“Every time I try to play it just feels like I am fighting a losing battle with the violin.”

Try to notice the amount of pressure, force and tension that you exert in some of the most basic activities of the day.

Tying your shoes, washing the dishes, putting on pants, washing your body, brushing your teeth, flushing the toilet, eating, drinking, walking, making the bed, typing, writing, playing the violin.

The automatic nature of everything we do can be frightening. We don’t really do most things, they just do themselves. We can in fact pull the plug. We can notice how we do these simple things. We can evaluate the location of our elbow and shoulder while brushing our teeth. Does the toothbrush weigh 10 pounds? Well, why is your shoulder jacked up and your elbow flailed out? We see objects as objects. They all are realized in this category. So, this isn’t just about the violin. We need to do a bit of undoing in all that we do.

If we do everything with tension, we will exist in a permanent state of tension. If we exist in a permanent state of tension we won’t call it that we will just refer to it as our norm. As creatures of habit who will always choose the path of least resistance, we will perpetually be seeking an escape to a place or state of relaxation. On the surface, this appears easier than undoing and on the surface it is. Yet if it was truly easier we wouldn’t be perpetually searching for bigger, better and more exciting ways to relax and free ourselves from tension. If it was truly possible to escape tension by finding or indulging in a method of relaxation we would be there by now. But where we are is in the same place with more medicine, gadgets and quick fixes. There is a band aid for everything. To enter the flow we must rip off the band aid and stop buying band aids. We must go back and figure out how we are holding the toothbrush. Then, how do we set it down. Just like in meet the alien we at first will just notice bits of freedom. But as we keep undoing they will continue to present themselves and our ability to stay there will grow exponentially.

“So are you trying to tell me that playing the violin is actually going to help me relax rather than needing to relax after playing? I always feel so uncomfortable while playing and stressed. It doesn’t have to be like that?”



We are cavemen. The caveman, although I wasn’t there I can assume, felt:

clueless + overwhelmed + confused = still hungry

still hungry + things trying to kill me = need for action

genetics + need for action = tension

tension = grip of death

grip of death = this will always be difficult

So although slaughtering a mammoth to eat and tying our shoes are not even remotely on the same playing field, we still have the tendency to approach these tasks with a high level of tension. We want the end goal so badly that we once again do not even think about the how. We are completely obsessed with the result. We are programmed for results like 4 year old me knowing I need to play the piece, I play the piece and then people clap. Not noticing that with every note I played the thumb on my left hand did what was natural to it because of its monkey brain programming. It held on for dear life and hoped we would make it to the end alive.

If you ask someone what they enjoy doing I am going to guess that a majority of them will say relaxing. Of course we love relaxing, we have beaten the program into our minds that everything is a modern day equivalent of mammoth hunting. Not only this we add societal pressures and expectations to the equation. Now look back at day one of the violin. Look back on the first time you did anything. You probably had high and unrealistic expectations. You probably compared yourself to a master. You triggered the instinct of puckering up and holding on. Like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, “It’s not your fault.”

Until we enter the flow and open the doors to meet the alien we can coast through this whole ride on autopilot. We can keep searching for an escape from our norm of tension rather than ripping off the band aid and undoing that tension all together. Rather than our whole day being some sort of work with a reward of relaxation, undo that which causes the work to involve tension. Like an old Nintendo, hit the reset button.

We are re-programmable.

“Every time I try to play it just feels like I am fighting a losing battle with the violin.”

Without us, the violin would just sit wherever it sits, degrade and never move until the end of time. It is beautiful and detailed and possesses a lot of energy when in the right hands. But in and of itself, it is just wood, guts and hair. When a student picks up the violin, actually, when a student even just looks at the violin, they attach an existence to it. They make it alive. They give it a power it doesn’t deserve. They make it their arch nemesis that needs to be defeated. It becomes their foe on the mountaintop. They make it the counterpoint to their energy. Actually more often than not, the counterpart to their weakness. The violin has now become your biggest enemy. The violin now has the power to show off every area in which you lack. The violin will now bring out the worst in you. Why? Because you have allowed it to do so, you have given a piece of wood the identity of your arch-nemesis. You have given it the power. Rather than it being the extension of you, you are the extension of the inanimate object. In doing so you have also given yourself an excuse for all your wrongdoing and a reason for all your mistakes. If the violin is more powerful it cannot be your fault. If the violin is in charge then you are just the victim who is trying his best with what he has. Yet, as we know, what you have within and what you naturally brought to fight the violin foe is not even remotely the same.

Common phrases I have heard from students, mind you, fully healthy student with complete control of their bodies and limbs:

“My arm doesn’t move that way.”

“That just doesn’t feel right”

“I feel like I am going to drop it”

“That is as loose as I can get.”

“If I don’t do that then I can’t play.”

If you want there to be, there will always a reason that you will not succeed.

In order to reprogram the grip of death we have to come to terms with some realities:

1. There is absolutely nothing stopping me from doing this with 100% comfort and ease except for an instinct that I have held onto for far too long. It is never too late to undo, rip off the band aid, and start over.

2. If it is not working if your flow is interrupted, something along the path of the flow is blocked.

Find it, learn it, undo it, practice it, remember it.

3. The mind is the start of the flow. You might use your fingers and your arms but those are just fleshy meat bags that don’t deserve any say in this.



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