Music: From Multitasking to Mindfullness

Who’s with me here: Thanksgiving has just passed, the holidays are coming, lists of to-dos are growing, your mind is racing in all directions, working is accumulating, time is disappearing and stress is building…ah yes, the holiday season has arrived. Before I get too caught up in venting my busy life, I want to share a wonderful experience with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra (ASO) that helped me “put on the breaks” to this multitasking mania.

It was a week in November.  I was experiencing the overwhelmed feeling of being a full-time student, wife, and musician all while holding down a full-time job. Definitely multitasking my way through each day. As I showed up to the ASO’s Classic Series concert titled “Beethoven Eroica” I was forced to “put on the breaks” and become single-minded. The only task at hand was to listen to great music played by great musicians and led by a vibrant conductor. The program consisted of the Ravel Le Tombeau de Couperin, Griffes Poem for Flute and Orchestra, Doppler Fantasie Pastorale Hongroise and Beethoven Symphony No. 3.

It is said that multitasking depresses the brain’s memory and analytical functions, and it reduces blood flow to the part of the right temporal lobe, which contributes to our creative thinking. Practicing mindfulness, on the other hand, has been shown to alter the structure and function of the brain, which is what allows us to learn, acquire new abilities, and improve memory. This creates nueroplasticity of the brain which in turn provides a mind equipped for longevity and wellness. so getting back to my experience of the concert, I immediately felt my body slow down, focus on the single task of listening and being “in the moment”, letting my senses be taken over with musical stimulation, and a relaxation effect.  I was so thankful for the movement from busy-ness to focus, or mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn (mindfulness meditation pioneer) defines mindfulness as “nonjudgmental attention to experiences in the present moment.”

As my body settled into the present moment, I was able to absorb the beauty and feel of each piece on the program.  I was quite taken by the first half of the program. Conductor, Jose-Luis Novo opened the concert with one of my favorite French works, which nicely paired with the following two flute works. Being a flutist myself, I was rooting for the flutist, Kimberly Valerio, the entire time.  She totally mastered her instrument with artistry, and conveyed each piece to the audience with perfection. The second half of the concert featured the Beethoven. Staying in the present, I was able to hang on to each moving note and shift that the orchestra so graciously presented. Well done!

Upon exiting the auditorium, I left with much more than just a musical experience. I refilled my mental centers instead of depleting them, stimulated neurons, created new brain pathways, reduced stress, cleared my brain, focused my thinking, opened to mindfulness, removed distraction, and felt rejuvenated. Most of all I shifted from multitasking to mindfulness. I had no idea that this would be the result of my walking into that concert; but I became extremely grateful upon exiting that concert. Who knew – music really is the answer to moving from multitasking to mindfulness (at least for me). I hope your next experience will be similar.

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