Mindfulness & Asalato

In recent years, the concept of mindfulness has gone mainstream. Seemingly, this notion is one that silently encourages growth in each and every one through constant self-reflection. It gives off the impression that it can be achieved only when one’s mind enters a state of calm and quiet… But is it really so? 

If that is true, embracing mindfulness would definitely be a challenging feat, given how loudly and endlessly distractions shout for our attention in today’s world. (But consider how fulfilling it would be, if Mindfulness is mastered. *starts being mindful*).

First things first, do you identify yourself as a person who is mindful of his thoughts, actions and emotions? In other words, do you think yourself to be aware of what thoughtsactions and emotions that come so naturally to you? Because I do…

I find this entire concept of being aware of the self to be so intriguing and beneficial for the soul. And it baffles me how long this concept took to be recognized by the masses. I personally feel that bits of mindfulness have been incorporated in my life through music… And I would like to share my experience with you! 

Learning to play a musical instrument requires commitment, as it involves the training of both the body and soul. Therefore, keeping yourself mindful during such practice sessions is vital. It allows you to be more effective and efficient in the time spent practicing.

So what is mindfulness exactly? According to Oxford Dictionaries

“Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something or a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

Psychology Today defines Mindfulness as:

“a state of active, open attention to the present. This state encompasses observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.”

Now you may wonder, what’s so good about being mindful? 

Mindfulness helps to put some space between ourselves and our reactions, thereby breaking down our conditioned responses. To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. Mindfulness can also be a healthy way to identify and manage latent emotions that are causing problems in our personal or professional relationships.

mindful.org, lists down some basics of mindfulness practice:

 The Basics of Mindfulness Practice

  1. Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.
  2. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.
  3. Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
  4. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
  5. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.

That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will accrue.

The nature of playing the asalato and mindfulness has more similarities than you think!

Even though the asalato is a simple rhythmic instrument, generating specific rhythms can be quite complex. That’s because playing the asalato is not as straight forward as strumming a guitar, pressing the keys on a piano or even striking a drum. Each asalato trick requires coordinated movements to bring about a certain rhythm pattern. And all the more so when we have 2 different coordinated movements while using a pair of asalato. Therefore, a lot more focus and concentration is needed from one when he plays to a tune i.e a successive sequence of asalato tricks. (And of course, depending on the complexity of the groove he is playing to).

And so, a thought came into my mind recently as I was practicing asalato. What if we could develop mindfulness while developing and achieving the desired groove?

Playing the asalato actually encourages mindfulness in a fun way!

It compels us to break down the learning, practicing and playing moments

This is an example of how I would break down the whole creative process into moments of learning, playing and forming new rhythms:

1.     Setting practice time to internalize asalato tricks or rhythm patterns – you need to set aside time and space to go through repetition of such patterns

2.     Observing your practice session – Like what was mentioned above, the aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know. (But I personally believe that we will get better with every try.)

3.     Let your judgments roll by – While trying to achieve a certain trick, we enter into a journey of focus, endurance, failure, achievement and even frustration. The art of learning music is through repetitions and practices. Putting yourself through intended repetition brings about growth. 

4.     Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment. In this case, it’s us returning to the very moment of playing the instrument, of practicing… being mindful of our sitting down and of our taking in of deep breaths. And as we shift our attention to the rhythm we want to achieve, through the many trials and errors, we are inadvertently shifting our focus to our thoughts and emotions. You may be thinking, “how can I break the pattern down so that I can better familiarize and internalize it?” Or “This is too hard, should I try something easier?” Or even, “let’s take a break.”

5.     Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts that crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back. Then ask yourself, why not I take a rest, and I will think of how I can tackle this in another way, sooner or later.

At this juncture, some of you reading this may have the view that your learning style has long been cast in stone, perhaps by what you’ve experience in your formative/growing up years… rigid and unmalleable… And it’s not quite possible to pick up another skill now… 

Wait. 

After all that has been said, can I just remind you guys to be mindful about this thought you have? 

Learning requires stepping out of our comfort zones. It calls us to confront the unfamiliar. Most importantly, learning can be fun.

And I invite you to have fun by challenging yourself with the asalato! From the workshops I have conducted, I witnessed many participants go from fiddling with the asalato at the beginning of the session to getting a hang of the instrument at the end of it. The sparkle in their eyes ignited by joy derived from hitting the target of playing to a groove, simply priceless!

I revel in their joy and that’s what motivates me to do what I do.

I hope you get to experience that sense of achievement, many and often in your days… That when-the-arrow-hits-the-bull’s-eye sense of achievement. 

And know that the fullness of such joy only comes when the arrow is shot on your own.

So set yourself to be on point! Sign up for our regular classes today!

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