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Better Practice Through Mindfulness—Part 1
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Better Practice Through Mindfulness—Part 1

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Regular practice is the cornerstone of good musicianship. This is particularly true for Highland bagpipes.

We have a bag that we need to control and regulate in a steady manner, we have four reeds that we need to keep in tune, and we have a unique chanter that requires good technique to produce a pleasing, musical sound. Without regular practice, we would not be able to manage and control the many variables that go into a good, musical performance.

We have two enemies that can prevent us from practicing regularly: procrastination and lack of concentration. If we put our practice session off until tomorrow, when it could be done today, we rob ourselves of the benefits of daily practice. If we can’t concentrate when we practice, then our session becomes ineffective and we might practice our mistakes.

Mindfulness meditation is a simple technique that can help to mitigate procrastination and improve concentration. In this post, I will discuss the simple process of mindfulness meditation.

What is "mindfulness?" Mindfulness is a simple concept. It is the act bringing your awareness into the present moment without judgment or reaction.

Mindfulness meditation is an equally simple concept and is easy to execute:

  1. Sit with your back straight and eyes closed.
  2. Notice the feeling of your breath as you inhale and exhale. Focus your attention on one spot where the feeling is most prominent, usually the nose, the chest, or the belly.

When you meditate, your mind will tend to wander. You’ll think of things such as “why is my boss so incompetent,” or “did I turn the iron off when I left the house this morning?” When your mind wanders, refocus on the one spot where the feeling of your breathing is most prominent.

Meditation is nothing more than than that. The following process outlines mindfulness meditation:

  1. Trying
  2. Failing
  3. Starting again.

That's it. That's all there is to it.

When you meditate, you train yourself to refocus. If you meditate five minutes each day, your mind will wander hundreds of times during your meditation session; you will have refocused hundreds of times. In that five minutes, you have done hundreds of repetitions.

Concentration

Psychologists use the term attentional control when referring to concentration. Attentional control is an individual's capacity to choose what she or he pays attention to and what she or he ignores.

The problem with attentional control, or concentration, however one wants to refer to it, is that our minds work so quickly. We are easily distracted. Different parts of brains often work against each other. Our brains often reward us for following distractions. We need to be able to refocus our attention to maintain concentration. If we think of concentration in terms of refocusing our attention, concentration becomes nothing more than applied mindfulness meditation:

  1. Focus.
  2. Lose focus.
  3. Refocus.

Practice

Regular practice is the cornerstone of good musicianship. Playing a musical instrument well is cumulative and deliberate practice will help us to play our instrument better.

If you practice mindfulness meditation for five minutes each day, you will train your brain to focus and refocus on a single task when the original focus is lost. Your concentration will improve; your practice will as well.

Take Action

Develop the Practice Habit
Develop the Practice Habit-Part 2
Deliberate Practice and Practice Habits, Part 1
Deliberate Practice and Practice Habits, Part 2

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Mark Olson Mark Olson is a software engineer in Omaha, NE. Over the years, he has played numerous musical instruments including the bagpipes, guitar, piano, flute, and saxophone. As a young man, Mark competed as a solo piper. Due to the demands of raising a family, Mark had to forgo his musical pursuits. While he regrets the fact he gave up the bagpipes, he is proud of the fact that both of his sons have grown to be fine young men. With the nest now empty, he has picked up the pipes once again. If he gets his chops, and his groove, back, he plans to compete again as a solo piper.

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