Editor’s Note: This diary entry is the thirty-fifth in a series of entries describing Teresa Dybvig’s strategies for preparing for an upcoming recital after a long break from performing. Keep posted for further installments. For more about The Well-Balanced Pianist, click on this link: http://www.wellbalancedpianist.com/
Wednesday, November 5: being happy, being grateful
Four days to go! At this point, I figure the two best things I can do for myself are to remain happy and well-rested. I am sleeping well, which I take as a good sign. When I first started doing even tiny performances after recovering from harmful effects of a medication, I had a lot of trouble letting go of the music I was about to perform long enough to sleep. This week, I feel encouraged because I can summon the discipline to sleep. It gives me the chance of being alert at my recital, and the hope that I will bring the same mental discipline to the recital.
I figure that happiness is also my responsibility. Not only am I responsible for the way I interpret the events in my life, but also, I can manage my life so I engage in activities that make me happy. Yesterday, I took a walk on the beach, and I saw a fox! It was in its lush winter coat, deep russet with white tail tip. Gorgeous.
I am also making a special effort to practice enjoying the music on my program. Like everything else we want to happen in performance, I’m pretty sure we have to practice enjoying the music, as opposed to worrying and fussing, if we are to enjoy it in performance.
I’m also consciously practicing gratitude. Spending some time consciously reviewing all the reasons we have to be grateful keeps us positive. In the daily practice journal from his Playing Your Best When It Counts: High Performance Journal, Dr. Bill Moore includes the question, “What am I most thankful for today?” And according to researcher Dr. Robert Emmons, practicing gratitude brings us a host of benefits, including alertness, optimism, and lower blood pressure – all positives in preparing for a recital.
One way to practice gratitude is to make gratitude lists, or keep a gratitude journal. This week I am making myself a gratitude list. I have a good life, so I only need to point my mind in that direction and the gratitude flows. It includes Beethoven, Debussy, and Janáček, of course! Then, other forms of art – visual arts, dance, textiles, etc. The beauty of nature. Gardens!
Great systems of knowledge – the Feldenkrais Method, the Taubman approach, Iyengar Yoga, and devoted teachers of all those methods. Artist teachers. Creative and knowledgeable doctors, good health, health insurance! And not to forget my fantastic piano technician, and performance coaches who encourage us to practice gratitude!
This train of thought brings me to all the wonderful people in my life. My husband, first and foremost. Words cannot express how much he brings into my life. My students! The way they work with the tools I give them inspires me, and their seeking questions push me to be my best.
Finally, my friends! The people who enrich my life are spread far and wide. And, did I tell you about my audience? Just this one time, for this one recital, as I try to get back into performing shape after these difficult years, I decided to play a house concert and only invite loving friends. I even told them so! When I invited them, I invited them to a house concert for people who will love me no matter what. Then I backpedaled by saying that, unconditional love being a rather high bar, it was actually a house concert for people who would support me on my piano journey even if I played a lousy concert that day. This quip prompted some to touchingly promise me unconditional love and support no matter what.
I am particularly grateful that, even though I have filled my studio with just about as many loving and supportive people as it can hold, there are still more loving and supportive people in my life whom I would like to invite. When I reflect that I knew only one person when I moved here, I am truly grateful for all these loving friends in my life.
Making my gratitude list really does make me feel more lively and alert! Good thing – I need to go shopping for the reception. 🙂
Teresa Dybvig is founder and director of The Well-Balanced Pianist, an organization which presents programs across North America based on an integrated approach to teaching, learning, and performing. Previously on the faculty of the Taubman and Golandsky Institutes, Dr. Dybvig now teaches privately in Long Island, Manhattan, Chicago, and Denver. She specializes in helping pianists with playing-related injuries.