I wanted to ask you this: When was the last time you made a conscious decision to make time for yourself to relax do nothing?
If a million thoughts ran through your mind reading this, like perhaps:
“Do nothing? I barely even have time to do this, this and that.”
“Relax? I cannot relax, I have many deadlines to meet.”
….and probably many more, that I can’t think of.
That’s exactly the point I was trying to make. We all live at a crazy fast pace, sometimes barely even making it. The thing is, what is it that we’re running towards? Are we just constantly keeping ourselves busy just because that’s just how society is?
Let’s all take a moment to breathe.
I’ve recently attended a Mindfulness workshop and it made me realise how much we overwork, overthink and expect from others and ourselves. When things don’t go as planned, we tend to blame ourselves or others for the setbacks. Thoughts like “If only….” and “Why is this happening to me?”, often degrade us.
It got me thinking. Our mind is often in the past dwelling on mistakes or imagining what the future is like but what about the present? Why is it easier to find fault in ourselves instead of praising our efforts and achievements? Why be so harsh all the time?
It all starts with ourselves, to learn to be kind to ourselves by simply sitting still, being aware of the present moment. Doing nothing, just focussing on being – our breath, where we are, what we see, what we hear.
You’ll be surprised on how aware you’ll become of the most subtle things that were always there but not acknowledging it as much when we’re at full speed in life. Your mind will wander but once you realise that it’s wandering off, slowly bring it back to where you are now and focussing on being.
Slowing down and being kind to yourself once in a while. Breaking routine, going off auto-pilot mode and finding the things that will make you appreciate life more. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes at the start/middle/end of your day, will change your life drastically.
Go for a walk. Read a book. Write. Listen to Music. People watch.
It has only been a few days and I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, cutting down my to do lists and prioritising self-care. I’ve had time to read more, to journal, to blog, TO PRACTICE!! Now, I’m enjoying it more.
I realise that I tend to spend more time worrying on actually doing them and that causes me to be demotivated and procrastinate a lot.
Being aware and recognising what you’re feeling or thinking is the first step. It’s what you’ve to do to change that to make yourself more time and space. It’s unbelievable how vast the time and space we have once we’re in control.
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.
Bil Keane (American Cartoonist)
Every time this quote comes across, it always makes me wonder. Whatever it is that I’m doing, this serves as a reminder to live with purpose and make the most out of each day. To invest time into things that really matter, instead of wasting it on social media and trivial things.
The Lent season made me focus on things that matter, to realign and review my priorities.
I recently gave a talk in the SFC community about Loving Your Neighbour. It is a challenging talk as I struggle to do so everyday. One thing that really stood out to me was how Loving God and Loving Your Neighbour can be showed on the cross.
Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.
On the cross, Loving God is written on the vertical axis. To always remember to lift everything up to him during our triumphs and failures, to pray and be grateful that God has given us this life for us to lead.
I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another.
When God created us, he gave us His unconditional love. We should learn to love one another and spread love even to those who are difficult to deal with as we are all created in His image. We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. Like on the cross, Loving Neighbour is written on the horizontal axis, which is to be spread to everyone around us.
Recently, I had an epiphany. Love goes around, we need this. Why is it so difficult to love sometimes? Why do we put up a wall to hide our imperfections? Is the world that afraid to be true to themselves and be known and accepted for who they are?
I learned that hiding does not solve anything. In fact, it drains us. We should learn to be courageous to face our problems and struggles with the guidance of our Lord.
Today’s a gift, I have learned to be more understanding and forgiving as we only have one life to live. Wasting your time holding a grudge on someone or something is not worth it, it refrains you from experiencing true and sincere love. I always ask myself, “Will this matter in 10 years time?” If in the present moment it doesn’t, let it go and move on and if it will matter, fix it and forgive.
It’s easier said than done, but it all starts from within. Surrender and seek guidance from God and you’ll experience His unconditional love. I healed because of Him and I’m so grateful for that.
Make today filled with purpose as it’s a gift. Let’s keep in touch.
I hope your week goes well! How many of you plan ahead? Plan your week, day, what to wear or bring in advance? Or do you simply live in spontaneity and go with the flow? You could be either or even BOTH!
Sometimes, I tend to get carried away with the amount of work I have to do and catch up on. When it gets overwhelming, I always procrastinate and distract myself. Chores and work isn’t going to magically do itself, you know. Guilty? I’m glad we’re on the same boat.
It’s also nice to have a little spontaneity in life, but I personally find it better when I have everything planned as I do not have to worry about anything I haven’t done.
I take Sundays as my planning days to make my life slightly easier. I plan my week ahead, review my schedule and do as much as I can to progress – that’s if I find the time. I have adjusted my work schedules so that I can have my weekends off to rest.
Previously, I was working non-stop, weeks in a row – balancing teaching and working part-time in retail. It’s exhausting, I’ve burned out so many times to keep myself busy to the point where my body couldn’t handle it.
Planning and preparation is essential, I need to get organised for me to think clearly and be stress-free as much as possible! It keeps me on track, as I tend to be forgetful (I am getting old!) which caused me to miss important appointments.
You never know who you might encounter or what opportunities may arise, you always have to be on your A-Game. First impressions last forever and you certainly do not want to be known for your unreliability, you could lose potential clients or connections.
My Essentials for Planning and Preparation
Planner – Daily, Weekly and Monthly
Trackers – Habits & Budget
Journals – Practice, Personal, Study
Planner I have a 2019 Diary, Weekly Overview and a Calendar and I keep them on my desk and in my phone, open to the current week and month. I keep it visible so that I am aware of what’s on and plan what to do. Last thing I want is to be late and unprepared for anything – not a good impression.
Tracker I have an app which tracks my screen time and habits on my phone. The amount of time I spent on my phone is absolutely shocking – it tracks how many hours I spent on social media and how many times I have opened the apps. Ever since, I have cut down my time on my phone and my productivity has increased.
I am big on saving money, I keep a separate notebook as my budget tracker knowing my saving and spending habits. Keeping a budget for every category such as Food, Transport etc. (I could make another post about Budgeting, it is effective and I enjoy it a lot!) I also put a percentage of my income into my savings that is left untouched and I’m surprised by how much I have saved in a short amount of time.
Journals I have 2 journals – one for reflections and the other for Piano & Teaching practice (Music). I like to keep a personal diary to jot down my thoughts and feelings as it calms me. I use my Music journal to take down notes and establish my goals during each Practice session, the same goes for my Teaching and Audition preparation. Seeing how far I have come is very fulfilling especially when you’re feeling stuck.
After starting some serious planning, I have seen huge improvements and achieved more than I expected. If you’re feeling like your schedule is hitting you like a truck, I suggest you start planning and preparing. It makes your life a whole lot easier.
I have had a hectic start to 2019, preparing for my Piano recital and Bachelor of Education (Music) audition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions, panicking here and there internally during practices and then having an unusual wave of calmness on the day itself.
Glasgow City Halls: Piano Recital
29 January 2019
Last year, in November, I sat an ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) Performance Assessment for the first and third movements of Beethoven’s Sonata ‘Pathetique’ in C Minor, op. 13. I challenged myself to play from memory under pressure and pushed through! The examiner definitely enjoyed my performance and gave me lots of feedback on it, areas to develop and improve on.
I took her advice and started working on the whole Sonata, November to January may seem like a lot of time but it wasn’t. I barely had time to have consistent practice as it was peak season in retail so I had to work a lot with long hours, many days in a row, leaving me too exhausted to practice. Once January came, I had more time to focus on it in practice and during lessons – playing from memory under pressure is a huge obstacle for me and fear overwhelms me always.
I did all the work, I knew the piece inside out, knew all the notes as I have been working on this Sonata for over 2 years now. I hesitated performing the whole Sonata as it was daunting – it was 18 minutes long and it really tested my performance endurance.
When the day came, I was still in panic mode in the morning at the Piano Day in Glasgow City Halls. My mentor and Piano teacher who organised the event spoke to me to help me calm my nerves, reassuring me that everything is going to be alright. I taught some upper secondary school students in groups and individually on Piano, giving them a masterclass style lesson on how to improve their playing and performance. It was inspiring to see them progress and enjoy performing on Piano in front of an audience, as if no one was watching. It reminded me of when I first started playing and how much I loved and enjoyed it.
I took that inspiration from the students and focussed during my pre-recital practice. Reminding myself that I love performing, bringing me back to that feeling of enjoyment instead of performing for the sake of getting it done and over with. Within that hour, I managed to change my mindset and performed the whole Sonata from memory.
I was the finale performer, so the pressure was on but I find speaking about the composer and the piece to the students calming and eased me. It was a huge achievement for me to have played the whole Sonata from memory, all of the years of hard work was worth it! It was so fulfilling to receive the reception from others and I am glad to have inspired the young Pianists. I hope to perform again soon!
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: BEd Audition
14 February 2019
Soon after the Piano Recital, I got my head back in gear for the audition. This is my third time auditioning, after unsuccessful ones.
For the Bachelor of Education (Music) audition, I had to prepare for the following:
Theory Paper Entrance Exam
I was at the Royal Conservatoire for 4 hours and spent Valentine’s Day auditioning – who needs a Valentine anyway?
The audition pieces I chose for Piano were the Brahms Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118 No. 2 and Bartok’s Bulgarian Dance No. 3 from ‘Mikrokosmos’ Vol. 6. It shows an interesting contrast between pieces, Brahms was a Romantic style piece and Bartok was a folk song in the 20th Century period. The singing audition piece I chose was Handel’s Aria Lascia Ch’iopianga from the Baroque period. I had an interesting programme and showed different styles from different musical periods.
In the audition, I had to present a singing piece, two audition pieces, a set piece, keyboard harmonisation and sight reading – all in a 20 minute audition. In preparation for this, I attended regular Vocal and Piano lessons at the Royal Conservatoire as part of the Transitions programme and also some audition preparation courses. It was an advantage for me as I knew the audition panelists as they have taught me before.
I was surprisingly calm the day before and when I entered the audition room. I warmed up in one of the practice rooms with a Steinway Grand Piano and I enjoyed it, I took it as an opportunity to showcase what I have to offer – the nerves went away as I started to play. There were 3 panelists in the audition: a specialist of your principal study, head of department and a principal/school teacher. I loved how calm they made me and I found time to settle down before starting. It wasn’t as daunting as before. It was ecstatic to get my hands on a Steinway Grand Piano again, as this is a rare opportunity.
I then took a Grade 5 Theory Paper which lasted for an hour. I found it manageable, although I did forget one music concept and it was a basic one. How could I have mistakened Largo for fast? For those of you who do not know, it is a Tempo marking (speed of the piece) that means slow and stately. That was probably my only regret of that day. Other than that, I was satisfied with the exam.
Lastly, I had my interview with the department of Education. The head of the panel remembered me from last year. I spoke about my performance and teaching experience in the classroom. Music has always been something so dear to me as it helped me discover who I really am and it gave me a way to express myself. With the guidance of my Music teachers, I was inspired and want to pass on the experience and knowledge that I got to the next generation of Musicians. It introduced me to a community that made me feel welcome, I found my sense of belonging playing and performing with others in ensembles and bands. It helped with my discipline and kept my passion burning.
Fingers crossed, I hope that I get the results that I worked hard for. I am already feeling excited about getting my own classroom and Piano studio someday and I will do whatever it takes to get there! 🙂
Believe in yourself, challenge yourself to grow and keep striving for your dreams!