Take a little time - count to twenty-five.
Charles Dickens (Great Expectations)
Your Inner Music
- A short interlude
- Find your inner tempo. Learn to hurry without haste.
- Self-help with music
The conviction that ‘I’ve still got plenty of time’ is my major enemy: it’s already caused me to lose more than I’d care to admit. ‘I’ve still got plenty of time’, I say to myself and have those few extra minutes in bed which, of course, make me late for work. ‘I’ve still got plenty of time to do that’, I say and keep postponing something that needs doing immediately, the more important it is the more I procrastinate. I first became aware of the disastrous effect of these words, the epitome of my hopeless attitude, when I’d just been given a stiff talking to for making a mess of an important piece of work. ‘That’s enough!’ I yelled at myself. ‘Tomorrow you’re going to start being dynamic, you’re going to convince yourself that things are urgent. You’re going to do everything straight away, if it’s the last thing you do. No more procrastinating. But why tomorrow? Why not start today? I’m at it again. I’m just not trying hard enough. It’s now or never.’
I set to work like a scalded cat, with the feverish haste of someone fighting for life. I finished all I had to do early and for the first time ever I had some spare time. I had nothing to put off and felt strangely at ease. I started a project I'd thought about for a long time and while I was working on it I realised that the maxim ‘now or never’ had firmly entrenched itself in my mind, along with the conviction that the main thing is to get things done on time. I started to try cultivating an immediate reaction to everything. I pretended I was late the whole time and the consciousness that, in fact, this wasn't the case and that it was all just a game added an element of fun. I live at a much faster pace now. I keep pressing on and finishing things early not because I have to, but simply for my own personal satisfaction. I feel so much better now".
R.E. Radio mechanic
One day I realised that what was wrong with me was that I was always in a frantic hurry. This is what made me anxious and nervy the whole time and prevented me from thinking, reacting and doing things efficiently. I decided I just had to change, that I must learn how to take my time. So I started to work at slowing down and was unbelievably slow. I relaxed as much as I could and pretended that I was in a slow-motion film, that I was a tortoise, a snail or anything slow moving. I imagined I was on a beach with a leaden laziness gradually seeping through my veins. I pretended time was standing still and that I had eternity in front of me. I've not become a phlegmatic overnight and anxious bursts of hurrying still get me scurrying around from time to time, but I generally feel a lot better now.
A.D. Final year physics student
"Tempo influences our inner life, our feelings and experiences either automatically, intuitively or consciously.
Tempo is a close friend and colleague of our feelings since it is often the direct, sometimes even the mechanical stimulus of our emotional memory and, consequently, of all we experience and feel.
It is impossible to experience something in the right way if you have hit on the wrong inner tempo.
It is impossible to find the correct tempo if you are not experiencing the appropriate feelings at the time".
Stanislavsky experimented to test out his ideas.
He managed to get actors to experience certain moods and the emotions associated with them simply by means of a strict tempo set by a metronome. There were ten different tempos:
1. total passivity.
2, 3, 4. a gradual change to an energetic and alert state.
5. ready for action.
6. attentive, aroused, ready to act decisively.
7. determination to surmount all obstacles, energetic action, anxiety and joy.
8, 9 , feverish haste.
10. near collapse, near insanity.
This was a revelation for the theatre. Broadly speaking, the psychological effects of tempo have been known for centuries: music is an excellent example of this since it uses tempo to create different moods.
For everyday life it is sufficient to be aware that we always have a particular tempo: the synthesis of all the speeds created by internal and external stimuli. This is linked to the tone of our emotions, attention and movement. It is difficult to express it in absolute terms since everyone varies and has his or her own system of reckoning. Nevertheless, the range is approximately the same for us all or else it would not have been possible to create a scale of musical tempos that are universally accessible: they are the outward expression of our inner tempos.
For some, the problem is how to move faster, for others, the reverse. Speaking for myself, I would like to issue
A Curse to Haste
The pace of life today seems very pressured and many of us are in a constant state of rush, dashing from one thing to another, deeply frustrated as soon as the slightest hitch threatens our tight schedule. On the roads you see people overtaking dangerously, speeding and revving up impatiently at traffic lights. We get jostled in crowds and pushed hurriedly into the tube. With the advent of cereal bars that can be eaten on the way to work or school even the concept of ‘fast food’ has taken on a new meaning, a new sense of urgency in a world when breakfast is packaged and eaten en route.
The need to rush creates anxiety; the fear of being late has eaten deep into our subconscious, pushing our adrenaline-filled bodies to go just that bit faster. Thinking about it rationally we know that hurrying ultimately gets in our way, holds us up and, at times, even stops us entirely. But when we are driven by the mass neurosis of haste we cease to notice how much time we lose as a result of our negative thinking. We waste time on haste itself, using valuable mental energy on futile rushing and worry: like a car stuck in the mud with its wheels spinning furiously but getting nowhere. We know that the bus never arrives any sooner and the train never makes up time because we are seething with impatience. But we so often seethe away anyway, impotently using up nervous energy, snapping at our near and dear ones and ending up frustrated, with a headache.
There is, however, an alternative: since hurrying is already a reflex for us all, it is important we learn how to take our time.
More Haste less Speed
Observe yourself every day, try to notice your internal pace, get a sense of the range of your tempos and start to gradually slow yourself down inside.
Tempo-training. Tense and relax your fingers as slowly and gracefully as you can, all together, singly, each hand separately, and both together. Aim at making your movements continuous and flowing. Do the same for other movements.
Move your eyes slowly from one object to another. Very slowly, and slower still.
Lying on your back with your head on a low pillow, relax and turn your head slowly to either side in turn, preferably with your eyes closed. Repeat 10-12 times.
Slowly drawl your words, whole sentences, all very slowly.
Graduated transfer: count your pulse out loud up to thirty; then count every second (20 beats in all; and then every third (10 beats). Do the same with your breathing (each inhalation and exhalation together counting as one). Repeat in reverse.
For 2-4 minutes do everything as though you were in a slow-motion film. Repeat, but speeded up. Pretend you are late for an important meeting and you are trying to get ready. Dash around the room, frantically looking for something. Then suddenly stop and relax: dissolve the nervous tension you have created by slowing down inside and relaxing completely. Now try a medium tempo, but be ready to accelerate or decelerate instantaneously if need be. Imagine someone is shouting out orders ("slow, quick, medium, quick, medium, slow, quick, slow") and obey each command as soon as you can: take long, slow strides and small quick steps.
This alternation of different tempos is a good way of toning up and training your reactions. People with an optimistic, dynamic outlook on life are often able to change speed easily and even hurry with lightness and grace.
The most difficult tempo exercises are those that combine various rhythms and speeds:
Try to clench and relax one hand slowly and the other quickly; keep alternating abruptly, the right one fast, the left one slow, and vice versa.
It is often possible to master this after a relatively short time but you will not find it so easy if you try to swing your left leg at a medium speed at the same time. You will notice that the tempos which combine most easily are those that are in a constant proportion to each other, say, 1 to 3 or 1 to 4.
You will also discover that observing your own natural tempo and learning how to regulate it will help you maintain self-control and to be more adaptable. You can skip tempo-training if you are sure that your present inner tempo is correct for you, although tempo-control is nevertheless a part of Auto-Training: ‘entering’ a state of relaxation always involves internal deceleration, ‘coming out’ from relaxation is an acceleration. It is good to remember this, although even when you are coming out, try to speed up calmly.
The best aid for setting a tempo and, indeed, for any part of Auto-Training is
Today, those of us who seriously care for our sanity often find we have to escape from music, other people’s music, that is, the all-pervading noise we cannot escape that is neither to our taste nor at the volume of our choice. But this does not detract from the potential benefits of music. Today there is such easy access to a vast range of music it seems a shame not to exploit its undoubted therapeutic value to the full. People who regard music as something sacred may object to this approach although, having a slightly more practical attitude to music at times does not mean you appreciate it any the less.
If you want music to help you in your everyday life, it is worth taking time to observe your own reactions to it. If you select it with care and listen to it attentively, it can be one of the best psychological treatments you can have. I am not suggesting anything specific since the repertoire must depend entirely on your own tastes and interests. If you dislike music in general then it is clearly not for you.
It is useful to start and end the day with music, and even better if you can also manage to take a short break during the day when you can do Auto-Training or something else to music. Practically this is easy to arrange: the important thing is select it with care since anything that can affect us deeply can easily turn from a blessing into a curse.
Some points to bear in mind:
1. Choose something that is appropriate. It is obvious that if you are hoping to relax you are hardly likely to decide on a brisk march or a stirring Gay Gordons, but it is not that simple. Never use anything that annoys you in the slightest either because of the quality of the performance, the genre, or the unpleasant associations it triggers. You should like it without reservation.
2. The music should not be very loud, but not so low that you have to strain to hear.
3. It should not last longer than necessary: turn it off as soon as you notice its effect is beginning to dull.
4. Change the repertoire from time to time. It is a good idea to have at least three or four alternatives which produce a similar effect (toning up in the mornings, for example). Naturally, like all musical appreciation, your saturation point is a very individual matter.
5. Music helps mechanical activities, (for some people even mental ones like adding up) but generally hinders operations that require decision-making or careful thought. In such cases it can be very beneficial to listen to some music beforehand.
It scarcely seems necessary to add that dancing is one of the most enjoyable forms of movement Auto-Training and possibly the oldest form of auto psychotherapy. It is also used by animals.