What do you think of when you think of self care? Even as someone who is certified in wellness practices (yoga, mindfulness, myofascial self-release), I instantly think of a million cringy Instagram posts, journals, and bubble baths.
I find that I try to steer clear of the words “self care” when I write about the practices I teach and implement partially because of the connotation, and because what we need to do to care for our well-being is different for everyone. What feels like self care to me, like a yoga practice or sitting for 30 minutes of silent meditation, might be tedious and stressful for someone else.
The other reason I don’t like the term “self care” is that I think it grossly undermines what we really need to be doing in order to lead healthy lives. Taking care of ourselves is not participating in a relaxing activity once a week. It’s doing boring, monotonous things day in and day out so that we can operate at a healthy base level.
Where the internet would tell you that self care is shiny and satisfying, I believe that if we are really caring for ourselves and our basic needs, it feels a lot more like tedious maintenance. Think grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning your house.
Eating well is a excellent example of this. Cooking is work, buying fresh food means planning to use it so it doesn’t go to waste, and all of that takes a lot more effort than just pulling into a drive-through or heating up something you bought frozen. For most of us though, once we realize that eating well makes us feel better it genuinely gets easier to put in the effort.
Of course our relationship with our phones, streaming, and social media puts a huge demand on our self maintenance efforts. It’s so easy to lose ourselves mindlessly scrolling for an hour or watching Netflix well into the night. It’s not just that those are hours you could do other productive things - they may just be hours that should be spent resting or sleeping. Layered on top of that is that we end up viewing lots of people engaging in “self-care” as we scroll, perpetuating the myth that it’s something fancy and special.
What prompted me to think so much about self maintenance recently was that I downloaded a sleep tracker for my apple watch. I had a nagging feeling of always being tired, but was convinced my sleep hygiene was good and I wanted to get to the bottom of the issue.
There is absolutely nothing like data to absolutely knock you off your high horse. While I was, in fact, in bed for seven to eight hours a night, I was sleeping for only five to six of those and rarely in a deep sleep. Since I usually read before bed, put my phone on sleep mode, etc. this was shocking to me. How was I still sleeping so little? Beyond that, there was no fancy reason I was so tired. I simply wasn’t sleeping and my habits needed a reboot.
I’ve made a few changes, all of which require self maintenance, and I do already see a difference. Is it annoying and effortful? Sometimes. There is nothing even remotely shiny and internet worthy about cleaning up my sleep habits, but it did make me feel better and more energetic each day. As time goes on, I am starting to look forward to the changes I’ve implemented, like going to bed earlier each night, adding more exercise into my days, and taking more care in the routine of my evening hours.
So as I’ve been reflecting on all of this, it’s really made me consider how we talk about self care in our culture, and how much discipline it actually takes to instill healthy personal habits.
There is a concept in Ayurvedic medicine (the sister science of yoga) called dinacharya (dina meaning ‘day’ and acharya meaning ‘activity’). Translated from Sanskrit, this word means the daily routine that promotes nourishment and self care. In Ayurveda it’s considered one of the most powerful tools for cultivating health and well-being.
Dinacharya encourages us to become more in tune with ourselves and our unique biological clock, doing the same things at roughly the same times each day, with a focus on creating the sense of routine over the perfection of the activities. It’s not about creating a grand schedule or adding more to your schedule, rather it’s about finding and engaging in a routine that helps you feel nourished and more self aware.
In its truest form, dinacharya refers more to our morning routine, but it applies to the whole day, and I love the idea that the little tasks we undertake repeatedly become the foundation of nourishing ourselves and staying in sync with the rhythm of life.
And while the practice stresses the steady repetition of things that are good for us, it comes with a disclaimer that an appropriate routine will look different for each person. Dinacharya can be as simple as making your bed each morning or sitting to savor the first sips of your coffee without any other noises or distractions. Even washing dirty dishes can be part of our daily outine of nourishment if we take the time to appreciate the food that was eaten on them, our running water, and the freshly cleaned kitchen in which we are standing.
Engaging in a daily routine in the attitude of dinacharya can encourage connection, release stress, and build peace and happiness into our lives in simple ways that are attainable each and every day.
If you want to implement dinacharya into your day, start with your mornings. You might wake up at the same time each day, begin your day with a hot beverage (Ayurveda suggests hot water with lemon), brush your teeth and wash your face, make your bed, and spend a few minutes in meditation or exercise. Nothing Earth-shattering - rather, simple and nourishing.
What we are willing to lovingly layer into our every day life with consistency is what will create the greatest impact in our well being long term. Just like my experience with improving my sleep, the generic and mundane can become special and meaningful when we understand that it helps us to feel more energetic, more present, and more connected with our lives.
Keep the Channel Open
Anatomy and physiology are long and largely underrated topics and areas of understanding for musicians that are finally gaining traction as an important component in the regular instruction of how we both teach and become musicians.
Even with the sudden surge of popularity and acceptance both wellness and anatomy are experiencing among musicians, we have a long way to go to make up for both our lack of understanding and our deficit in awareness.
There are many entry points to developing your own understanding of your anatomy and its role in your music making. Playing an instrument can be one. Yoga, strength training, physical therapy, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, working with a personal trainer, body mapping, swimming, running…the list is seemingly endless. Anything that helps us draw a connection between what we are experiencing and how the body works is moving us in the direction of understanding.
Before we can really put our knowledge of anatomy and mapping to use, however, we have to learn how to read our body’s cues and become comfortable doing so. I’ve written before on embodiment, and it’s something that many of us lack in our personal experiences and in how we teach.
Embodiment by definition is the tangible form of an idea, feeling, or quality. If we are embodied, we are present to our emotions, mind state, and physical state, and able to stay engaged with them.
Modern life gives us many ways to escape the tangible form of ourselves - TikTok, Netflix, food, plenty of numbing substances - there is no shortage of methods or advertisements encouraging us to check out from whatever unpleasant or real thing is happening for an alternate reality.
Our cultural habits of escapism make it hard for many of us to truly “drop in” to our body and use the information it is giving us in a positive and beneficial way. Even for musicians, who do a physical and tangible thing for many hours at a time, the normal encouragement and instruction we receive when it comes to our craft is mostly cerebral.
The first step to incorporating any knowledge of anatomy into our playing should always be a development of our felt sense. We must learn to be open to what our body has to tell us and willing to feel whatever it is. Sometimes this is pleasant, and sometimes it is uncomfortable or even painful, but all of those varieties of somatic clues have one important thing in common - information. (It’s worth noting that the path to finding this comfort in sensation can look quite different from one person to the next.)
Are you feeling pain at it’s source of origin, or is your shoulder pain referred from the way you are allowing your hips to kick to one side? Do you feel suddenly tense and grippy in your hands because you are now on stage and in a nervous mindset? Our mental state can be manifested in our perception. and the appearance, of physical sensations.
Growing your felt sense of the body means that you can intelligently use the information you receive somatically about your very personal experience in tandem with your knowledge of anatomy. You can start to understand the reasons why your shoulder might feel the way it does, and whether there is a physical or mental habit or cause at the root of what you are experiencing.
The other, perhaps deeper and maybe even more important, benefit of pairing our knowledge of anatomy with our felt sense of the body is that we learn how quickly things change. If you’ve done yoga or meditation you know how much your thoughts and physical feelings can shift from moment to moment. Even if you haven’t done those practices but you practice your instrument multiple days in a row, it’s likely that you have realized each day feels different in some way and that all of those different sensations are in fact part of your experience of playing your instrument.
Being more in tune with ourselves means that we can see these ongoing changes clearly, recognizing what part of them might actually be a useful habit or pattern to address and what is simply a passing observation or sensation.
Growing your knowledge of anatomy is a must for every musician, but we stand to gain the most benefit by simultaneously growing our knowledge of ourselves and our internal experience. Anatomy is simple a template for understanding. By becoming more acquainted with ourselves we become more efficient observers and more accurate and efficient managers of our construction.
I think the world is too noisy. Always clamoring for our attention with solutions, suggestions, entertainment, distraction….
I have this feeling a lot. Most of the time, honestly. Usually I try to turn down what I can and keep plugging, feeling that if I drop out of the sea of voices online I won’t be able to claw my way back in. But it goes against my intuition and my preference for space, for quiet to keep up with the chatter all the time. Against my knowing that everything we have to say isn’t worth shouting, saving, or re-sharing.
I love introspective practices like yoga and meditation. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child, or a mildly extroverted introvert.
It is not always easy to find, but one of the things I value most in life is the space to think and just be. It gets harder and harder to carve out as we get older, and in a culture of constant connection and sharing, so I do my best to intentionally make time to keep knowing how to be with myself. Even if we don’t enjoy it, it’s good for all of us to practice this.
Sometimes, though, even with a regular practice of just being, we still get swept up and swept away in the noise, and the events, and the ideas and images of other people’s lives.
Over the last month, I’ve really thrown myself into my reading habit. I always read a lot, but I know that when I go full bore with reading it’s often because I need to disconnect, to stop letting my attention be drawn to so many exterior places each day.
It’s not monumental to take time off from your phone or social media or the news, but did you every notice how often people do it and then follow up more noise? Maybe a list of things they’ve learned or ways they became a better, more balanced, more intentional person.
This weekend I made a point to stay off my phone as much as possible. I still answered messages from friends, emails, and I did open up social media apps once or twice.
None of that is monumental. It felt good - it felt like what should be closer to our baseline behavior around media. It feels silly to me to even write about doing something so simple, and annoying that it took so much intention to do it at first. After a day or so though, and as I always do, I realized how boring social media and the media is.
Don’t get me wrong, I love knowing what my friends are up to and it’s important to understand current events, but I would argue that most of our media consumption is neither of those things.
I love the accounts of creatives I admire who their writing, art, and inspiration, but you have to weed through a lot of stuff to get to them. It seems to me that the internet is a lot of people pitching side hustles, sharing their "wild successes”, and their brilliant, usually unoriginal ideas.
Of course I know I’m guilty of sharing revelations that are not necessarily new (like this one!). I love a good quote or a moment of self-realization. I enjoy sharing things that I find helpful in the hopes that someone else might also benefit from seeing a helpful tidbit at just the right, fortuitous moment.
But, if you take a step back for a little while and then re-enter the cacophony that is our day to day life, it is suddenly a giant echo chamber of people repeating ideas that sold for someone else, or mimicking videos and posts that went viral or gained a lot of attention. With a broader perspective, it becomes easier to see the redundancy of what is said in our news and social media feeds.
Sometimes it’s fun to participate, and a healthy dose of reality can make social media into a manageable, even enjoyable, part of life rather than a monster that looms over everything we do. It’s certainly harder to hold that healthy perspective when social media can help your work or business.
I find it hard to write on this topic without rambling. What I know is that it’s easy to feel drained by the internet when you love to be alone, and that I feel nostalgia for a time when all my hopes, dreams, and shortcomings weren’t presented in the pretty package of an app on my phone.
I also know that we always have more say in how outside voices influence us than we think. That it takes the same willpower muscles as practicing to exercise protection of our own emotions and of what is most important to us in our lives.
There isn’t going to be a list here of what I learned in my weekend (and hopefully longer) off from social media. I have no suggestions for cleaning up your habits or improving your relationship with your phone because we’re each different, and we’re not all prepared to face the habits that we know need changing that we have been avoiding (myself included).
I just know that we all need a little peace and quiet, and we need it a lot more often than the world leads us to believe. Our participation in the noise of the moment is not mandatory.
When was the last time you enjoyed a little silence?
Warm Up Pillar: The Body
Without our bodies, we could not play our instruments.
When I studied with Jean Ferrandis he would say that everything has a frequency, and we shouldn’t disrespect the natural frequencies. Meaning, for example, that if we blow way too much or too little we’re not respecting the frequency of the instrument.
In the time since I studied with Jean, I’ve also come to realize that this also means we have to respect the frequencies of our body.
I think about this concept a lot now. If we over or under use parts of the body in our playing, we will compensate somewhere else, creating tension, extra effort, and blocking resonance.
If our body feels unnatural or is used inefficiently, it will translate not just to the way we sound, but also to our mind state.
Elaborate briefly on movement benefits - concept from yoga of meeting yourself where you are. Perfect for building a warm up routine
We’re all aware just how important exercise is for our health. At the root of it though, it doesn’t matter if you run, lift weights, hike, bike, or do water aerobics.
Movement is what matters.
There is an intersection here with yoga that I particularly love. Yoga encourages us to meet ourselves firmly where we are. It asks us to move with what we have, with acceptance and an understanding that we are not moving to change but to know ourselves better. It’s an approach to physical movement that is particularly relevant to playing an instrument.
When we consider how our physical body impacts our playing, it is important to do so from this place of meeting. Meeting ourselves where we are, and understanding what we need.
Consider how it feels to play your instrument when you are in an optimum physical state - no tension, no restriction, everything is free and resonant.
Now think about the difference when you feel tense.
With those two different experiences in mind, imagine yourself performing. What happens to your body when you are on stage? Does your breathing remain free? Do you feel that familiar tension? Or, maybe something different happens entirely like shaky hands or dry mouth.
Most of us are intimately familiar with our physical ticks and habits as they relate to playing our instrument. Not very many of us have a regular movement routine that addresses our strengths and weaknesses as they relate to playing, though.
Imagine the amount of concentration and brain power you could waste thinking about a tense muscle, or worrying you won’t get enough air in your next breath because your chest feels tight on stage.
Not only do physical issues limit our actual performance, they limit our mind in performance.
So how can you respect your frequencies?
A good place to start is by simply noticing:
Building a base level awareness of what’s happening in our bodies is the first step toward finding neutral and creating efficiency.
I hope you’ll join me for the Warm Up to Flow workshop to meet yourself where you are, acknowledge yourself under pressure and identify helpful elements to add to your warm up to find your peak physical performance state.
Warm Up Pillar: Mindfulness
If I don’t meditate - how could mindfulness become a regular part of my warm up?
Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are huge, broad topics. There is a tremendous amount of information to digest. If you are a practitioner of mindfulness or mindfulness meditation you know that, like playing an instrument, it’s a slow and often internal journey that requires consistency and dedication.
So how can we take these far-reaching concepts and pare them down to fit our specific needs as musicians, while still respecting these disciplines and what they have to teach us?
As a practitioner of mindfulness meditation, I have a great appreciation for the amount of work it takes to meditate and grow a meditation practice, and for the ups and downs that come with such an introspective practice.
However, the fundamentals of mindfulness practice are accessible to all of us, whether we are seasoned meditators or not.
Conceptually, it’s not a far leap from the focus required to be a musician to mindfulness. We already have some experience wrangling the mind away from distractions so that we can get work done in the practice room and so that we can focus in performance.
Even though as musicians we might be more mindful than the average person, I would guess that most of us still have plenty of distractions like self-critiques, concern about the judgment of others, or stress over the situation that bombard our experiences of practice and performance. Which is exactly why taking the time to address our mindfulness can greatly benefit our work.
I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage the development of a regular mindfulness practice here. In recent years there has been a tremendous amount of research about how much practice, or how little, is required to make an impact. (Amishi P. Jha’s book Peak Mind is a great entry point, and suggests that about 12 minutes a day is all it takes to help create our peak state of mind more frequently).
But if you’re still skeptical, I understand. Most of us find the idea of sitting in stillness and silence with ourselves laughable.
As with most challenging undertakings, we need a relatable entry point. Something that is attainable, but also shows us the potential benefits. One of my favorite mindful practices is below. It’s short, simple, easily repeated, and never loses its impact. Even now as a more seasoned practitioner of mindfulness, I still use this one all the time.
Following the breath:
While at first this may seem like a breathing exercise, the breath is really just an anchor here. It is a place to rest our attention that doesn’t require any action from us. The breath provides somewhere to place your attention when you begin and when you realize you have become distracted again. It simply provides a resting place for your mind.
Try it out for yourself. Try not to judge your ability to follow the breath - that’s not the point of the exercise. Make sure you do this exercise a few times, for at least a few days before you pass judgment. Continue to note how you feel after each practice.
There are many more ways to bring mindfulness into our warm ups and the way we approach our instruments. We’ll go in depth in the Warm Up to Flow workshop!
Warm Up Pillar: The Breath
What does the breath have to do with finding a flow state?
Our health, both physical and mental, is deeply intertwined with our breath. Oxygen, quite literally, keeps us alive. Our breath circulates nutrients and removes toxins from our body. Science has backed up that breathing also stimulates our nervous system, specifically the vagus nerve, and can agitate or calm us depending on the stimulation.
Anyone who sings or plays a wind instrument, enjoys long distance running, lifting weights, or practices yoga regularly understands the integral role the breath plays in helping us do some pretty amazing things from running marathons to performing concertos.
Many of us, however, still don’t realize what an integral role our breath plays in our day-to-day sense of ease and the way we handle stress.
It’s impossible to briefly state the impressive list of ways our breath affects us (I highly suggest reading Breath by James Nestor to develop a better understanding). So, to completely over-simplify, if we become participants in our breath instead of passive users, there is great potential for our overall health and performance.
If you haven’t already gotten the impression that the breath can do impossible things, it’s also been shown that the practice of pranayama (one of the eight limbs of yoga) or other breathwork techniques can even help us rewrite neural patterns we have developed over time.
It is common in our culture to over-breathe or breathe too quickly and rapidly, both of which are actually quite shallow. Mouth breathing is also wide spread. Both of these habits can negatively impact our health and mindset, and while you would think most musicians would have a good handle on healthy breathing, how we function in real life is very different from how we play our instruments.
Having gained just a little perspective on the major player the breath is in our overall wellbeing, it becomes easier to see how crucial it is for all of us and especially those in high performing or high stress situations to make sure their breath is working for them, not against them. Beyond that, learning how to use the breath to help regulate our nervous system and focus is something we all can and should do.
The absolute best thing about breathwork, though? We all breathe already. It’s something we can all do, with a tool that absolutely everyone has at no cost.
There are many types of breathwork, and you may have already learned some simple breathing exercises without realizing the potential scope of their impact. As with all disciplines, each exercise won’t speak to you, and it’s possible to find one that suits your specific sensations and needs but later connecting more with a different exercise.
Box breathing is a common approach to learning how to meter our breath, extend our inhales and exhales, and build CO2 tolerance.
A simple box breath follows these steps:
Another commonly used yogic breathing practice (pranayama) is alternate nostril breathing.
Also known as Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing is a yogic pranayama (breathwork) practice known to help with stress and anxiety. The sanskrit name nadi shodhana translates to "subtle energy clearing.”
To try it:
You can test out both of these techniques for yourself - how do you feel afterwards? What changed in your mind or body? How does your breathing feel after trying these compared to before?
We’ll explore several more breathwork techniques in the Warm Up to Flow workshop, and also how to discern what practice might best suit your individual needs and warm up routine as you build your way to a flow state. I hope you’ll join me!
Anyone with hypertension, a history of aneurysms, osteoporosis, cardiovascular issues, or vision issues should consult a doctor before seriously undertaking breathwork.
Warm Up To Flow
I’ve learned a lot as a musician about anatomy, movement, mindfulness, and how our brains work, especially over the last two years since being trained in yoga and mindfulness meditation. These are endlessly fascinating topics to me, and they have completely rejuvenated my experience of being a musician and a teacher. As I’ve contemplated the connections between these topics and music making that could help my students, certain ideas stick in my mind as being useful for all of us.
One of those “sticky” ideas turned into my Body of Sound workshop, which incorporates movement into some of our standard flute warm ups with the intention of helping us understand what truly creates resonance in our sound, and how we generate our unique tone quality at a fundamental level.
Another idea that has truly stuck for the last few years combines my fascination with the feeling of playing when we’re in the zone and my experiences of struggling to find an optimum head space under pressure. The intersection of these two things? Warm ups.
When I decided to host a workshop online it seemed obvious to address this idea of warm ups, the relationship we know they have to the flow state, and how we can tweak our individual warm up to serve us best in our quest for an optimal mind state.
What is a warm up?
A warm up is the signal to your body and mind that it’s time to wake up and do what you have trained to do.
Even for seasoned musicians, remaining in the moment during challenging rehearsals, performances, recording sessions, or even practice can feel elusive.
On top of this dodgy attention, we might layer self criticism about the fact that we’re not being more focused, accomplished, productive, or achieving. This self criticism is often not fully founded, but just another distraction.
There’s more to it, though, than just being “distracted.” Have you ever considered whether it’s realistic that we expect ourselves to hop out of real life and straight into a hyper-focused rehearsal or practice session?
We expect a lot from ourselves when it’s time to perform and spend hours preparing the music, but prepping ourselves for performance requires more than just learning the notes.
It is possible to get into the flow state more consistently. Athletes do it all the time. Dancers. Popular bands and singers. High performing classical musicians and opera singers.
So what do they all have in common?
Not the same one across disciplines, but likely the same principals, and above all the consistency of the warm ups they do.
These performers have found something that works for them and revisit it every time they need to be “on.”
It could be a conscious action like a particular muscle or vocal warm up, or an unconscious action like a tick (think of a baseball player who might always tap their shoe with the bat twice before batting). On a deep, subconscious level the performer relates this action to the task at hand. At the end of completing the warm up, their mind and body know what is about to happen and are primed for right effort toward the goal.
Creating a useful warm up is not unlike the habit stacking that James Clear discusses in his book Atomic Habits. It’s building incrementally on something that we know is successful and capitalizing on the outcomes.
In fact, the basis of this workshop was inspired by Clear’s writing on using a pre-game routine to get motivated. One of the best points that Clear makes on this topic is that when we are required to do something (like practice or rehearsal) so often there are bound to be days that we’re not motivated or focused.
According to Clear, every action that is part of the pre-game routine matters (even how you put on the baseball glove, or, how you put your instrument together), and the routine should be done in the same way every time.
From Clear’s perspective there are a few non-negotiables to this routine: starting with something so easy you can’t avoid it (like getting out your instrument) and following that with actions that move you toward your goal.
The first time I read about this pre-game routine, my mind instantly went to my warm-up. The methodical way I put the flute together each time I play, and the playing warm ups I repeat daily because they feel good, and effective. There was way more to it than I had ever realized!
So over the years after making this connection between pre-game routine and performance, I kept thinking about how it applied to musicians. How we all already warm up to play, and how it’s at least somewhat the same warm up each time we put the instrument together. Also on my mind was how performances went when I did and didn’t allow time to warm up in the way I like and know is useful.
The next obvious question was, can we tweak our warm ups to be even more preparatory?
Of course we can!
By way of our training we can identify what we need on a large (long term goals) and small scale (specific to the day) to be successful players. Our warm ups already naturally address our personal needs, strengths and weaknesses. For example, if I am feeling sluggish I will play something that really gets my air moving, or do some physical exercises.
The act of warming up already primes us to be in the zone by the nature of its repetition, but based on what we know from self inquiry, we can actively prime the warm up to produce our optimum flow state.
Doing something like warming up without a plan can be helpful even if we lack a clear intention or goal. Similar to repeating a section in the music over and over without listening carefully, we might end up with some positive results but there is a better way to get there (and beyond) if we spend a little time in reflection prior to beginning.
There are three pillars of a musician’s warm up that can help us reach an optimum state of body and mind:
By addressing our strengths and weaknesses in these areas and exploring proven exercises, approaches to mindfulness, and specific physical aspects of playing we can discern what our individual "pre-game routine" needs.
I hope you’ll join me on March 5th to deep dive into your warm up. Using self inquiry and these guide posts we will each craft a unique warm up that is highly functional, repeatable, and can continue to be developed over time to meet our evolving needs.
The Missing Element of Success
There is a lot of conversation on the internet about all the things music school doesn’t teach us. The ways that it perpetuates unhealthy cycles that have been solidified over generations.
We don’t see a lot of discussion about what in our is right or good about the time we spend in music school. I don’t want to undermine what needs to change, but as I look back and reflect I’m realizing that one of the most valuable things about the time I spent in school was something I took completely for granted at the time.
It was so obvious to me as a freshman moving into an arts dorm - the joy of being surrounded by so many people who value the arts so deeply was new and exciting, and it spawned so many friendships.
Over the four, six, or even more years we spend in school we easily grow accustomed to having access to all the perks. Music libraries, musicians playing every instrument and style of music, amazing teachers and mentors, and friends who are also fully entrenched in figuring out how to be a musician.
When we leave school, it’s a sneaky shock to be removed from this artistic bubble. In my case, I was busy figuring out how to be a regular adult, not a student. I still had some connections to my previous school, was still traveling to take lessons, and was working as a musician.
Music hadn’t evaporated from my life by any means, but as time went on there was a growing sense of loneliness and disconnect. As a recent graduate working on my own most of the time, for the first time in years I was living in a world of mostly non-musicians.
As time has gone on I’ve been lucky to maintain friendships and find new belonging, but life often becomes fuller as we get older and if we’re going to find community in our lives it requires becoming much more intentional.
Research also tells us the benefit of being in a community, including that feeling supported by those around us helps calm and regulate our nervous system and create a deep, lasting feeling of safety.
While it would be ideal for all of us to find a community of people with our exact situation (for example, musicians who are also self-employed or freelancing) that’s not always possible. It can be just as good for our well-being to find communities around our other interests (exercise, mindfulness, cooking, coding … the list is endless).
In the way that friendships sometimes can as adults, making time for this type of community in your life can feel like work. It will require you to reach out to old friends, talk to new people, and leave the house at times when you would just like to curl up with a blanket and Netflix.
But, how much better would our art (and lives) be if we prioritized community? If we created a space for ourselves and those like us to rest in work or leisure? To commiserate over the difficulties of our work or forget them entirely and go for a hike, or to brainstorm crazy ideas with people are willing to genuinely encourage our creativity?
If I look back on the times that I really felt unmoored, I can see now the lack of community. When I took my yoga teacher training I was shocked at how having a group of friends I saw regularly and related to easily changed my day to day sense of wellbeing. Since then I do my best to remember the importance and value, even when it would be easier not to prioritize it.
Having a community reminds us of the big picture, what’s truly important, and affirms to us who we are at our core.
If you’re feeling frustrated in your work or pessimistic about your creative ventures, shift your focus and engage your community. If you’re not sure whether you have have one, start small and reach out to an old friend or mentor and ask how they’ve been. Make small talk with someone at your weekly yoga class or find a run club. Find a few people, or even just one, who can see you through your shared interests and then take note of the changes in your sense of safety and comfort.
Favorite Books by Subject
A regularly updated list of books that are excellent for musicians, yogis, mindfulness practitioners, and humans.
The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten
The Flute Book by Nancy Toff
The Listening Book by W. A. Mathieu
Uncommon Measure by Natalie Hodges
Self Development for Creatives:
The Practice by Seth Godin
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Originals by Adam Grant
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink
Drive by Daniel Pink
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
In Pursuit of Excellence by Terry Orlick
Range by David Epstein
Mindfulness & Meditation:
10% Happier by Dan Harris
The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford
The Posture of Meditation by Will Johnson
Lighter by Yung Pueblo
Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer
Peak Mind by Amishi Jha
Eastern Body Western Mind by Anodea Judith
Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Breath by James Nestor
Top Reads of 2022
I’ve been doing a “best books of” post for several years now (here are 2021 and 2020), and it was fun to take a look back at what my favorites have been in previous years. I always read a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but my previous lists of favorites lean heavily toward non-fiction. I felt like I really indulged in fiction in 2022, so let’s see what this past year’s list of favorite turns out like!
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
Most of us are familiar with John Green because of the YA novels he’s written (The Fault in Our Stars, Turtles All the Way Down, etc.). He has a podcast with his brother, Hank Green (also an author), that’s quite popular that I haven’t explored yet. This book is a series of short essays where Green rates the regular everyday occurrences of the Anthropocene period (our current geological age) a la Google. He shares personal anecdotes that remind us all we’re having the same human experience in an enjoyable and relatable way. I give The Anthropocene Reviewed four and a half stars.
Uncommon Measure by Natalie Hodges
I found Hodges book to be extremely thoughtful, and at times quite challenging to read because of the way it points out the inadequacies of how many of us are taught to become musicians. Natalie Hodges spent her young life working hard to be a virtuoso violinist. She chronicles her experiences through our perception of time and consciousness, and how her experiences in music might have shaped her or been shaped by her. Hodges touches eloquently on so many of the challenges of becoming and being a musician, while including neuroscience and quantum physics, by taking us along on her own journey of imagining her life outside of being a classical violinist.
Presence by Amy Cuddy
Amy Cuddy gained noteriety for her TED talk that has been viewed by millions. The overarching message of this book is that we don’t have to make grand changes to approach scary situations, nor should we continue to approach them with one eye closed in fear. I loved the stories Cuddy shares in Presence about people who took simple moment to moment approaches to intimidating situations, and her practical advice on how we can show for ourselves up over and over again.
The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams
This was a really enjoyable read. The characters felt rich, and Williams writing created such a vivid picture for me of this story as it unfolded. As someone who loves words, this story of lexicographers creating and editing the dictionary opened up a history I had never considered of who defined our language and how.
Range by David Epstein
Range takes a fascinating look at how we learn and grow our skills in a culture that says we must focus fast and early. Especially for those of us in fields like music where it can always feel like we started too late, I found this book refreshing. Epstein unpacks how being hyper focused can box us in, and how the paths that highly successful people take are often much more winding than we think. The information in this book is important for anyone who teaches or interacts with children and young adults to consider.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
This novel is a beautifully painted picture of what it’s like to grieve with someone with terminal cancer, and was my favorite novel of 2022. It was not an easy read, especially if you’ve lost someone, but I was so moved by the way this book expresses how deeply we feel in the close relationships we build and how both the most joyful and saddest moments can be painful in their extremes.
Quiet by Susan Cain
Quiet, for me, was one of those rare books that clearly lays out things you have never been able to find the words to express. Cain redefines what it means to be an introvert, and to be a highly sensitive person. She takes the cultural labels out of the equation and makes it relatable for the reader to consider what it would be like to be introverted, or what it would be like to find balance as an introvert in an extroverted culture. There is concrete, functional advice in the book for how to work with introverted adults or children, and I think this book could help all of us consider and become more receptive to how each person’s experience is unique.
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
Four Thousand Weeks sits at the top of my list for 2022 for the way it genuinely challenged my concept of time and the way we are taught to treat it as a manageable, moldable commodity. It is both factual and philosophical, and explored our growing collective sense of anxiety and urgency. I appreciated that Burkeman didn’t take a negative perspective on the way our relationship with time has developed and took a more positive and reflective approach to how we might proceed differently.
So now I want to know - what books did you love in 2022?
Hi, I'm Morgann! A flutist, teacher, meditator, aspiring yogini, and life long learner figuring out how to create my way through life one crazy idea at a time.