Has there ever been a time when toward the end of an especially challenging day, you felt compelled to sit, close your eyes and try to calm your body and quiet your mind because you had an important audition or performance two hours from now? Are you having trouble with this? Is your anxiety level beginning to feel overwhelming so it starts feeding on itself the more you try to quiet it because you know those feelings will spread to those involved, i.e. audience or those auditioning you. You have worked hard and know in your heart of hearts you are ready, but those old tapes start playing in your mind, and your “Brat” shows up big time to remind you of the times you weren’t so good? I have to say, that simply reading this, I feel anxious and nervous for absolutely no reason.

When we’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, we’re different people than when we’re calm, safe and secure. When we are in our senses, our prefrontal cortex runs the show, and we’re capable of making informed choices. When fear intrudes, our amygdale and the lower regions of our brain take over, and we literally can’t think straight. Fear contracts us. It sucks us inside where we self talk in not such nice terms to ourselves. This kind of anxiety and fear is the primary weapon of terrorists. And our sense of value and worthiness is abolished. We simply don’t trust ourselves any more.

It’s easy to underestimate how deeply vulnerable we are, especially to feeling devalued, and how easily those feelings can be triggered. Rejection is a big part of working your way up the performance food chain. And then there are those at your workplace who might be critical about your work, how you dress, or hair and makeup, etc. Just how much energy and capacity do we squander each day worrying about these issues? How much time do we spend being afraid of the competition in the music world? How much individual energy could be released if we felt safer, more secure and valued both at work and by our musical peers?

Psychiatrists tell us that we need enough environmental stress sufficient to promote development of skills and positive stress, combined with sufficient buffering to prevent them from over whelming us. So the adversary of sustained productivity is not stress but rather the absence of rest and renewal and not just physically. We have to learn how to quiet that inner voice successfully and when it’s necessary. The most powerful source of renewal is the experience of feeling valued and appreciated not just by others, but mainly by ourselves.

So how do we make that happen? Think for a moment of how you behave at your best. Next, think about what you’re like at your worst, and how radically different those two selves are. They’re both “you.” But in behaving at your worst, you are limited in what you choose to focus on and therefore inflexible, often cruel with your inner self talk and stingy in behavior. On the other hand, when you behave at your best, you have the potential for profound focus, you are awake and present. You can be creative in the moment and become genuinely connected to others.

You already know how to think the worst, so let’s get to how you can collect and re-set yourself. It’s quite simple. It’s a matter of turning your attention to your senses, rather than wallowing in your emotions. Let me ask you, has there ever been a time when you felt things were moving along nicely in your life, in your work and in gaining ground as a performer? Can you reconstruct the best day out of the rest of them. Once you have done that, it’s important to move to your senses for the next phase. This exercise is about the act of feeling through your senses. Take your time to discover how much you notice as you do each focal point of the exercise. Start by sitting up straight at the front edge of a chair, feet flat on the floor, with your hands on your knees, closing your eyes, and let the mind and body come to rest. Then feel the feet on the floor – the body in the chair – the clothing against the skin – the air on the hands and face – taste – smell. Now let the listening go out to include everything in the room and beyond without naming anything and rest here for a good while. As thoughts come in, let them go out and return to listening.

When you are done, notice how valuable and worthy you feel. You feel rested. Notice how your body has relaxed and you feel calm, peaceful, and motivated? You might notice that you feel organized and centered. It’s good to feel this way. You feel powerful and in control. You are ready to present your best self in whatever it is you are doing. Memorize this small exercise and use it each and every time you need to get back to the good stuff. Bravo!!!

You know what I think, now let me hear what you think. Avanti, and ciao until next time. Carol


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