighting them.
3. Improving Performance
There is a reason why professional sports teams and athletes endorse mindfulness as a tool to help achieve peak performance. Mindfulness helps us to stay in the zone mentally – in a relaxed and focused state of mind.
Musicians perform better under pressure in a state of calm concentration while remaining cognitively clear and fluid with technique. When you watch the greatest drummers performing live, they are not thinking about how to play in time, or how to play at all. They trust in their own ability to perform and they are fully engaged in the present moment.
As a drummer, I use the sounds of the drums and cymbals as an object of focus in conjunction with the sensations that arise, using all my limbs together in synchronization. I pay close attention to the areas of the body that come in contact with the instrument, and all the muscles that are involved in movements while performing a song.
Engaging with the present moment in this way, I can perform with a relaxed and focused state of mind without overthinking or over-analyzing myself.
4. Boosting Confidence and Self-Belief
We don’t often do ourselves justice when we are feeling nervous or apprehensive. We might shy away from new opportunities, fearful of what could happen. Or we may be less inclined to undertake new challenges and push ourselves further as musicians.
Mindfulness can help instill a greater sense of inner confidence to use to our advantage in different ways. Musicians with a strong sense of self-confidence are more enthusiastic and charismatic when it comes to networking, and this can help land new gigs.
Additionally, those with greater self-confidence have real determination for meeting new challenges with positivity. Musicians who believe in themselves will truly seize the moment because they trust in themselves to reach their goals.
5. Increasing Emotional Flexibility
There is no linear path for achieving success in music. Every musician’s experiences are different. Many of the world’s most popular artists have experienced huge pitfalls and setbacks along the way.
Rejection is a common experience, something every musician deals with from time to time. Mindfulness allows us to better handle rejection without losing confidence. It also makes us more emotionally flexible when dealing with stressful experiences on tour, away from home and family, and without the stability and consistency that conventional, salaried jobs provide.
How to Begin Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a skill learned over time. Designed to help transform our relationship to negative thoughts and judgments, it encompasses an underlying theme of acceptance. Rather than judge what arises, we simply allow experiences to occur and we explore them with a curious mind.
A good way to begin is to practice a short breathing exercise while sitting in a comfortable chair. Take deep breaths through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Close your eyes, and aim to bring a real sense of curiosity to all the sensations that arise in the body.
The mind may naturally become distracted during the breathing exercise, and this is expected. Instead of applying too much effort, we gently allow the thoughts to come and go with lightness and compassion. Any thoughts that arise are noticed without judgment.
Gideon Waxman is a London-based drummer and music educator. You can find more of his advice at Drum Helper, a resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.
Photo Credit: Robert King Photography
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