Originally published on Lotus Chamber Music Festival.
The music industry has a problem. How many times have you been told that pain is a necessary part of being a musician? That you must be in physical pain to express pain in your music. That to emote suffering in your music, you yourself must be suffering. That your artistic value is derived directly from your own agony. We’re constantly encouraged to push outside of our comfort zone physically, mentally, emotionally, and musically.
But how can you push outside of your comfort zone without knowing its boundaries? Well, you really can’t without it showing up in your life in a number of unexpected ways.
- You feel lost and can’t seem to find your purpose.
- You’re in pain all the time and can’t find relief.
- You feel mad or unsure constantly, but don’t understand why.
If even one of these sounds familiar, the good news is that these are just symptoms. Once you understand the limits that exist outside of your comfort zone, you’re going to be able to explore and push yourself – without the agony.
It all starts with self-care.
So how do you find your boundaries?
It all starts with self-care. And I’m not talking about superficial indulgences like taking a bath or lighting a candle. It’s not #treatyoself. While these are nice and can be a small part of your self-care routine, I mean self-care on the deepest, most fundamental level. It’s creating awareness of your innermost thoughts and feelings. It’s an understanding that what you want in life is aligned with what you are actually doing. It’s giving yourself permission to listen to yourself.
Try this little exercise. Sit still for a moment and tune in with yourself. Notice any tension or pain that you might be experiencing. Is it a familiar feeling, something you feel often, but normally push out of your mind? Notice what it might be telling you. Maybe your eyes are tired. Maybe your hip hurts. Maybe you’re hungry. What do you notice and what is it telling you? Now the important thing here is to just notice and observe. Don’t try to ascribe judgment. The act of observing creates a connection to that part of yourself which allows that part to change. It’s a funny thing that just bringing your awareness to a single area can cause it to change. You don’t have to do anything more. Maybe you decide to take a walk or get something to eat as an end result, but those things come from the act of observing.
This exercise is true self-care and the first step in creating boundaries for your comfort zone. Firmly establish those boundaries and your pain will take care of itself.
Most musicians struggle to find the edge of their boundary, to figure out what is their “safe” zone, their “danger” zone, and all the places in between. I work with musicians to find the line that enables them to perform without pain. If you’re in pain when you play, it is possible to regain the true sense of well-being that playing your instrument gives you.