I feel so fortunate that often during the week I get to drive through some beautiful countryside on the way to my tai chi classes. However it is when i’m wandering through the forest or across the south downs that I feel a strong connection to the surroundings. I like to take my time and really SEE. I love to just sit and contemplate an amazing view.
To often we rush through life at such a pace that we don’t allow ourselves to really, fully experience and take the time to SEE what’s actually around us. It’s amazing when you just sit for a while and look at a view, paying attention to every detail. What we see actually transforms right in front of us, from what we had previously been used to seeing whilst ‘on the run’. Details emerge in trees, different colours appear, contours of landscapes are clearer. We see in more depth, with more clarity.
In much the same way tai chi and qi gong apply this ‘looking’ and paying attention but in a slightly different way. Instead of looking out, we turn our attention inwards, to the ‘inner landscape’ of our bodies and minds. By developing a stronger and deeper connection with our body and also our mind through looking deeply and paying attention to all that is going on in that moment, provides a wonderful opportunity for healing and transformation to occur.
One of the biggest health problems in society at the moment comes from stress. It is the cause of so much suffering. By training ourselves to connect with the body and mind through a series of progressive exercises we can become intimately aware of any reactivity, tension, subtle changes and other ways that stress will manifest itself.
For a violinist or string player these principles from tai chi and other therapies have huge benefits that we can use to improve our playing, to train the body (and mind!) to move in a much more relaxed and aligned way, without any tension building, no matter how tricky the technique or demanding the conditions we are under.
There are many stages to becoming fully aware of the body and at each step we frequently have lightbulb moments when insights appear, revealing much that we previously hadn’t noticed. So how can we apply this for string players? With bowing for example it is a very useful to practice a scale as slowly as possible. Of course we are used to monitoring the tone of each note, position of bow on string etc but there are other aspects to good bowing technique and sound quality.
Try focusing on the shoulder, feeling all the sensations in the shoulder, both physical and non physical as you move. Then work progressively down the arm focusing on each part of the arm in turn. You will become aware of hidden tensions, default patterns of gripping on, tightness that had previously gone unnoticed and it is in these moments of realisation that we are then able to let go. releasing the areas of tension. Notice how the sound you produce changes as you gradually relax more and more. Notice how smoothly your bowing becomes. The more we are able to let go of this tension, the more our own personal sound will be discovered, the more we will be able to express ourselves freely, allowing our soul to shine through our music. In that way our music will have the capacity to connect deeply with the audience.
I strongly believe that music has the capacity to heal. The more we can work on understanding ourselves, becoming aware and processing the tensions and reactivity that we hold, the more our true selves, authentic nature or soul will come through the music we create. That allows for a real healing connection to build between performer and listener.
Thank you for reading..I’m looking forward to your thoughts.