There have been a few studies now on ACT for music performance in recent years by psychologist Dave Juncos, but the largest body of research on mindfulness and acceptance based therapies is on sport performance as set out in the book The Psychology of Human Performance by Gardner and Moore.
I was reading this book the other day looking for more ideas about attentional focus. I was curious about what my mind is doing while I am playing and looking for new ideas. Mindfulness teaches a lot about attentional focus that has been really helpful, but I needed more.
Gardner and Moore talk about self-focussed and task-focussed and state that
'...optimal human performance can be seen as requiring minimal self-judgment, minimal attention to external or internal threat, and minimal future-oriented focus on possible performance consequences and ramifications. This can be summerized as active absorption in the task as opposed to active absorption in the self'.
I tried this thinking on tonight while performing in a concert and it was really helpful.
I chose to notice if I am thinking about myself, or am I thinking about what I am doing?
Is my mind on the music, or is it on me?
Self-focused or task-focused?
If it is on me, I put it back onto the music - how I want it to sound and what I want to do with the notes that I have in front of me.
Not easy, but simple.