Warming up: An epiphany

What to do first. Whether you are a musician, dancer or an athlete, what you do before you practice is important. This card includes the words “induction, initiation, indoctrination.” Admit, begin, devote, and breathe. Before practicing, it is important to prepare your mind, body, spirit, and even your instrument. Your practice will be safer, more comfortable, more productive, and more connected to your spirit.

In recent days during this pandemic, many musicians, professional and amateur, have asked the question: Why bother? I have to admit I’ve had these thoughts as well. My counsel is usually to use this opportunity to heal injury, refresh technique, learn new repertoire, and evaluate your relationship to the music you play, the musicians with whom you play and the audience with whom you engage. I have found that meditating shortly before practicing and journaling about my practicing facilitates the entrance into my emotional, psychological, physical and energetic music  making. Not an easy task but it brings me back to my roots as a musician. With this somewhat imaginary and esoteric world, I can enjoy the excitement of artistry and well-spring of creativity.

There may be induction, initiation and indoctrination for admission to this creative state of mind that some have called the zone. The figure in this card is a yogi practicing Adho Mukha Svanasana, otherwise known as downward-facing dog. Modalities such as yoga, qi gong, shamanic journeying and meditation help me to clear my mind so that I can hear my inner voice. Having attended my first yoga class in the late 90’s, over the years, I have at times been turned off by some traditions/indoctrinations practiced by yoga studios that remind me of aspects of religion and even the Suzuki culture that seem exclusionary. I have overcome some of this discomfort by remembering the 12-step saying “Take what you need, and leave the rest.” I also try to remember that I have choice as to how much I participate in these organizational protocols. 

Physical warm up is actually really important no matter why you choose to play your instrument on a given day. Almost a year ago, I started experiencing discomfort and some loss of control over my right hand. The tipping point for me was when I had trouble writing. I could still play the violin but I found myself dropping things and my hand would sometimes cramp up when using a writing implement. Long story short, I ended up working for about six months with occupational therapist Heather Wilkens Mogielnicki of Healing Hands Therapy Center, LLC in Collinsville, CT and the Facebook group The Fine Tuned & Healthy Musician. In my first session with Heather, she was adamant that I needed to warm up my entire body before practicing. The warm up she gave me is designed to oxygenate, animate and get blood flowing to the entire body. At first, it feels like one more thing to do when all I want is to just start playing my instrument. However, by the end of this relatively short warm up, those thoughts have completely left my mind and I’m feeling comfortable and ready to focus. 

My healing journey with Heather has also been a spiritual one. Heather’s background as a conservatory trained flute player gives her a unique perspective when it comes to treating the injuries of professional musicians. Not only does she have respect for the type of injuries musicians incur but she also has compassion for how our lives are impacted by the medical industry’s lack of appreciation of the physical demands of playing a musical instrument and society’s neglect and borderline abuse of our creatives! Did I mention that Heather also has abilities as an energy healer? I will continue to write on this subject in future posts. In the mean time, I will leave you with an epiphany I experienced during my healing journey:

I cannot feel safe performing until I feel physically safe playing my instrument.

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