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Opening the Heartspace

The Sensible Flutist: Opening the Heartspace

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Opening the Heartspace

The phrase "opening the heartspace" is one I was first exposed to when I started taking yoga classes over two years ago. At first, I thought it simply meant opening and stretching across the chest; however, this phrase has become more significant to me of late.

This summer, I've been reading The Art of Practicing by Madeline Bruser. A piano teacher and authorized meditation instructor, Bruser explores musical, meditative, and psychological aspects in this book. The ideas of staying inquisitive and opening yourself to what can happen in a practice session are firmly grounded in a pedagogical foundation that allows your mind to connect with your body in a healthy, productive manner.

Shortly after beginning to read this book, I attended the Andover Educators' Biennial Conference and was immersed in five intense days of body mapping. As cliche as it may sound, this conference was a life changing experience. I opted to play in one of the supervised teaching sessions, where I worked with a recently certified educator. The concept of "inclusive awareness" is one that I didn't quite connect with, and it showed in my performance. I was glued to the stand, unaware of anything else around me.

And here we are at the heart (no pun intended) of this post: while opening the heartspace is about sharing love and compassion, opening the heartspace in our music making makes us vulnerable and a more likely vessel for the music to flow through, allowing us to connect with our audience and share in the same experience.

Bruser's book has a anecdote where she had someone outstretch their arms. Their response was fear because they no longer felt safe. Through the study of body mapping and tapping into all my senses to maintain awareness of not only the music but myself, along with reading this book, I feel myself connecting more to my audiences and to my music. This is happening because I'm looking at my audience, I'm connecting my movement to the music, and I'm staying open to the experience, not battling it.

Staying open, staying receptive. There are numerous benefits to remaining inclusively aware, and keeping your heart open. Performance anxiety can be minimized, you can enjoy more of your performance, and you are connected on a more human level to your audience. I read somewhere that if you're only performing to please the heckler in the audience, then you're losing a critical component of yourself...YOU! 99 percent of your audience is there to see you succeed.

How do we stay open? I change my body language. If I'm in the practice room, I outstretch my arms as I were giving the room a big hug. If I'm in public, I mentally picture this action. My arms are suspended over my rib structure, my chest opens, and I feel more comfortable and confident.

Please comment if you have any questions. The more I tune into my body, the more musical answers it has given me. This is the gift that all of us should have.

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At July 21, 2011 at 6:51 PM , Anonymous Diana Rumrill said...

I love this idea... I too notice that when I start to get narrowed in focus and zeroed in on my music/ instrument, the experience of connecting is totally different than when I expand my focus and just include the whole room in my awareness. My body instantly feels more expansive as well.

Madeline Bruser did a lovely podcast with me- check it out at!

At July 22, 2011 at 7:00 AM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Fantastic! I can't wait to check it out!

At July 23, 2011 at 6:16 PM , Blogger Wayne McEvilly said...

This was a refreshing moment in the day to come upon and contemplate this post-the processes involved in pianistics are so endlessly intriguing, and and their practice so revelatory of the most subtle forces and currents within the body, that the discovery of these aspect of ourselves would constitute sufficient reason for 'practicing an instrument' - I have found there are always three centers in my circle of awareness in the act of performance - the music - my subtle body of energy and awareness - the audience Mind connects these three - Spirit/Heart vivifies the circle of communication - When that happens, music is heaven on earth...
I believe audiences love to hear music from the open heart space - 'from the heart to the heart'


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