Does goodness come wrapped in "badness"?
I'm in pain, today! After injuring my arms during my studies in 2009, you'd think I've learnt my lesson. But it's not as easy as simply understanding the mechanics of what lead me there.
Let me explain what I'm talking about. It sounds like a paradox, that good things could have negative effects. If that were true, why would we call them "good" in the first place, right?
One way to look at it is that there are no inherent "good" or "bad" situations or people. Which I think is a very good (pun intended) perspective to have.
But that's that not what I want to talk about, today.
The effects success and achievements have to our brain chemistry
As you know, when we get stuff done our brain is flooded with bliss chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. They make us feel good about our achievement and motivate us to take on the next challenge.
The question is "Can this have a negative side effect?"
Unfortunately, the answer is YES! I have encountered this effects again and again. The closest thing I could compare the result with would be a burnout. the difference though, is that everything happens in reverse.
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No! Not like that!
What I mean is that a burnout usually is caused by being mentally drained and then if not diagnosed early enough spreads to your physical body. A "burn in" (let's just call it that for lack of a better word) is caused because you are so high on bliss chemicals, that you completely ignore what your body is trying to tell you.
And that's what I'm going through at the moment. You probably already know, I do a lot of things to stay in the present moment, be mindful, and take care of my mental and physical health. But when I get into the flow and one opportunity presents itself after the next one, it's really hard for me to stop, breath, and find my centre. I just want go, go, go!
Often this "Go, go, go!" mentality makes me slip on my healthy routines like exercising or meditating. I'm just too excited to get to work on this new project. And that's where things slowly go south. There are some early signs. But depending on my brain chemistry in that moment, I might not take them seriously - Ironically I just caught myself ignoring my meditation alarm for the third time, because I just want to finish this blog post. The words are just flowing and I don't want to stop that. But my sore arms won't let me get away with it, today.
There is no more ignoring it. I'll be back in 20 mins
...so where was I?
What has any of this to do with music?
Alright, let's take this back to music. This same occurrence can happen when playing music. Especially if it's improvised music. And like so often the bassist can come to the rescue.
Here is what happens to a lot of beginners when they improvise a solo (not saying it won't happen to a pro. But chances are less likely).
Imagine you're on stage with the band. Maybe it's your buddies that you know since years or it's your heroes who just invited you on stage to jam with them. Eventually it's your turn to play a solo. You are not a natural when it comes to this, but you have put in hours and hours to hone your solo skills. Your mood is somewhere between "I can do this!" and "I hope I don't mess up!".
And then it happens. You are playing the solo of your lifetime. All those years of shedding finally pay off. You can almost not believe it. It almost feels like you can watch your fingers do the work while you just listen in awe of yourself.
But then you get that creepy feeling...
Where is the one? What chord are we on? How many more bars until the bridge?
You fallen victim to the bliss chemicals. Because one effect that they have is enhancing your focus to superhuman levels. So much that you lose track of time and space. And in this case the band. You were so busy with your solo that you forgot to pay attention to your bandmates.
Bass player to the rescue!
Thank goodness, the bassist noticed your struggle and knows exactly what to do. He changes his baseline to a pedal bass note for a few bars and uses the last bar before the bridge to cue you back into the form with the most obvious fill anyone ever played.
The bassist in this analogy is our awareness of what's going on around us. And I guess the lesson is that completely giving in into flow is not always the best option. Most of the time (definitely when playing with other musicians) we have to keep a portion of focus reserved for mindfulness. In other words, if I had taken time to become conscious of what my body was trying to tell me and had taken it serious, I wouldn't be on bass hiatus right now.
Don't do that same mistake! Be smarter than me!
Lastly, here is a fitting quote from one of my favourite meditation teachers:
"Listen to your body when it's whispering, so it won't have to scream!"
- Emily Fletcher
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Thank you for your support
Love & Bass
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