Too often we spend our lives with our minds completely disconnected from our body. The consequences of such a separation are seen daily in doctors surgerys, pharmacies and therapists waiting rooms the world over.
Disconnection can cause an endless list of both physical and emotional imbalances from fairly mild to sometimes extreme. Very often our mind is taken up by the apparent stress of a busy life. Rushing around trying to fit everything into our day and never quite managing. Deadlines to meet, bosses to satisfy, families to organise. Very often the last person to get a look in is ourselves. It is no surprise that stress related illnesses are massively on the increase.
When we come to practice our minds are still stuck in the chaotic rollercoaster of life and it is very hard to concentrate on what we are doing. We become tense and frustrated at our lack of meaningful practice and progress is somewhat elusive, no matter how hard we try!
Lets pause here..I would like you right now to cast your mind back to a moment when perhaps you wanted to share a problem with a good friend. As you talk it through, your friend sits and listens with their whole heart, attentively listening, just to you. What an amazingly healing experience it can be. Just to be listened to. Immediately we feel relaxed, better already, our minds settle and we find more peace within ourselves.
The art of listening is a hugely valuable skill. Although it is always wonderful to have a friend to share how we feel, in order to really heal the body and mind and learn how to relax and find true inner peace, it is vital that we develop the ability to listen to ourselves with the same loving attentiveness.
In tai chi we call this ‘Ting Jin’ or listening energy. As we practice the tai chi movements we begin to bring the mind home to the body. There are many things to listen to. At the beginning we focus particularly on body alignment, getting each part of the body optimally positioned in order for true relaxation to occur. Then we might start to become aware of how much tension we hold in all the different parts of the body, only using just so much effort as required by the task in hand, recognising the signs and patterns of strain. From focusing on the body we then move onto the breath, which is quite an involved practice in itself and I will be writing about this later. we can also listen to how we feel emotionally and become sensitive to where we are holding that energy in the body so that we can begin to release and let it go.
Finally after much practice we can even start to connect deeply with our own energy and this can be an amazingly therapeutic experience.
All of these skills we can then transfer over to the violin and rediscover a freedom and enjoyment to play, built not on our default patterns of straining harder and harder to get better, but rather on listening kindly to the body and mind, enabling us to release the tensions, where ever they might be.