By Rena Urso
Life isn’t a race to the finish line.
We ought to slow down, remind ourselves to stop, and take time to smell the flowers.
I’m in Italy again this summer, except this time it’s for my honeymoon (la luna di miele). I will again be a guest artist at the extraordinary International Piccolo Festival up in beautiful Grado while here. The lesson - when you put out good energy, it definitely comes back to you.
Italy is dear to me; I love every minute of the people, culture, architecture, food, drink, and most of all the company with whom I am sharing this special experience. I simply can’t get enough of the Italian culture and way of life when I’m here; I do my best to carry it home with me and hold onto it as long as possible. Spending time in this magnificent place each summer enhances my life, not only as a musician but as a human.
Most days, many of us race around from one thing to the next, telling ourselves we “need to” do this or “should do” that. Some years ago, at the suggestion of one of my esteemed Body Mapping colleagues, I began to make a concentrated effort to eliminate “should” from my vocabulary. The better thing we can do is give ourselves the gift of slowing down and doing less; and doing what we do more efficiently. Stopping altogether to take in the bigger picture of life makes everything better.
We get into a groove of doing things a certain way, at a particular pace, and It becomes normal. Stop for a moment and consider how you begin your day? How do you spend your free days? Do you even have free days? This “go go go” mentality: gobbling up all the things, accumulating more stuff, being attached to our devices (thank you Fluter Scooter for your wise words in the May FV!); leaves us so busy all the time that when we finally have the opportunity to slow it all down, we can’t. We take that energy, and the physical and mental stressors that accompany it, into our practice rooms and to the concert hall – that is not good. Left unchecked, it can easily permeate all that we do and pollute the very beauty of what we create.
If you’ve been enjoying my monthly column you know I often speak about habitual patterns and use of self. Maintaining this pace and living on the red line with any frequency simply isn’t sustainable.
What can we do?
Leave your phone at home.
Start walking, working out, swimming and/or going to yoga.
Make time for friends and family.
Prepare a new and fabulous meal and enjoy the event of sitting down to eat it.
Stretch, breathe and listen to the sounds around you.
Travel to another country and observe how others live.
As a kid, I wondered why my Dad took a nap every day. I assumed that between all of us kids (13 to be exact), having a job in a major symphony orchestra, and private violin students, that he was wiped out. Certainly, that was part of it, but my Dad learned that rest was essential to well-being from his Italian parents. This way of life was instilled in him from the beginning, since his parents arrived from Italy in the US shortly before he was born. He always took time to rest and to enjoy quality time with family and friends. He wasn’t a person of excess, we lived a very happy and comfortable life, and wanted for nothing. He ate when he was hungry, and slept when he was tired. He had several hobbies outside of music, which he enjoyed with regularity, including several hours a day of practice. He didn’t have any more hours in the day than we do; however, he made time to simply be and enjoy life… “everything in moderation” he used to say. And, with no cell phone, imagine!
Explore the ways you can affect a positive change in your life to slow down and savor people and places. It will enhance your playing and performance in ways you can’t imagine. You will begin to notice an ease in your approach, a patience with yourself and others, and, hopefully less tension in your bodies when you play. And, if you’re trying to decide which fabulous faraway place to visit first, I recommend Italy; there’s a reason for their daily siestas and the food isn’t too bad either!
Rena Urso is a member of the faculties at California State University Long Beach and California State University Stanislaus and a Course Coordinator for California State University Summer Arts. As a licensed Andover Educator, she presents Body Mapping workshops all over the world. An active California based freelance musician, Rena is also a member of the Oakland Symphony and Oregon Coast Music Festival Orchestra. She enjoys balancing her time between her homes in the Chicago area and California’s Central Valley with her husband John and their beagle Lillie. For more information and Body Mapping tips, please visit www.renaurso.com.