Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like you HAVE to practice.

We’ve all been there, right?

This obligatory feeling still haunts me sometimes. Lately it’s crept up again. And certainly frustration doesn’t help. Expectation leads to suffering, right?

When sharing my woes with a pianist friend, he remarked:

“Maybe there is another need that is not being met.”

Cue a week off with my six-year-old daughter.

Running over life-size Jenga blocks at The Strong National Museum of Play was surprisingly invigorating. As were merry-go-rounds, shopping for “fabulous clothes,” according to Olivia, and long afternoons at the pool.

So, what’s the answer?

How can musicians access joy like a six-year-old?

Spoiler alert: With a mindful approach, there are no answers. (Boo.)

But there is always a path.

Consider this from Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche: 

“Ordinary effort is based on thinking, ‘It is a good thing for me to perform this duty.’ That makes things very boring and extremely unsuccessful in the long run.

The purpose of patience is to overcome such achievement orientation, or aggression.

So you should be simply mindful, purely mindful, with nothing further being implied.”

How often do we approach our practice with achievement orientation? Are we aware it is a form of aggression? How can we be purely mindful?

Mindful practicing is key for musicians to access joy. 

Since my week of adventures, I’ve (re-)approached practice with openness, curiosity, and no particular goal (gulp!). It never fails to return me to the pleasure of practicing I enjoyed as a child.

I often remind myself that the Sanskrit translation of mindfulness is “to remember.”

I’m off to the piano now, in fact. To remember my joy.