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Bringing Awareness into Our Creative Lives

By: Dr. Joyce Hsu

This is the time of the semester where everyone is swamped by multiple responsibilities

– marching band, rehearsals for various ensembles, competitions, sports games, project

deadlines, and mid-term exams...and you haven't been able to really rest or catch up

with life, for weeks! You might feel burn-out or start to question why you are pursuing

music to begin with. Well, you are not alone. We all feel such stress at times, and I am

here to help you with a few thoughts that might get you through this challenging period.

Our physical status can influence our mental faculties, more than we think, and vice

versa. There is always time to pay attention with full awareness of our mind, body, and


Photographer Credit: Tif Homes

As an individual, we have multiple roles to play in our lives: at home, at work, in school,

or whatever we need to do to maintain the life we have; it is no easy job. Every day, we

go out into the world to perform and try to do good. But, how often do we check in with

ourselves and listen to our inner voices? Even when we have time, we might be too tired

to think about these things. We tend to ignore the signals that our body and mind send

us to keep ourselves going. This happens quite often, because somehow, we believe that

we don't have any other options, and it ends up costing us more time and energy.

However, that is not really true. We do have options, and we should allow ourselves to

make the decisions that will benefit us in the long run. Have you ever felt like you didn't

get any rest after a vacation? Or were even more tired after one? It is not the "act" of the

rest that rejuvenates you; it is the mindful moments that count. By returning to being

mindful and aware, we can "take a break and recover" anywhere we are. This way of

being will allow us to see things with a clearer perspective...which can be a big help

during this time of the year!

The first step to practice in being mindful, may be to simply start paying attention to the

breath. This practice can take place in the midst of anything we do: after all, we simply

can't live without breathing. By paying attention, perhaps especially at stressful

moments, you might begin to notice some differences in breathing during various

activities – driving, teaching, performing, and so on. When we remember to return our

attention to breathing, it can help us calm the "monkey mind"—that little chattering

voice in our head that continually reminds us that there are a million things going on.

Attention to the breath gives breathing a purpose and serves as a mini meditation: a

kind of oasis of calm and reflection in the midst of distraction and stress.

Photographer Credit: Tif Homes

As a trombonist and an educator, one of the practices I use the most for myself and my

students is just this: attention to breathing. Deep breathing can slow down our heart

rate, bringing more oxygen into our bloodstream, which in-turn allows us to focus and

think more clearly. Try this breathing exercise, which I use quite often. Simply breathe

in slowly for three counts, gently hold the breath for three counts, and then breathe out

slowly for three counts. Repeat this procedure three times or as many times as you need.

We should remember, however, that bringing true awareness into our lives requires

honesty and acceptance. I am not suggesting being overly obsessive regarding your

actions or thoughts, or giving up on effort and improvement. But it is essential just to

simply acknowledge when times are hard. Mindful awareness serves as a mirror. If your

honest self-reflection says it is time to take a break, then it is OKAY to take a break—

even from doing what you love, from time to time. We must know how we function and

reflect honestly upon what works the best for us. If you are the type of person who needs

a lot of sleep, then put down your phone and go to bed. Some might feel most rested

after exercise, reading a book, listening to music, or simply by being alone. This might

sound simple, but in-fact, it is a crucial realization: if you can get things done in a simple

way (practicing your instrument/voice very much included), then that is what you want

and need to do. Sleep, exercise, seeking nutritious food, reading music with friends,

listening to your favorite records: all these things can help recover your overly worked

body and mind, and they will remind you why you chose to be involved in music in the

first place.

Photographer Credit: Tif Homes

Build your own support system by knowing how you function and be someone's support

system when they need it. Being kind, generous, and supportive of others is something

you can do for yourself, as well. Do not give up, because we are all in this together!

Additional Resource:

Music Body Mind Website - website by Amelia Rosenberger is a trombonist who teaches yoga and is based in Dallas, TX.

Dr. Joyce Hsu is an in-demand trombonist, clinician, and educator. A native of Taiwan, she earned her BFA from the National Taiwan University of Arts, her Master's Degree from Oklahoma State, and her Doctor of Musical Arts from Texas Tech University. She is now based in Dallas and was an El Paso Jazz Girls' teaching artist this past summer.

**All photos courtesy of Tif Holmes who in addition to being a wonderful photographer holds a DMA in Flute Performance! More from Tif Holmes can be found at the below links:

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