Done and dusted.
I am glad to say that this is the final blog in this series. It has been an interesting process.
Last weekend I spoke to a fellow musician/researcher about performance anxiety and she said that she will be researching 'mind wandering' and the link with performance anxiety. I am pretty sure that my own attention is often quite poor and that I am easily distracted by my wandering thoughts, sensations and feelings.
So considering that, I think the biggest thing I have learnt from doing this show and writing about it is that I currently feel that the key to improving your playing in the presence of anxiety is strengthening the 'attentional muscle'. Throughout this run of shows, I feel like I became better at noticing when I was distracted and deliberately and kindly returning my focus back onto the music.
The Instructor discovery a few days ago was really helpful. When I felt panicked, I would ask The Instructor what to do, and she would always gently point back to the music. The Passengers on the Bus metaphor was extremely helpful - to notice who turned up, deliberately welcoming them and then noticing how they sometimes slunk off to the back when I allowed them to be there. It was interesting to notice that when Perfectionism and Shame quietened down, new and different passengers got on and their voices seemed to become louder.
Interestingly, in the last four performances, I don't think there were any disruptive passengers. I had The Instructor by my side at all times though. Maybe this is just a natural process as you become more experienced at playing a particular piece many times, or maybe that is the ACT processes getting to work. Who knows.
I have been thinking of attention as a feather, gently touching what needs my attention with the soft stroke of a feather. I take this idea from Headspace meditations. The feather idea is different to how I used to think of attention - sort of a camera lens honing in on its target, a tight rifle sight sort of attention is a bit too harsh, too narrow. The Feather is softer and gentler. More flexible.
Working with kind and supportive colleagues is so much easier that not, and having your own quiet dressing room to warm up in, and not have to make small talk with lots of people makes it so much easier to stay focussed on the performance.
And finally, writing a blog about performing is very draining and really makes me feel vulnerable. I really did not enjoy thinking all the time about what was going on, but having said that it was wonderful to feel accountable to the blog, and I really feel like it was helpful to document the process.
Thanks to everyone that has read and commented.