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Engaging the right brain in the practice room

The Sensible Flutist: Engaging the right brain in the practice room

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Engaging the right brain in the practice room

I've been reading and researching this week to begin preparing for my presentation later this year at the National Flute Association's annual convention in Las Vegas. I've started the fleshing out process by reading My Stroke of Insight by Dr. Jill Taylor. This has been a fascinating glimpse inside the mind of a stroke victim. I'm grateful that she made a complete recovery and was able to gift the world with this book.

Prior to reading the book, I haven't really put too much thought into the differences of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. I'm a thinker. I carefully reason, plan and analyze everything I do. Doing something like playing my flute forces me out of my left brain analytical thinking and shifts me into an artistic mode which is right brain driven. But I want to be able to explain what I do so that I can return to that place consistently. That's why I have this blog. I record my experiences which allows me to keep reflecting and thinking.

Perhaps my dominant analytical self is why I suffer from performance anxiety. Reading Taylor's book has made me realize that somatic disciplines like Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais and Body Mapping all help us just be without excess effort. These disciplines help us "step to the right" as Dr. Taylor says and lets our bodies work with our minds in efficient, effective and natural ways.

In my daily practice (or exploration as I've been thinking of it recently), I have been using techniques such as inclusive awareness and constructive rest to keep awareness of my body as I play my instrument. I've also been following guitarist and AT student Patrick Smith's blog as he recounts his experiences in the practice room. It's helpful to see how someone else explores the music and the body in their practice.

Dr. Taylor says to step right away from the mental chatter and away from your ego center in order to be mindful and present. When we're in the practice room, we have to balance our practicing with compassion and non-judgment. We are there to explore and produce a better artistic product than we were could the day before.

When I approach the practice session as a process and not because I have a deadline, I'm happier and more fulfilled with my daily exploration. When the left brain is chattering all sorts of judgmental things at me, I can simply "step to the right" and engage in the music and let it flow through me.

The biggest lesson in all this research so far is the reminder that we have the power to choose at any moment what to do, but more on that later. Happy exploring.

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At March 1, 2012 at 5:36 AM , Blogger Erica Ann Sipes said...

I love this, especially this line...

"When I approach the practice session as a process and not because I have a deadline, I'm happier and more fulfilled with my daily exploration."

YES! I totally agree. And in my opinion it's the exploration part of practice that makes the practice more applicable to music-making long term. When I do cram practicing I feel like the improvement I gain is only very temporary and applicable to the music at hand.

Happy exploring to you, Alexis, and thank you for sharing these insights.



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