Thursday, October 10, 2013

The importance of a clear mind

A few weeks ago, I gave a practice performance for a friend. As an experiment, I decided not to meditate before playing. I had several reasons for this. First, I had already performed the program multiple times, and I wasn't particularly nervous about this practice performance. (This too-comfortable playing is something I generally discourage.) Second, I don't like superstitious rituals, and I wanted to see if meditation had become a ritual. I don't like the idea that things will go wrong if I don't force myself to do something pre-performance. Third, I really wanted to see what would happen if I didn't meditate.

Shortly before playing, my friend and I discussed fingering, and I talked about the difference between "strong" and "weak" fingers at the harpsichord. We talked about about using weak fingers for ornamentation. And then I began the practice performance.

For the entire first half of the program, I kept thinking about our conversation! I focused on my fingering, my ornaments, and what I had just talked about with my friend. In other words, I was lacking in total presence, and, at times, I was instead suffering from total distraction.

During my five minutes of intermission, I disappeared so that I could meditate, and, as a result, the second half of the program was much more focused.

I don't care what you call it: meditation, clearing the mind, being alone. Whatever it is, I am confirmed in my belief that we must carefully cultivate our pre-performance minds. Not only should we strive to avoid thoughts that regularly plague us, we should also keep ourselves from being distracted by whatever goes one backstage. And, as I wrote in yesterday's post, what we do on stage can also become a major distraction.

Keep the mind clear!