FEEL THE MOMENT: STEVE'S THOUGHTS
Before we dive into today’s theme of the week (FEEL THE MOMENT), we’re going to perform a quick, 5 minute experiment.
You can do this wherever you happen to be sitting right now and you don’t need to grab anything. Let’s begin.
BOX BREATHING EXPERIMENT
STEP 1: INHALE - For 5 counts, take a full inhale through the nose. Inhale as evenly as possible (don’t just gasp, it should take the entire 5 counts for your lungs to be completely full) Inhale at an even rate and strive to get as much air entering the lungs as possible; your stomach should expand outward fully.
STEP 2: HOLD - Hold your breath at the top for 5 counts.
STEP 3: EXHALE - For 5 counts, exhale deeply through the nose. Your exhale should take the entire 5 counts and your lungs should be completely empty on the last count (often times beginners will not empty the lungs completely).
STEP 4: HOLD - Hold your breath at the bottom for 5 counts.
Repeat this cycle of breathing for a total of 5 minutes.
Box Breathing contains 4 elements (as in the 4 sides of a box) - 1) the inhale, 2) the hold at the top, 3) the exhale, and 4) the hold at the bottom. The goal should be to make each transition as smooth as possible.
Visualization Technique: Imagine an ant taking laps around a cardboard box. As it walks around each of the 4 corners, it just keeps moving at the same pace. This is how smooth your transitions should be.
SOME TIPS FOR SUCCESS:
-Sit down in a comfortable position. Keep your back straight, some may find it useful to lean your back against a wall.
-Place your hands palms up, comfortably resting on your knees. Eyes are closed.
-Make sure your environment is comfortable (not too loud, you might choose to lower the lights, etc.)
The exercise I’ve outlined above is called a 5x5x5x5 Box, meaning that each section of the “box" lasts 5 seconds. To create this framework, you can set a metronome to 5/4 with a tempo of 60BPM.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER AS YOU’RE BREATHING:
-How does your body feel right now in this moment? (notice any tension areas in your body)
-What emotional states are you feeling in this moment? (happiness, anxiety, fear, anger)
-What do you notice about your environment? (sounds, smells, temperature, etc.)
*IMPORTANT - You don’t need to CHANGE any of these emotions or physical sensations during the exercise; your only job is to become AWARE that they exist in the first place.
ONCE YOU'VE FINISHED
Okay, so you’ve just completed your first box breathing exercise. How do you feel NOW compared to how you felt 5 minutes ago? Chances are, you feel more relaxed, observant, focused, and more present in the current moment.
5 minutes can seem like an eternity when trying this out for the first time. if you felt that the exercise was challenging, it’s because it IS! Perhaps this was the most you’ve focused on your breathing this week, month, or even year. Breathwork takes time and practice to become comfortable with (as any learned skill). But even if for a few seconds just now, did you notice a greater awareness of yourself and your environment?
When we’re performing on stage (or any high-pressure situation), we're thinking about SO many things at once: Playing our instrument at a high level, executing the music correctly, locking in with our bandmates, the flow of the show, being visually exciting to our audience, dealing with external factors (sound/environmental variables), etc. This all requires a lot of our brain-power.
So much, in fact, that sometimes we forget to FEEL THE MOMENT. When it matters the most, we can sometimes forget to soak in the experience we’re having in a given moment and just FEEL its beauty, free from any attachment to outcomes or the perceived perceptions of others.
If we want to increase our ability to FEEL THE MOMENT, incorporating some sort of meditation practice into your life can be an excellent way to start. Not only that, you’ll start to notice other benefits too: Reduced stress, less anxiety, greater emotional control, and improved levels of concentration. Even just 5 minutes of meditation per day could quite literally change your life.
If you want to explore Box Breathing further, there’s a great video tutorial by Mark Divine which can be found by doing a quick YouTube search (then check out his book Unbeatable Mind). I’d also highly recommend an app called Pranayama, which gives you several box breathing templates and also includes nice sound cues for each section of the box.
I personally find box breathing effective because for me, the focused, rhythmic breathing acts as a strong anchor for to become aware of my own internal chatter. With that said, there are several types of meditation (Headspace is a great app to try), so I’d definitely encourage you to experiment and see what works best for you!
Meditation means many things to many people; but to me, meditation is time spent consciously devoted to becoming AWARE. Aware of our environment as well as our internal dialog, thoughts, feelings, and tension.
Don’t forget that awareness is the key to feeling the moment, and in that state, we can be most present to ourselves and to those around us.
Happy meditating and I hope you enjoy the journey!
YOUR ACTION STEPS THIS WEEK
1) BOX BREATHING: Repeat the 5x5x5x5 box breathing exercise each day this week. 5 minutes per day for one week. It may be helpful to attach the activity to something you do every day (when you first wake up, after lunch, before your shower, etc.). You’ll start to see real improvements in mood, concentration, and awareness. If you don’t believe me, try it!
2) IN LIFE: While meditation acts as a devoted moment where we training our awareness muscles, you don’t have to sitting with your eyes closed in order to increase awareness during our everyday activities. Often times, I find that just breathing through a situation is a great way to increase awareness. It’s also a great strategy for dealing with high-stress situations. The next time you find yourself stressed or unfocused, take several deep breaths and listen to your body.
3) ON STAGE: During your next performance, experiment with taking several deep breaths during the set. Like magic, you’ll almost immediately notice a greater feeling of awareness. How does your playing change?
THIS WEEK'S VIDEO
ABOUT PETE LOCKETT
Thank you to Pete Lockett for offering his three words of advice for drummers (FEEL THE MOMENT) and for inspiring me to write this week's article! Pete Lockett is one of the most versatile multi-percussionists in the world and is regularly voted in the top percussionists of the moment. He has immersed himself in percussion and drums from every part of the globe, from Indian to Arabic and from Japanese to Latin.He has toured worldwide as a solo artist and has more than fifteen CD releases to his name. The wide range of artists he’s worked with reflects the diversity of his playing, inc:
Björk, Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, Dido, Jeff Beck, Bill Bruford, David Torn, Vikku Vinayakram, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Jasraj, Selva Ganesh, Ustad Zakir Hussain, The Verve, Steve Smith, Texas, Damien Rice, Craig Armstrong, Bernard Butler, U Shrinivas, Ronan Keating, Nitin Sawhney, Evan Dando, Adrian Sherwood, Afro Celt Sound System, Vanessa-Mae, David Arnold, Evelyn Glennie, Errol Brown, Jarvis Cocker, Rory Gallagher, Pet Shop Boys, Beth Orton, Bickram Ghosh, Hari Haran, Mel C, A R Rahman, Eumir Deodato, BBC concert orchestra, DJ Judge Jules, Sinead O'Connor and lots more!