Analogy for Concentration
In Alexander Technique class, our teacher told us a way to focus on concentration. She told us to visualize that there are concentric circles around us while we are trying to focus, to be aware of the space.
Of course, this was an exercise to be able focus and play our instruments, but I think it’s important for us to do this when we are worshipping God as well. Well, I need to talk through the music thing first.
A Lesson from Music
So, I tried this when I was practicing piano a few weeks back. Basically, I did my best to focus on learning the music at hand and avoid any distractions. These included how much more homework I had, things coming up the following week, and other things not related to piano.
More importantly, I also tried to focus on things that are about piano but equally distracting. In The Inner Game of Music, bassist Barry Green discusses how we have two selves: self no. 1, who constantly berates ourselves for our music imperfections, and self no. 2, who just takes everything in naturally.
Being self no. 2 means not beating yourself up over what you didn’t accomplish and focus on expressing the music at large…..and I guess the concentric circle thing. Basically, I didn’t have a million thoughts racing through my head.
I discovered a few things while trying to concentrate. It was as if a bunch of things just totally came together for me. While I had read about these things, I had never experienced them. It seemed like all the bits and pieces I had learned from pain knowledge was coming together.
1. When I was being aware of the space around me, my body naturally shifted back. I sat on my sit bones and my neck wasn’t as forward. This seemed to reduce the pain in my elbow and fingers. Thus, I finally realized what Jennifer meant when she said the pain was coming from my neck.
2. I have also studied the Taubman Technique as well briefly while away for music camp. I became more aware of the fact that I was curving my fingers too much and isolating them from the natural movement together with the rest of the wrist and forearm, like my teacher had discussed.
I also remembered my massage therapist telling me that my flexors were tight from curving and reading an article that lifting the fingers uses the antagonist muscles, the extensors.
Thus, when I am heavily curving my fingers and also trying to lift them simultaneously, I am doing co-contraction, one of the leading causes of piano injury. All of a sudden, everything started to make sense.
3. Concentrating also made me aware of the “up” direction more. This again reinforced me to sit on my sit bones as I lifted my head up in extension mode. The pain seemed to get better instantly in my elbow and fingers. This is because as I thought about “up,” my hand, fingers, and forearm seemed to move together more in one unit.
So….I think I almost have a solution to my pain, but to keep it simple the rest of the session, I just thought “up.”
Now the Spiritual Lesson: Have you ever had those times when you are there, but not really “there?”
I am thinking about those times when I am at church listening to the sermon, but my body is tense because I know I have a boatload of accounting problems waiting for me when I get home. Thus, while I am worshipping God and singing and listening to His Word, my body doesn’t physically experience rest.
Here are some tips for when you find yourself in this situation:
1. Practice contemplating a subconscious burden on your mind, bringing it to consciousness, and then physically laying it down.
2. Feel your body expand into the space around you. If you are too forward, you may sit back. Maybe try shifting a little bit left or right to see if you are holding tension.
3. Think about the future when Jesus comes back. Will what is going on today matter?
Two weeks ago, our pastor talked about how during the Second Coming, we will get new bodies freed from pain. This has been particularly encouraging in the last two years.
Sometimes I internalize pain as a fault or weakness, but then when I think about how our physical bodies will be redeemed in the future through our faith in him, something just lifts in my Spirit.
4. I have also found that having someone around keeps me accountable. For example, sometimes sitting with someone I am just starting to know at church helps reawaken me to focus and be in the moment.
5. Take Notes. I used to not take notes in Chapel because I was tired, but this has helped me get so much more out of it. Here are some great tips from Cross Pointe Church.