In her recently published book, How to Meet Your Self, Dr. Nicole LePera explains:
1. New neural pathways are created through consistent, daily repetition.
2. Learning something new or trying something new is the best way to harness neuroplasticity.
3. As you create new neural pathways, there will be mental resistance, a natural discomfort we all feel around change. You might feel frustrated, want to procrastinate, or lack motivation to start or continue on. This is a natural part of the transformation process that we all face. The work is to just keep showing up.
Interestingly enough, this is what my student Tony frequently says, phrasing his words the same as Dr. LaPera, reminding me that he makes it his daily commitment to “show up” at the piano. It seems to me this is paramount in any meaningful relationship in life, including our relationship with our “selves” – a need to simply be present.
Reading about the natural mental resistance or discomfort that comes with change helped me understand why it can be so hard for students to show up at the piano. Those who have made piano a part of their daily routine have established the necessary neural pathways, it seems.
Make a list of those things you do almost daily, in two columns:
1. Those daily rituals you especially look forward to (for me: morning coffee, walking my border collie, piano, yoga), and
2. Those daily rituals which suck up your precious time (for me: quite a few)
Unload anything you can from the “sucks up your time” column. Just get rid of these things. If you can’t, then minimize them. I think I’m pretty good at not overcleaning so I’ll focus instead on minimizing screen time for the next 30 days.
Before committing to make piano a daily ritual, you might want to start with something smaller – perhaps only three to five minutes of stillness twice a day. A healthy habit, to be sure, taking on this short daily practice will have the added benefit of helping you to quiet your mind for the daily piano time that will eventually follow.
Know that you will meet inner resistance. Imagine this resistance as a knock at the door, an intrusive neighbor reminding you of all the things you “should” be doing instead of piano. Resist the urge to go to the door. Just ignore it. This neighbor will come back again, probably tomorrow, and maybe also for the next few days. But, in time, the knocking will cease.
You’ll sometimes want to procrastinate or lack motivation. That’s why it’s important just to show up, with no expectations. If you find yourself at the piano, just consider your practice plan as a human guide, offering you direction. Take a deep breath before starting. Know that I’m cheering you on from a distance! If you only stay for a few minutes, celebrate having shown up.
Always remember, music is living energy and you can have a real relationship with this energy. It can heal you, inspire you, and bring you peace, joy, and beauty. There is no doubt that it can –and will– enhance your life and the lives of others. It’s a relationship worth nurturing.