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My Trip to the "Zone" and Back Again

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
Did you ever have a practice session when everything is “golden”? This happened to me recently. I was working on a particularly difficult piece of music and was getting very frustrated. Most of us struggle with voices in our heads that tell us “we don’t have what it takes” or “we’re just not going to get it, no matter what”. At times like that we take a nice, big mental stick and beat the dickens out of those thoughts. We remind ourselves “I CAN do this” and “everything worth having is worth the hard work” and “it’s all about the journey”.

On this particular day the frustration was getting to me and practice ceased to be fun. I put away my mandolin and spent the next couple of hours mentally picking myself up and dusting myself off. I never think about quitting…not ever, and I knew it was only a matter of hours before my enthusiasm returned and I would approach my practice with newly-found energy.

I was watching TV and for some strange reason I began to “see” myself playing that piece of music. I “saw” my right hand picking the notes…my pick direction leading me effortlessly from measure to measure. I “saw” my left hand, relaxed and fearless. It was an amazingly clear vision and I remember thinking, “Yes, that’s how I have to play it!” I could actually “feel” it, that’s how intense it was.

I went back to my practice area, trying to keep that mental picture at the forefront of my awareness. I started practicing and just as I imagined it, that’s what happened. I played the piece perfectly. I didn’t even have to try…I didn’t have to do anything except allow that music to bloom. I guess you could say I was in the zone.

That zone has proved to be an elusive place and one I wish I could visit more frequently. Better yet, I wish that, as soon as I place that mandolin strap over my head and have my pick in hand, I would be immediately transported to that best of all mental places. At the very least, my memory of that experience makes me determined, and no matter how frustrated I get I tell myself, “I did it once..I can do it again!”

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  1. Michael Bridges's Avatar
    Visualization has been proved to enhance performance in athletes from the NFL to the Olympics, and is taught by some of the best coaches. You managed to discover how well it works for yourself! Fantastic. What a great tool to help you improve and get where you want to be. I can't believe I haven't visited your blog before. Interesting stuff! Always enjoy hearing your perspectives.
  2. lorrainehornig's Avatar
    Thanks, Mike...I think most of us who share this mandolin obsession share many of the same problems at one time or another. What was really weird about my visualization experience was that I wasn't trying to do it. When I try, it doesn't work...I have too many neurological interferences. Keep blogging...when I see you've posted a blog, I always read it right away!
  3. bratsche's Avatar
    Whenever that happens to me, it usually seems to occur at some time after 2:00 a.m. And I feel like I want to go on and on, and sometimes, in addition to playing well, I can actually (gasp) even improvise! Now that last part is so rare that it never, ever takes place any time before midnight! LOL! But when I'm in this blissful place, all too soon I must leave my magical zone and quit playing, and go to bed, or else I would just stay up all night long and sleep till noon. (Can you tell I am an owl, through and through?)

    I wish I were able to collect, or scrape up, or pour into a bottle... whatever 'substance' that is, so I could freely use it whenever I want, on my terms... But no, sadly, I can't, try as I might. It's just one more example of life's little frustrations and annoyances!