I have to do… whaaaaaat?… Nothing? The paradox of control in peak performance

September 4, 2016, 5:11 AM ·

Is this all?… This is too easy, it can’t be it.

And yet… think of the last time you played and everything seemed to go by itself.

You feel totally merged in your playing. You are one with the music. Body, mind and emotions are totally aligned.

You somehow find yourself playing with sound nuances you never thought of before… you don’t even know how you could have produced them. Your senses are heightened and creativity is flowing.

The most demanding technical passages, quick runs… all fall easily into place as you feel you have all the time in the world… as if it all is happening in slow motion.

You are totally involved and playing is spontaneous and automatic, no need to think, worry, anticipate.
You are completely in harmony with the environment and yet like in a cocoon. Nothing can take your attention away from your playing, and yet you are aware of everything.
A paradox: you feel in control without controlling.

You play even better than you ever thought yourself capable of.

And then…

Back to reality… mmmm… is this elusive ‘state of grace’, as my teacher Philippe Hirshhorn used to call it, so capricious it will not be tamed?

Or can something be done to at least higher the chances it might happen?
Good news. According to research: yes :-)

Btw, in case you are wondering: yes the above mentioned situation is autobiographical ;-)

A ‘state of grace’

This concept has existed and recognized throughout history and cultures, from Taoism, to Buddhism, to Hinduism:

One of Taoism’s most important concepts is wu wei, which is sometimes translated as “non-doing” or “non-action.” A better way to think of it, however, is as a paradoxical “Action of non-action.” Wu wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world. It is a kind of “going with the flow” that is characterized by great ease and awakeness, in which – without even trying – we’re able to respond perfectly to whatever situations arise.”
The Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has dedicated years of research and writing to this highly focused mental state. He named this state “flow”, and defined it as “a merging of action and awareness where consciousness, mind and body become ordered and harmoniously directed, without feelings of chaos, indecision or anxiety.”

Flow, or being ‘in the zone’, is a state of peak performance.

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Tiziana Pintus is a violinist and performance coach.


September 4, 2016 at 04:32 PM · Interesting and useful, but potentially fatal when misunderstood :) Note all this applies to someones situation after mastery, and is possibly even the natural result of that mastery. Developing that mastery takes the most analytical thinking, work, repetition, information that you can muster. .

It is no REPLACEMENT for essential things that must have come before. That would be no different than a gymnast trying tricks she cannot do, thinking being in the zone is going to magically help her do them.

Alexander Technique has the same potential for being dangerously misunderstood by students the same way.

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