Body as Instrument- Part I: Why is it important?

Body as Instrument?

What really makes music?

Your musical instrument of choice is basically a piece of wood or metal; a mere extension of your real instrument: your body.

In this first part or two I'll outline issues which arise from the misconception of your body as a "thing", rather than your real "instrument".

"Yes, yes" you may be thinking, "Okay, so my instrument is my body. What then?"

Few of us "practice our bodies", at least not consciously. We practice music, technique, our instruments, like everyone else. However innocent this thinking it creates problems in the long run.

So what do I mean by the phrase: Your instrument is your body? Try asking yourself, "Did I practice my body today?” Odd as it sounds, that's what really happens when you "practice" well.

First a bit of explanation:

We assume our bodies work "naturally", at least until something goes wrong. Then we let someone else fix it.

You might think of your body as a car with an engine and shell, which you control from a distance.

- It needs "gas", meaning food and rest.
- It needs "tune ups", perhaps indicating exercise or chiropractic adjustments.

The phrase "lift your arm" gets translated into "make the long narrow appendage sticking out from my side go up", sort of like turning on the windshield wipers! 🙂

The misconception continues. Repairs to the car-body are made by a mechanic/doctor/chiropractor/massage therapist. We have our bodies "fixed". (I imagine a dog or cat being taken to the vet to be "fixed"- Oye!)

The false concept/image of the body as a machine requiring maintenance also extends to things we do to ourselves, including activities such as stretching/yoga/exercise/saunas/naps/. And practicing clarinet.

It makes little difference whether you or someone else maintains your body; the separation of a self, which "does" things to a body, is doomed from the start.

- When asked how we "are doing" we describe our self as feeling good or feeling bad, or so-so.
- Pain, fatigue, stress, happiness and satisfaction; they just "happen to us", and our body suffers or is happy.
- We believe most of our symptoms of discomfort are "caused" by something from the outside.

Naturally, you wouldn't choose to do something damaging to your self, would you?

Or would you?

Even the slightest misconception of mind/body separation can lead to problems over time.

To be sure, not all "things we do to ourselves" are bad:

- Science has shown that exercise helps the body and mind balance and improve.
- And doctors of various sorts help too, along with all the "body-car mechanics" listed above.

However, mis-perceptions persist and real control remains elusive.

There are dozens of good books out there, new and old, which explore valuable insights in the mind/body connection. Try Googling "mind body connection". There are exercise books, meditation books, special mind/body books, psychological books. Many Eastern philosophy inspired books have been written on the subject.

Yet, the more we read and think about it, the harder we "try" to connect our mind and our body, the more frustrated we become. Instead of accomplishing our goal, we have moved even further away from the truth. Oh Dear!

By now you are probably squirming in your chair, anxious to quickly read the "correct" answer to all your problems. Guess what? That won't get your there, either.

However, good news presents itself! It is possible to be 100% in your Self and to Use yourself with skill, to be exactly what you are: a single sentient organism with incredible abilities.

Your whole Self has abilities to reveal and redirect the causes of your suffering, to adapt quickly to changing situations, to become resilient and content.

But Your Self is not an intellectual concept. That much I hope I have made clear!

Your "Self" is the whole package of you, conscious, directed, alert, poised. Period. No further reduction is helpful or necessary.

Well. This is frustrating! We haven't made much headway, have we? Questions you may be asking:

1- If the Self is not a concept, and cannot be separated into any parts, how do we proceed to understand this supposedly valuable reality of the Self?

2- Don't we all have more important, and less "selfish" things to do than just "practice being ourselves"?

Unfortunately, all of the above reactions are symptoms of misuse: impatience, boredom, annoyance, desire to finish. All push aside the most effective means whereby to live life, and express music, to the fullest.

In Monday's post I will outline a few ideas to help you play music with your whole Self.

The ideas of Flow Breathing and Suspension Support will be included among others in my future book The Well Tempered Clarinetist.

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2 comments for “Body as Instrument- Part I: Why is it important?

  1. August 20, 2010 at

    Hi Betsy. I saw your comment earlier today and am just getting to respond. (lobster dinner took precedence. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

    I guess it's good if you don't have to think of the mind body connection, especially if it reminds you of your mother in a sad way. And if your connection is a good one, you are lucky. For me, the awareness of being present is a wonderful gift I've been missing for a long time.

  2. August 20, 2010 at

    I like the format and concepts of this post, and look forward to more on Monday. I have believed in the mind-body connection for many years, having first learned of it when my mother was battling cancer. I tend not to think about it very often, and hopefully that's a good sign, if you know what I mean.

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