Are you overwhelmed trying to juggle everything in your life? Do you feel like you have to run, run, run just to keep up? With the constant noise and stress of getting through the day, it’s so important to take a minute in order to regroup.
Health experts say that meditation is the key to better living. It can help you sleep better, reduce stress, improve concentration, lower anxiety, have better relationships… The list goes on. But what if meditation just isn’t your thing? I myself find it really hard to do. Luckily there are different ways to get a similar effect.
Playing violin can be a powerful way to focus your mind and calm your body. When you practice violin, you are focusing all your senses on a single motion. It’s like focusing on your breath, but actually easier, since you’re actively doing something.
Using multiple senses at the same time makes it even more powerful. As you draw the bow, you can feel your muscles relax, sense the contact point of the fingers on the bow, watch the bow on the string, and listen to the sound. Your brain is constantly making the rounds, monitoring each of these stimuli. It has plenty to keep it busy.
This focused awareness in turn allows your body to make the adjustments needed in order to produce the ideal sound. At its core, playing violin is about mindfulness. Rather than trying to do something, you concentrate on being aware of what is happening. In this way, you can learn incredible skills through effortless mastery.
Violin as meditation also gives you rewarding feedback in many ways. You get a beautiful sound for your ear, the vibration of the wood and strings for your fingers, and a deep sense of accomplishment. How’s that for instant gratification?
So, next time you’re feeling like you need to step off the treadmill, to find some inner peace, pick up the violin. Give your busy mind a break. Let yourself revel in the sound and feel of the violin. It only takes ten minutes and will do you so much good.
Have you ever found yourself facing a big job and didn’t know where to start? It could be anything from writing a book to cleaning out the garage. Taking on a project can be overwhelming. You look at the magnitude of it all and just want to go back to bed. But at the same time, this project promises such reward. You can just see your name on the cover of your own book. Or all that clear space in the garage, with everything neatly put away on shelves. This is the stuff of life, setting your sights on what you want and going for it.
So how do you go about tackling a daunting task? The answer is to break it down into manageable pieces. Each little piece is something that you can do. And when you put them all together you find that without even noticing it the job got done. But this skill of breaking things down is something that you cultivate. And do you know what one of the best ways of cultivating it is? Learning to play violin.
Pick up the violin
You’ve probably heard a lot about how good learning to play a musical instrument is for you. It makes you smarter, reduces stress, staves off Alzheimer’s. All this is true. But it can also help you live a life that is more fulfilling by teaching you how to move forwards in achieving your goals.
Playing violin might look like magic. Someone stands up there with a wooden box, waving her arms about, and beautiful music comes out. And there is magic in it, but it's subtler. It never ceases to amaze me how you can simply think of a note, and your finger magically finds that place on the fingerboard. For some people, it comes more naturally than for others, but everyone works at it.
Getting to the point where you can put your fingers down in the right place at the right time is a process. Thankfully that process is just a set of steps to follow. Learning to play violin is about breaking each problem down into smaller and smaller pieces until you get to something that you can do.
Simplify the problem
How does it work? Say you’re playing along and you get to a spot that always trips you up. The next step is to zero in on that spot. Simplify the notes. Here is where a teacher can help you figure out how to do that. It might be a matter of playing fewer notes in one bow, or only playing the first of every four notes. Maybe you need to play the passage much slower to coordinate the bow with the fingers. Keep stripping it down till you get to something that is doable, that you can get within a couple of tries.
You’ll know when you’ve gotten the right little piece, because after only a couple of tries you have it. Once you can play the exercise you set for yourself, repeat it until it feels comfortable. This entrains it into your body so that you don’t have to think about it and allows you to play it consistently. Now you’re ready to add the next layer—a faster speed, some of the notes you took out, or more notes per bow. Build it up, one tiny bit at a time.
This is how you create a solid foundation for playing violin without getting frustrated. If you look at playing violin as a whole, focusing only on the perfect performance you saw on YouTube, you might get discouraged. But put one foot in front of the other, reduce things down into the simplest components, and before you know it, you too will be making beautiful music on your violin.
Make it a habit
As you practice violin, continuously breaking things down, you build the method into your system. Over time, you will learn to approach other tasks in your life in terms of their component parts. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, you will roll up your sleeves and say, “Right. What part of this is something that I can do?” Keep up your violin playing, and before you know it, you’ll be half way through your new novel and have a sparkling garage.
What strategies do you have for tackling something that feels overwhelming? Please share your experience and advice in the comments.