I do activities outside of music. Perhaps you could call them hobbies, but I shift from one to the other and don't focus on any one thing. Each one provides perspective to my music. The mastery of one is the mastery of all. I know the process required, and that allows me to make rapid gains. While many practice music, I view my practice as a practice of life. Today was the first time I solidly practiced archery. I've wanted to for a long time and played with homemade sticks in the backyard, but archery reminded me of some things on the musical path.


First, true mastery of anything takes commitment and practice. We all have a natural aptitude for certain things. I have an aptitude for music but also an aptitude for archery it would seem. I love the creative expression the physicality of human movement demonstrates. I only missed the target 6 times all afternoon and was backed off from the target 3 times. Yes, they were impressed. However, I can tell where my movement was inconsistent from shot to shot. The strong winds played games with the arrows. In spite of any aptitude we may have, we will get nowhere without the commitment to consistently practice. Natural aptitude hits a wall without work. The moment something becomes routine and work is the moment most people quit. We think it should be easy or we ought to be picking it up quicker. We dislike plateaus. We fall short of committing 100% and going all in -- but in doing so, we miss out on all the joys. This is true in archery, music performance, teaching, vocation, relationships, etc. We will not find the intimacy and unity and mastery we seek without going all in. Mastery is shown at the end of the honeymoon phase, because mastery takes character and integrity to pull off. Mastery in any discipline is breathtakingly beautiful!


True mastery follows the flow of the breath. I was expecting both of these first two points, but I was NOT expecting the clarity with which they hit home. The instructor discovered that I am one of the rare people with no dominant eye. It may be part of being ambidextrous, I don't know. And I don't know if it's genetic or because I've played piano for so long that I've used both sides of my body equally and instinctively for my whole life. I was given pointers for how to aim and hit more of the center of the target. I diligently did my best to follow them and be a good students. The more I tried, the more sporadic my shots were. I had a moment of calm and clarity. I stopped, let go of the 15 steps to good archery, centered myself, and followed my breath through on the shot. It was dead on. The instructor had seen what I did and was stunned. "Not going to lie, I have a lot of trouble teaching people without a dominant eye and haven't been successful yet. Whatever you just did, don't stop." When you have the steps down, know truth, and have put in the foundation, there comes a moment. We must trust ourselves by letting go of the outcome. Follow the flow of your breath as it leads you through the right things. Breath is not only important for vocalists or wind instruments!


Finally, true mastery comes from a connection to your heart. This is the principle I was not expecting to rediscover. Practicing can easily lead to going through the motions, trying to be a "good" whatever, and following the letter of the law. I got to a point where I was mindlessly popping shots off, and they were ok. My brain stopped me. "Wait a second, what are you doing? You've lost awareness. You're no longer connected." Things changed in that moment. It was a feeling of unity. I was shooting from in front of myself, and the bow and arrow connected to my heart and connected my heart to the target so that there was no action of releasing the arrow. I let go of results and connected myself to the shot. I was the shooter, the bow, the arrow, the target. The same is true with music. We easily go through the motions. Yet one mindful repetition is worth more than thousands of mindless ones. It connects your heart to the music, the composer (who may have been dead centuries), to the movements, and to your audience. True mastery cannot exist unless it proceeds from your heart. We humans don't care about the details unless you're connecting to us with your heart. Why would we practice without it? We are the energy that connects the past, present, and future. We unify. Music unifies. Each thought is a vibration that alters that energy and unity. Practice the heart connection.


My brain makes connections like this all of the time. When I'm stuck in music, I go to a different activity to allow my brain to calmly find the answer. The physical is connected to the spiritual and back to the physical. The answers are all around us. This is part of the Voice, Vision, and Adventure. Everything in life is a sacred moment, a sacred practice. It changes the world.

As 2020 arrived, the new beginning challenged me to meditate on what the purpose of my website is. Marketing seems so commercial. I care most about connecting with people and sharing connections to music with them. Why have a website? Why bother with social media at all? Is it a necessary evil? My intention is that this be a real glimpse into my life and all of the different aspects of this unconventional, demanding, and intensely rewarding work. Let's turn this upside down!


My concert one week ago gifted me with my answer for the website: Voice, Vision, Adventure. The more I spoke with people before, during, and after the concert, the clearer that became. I find this exciting.


Voice is a unique perspective. It is my Voice as a person, as a human. That is what I want to incorporate in my writings on this website. I want what I write to serve a higher purpose by showing who and what I am. What do I want to bring to the conversation as a performer, woman, and human being? Why do I believe the arts, especially music, are so relevant and vital to life? What connects me to the music? What connections to I make to concepts outside of music? What of value do I hope to accomplish in my career?


Vision - I view the world as a positive gift. A Vision is a clear picture of what I hope to achieve through this website and Instagram, through my career, and through the arts. I am an idealist; I readily admit that. No matter what part of my life, I choose to be 100% all in and believe the best will happen. I believe music is a universal language that has the power to change the world. I am not ashamed of that. Music certainly has changed my life. I want to explore that Vision more.


Life is an amazingly beautiful Adventure. All of those ideas that I want to explore and make happen ARE my adventure. Those are new things, vulnerable things, filled with exciting possibilities. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I start a new day, a new piece, and it's like opening up a new world. I am a daring explorer charting new paths. I revisit an older pieces, and new options spring out at me new like wildflowers. There is freshness and spontaneity. There is never a dull day. I delve into unchartered territory, and each performance brings a new story to tell and new people to tell it with. Anything can happen! Music brings such joy! I am infinitely blessed to be part of the greatest adventure possible, where things are always changing and new and persistently lived on the edge!


I hope that you'll stick with me through this journey. I hope that what finds its way to the pages here is informational and helpful to you. But most of all, may you find this journey interesting!

I'm athletic and have practiced yoga for over a decade. I am always on the move, running and climbing and jumping. My job has me walking over 10,000 steps daily before traditional exercise. Yet I had hit a plateau in my flexibility. The lack was not because I did not stretch. I was doing it daily. This got me thinking, and so the first topic I wanted to revisit was flexibility and stretching. What was I missing?


Flexibility in fitness: the ability to move throughout the joint's range of motion without restriction (definition is my own summary from several articles and textbooks, and there are several types of flexibility). I wanted to improve my flexibility, because there was restriction in my range of motion. My personal goal = assume and maintain an extended muscular position.


**side note: please do your research and talk with your physician before attempting anything on your own; I am not a physician or physical therapist, only explaining what I did and the reasoning behind it**


There are three types of stretching:


1) static stretching: achieve tension and hold yourself there

2) dynamic stretching: controlled movements through your range of motion

3) ballistic stretching: trying to force a muscle slightly beyond its current range of motion

4) passive stretching: focus on relaxing with gravity or partner assistance


What type of flexibility you want to improve determines what types of stretching you should use. So, I observed myself and made note of a few things. First, I noticed that I did not drink water regularly throughout the day, and I read that increased water intake may help range of motion. My first step was to drastically increase my water consumption. I then realized that "being athletic" had created part of my problem. I ran a lot and used weights, but those things without compensatory movement simply created shorter and stiffer muscles. Flexibility and strength work together. I had not been doing both evenly. I needed to focus on hydrating AND lengthening my muscles.


The MIT article below states: "The fastest and most effective way currently known to increase passive flexibility is by performing PNF stretches." PNF is proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Some of my favorite words! While there are several ways to do this, it typically involves periods of contraction and relaxation. The passive stretch after a period of contraction trains the muscle to accommodate greater length. Also, because the muscles were fatigued in contraction, they are less likely to be subconsciously engaged during the passive stretch. Your body has a built in inhibition at a certain point of stretching in order to prevent injury. Shorter muscles means that inhibition activates sooner, and so you have to slowly and carefully re-teach your body its true length.


I assembled my routine: extra hydration, early morning stretching, evening stretching, and a set plan of warm up (joint rotation plus jogging in place) and cool down before any athletic activity and piano practicing. While stretching, I used controlled, long, deep breathing with "om." That was my personal choice due to the feel of the syllable. In my next post, I will explain which stretches I used and why. They are all from the yogic tradition and involved the use of gravity for lengthening. However, I chose to stay in each one for 5 minutes to really be aware of the contraction/relaxation cycle. Since I experienced no muscle soreness the day after stretching, this time limit worked for me. It may be longer or shorter for you, so listen to your body.


The results have been fascinating, and I'm continuing to listen to my body and make adjustments. I'll post more of the results along with the poses. Let's just say for now that I was surprised by how quickly my body adapted and showed measurable improvements.




References:

http://www.elitesoccerconditioning.com/Stretching-Flexibility/DynamicStretchingvsStaticStretching.htm

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/how-to-stretch#1

http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_5.html

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/new-ideas-on-proper-stretching-techniques#1

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