Happy New Year!
And may all your dreams come true over the next 12 months.
Welcome to a new decade! Have you made any new year’s resolutions? You may have set your intentions, but do you believe they can and will happen? Do certain goals or dreams which you hope to surmount sometimes feel out of reach. And, try as you might, they haven’t happened to you. Yet.
Yet is an important word. By acknowledging ‘yet’ you are on the first step to turning your luck around – if that is what you’d like to do. You might be perfectly happy where you are, and therefore this post isn’t a necessary read. However, many piano students, teachers and musicians hope to succeed or achieve their dreams or desires at some point in their musical lives; whether that be to improve their playing and tackle that elusive piece, improve their teaching, pass a particular exam or win a competition – or, in my case, publish books and write music.
Today, I’d like to focus, if I may, on a subject which has little to do with piano playing, but, for me, it has played a crucial factor in my work over the past eight years.
Many are aware of ‘positive’ thinking, that is, ridding ourselves of negativity and negative thought processes. This type of ‘happy’ thinking is tricky to achieve, and quite frankly it’s not always possible to ‘think’ or feel positive, particularly if you’re not where you’d like to be in life or you’ve been dealt a nasty blow. There can be a whole gamut of reasons for such issues, but irrespective of the challenges, for the recipient, they can feel extremely depressing, debilitating, and tantamount to a major set-back. I know. I’ve been there.
Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after cancelling all my work to undertake around eighteen months of treatment, I had to start my career again. I’d been giving concerts and piano recitals up until that point – mostly on cruise ships and for music clubs and festivals. This was how I earned my living. However, I felt it was time for a change of direction. But what was I going to do and how was I even going to begin? So, I started writing. And that’s when I established this blog. I wrote a little book, which was published by a small unknown publisher, and I then established a renewed interest in teaching, and I also started to compose.
Fortunately, in my moment of need, I found a wonderful mentor; Lewis Kelday. I met Lewis whilst reviewing a concert given by Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa, and he has subsequently coached me for the past eight years (he has also coached Valentina, too).
Lewis hasn’t taught me anything about music, although we’ve been to many concerts together and he possesses expert knowledge on piano playing and classical piano music, but instead, he has coached me on the vital topic of ‘how to think’. This might appear strange, and it’s not a subject generally spoken about anywhere, let alone at schools or educational institutes. But it should be. Without a particular mind-set, any kind of achievement is difficult and is reliant, to a certain extent, on luck. However, if you can train your mind to think a little differently, dreams, goals or desires can be within your grasp. They will be an ‘expected’ outcome as opposed to a possible distant reality.
Manifesting is a topic which I find fascinating, and it’s one of several concepts, or ‘ways of thinking’, introduced to me by Lewis.
Manifesting is a form of meditation. It’s a fairly free form, and it needn’t take more than a few intense minutes; it can be done anywhere and at any time. There are copious definitions of manifesting, but simply put it is ‘something that is put into your physical reality through thought, feelings, and beliefs’ (www.lawofattraction.com) Whatever you focus on you will eventually bring into your reality. You may do this through meditation, visualisation or via your sub-conscious or conscious thought.
“You cannot always control what goes on outside, But you can always control what goes on inside.”
Dr. Wayne Dyer
Many know about the Law of Attraction, or how like attracts like; the concept of ‘being’ what you want to attract. But manifesting, whilst similar, is slightly different. It requires a more careful, deliberate thought-process and a certain amount of discipline and determination. Sometimes it’s possible to manifest very quickly, and at other times, it can take years. As a general rule, the larger the goal or desire, the longer it takes to manifest. But it’s always worth persevering, as at the very least, you have acquired a new skill and one which you can hone and develop over time.
Last September I enjoyed a meditation holiday on the island of Gozo (I can highly recommend this island if you’ve never been). Gozo, next to Malta, and part of the group of Maltese Islands, is near the Tunisian and Libyan coast and is a deeply spiritual land, with many temples and places of spiritual worship, some over 7000 years old.
I joined my homeopath, Helen Johnson, on one of her yearly meditation courses. There were twelve of us on the course, and the guided meditations, which we did every day, were demanding, intense, and fairly long affairs. Spread over several hours, they were interesting and enjoyable, but definitely not for the faint-hearted as they required a considerable amount of soul-searching, as well as revealing much information especially regarding thought-processes and inter-personal relationships.
In contrast to this type of meditation, manifesting is much simpler, yet still with far-reaching consequences.
There are a few rules to manifesting. I’ll aim to keep them simple, but I hope these steps are helpful and provide a starting point:
- Find a safe place and a suitable time every day when you will not be interrupted.
- Take a few moments to calm down and get in to a particular way of thinking, that is, being able to fully retain your concentration and thought-process. This might sound simple, but to keep your concentration when you need to use a certain amount of imagination is not easy, therefore, you need to prepare yourself accordingly.
- Now focus on your goal or desire. Let’s say you want to pass Grade 8 piano with distinction. Should you be so specific about getting a distinction? Yes, you should, because the more specific your desire, the easier it is to manifest. The universe (or ‘higher power’) loves specifics – and it’s the universe who will consign to make the desire a reality. You may believe the ‘universe’ to be God, a higher power, or a spiritual entity – it doesn’t really matter which.
- You need to get very specific, first of all about the exam, and then about how you will prepare for it. Select your programme. Choose a practice regime that includes every element (scales, sight-reading etc.), and set aside regular practice time. At this moment you are ‘thinking’ such details in your mind.
- Visualize yourself as you practice. Use your imagination to ‘watch’ yourself practising the pieces, playing the scales with ease, and witness your teacher (if you have one) congratulating you at every lesson as you easily improve your technical grasp. Try to keep this exam in perspective; remember that it’s just the next step to improve your piano playing.
- The next stage is to imagine that you are in the exam. Observe yourself as you play all your scales, even the awkward ones! Each piece, the sight-reading and aural tests. Watch carefully and notice how you feel as you play. See the examiner smiling as you complete each test. Aim to feel confident and happy. In your mind, it’s all easy. Your imagination will improve every time you manifest, but I have to admit, I found this difficult at first. Manifest this vision every day for a week or two. Try to remember that it’s the euphoric feeling of success, or having what you want, that you need to cultivate.
- Now the tricky part. Let go of the need to pass the exam. Yes, that’s right – it’s going completely against everything you have just imagined. But it’s a very necessary part of the process, as I have discovered on several occasions. By releasing or letting go, you are allowing the universe to step in and help you succeed. Try not to act or feel desperate at any point in your manifesting; patience is very much required here.
- Finally, return to your manifesting thoughts every once in a while, and visualize the certificate in your hand with your distinction.
Manifesting is most definitely a two-part process. You’ll also need to work towards your goals or desires with gusto. For example, you can’t pass any exam if you don’t even enter for it or do any practice. But manifesting works well alongside your hard graft.
Clearly this is my own interpretation of manifesting and everyone’s experience is different.
You might find it better to start with small ‘goals’ as you develop your skills. I like to manifest car parking spaces. I visualize the empty space in my mind usually before I turn in to the car park, where I park my car every day. It has never failed yet! And I also do this at my regular café. I like to sit on a particular row of seats (!), and it’s often the case that they are occupied, but with a bit of thought, someone always vacates as I take my coffee from the counter. Training your mind to focus and declutter is a skill; it also helps to let go of negative or toxic people in your life, if you can.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. Get to know the power of your mind, and you will be well on the way to changing your mind-set and to achieving your dreams in 2020.
As for me, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have remained very well and cancer-free. During my treatments, I spent a year researching many aspects of cancer, and have hopefully implemented a much healthier, more positive lifestyle. It’s not been an easy journey back to happiness and employment, but it has been fun and I’ve met some wonderful people along the way. And I have managed to achieve most of my goals or dreams so far – but I still keep manifesting!
Here’s to a very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful 2020
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
For more information, please visit the publications page, here.