In the last month or so, I've given two workshops to over 100 brass and wind players who are studying to become professional musicians at the UC-College Conservatory of Music, and one to several dozen high school musicians. I told each class that most professional musicians experience a significant amount of pain while playing their instruments. One of the faculty members present, who is a member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, interjected by emphatically stating, "100% !"
To each of the three classes, I asked the same question, "How many of you do not experience pain while playing your instrument?" Out of a class of about 80 brass players, two raised their hands, and one of those asked me if fatigue counts. Out of a class of about 30 wind players, no one raised a hand. Out of a class of several dozen high school students, one faculty member raised his hand, and he asked me about fatigue.
When asked why they play a musical instrument, the universal response always comes down to their love of making music. No matter how much pain we experience, there is always a part of us that loves what we do. Unfortunately, over-focusing on the physical sensations of pain can sometimes obscure our sense of pleasure, so that we forget the deeper meaning that motivates us to continue onwards and upwards with our chosen activity, with joy.
Whether you are a musician or not, while you engage in your chosen activity:
- Can you pay attention to any pain or discomfort with self-compassion, but then widen your focus to include the joy inherent to what you are doing?
- Can you get in touch with the reasons that you love for what you are doing--even if part of you is resisting doing the activity, and even if you are experiencing pain?
- Can you focus on deeply enjoying what you love about your activity, giving it to yourself as a gift, letting the positive fruits of your activity affect and move you?
- When we love something deeply, it is natural to want to share it; it is in the nature of Love to be communicated. Can you calmly share your deep love of your activity with the space around you and everything within that space, near and far--even if you are alone?
- Can you notice what is going on inside your body, yet remain gently focused on your intentions to connect yourself and surroundings to the Love inside you, through your activity?
- Can you create an expanded field of awareness, where your enthusiasm for what you do can co-exist with pain?