3 Magic Phrases

alexander technique musicMy “3 Magic Phrases”:

“I am free
I don’t have to do anything
I have time and space”

They imply and include:

“You are free
You don’t have to do anything
You have time and space”

“I am / You are free” implies and includes:

“….to be exactly who I am / you are,
doing exactly what I’m / you’re doing
right now.”

I haven’t found anything more helpful than these 3 Magic Phrases, thought with depth of meaning and a sense of wonder open to All-Possibility. Ever.

Please share.

With Love.

Violinists Have BIG EGOS!

Alexander Technique violinViolinists have big egos! Is it true?

Personally, I suspect that’s just as true as saying “musicians have big egos” or “people have big egos”. But what does having a “big ego” mean, anyway? And why is there a stereotype about violinists having big egos?

Every type of instrumentalist can be associated with a stereotype. I won’t go into any more of them here because (a) you’ve surely heard most of them before, and (b) it’s probably not helpful to keep spreading them!

But stereotypes usually stem from an element of truth, and since I’m a violinist I feel OK about opening myself up to the usual criticism of egocentricity that comes with the territory I chose.

Why do we violinists seem more egocentric than other instrumentalists? Well…. violinists (at least in classical symphonic or chamber music settings – and especially 1st violinists) do traditionally play the most melodies, have prominent solos, and play one of the highest melodic voices that are heard most of the time. We also sit at the front of the stage. Prominent, high, constant, and visible… and competitive for that attention… enough said!

But what I really want to talk about today goes much deeper than the stereotype of egotistical violinists, because the ego issue is NOT just about violinists. It’s about our beliefs about ego-size – as if this were something of a substance that could be measured!

So much has been written over the ages – especially in spiritual and psychological writings – about ego. Instead of echoing those ideas here, though, I’d like to just present one aspect that I think is all too easily overlooked and rarely acknowledged. And the absence of this aspect is a HUGE problem!! It’s the awareness that ego is an aspect of the mind-body-Self, which is not separable from the body any more than it is separable from our thoughts or actions.

It is my belief – and my experience which supports the belief – that people in general want to be good and to do good. We want to be modest or humble, not displaying lots of ego or self-centeredness. We want to be kind and generous, and to connect with others in respectful, loving ways. We want to goodness and beauty, and help people be happy.

Those are all wonderful intentions, but those wishes can get terribly warped – even to the point of turning into the OPPOSITES of those things – when we are too attached to our desire for them and when we ignore how the body reflects the relative intensity of those intentions.

An important notion in the Alexander Technique is called “end-gaining”. End-gaining basically means that we’re overly focused or attached to our desires, in such a way that we neglect the “means-whereby” we employ to achieve our “ends/goals”. We don’t know how to be detached… we don’t know how to let go… we work too hard and forget to seek, find, and be Peace above all else.

Alexander Technique violin

Image courtesy of sira anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When we are too attached to our desire to be HUMBLE, we work hard at making ourselves SMALL so that we don’t come across as having a BIG ego. Unfortunately, by working hard at being humble (focusing on it too much… being too attached to the idea… caring too much about what other people think… entertaining a fear of looking or being selfish, etc.) we put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves and introduce a lot of excess tension into our mind-bodies. We are literally trying to compress ourselves into a smaller space than the space we have been designed to occupy in order to function optimally.

In my opinion, making ourselves smaller than our natural design is actually a false humility. Even with the best of intentions, making ourselves small (in a spiritual-psychological-mental-emotional-physical way, since those aspects of self really can’t be separated) means that we believe we have the power to shrink ourselves and reduce ourselves in the eyes of others; it also means we are blocking the natural energetic flow of goodness and generosity that we should be allowing ourselves to express outwardly, giving the best of ourselves to the world – in a “big”, magnanimous way.

To me, TRUE humility is to notice the reality that we are neither small nor large: we are infinitely larger than the smallest atomic particles and infinitely smaller than the furthest galaxies. We’re in the middle, and our consciousness – our whole mind-body-self-awareness needs to reflect that. (See my podcast: Living with Ease at the Center of the Universe.)

Of course, we can’t be aware of this all the time – or even most of the time. We’re human. We forget. And we can certainly forgive ourselves and others – over and over – for erring in the direction of trying to make ourselves too big or too small.

So, let’s do whatever we can to remind ourselves – just by being who we are and occupying the internal and external space that we’ve been given – remembering that we are perfectly whole in the middle. Not too big, not too small, prominent and not, loud and soft, high and low, rich and  poor.

There’s nothing to “DO” in order to be humble! It’s the excessive “doing” or “trying” that feeds the illusions of the ego. To BE humble is to BE human. To BE human is to BE human… not to DO human, or to DO humble. Humble is simply to notice the present moment, and to accept it as fully as possible, without DOING anything to make ourselves bigger or smaller than we are.

Violinists and non-violinists: stop trying to be right, play loud, have a huge sound. Stop trying to be bright, strong, powerful, good, humble, modest, or even the best you can be.  Just STOP all of that – stop wasting your energy with those useless thoughts – and just BE wholly and authentically who you find yourself to be in this precise moment – NOW.

Stop trying, and just open yourself up to the reality of your rich humanity, mistakes and all, and BE your honest Self. Then make music if you want, and watch your open sound reflect your open Self. With Love!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Please comment below and SHARE THIS POST - let’s spread inspiration all over the world together!
Thanks for your support! :)

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How to Make a Musical Choice that Changes Everything

Alexander Technique violin

Image courtesy of koratmember at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My mother often used to quote someone (violinist Itzhak Perlman?): “If you make a mistake, do it with conviction!”

And from a wise friend of mine: “It isn’t a mistake if you learn from it.”

We all spend our lives experimenting with making choices. I’ve become more and more conscious of the decision-making process as a musician, but especially as a student and teacher of the Alexander Technique.

I call my work “The Art of Freedom” because I find that our greatest power lies in realizing that in every single moment we are free to be active participants in the choices we make. We unleash that power and manifest it from potential into reality in the instant that we commit to the choice we are making. With every choice we make, we re-direct our entire lives.

We make choices that are better or worse for ourselves or others, but the more we pay attention to the PROCESS OF CHOOSING, the more conscious we become. We also get better at:

  • receiving and processing information efficiently
  • becoming sensitive to changes in ourselves and our surroundings
  • learning
  • “quickening the mind” (as F.M. Alexander put it)
  • making better choices in the future.

How do we make a choice? How do we choose which fingering to use in a tricky string passage, or which notes to stress or vibrate? How do we choose what to eat for breakfast, or whether or not to get married or divorced?

In my experience, there is a choosing that does itself when my thinking-arguing-analyzing-fearful mind quiets and I become more aware of what’s happening in the present moment.  The choice that emerges in that moment is the best one I could possibly make in that moment – both for myself and those around me (even if it doesn’t look or feel that way at first). That’s what it means to “do my best”.

Miracles happen when we take care of our primary instrument (body – mind – soul – Spirit) and empty it of extraneous STUFF (unhelpful thoughts, unnecessary muscle tension, passionate attachment to desires, etc.), in order to create a pure space for the Choice to take place within us and through us.

Sometimes the Choice remains a private inner conviction, and sometimes it is expressed outwardly through movement, words, or music. But the next moment – and therefore the rest of our life – is affected by every single choice.

Great music happens when we first prepare the ground of our primary instrument, access the “Non-Doing-Space”, and let our Choices flow magically-naturally with Ease from the Silence… as we watch and feel our hearts moved by the flow. This is the process that I teach with The Art of Freedom.

It’s not about what I choose to do with this or that note or phrase or bowing… it’s what I choose to do with MYSELF in that moment of choosing that makes all the difference in the world. Literally.


Morning of the Performance Thoughts…

So…. today’s the day! My long-awaited concert is coming up at 2:00 pm, and I’m EXCITED!!! :) :) :)

Alexander Technique violin

I accepted to play a  piece I’d never heard of last spring, “Un Mot a Paganini – Elegie” for violin and piano, by G. Rossini. Last month, I dove into the learning process for that piece by creating a 30-Day Practice Challenge for myself, which I recorded daily and posted to YouTube.

I also created a facebook group and free email series so that others could join in the challenge with me. Little did I know how many people would get interested in the idea! Many others have since been posting their own practice videos, and the facebook group has become a little haven for music lovers to share their ideas and insights, helping one another by practicing together.

I’ve had a couple of rehearsals of my piece with the pianist over the last week, and this afternoon I’ll finally get to share my work with an audience in the same room with me. I’m VERY curious to see how different it will feel to perform today, considering that I’ve been practicing for this concert so differently from how I normally have in the past.

Here are the main differences:

  • I’ve been very conscious in every moment of practice that I am sharing my work with others – that what I’ve been doing is not just for myself, but also for a potentially large audience in the future.
  • As I practiced, I got excited about teaching at the same time, so that my practice sessions were clearly about Me teaching myself; and others at the same time.
  • It got easier and easier over my 30-day recording journey to be open, authentic, and truly myself in front of an audience, free to share my flaws, mistakes, and imperfections with ease.
  • With this new awareness of practicing for others, not just for myself, I felt a much greater responsibility towards the quality of my practice. I practiced MUCH more consciously and carefully, knowing that I would be watched.
  • Paying attention to how I was using my mind-body-self became the most important thing; much more important than the result of my practicing. This is the greatest benefit that I’ve received from taking on this practice challenge.

This morning, I find myself sitting here, writing about my experience, rather than practicing my violin! This makes it even more clear that my experience of the process, and sharing that with others, is more important than the outcome of today’s concert, in terms of the technical/musical proficiency of my performance.

Awareness of mind-body-soul-Spirit absolutely MUST come first. Being is more important than doing. Reminding oneself of this is absolutely necessary. This morning, I am reminding myself of this by writing here, and I know that this is the best way I can prepare for my performance which will take place in less than four hours (with a dress-rehearsal in less than two).

Now that I’m finished with this blogpost, I intend do another practice session in just the same way I did during the 30-day challenge, because that is what is going to help me be conscious and aware while I’m playing the violin.

I stop and smile for a moment…. and I notice my breath. I remember:

“I am free.
I don’t have to do anything.
I have time.”

And I wonder… “How easy is my neck?” … and I notice what happens as I wonder…

And I watch and wonder, with amazement and awe, as my fingers type and ideas fly from mind to screen… just as they will fly from mind to body to fingers to violin to sound to audience… to you.

May you have a joyful day!

With love always,

p.s. I decided to go ahead and post this without taking the time to edit. So what I wrote is what you get, just like when I practice. Sorry for any typos! :)

Here’s the link to my performance-day practice video on YouTube, from this morning:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stlol7lYcQ0

The Problem with “Technical” vs. “Musical” Practicing

Alexander Technique musiciansWhen you practice, do you think of different ways of practicing as either “technical” or “musical” practice? That’s a common misunderstanding about how to work on a piece of music. I think it’s very problematic, and goes contrary to what we are really trying to achieve.

As I was recording today’s video for “Jennifer’s 30-Day Practice Challenge – Day 8″, I had an important insight towards the end on that topic, which I’d like to share with you. (I’ll be talking about it more in tomorrow’s video – Day 9.)

Just as it is unhelpful and unhealthy to think of the mind-body-soul-Spirit in separate parts, it is unhelpful to divide musical practice into technical-musical.

I realized today that the problem is that we are putting our emphasis to much on the end result than the process, and on our “doing” rather than our “Being”.

The unified Being of our mind-body-self must be our primary focus of attention as much as humanly possible. When we do this, we gain a better perspective on how everything else falls into place relative to our Being. Our Being becomes the point of reference – the coordinate point in the center of space.

The self includes emotion already. We don’t have to work to “put” emotion into our music if we are in right relationship with ourself and the music.

Our job is to become more and more aware of what already IS inside of us, and to choose to focus on the aspects that are useful to pay attention to because that has a positive effect on our “doing”.

Alexander Technique practice

What I mean is… when my self is well-coordinated, and I am aware of my role in the coordinating process (mainly to get out of the way and stop trying to control everything with my thinking mind), the technical aspects work themselves out, and the emotion that is already in me is able to flow out through my open (not overly contracted) arms, through the unrestricted instrument, and out into the music.

My job is to stay centered, open, and responsive, constantly taking in new information about the changes that I see on the page (new notes in a new moment) and in my environment(the conductor just sped up the pulse), so that I can respond with appropriate tension for technical accuracy along with a spontaneous emotional response to the meaning the music has for me.

By paying constant attention to the primacy of our centered Being-ness while including the awareness of the more “technical” aspect of mind-analysis and the more “musical/emotional” aspect of the heart-synthesis, we will be improving our music-making as a WHOLE instead of risking the creation of either an overly mechanical piece of music devoid of emotion, or an impassioned and undisciplined mess of notes.

To summarize:

  • Make paying attention to your Being primary; the actions you carry out are secondary (The Art of Freedom / Alexander Technique helps tremendously with cultivating this ability – contact me to learn more)
  • Become aware of the analytical mind AND the emotional heart
  • Have the intention to let the mind and heart speak through everything you do, without trying to “do” the analysis or force the emotions.
  • Allow the centered self and the music to develop a constantly flowing partnership which contains and unifies all aspects at once.

I’d love to hear your comments here! It was a simple experience I had this morning which has been very challenging to put into words, and I’m wondering what you think…

Join me for “Jennifer’s 30 Day Practice Challenge!”



Won’t you join me and improve your music-making? It will be sure to be LOTS OF FUN and EXCITEMENT, and we even have a Facebook Group where you can meet up with other musicians following along, too. I look forward to seeing you there!



Expose Yourself in Public! The Best Way to Get Motivated!

Alexander Technique for musiciansNo, you do NOT have to take your clothes off (sorry, I just couldn’t resist that hilarious photo)!

But, you do need to share just a bit of what is deeply meaningful to yourself if you want to take advantage of the very best way to get motivated. There’s nothing like making yourself vulnerable in front of others to get YOU to pay attention to what you’re doing!

Here’s how I’m putting this idea into practice to make myself accountable for my violin practicing this month, and how you can join me and piggyback on my self-exposure! :)


Last Spring, after taking a look at the score, I accepted to perform Rossini’s “Un Mot a Paganini” on October 2nd because I knew that saying “yes” would cause me to keep practicing over the summer, and maybe even improve my violin technique. The piece is NOT easy. In fact, it’s a little daunting…

The LAST thing I thought I’d do was to expose my practice sessions to the public while learning the piece! But, that’s exactly what I decided to do yesterday, by recording every single session and posting it online. (Yes, I’m crazy!!!)

I figured… what better way to motivate myself to practice what I preach to all my students, than to show them that I really practice what I preach, and show them how I’m going through the same stuff every other performer goes through, and how I deal with it. The technical, mental, emotional, and all other aspects of performance. Every day.

I’ve often told my students that “practice is performance, and performance is practice”. Well, my practice sessions sure will feel more like performance over the next 30 days, FOR SURE. So, wish me luck!!!

Actually, can I ask you to please do more than that for me? Just take 2 minutes to sign up and watch the welcome video, and share it with the musicians you know. Then, come on over to the new Facebook group I’ve created specifically for this challenge so you can follow my process and share in the conversation. Keep me company!

or…BETTER YET…I’ll support you while you do your OWN 30 Day Practice Challenge! 



  I’m starting TODAY!!! Won’t you join me and improve your music-making? It will be sure to be LOTS OF FUN and EXCITEMENT, and you’ll be sure to feel GREAT about yourself for doing it!!!


Hilarious angel photo courtesy of farconville at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Do You Deal with Overwhelm?

Alexander Technique stressOverwhelm.

What is it?

It’s a sense of life spinning out of control. Feeling like life is too much to manage…like there’s too much to do and not enough time…that we are inadequate, or too slow or too stupid, or just not good enough.

It’s one of the most common complaints we have when dealing with the stress of our modern lives.

My students often report that they feel overwhelmed by their lives as musicians, but the source of the problem really has nothing to do with being a musician. We experience overwhelm because of our human nature (research has shown that our brains are wired for survival to pay much more attention to the negative than the positive), and because of how we react to the fast pace, uncertainty, and incredibly diverse stimulation of modern life.

There are so many different things that we need to attend to these days, and they often seem unrelated. How can we juggle so many balls at the same time and also feel successful in so many areas of our lives?

The answer is to find the ONE common denominator, and relate EVERYTHING in our lives back to That.

That common denominator is the Center which is within us. After all, YOU – your mind-body-Self – is what is common to every experience you could possibly have.

When experiencing the reality of the present moment becomes your primary goal, you can always be successful.

Overwhelm happens when your attention is sucked away from your Center and you start to make something outside of you more important than the present reality of your Being.

There is NOTHING in the world more important than your well-Being.

If you are experiencing too much tension, fear, anxiety, or un-ease, that’s your CUE to come back to your Center.

Alexander technique musicians

One of the easiest ways to do this is to stop and ask yourself:

1. “Right NOW, what’s happening? What do I notice about myself?”
Take your time to answer this. No rush.
Example: As for me right now, I am experiencing some tension in my neck, constriction in my chest, and an overall sense of anxiety because I’m worried about my financial future and my ignorance about personal money management. I am over-focused on the future, and I’ve been over-focused on searching for money management courses online for the last 20 minutes, which was proactive, but didn’t help me feel more at ease because I wasn’t staying connected to my center while I was doing my research.

After taking stock objectively of the present conditions, free of self-criticism or self-judgment, ask yourself:

2. “Right NOW, where in my body do I feel a little LESS tense? Where do I experience just a little bit more ease? Where do I feel a bit more comfortable in myself?
Example: Right now, as I gently open up to finding a place in my body that’s a little easier, I notice that my toes feel relaxed, empty, and easy. I take a moment to appreciate the ease in my toes. Now, I notice my arms. Thank God for the ease in my arms! Now, my neck… And so on… I continue to give myself some time to acknowledge and appreciate the ease in various parts of my body. As I do this, I start to feel more relaxed, and my mind is no longer obsessing over the future. I have brought myself back to my real experience of Now.

It is so important to have tools to bring ourselves back to the present moment. The present moment contains the Truth of Now, and there exists no other moment.

Why worry about the future when you can find ease right now?

This process is EASY. It’s SIMPLE. And it’s surprisingly QUICK, if you commit to simply observing and opening up to finding ease within yourself. If you seek ease, you are sure to find it. Now.

So, next time you feel overwhelmed, try this.

Better yet, try it NOW.

Practice this for just a few minutes every day, and you’ll be less likely to get overwhelmed in the first place. And when you do feel overwhelmed, you’ll know what to do because you’ve practiced it before and you’ve discovered that the process works.

Why not try these two steps for 1 minute right now, and let me know what happens? I’ll be very curious to hear about your experience! Leave a comment before you go! :)

p.s. These steps work great for performance anxiety, too; performance anxiety is just another term for overwhelm.

Many thanks to AT teacher Mio Morales, whose clear presentation of steps 1 and 2 continue to help me clarify my own ideas about the Alexander Technique and how to apply them on a daily basis.

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Overwhelm image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Finding the Smile After the Storm

Alexander Technique spiritualityEverything changes.

What matters is to have something changeless to refer everything back to.

The changeless is central and must be recognized and appreciated as such.

The center is in the middle of all things. It is everywhere.

There is no place that the center cannot be found.

All music, all of life, can be referred back to the center.

All magic, all goodness, all beatitude, all comfort… is found there, which is here.

Things happen. Things trigger reactions in us, and in others.

Things – and we – are thrown off balance.

Of course.

This is the nature of the changing world.

What matters is to notice it, and to choose how to respond to the imbalance.

Is it possible to simply notice, to become aware, to observe the ripples on the water after the rocks have been thrown in, without trying to iron out the lake?

This too shall pass.

People come and go. Things come and go. Feelings come and go. We are together and apart. Night follows day, and day follows night. Fear follows comfort and comfort follows fear.

We are asleep, and then awake.

This universe contains all things. All possibilities. Infinitude…

The awareness that lives in the center of our heart contains the entire universe – there is no separation.

The key is to realize that awareness is the key…and to choose again and again to come back to That. And to practice coming back, again and again and again… under all circumstances.

Because with practice come greater ease and strength.

I love remembering this, and taking it to heart.

Knowing this brings me a smile after the storm – with love.

And to love is to act on that which is true.


I welcome your comments on this post. Thank you for reading!

Two FREE E-Courses with expert tips for you

All Musicians: sign up here: http://jenniferrf1_1.gr8.com

String Players: sign up here: https://artoffreedom.leadpages.co/freestringsecourse/

If you enjoyed this post, sign up for my MONTHLY E-NEWSLETTER
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How Can A Fleeting Moment Conquer Evil?

I’m having a bit of an emotional morning. I’ve just realized something important and surprising, and I want to share it with you. It’s a personal story with huge implications.

I’ve been going through a lot of ups and downs lately. Half a year ago, I moved out of the house I’d been living in for more than ten years, ending a 25-year marriage that began when I was 20. I can hardly express how dramatically my life has changed since making that decision. The most wonderful and beautiful things have been happening to me, but the road of separation and change is a rocky one, and sometimes the bumps hurt. A lot.

My relationship with my violin often reflects what’s happening in my life in general, so it’s interesting that my ah-ha moment of the morning was related to that.

Recently, I wrote about how excited I’ve been to be practicing the violin again for myself. I’ve only committed to doing a few minutes every day (and there are plenty of days I’ve skipped), but those minutes have been far richer and more rewarding than most of the work I’ve done with the violin since age 19, when I lost the desire to improve my playing. Since then, I simply maintained my skills enough to enjoy high-quality music-making with other musicians; I never had an interest in improving my skills. So this change has been very remarkable to me.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a series of challenging situations to deal with, and the Alexander Technique has been invaluable to help me negotiate them with my “chin up”.

But over the last few days, I’ve noticed that it’s been getting harder for me to stay positive in the face of certain events that have brought up a huge range of strong emotions. Interestingly, I’ve begun to neglect my violin again, and I haven’t been paying so much attention to my mind-body use. In fact, my knees have been hurting, so I’ve been more focused on pain than anything else. Of course – what you focus on, you get more of!

Alexander Technique musicians

This morning, I got up early and sat in my rocking chair for a few moments before deciding what to do next. I took a moment to appreciate the peaceful beauty of my home, and I noticed feelings of anger and unhappiness coming up again.

But, instead of going to write in my neglected journal to work through my feelings like I have in the past, I decided to stop and recite “How easy is my neck?” 100 hundred times. This is a unique practice that Alexander teacher Mio Morales introduced me to at a conference last year. It’s something I do now every time I practice my violin these days, because the results when I start playing are quite incredible.

After reciting the “cycle”, I decided to pick up my violin and experiment for just a couple minutes. I focused on wondering about the ease in my neck, noticing what happened to the ease when I wondered about it, and I watched the ease as it spread.

I wasn’t expecting what happened next.
I learned something new.

In the moment I became aware of what I was doing and learned how to stop, I was astounded. And then I cried a few tears, because learning something new is an incredibly wonderful thing. It is empowering. It is reassuring and reaffirming. It is proof of Self-value. It is proof that creation and change are possible, and that we have the power to effect – or at least participate in – that magical moment when something new occurs. A pure moment of learning is like a divine revelation.

What did I learn? Specifically, I learned that I was freezing up and isolating my right wrist, tightening my neck, compromising the quality of my movement and therefore my sound every single time I brought the bow near the string. But becoming aware of that – and then discovering how to stop doing it – was only secondary in importance to watching myself learn, and discovering how important learning is to human growth and well-being.

To remember that we don’t have to do anything, that we have time

To stop and notice our current Reality 

To exercise our freedom to choose our response to this Reality

To choose to stop and wonder about the current conditions of Reality, within and around us

To wonder about the relative ease of the neck

To wonder what happens to the ease

To watch the ease

To practice this while we partake of an activity and learn from what we observe…

This is, most surely, the key to overcoming any event in our lives that seeks to diminish us.  

In most of the world’s religions, there is a concept called “evil”. Very simply, this can be considered a force that seeks to crush the soul, separate us from ourselves, and limit life. There are many events, and also people at times, who wish to make us feel bad, hurt, small, and miserable…who seek to make us doubt ourselves. They may or may not be aware of it. But there is nothing worse in this world than a force that prods us to lose faith in the Self.

Sometimes, this force succeeds in its attempts to crush the soul. But if we understand and keep coming back to the power of living in the moment, observing Reality and realizing our freedom to choose, that force becomes utterly powerless to crush our indomitable spirit.

Once we choose to stop engaging with that force of downward pull, choosing instead to simply shine the light of awareness on the Reality that is now, discovering the unfolding of ourselves into the next moment, the nothingness of darkness/evil/ignorance simply disappears. Every time.

It constantly amazes me how much power we have
over ourselves and our lives.

May I – and may you – continue to learn more and more about the power of Self-knowledge, and use ourselves well. And may we be happy – right now! :)


I welcome your comments on this post. Thank you for reading!

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My Struggle with Being Concise in Speech and Musical Practice

A few months ago, I was asked to give a 10-minute TED-style talk at the College Music Society Summit on improving 21st century music school design.

I gave the talk last Friday, and I believe it was a success. However, the process leading up to it was extremely challenging for me, and I learned quite a lot from it.

It’s always a good idea to focus more on the positives than the negatives, so I’ll start with recognizing how very far I’ve come over my lifetime in the realm of speaking in public.

Alexander Technique musicians

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As a child, I was extremely shy about speaking to others. Speaking to an audience from the stage was terrifying, as were giving radio or newspaper interviews. I dreaded any event that could expose me in public through the spoken word, even though I had no anxiety when playing the violin for others.

Knowing that this was a serious deficiency for someone aspiring to be an international soloist, I took a speech class in college. Unfortunately, I had such a terrible experience during the second class (I began to recite the required memorized poem and drew a blank after only a few words) that I dropped the class and never went back!

It wasn’t until I had completed a 3-year training to become certified as an Alexander Technique teacher, and I started giving introductory workshops to musicians, that I realized my fear of speaking in public had largely disappeared. Suddenly, I discovered that I loved talking about the Alexander Technique – even to large audiences!

It has been over 8 years now since I gave my first introductory workshop. I now thrive on teaching group classes and giving workshops. In fact, one of the best experiences of my life was teaching groups of up to 40 students at a time in Japan, with a translator.

So, when I was invited to give a 10-minute talk on wellness for musicians at the CMS Summit, I was delighted and accepted without hesitation. I thought it would be easy.

Alexander Technique musicians

Little did I know how difficult it would be for me!

I’ve always known that being concise is not my strong point (witness the length of this blogpost, haha). There’s a lot that I feel passionately about, and I love to share what I care about with others. So I write a lot and I talk a lot (sometimes I think I’m making up for all my years of relative silence as a child!).

But distilling my passion into only 10 minutes proved to be extremely difficult!!!

In fact, I struggled and suffered over planning the speech for more than a week before the event. I thought about it most of the time, woke up in the middle of the night, and wrote pages of brainstorming ideas. And still, I couldn’t figure out how to pinpoint the most important ideas I wanted to get across and how to do it efficiently.

It was 5 minutes before my talk and I STILL had only a vague outline of what I was going to say. It didn’t help my nerves to remember that we presenters had been urged to rehearse and memorize our speeches four months before, and we weren’t allowed to use any notes or notecards; just a PowerPoint which I had opted not to do.

However, despite my confusion and distress, I continued to apply the Alexander Technique as I prepared.  Even when my car’s GPS took me to the wrong state (!) on my drive to South Carolina for the conference, and even when my car died on the highway and I had to rent the car I’m still driving now (that’s another blogpost!), AT kept me sane and in a good mood throughout.

When it was finally time to deliver my “BIG Idea” Talk (not my term), the room was freezing and I was the last one to speak. My body was shaking from cold and nervousness, but I simply watched it all, letting myself be free to feel what I was feeling without trying to change the reality of my experience.

Alexander Technique musicians

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Once I rose to speak, the experience took over and started to flow.  After my stilted beginning (“Hi. I’m Jennifer Roig-Francoli, and I’m also a violinist.” I’m ALSO a violinist? Haha!), the ideas just poured out and all of the work I’d been doing to prepare (mostly stopping my negative reactions to the ordeal) carried the talk like a river transporting ideas from my brain to my audience. I finished just under the 10-minute limit, and the audience was enthusiastic.

I’ve come a long way, it’s true…

Speaking in public will forever be something that I can improve on, to say the least! But the WAY that I’m learning to work on it (or any other activity) is what interests me the most.

This process drove home to me in an intense way that it is extremely important to be able to distill our ideas into ONE MAIN IDEA. We need to learn how to be CLEAR.  About what we want… and how to express it so that we can increase our odds of getting it.

As I think about this, I’m realizing that I don’t have to wait until the next time I’m asked to give a short talk to work on this. I can work on being clear and concise every single time I speak. This idea makes me curious, and it makes me want to explore it.

I will explore it when I practice my violin, too, because making music is simply expressing ideas through music instead of words. When I practice, I can ask myself:

What is the ONE IDEA that I want to work on when I pick up my violin?
What is the ONE IDEA that I want to express?
How can I express it clearly and simply, without anything extra and unnecessary getting in the way?

I love the Alexander Technique, and I love feeling curious about life. I love being challenged, and I love exploring what is possible.

Thanks to the Alexander Technique and The Art of Freedom, I live and continue to learn. HURRAY!

 I welcome your comments on this post. Thank you for reading!

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