I find that I spend much of my time working with my students on the “mental game” of violin. Even at a young age, when the attention span is short, if I can get a child to concentrate their full attention on the task at hand, I know that they will absorb what I am telling them and experience improvement. Conversely, no matter how much time is invested “practicing” or “repeating” certain things, if the mind is not involved, there will be no retention of those things, and the time is wasted.
I recently revisited my yoga practice, which I started in 1999 and have done with varying frequency over the years since then. I came across this quote, which applies to yoga, to violin, and to a life of awareness:
The only requirements, as usual, are full attention and best effort. This is a stringent requirement; but this is truly all that one can apply to any given moment or task. As yogis, we become skilled with these frequently applied techniques, with detachment from the outcomes.
I can’t resist a little nod to golf here. My golf pro is always reminding me to focus on visualizing where the ball is going before I set up to hit the ball, so that when I actually hit it, I don’t have to look up to see where it went. I will already know, because everything that went into setting up the shot was based on the mental image of where I wanted the ball to go. The minute I try to “check” myself by looking up to follow the ball, I ruin the shot by picking up my head. It sounds like smoke and mirrors, but I’ve tried it and it actually works! When the pros talk about “trusting” your swing, I think what they’re really talking about is mentally focusing on the moment of the shot and detaching yourself from the outcome.
What if you tried to focus your full attention and best effort on one task today, and truly detached yourself from the outcomes? Is your mind open to experiencing what would happen?