by Rena Urso
How many times have we said to ourselves, “I really want to learn ______ but don’t have time?” A
couple of months ago, having a surplus of time was rare. Maintaining a regular practice regimen isn’t
easy to do when the plate is full. Now, there’s space in our lives to simply play for the sake of playing.
We can pull out the stacks of music we’ve bought at NFA over the years that’s been waiting for us in the
file cabinet. Take a moment and think about the specific things in your playing that you’ve wanted to fix.
It’s so satisfying to practice on and off throughout the day, digging in, and spending as much time as you
want on whatever you want. So often is the case that we have only a finite amount of time because of all
of the things we’re juggling; driving to and from gigs, teaching students, practicing other music that needs
to be learned for upcoming concerts, and managing the day to day of our musical lives. We now have the
gift of time to take what we need, and we’d do well to enjoy it to the best of our abilities because soon
enough, we’ll all be back in our groove, longing for quality, unfettered, luxurious practice.
Take What You Need In The Moment.
There are many resources available to us right now, educating us on how to take the best care of ourselves
in these times, offering support and encouragement for ways to manage during this surreal time we’re
living in. In yoga, we often are reminded to take what we need in the moment. Sometimes that comes in
the form of modifying a shape that better suits our body, taking a child’s pose, or simply sitting on our mat
and drinking water in the midst of a challenging class. Yesterday, take what you need at the moment
meant having a big piece of devil’s food cake for dinner.
We’re on day 17 of shelter in place here in Chicago. Honestly, it has been easy to find plenty of things to
occupy me each day. Between yoga, teacher training (YTT) assignments, practicing, teaching Skype
lessons, and Zoom meetings with colleagues and students, or allowing myself to do very little, my days
have been full.
In an effort to stay mindful and take what I need each day, here are some of the other ways I’ve been
filling my days these past weeks.
Daily connections with family and friends.
I have a big family. Each day I reach out to at least two family members via phone, Marco Polo,
FaceTime, Google Hangout, Skype, Zoom – whatever platform they prefer. I do the same with my
closest friends. In addition to the increased activity on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve been spending more
one on one time with friends; “FaceTime tea time” and “Mocktail Hour” are favorites. We even had a 40
+ person Zoom birthday party for John on Friday night. Maybe you have a family member or friend who
is all alone during this time. Reach out.
Creative time in the kitchen.
We finally have time to dust off our cookbooks and play in our kitchens – literally and figuratively. I
love to cook and bake. What a gift to have this time to explore new recipes and refine old favorites.
Making something that requires a good bit of time in the oven? Practice in the kitchen while it bakes.
My YTT class has a significant list of required readings. Having the time to sit and read is a luxury I’ve
not had in a while, except when on vacation or a long plane ride. It’s nice to take my time and savor these
books, particularly because they’re an essential part of my education. The most meaningful book I’ve
read is Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Another good
tip: download the Hoopla app and check out up to five eBooks for free from your local library for 21 days
Daily meditation and yoga.
Without question, this is the most important gift I am giving myself each day. We’re all aware of the
value of meditation and yoga. Finding calm during a time like this is vital. Some days I feel like a little
shrub in the middle of a tornado as I begin on my mat, and by the time I finish, I’m like a new person.
The benefits of yoga and meditation in my flute and piccolo practice are tenfold. Yoga helps us to build
greater awareness, patience, and focus, not to mention how it helps our bodies, keeping us in tip-top shape
physically. My fellow Body Mapping colleagues and I always say; musicians move for a living.
Sustaining the wellness of your main instrument (your body) is essential, particularly now. This journey
in YTT has been humbling and continues to teach me invaluable lessons each day. One of the greatest
lessons so far; learning to laugh as myself when I make a mistake.
We discover what we need most when we allow ourselves to become quiet. Explore ways to make this
timeless about daily productivity and more about a deeper awareness of and kindness for yourself. Yoga
teachers say how we are on the mat is how we are in life. If we force ourselves into postures and shapes
on our mat in an inauthentic way, we may carry that into other areas of our lives. Turn your attention
inward and listen. Maybe you need a long walk with your dog or a good cry with a friend, a daily
afternoon nap or an intense practice session, or maybe you just need a second piece of chocolate cake.
Whatever it is, let’s keep spreading goodness and sharing our art. The ripple effects are palpable, and we
all could use an extra helping of positivity right now.
Regardless of where or when we perform, whether in a concert hall, on our front porch or our balconies,
we’re still the artists we were before all of this began.
Be kind to yourself and take what you need today, friends.
Stay safe and be well.
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. She is the
course coordinator for The Complete 21st Century Flutist at CSU Summer Arts, a biennial summer flute
course taking place again this July 2020 at CSU Fresno. As a licensed Body Mapping educator, she
presents Body Mapping workshops all over the world. An active freelance musician in the San Francisco
Bay Area, Rena is a member of the Oakland Symphony, the Oregon Coast Music Festival Orchestra, and
Alcyone Ensemble. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband John and their beagle Lillie.
For more information about Rena and Body Mapping tips, please visit www.renaurso.com.