Both Buddhism and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) use techniques to achieve desired states of consciousness. As musicians, we can greatly benefit from using techniques from both Buddhism and NLP to overcome any nervousness or anxiety associated with live performance.
I myself have had to use many of the techniques to overcome issues that prevented me from becoming a professional live performer.
Our bodies physically react to our psychological and emotional state. If we are not in a positive state of mind, we will have issues with performing to our fullest capabilities. Our muscles become tight when we are nervous or anxious. Many people who are not experienced at live performance (and some that are) experience fear (stage fright) before going on stage.
When a person is in the emotional state of fear the brain reacts by putting the whole body in emergency mode. This is sometimes referred to as the fight or flight response. In this state, our thoughts are not as rational as usual and we move into either attack mode (fight) or flight mode (run). Both of these states create adrenalin which causes the body to release glucose and makes us feel hyper, agitated, nervous, and anxious.
As performers, we have to able to control our emotions that may cause us problems during our performance. If we are having too many thoughts of negativity or fear, we will certainly not have a great performance. We can use techniques to lessen the amount of fearful or negative thoughts as well as redirect nervous energy. We can use nervous energy to our advantage to become a more confident live performer as long as we do not let it overcome us.
Most of the time before I go onstage, I do stretches and jump around or run on the spot to either build up my energy (if I’m too relaxed) or connect with and redirect my nervous energy. If I’m feeling a little anxious, the exercise from jumping around and running releases endorphins and helps reduce any anxiousness. (Endorphins are the body’s feel good chemical. Your mood/state of mind is boosted naturally when endorphins are released)
Your Thoughts Are Powerful!
There are many techniques, but these are the ones that have helped me grow tremendously not only as a live performer but in my overall life!
Affirmations – To affirm something is to state it positively/firmly believing that it is true.
Just before a live performance why would you choose to let negative thoughts enter your mind about your performance? Should you think things like… “I’m not sure if I will be able to play that part on guitar or sing that melody correctly”? Of course not, but many people think negative thoughts before performing. This DOES NOT contribute to a great live performance or help to become a more confident live performer, it takes away.
Powerful/positive thoughts are essential to producing powerful and positive performances. Get rid of all negative thoughts before you perform. Create affirmations for yourself that will uplift you before going on stage. You could use affirmations like, “I am going to have an amazing performance”, “people in the audience are going to love my performance”, “I have a gift, and I am choosing to share my talent with the audience”.
Your affirmation does not have to be any of these if they do not resonate with you. Make some up that are more personal to you and use them to help you have great performances every time.
Visualization – Visualization is a mental imaging technique used to help with relaxation and success.
Many years ago I purchased a book by an author named Shakti Gawain. This book is called Creative Visualization. This book changed my life in that it gave me techniques to help me create more positive emotional states and success.
The idea behind visualization in relation to performing is that we visualize ourselves having successful performances. We create a scenario in our minds that shows us performing perfectly and having great success, thus allowing us to become a more confident live performer.
To use this technique you want to be as vivid as possible. Images need to be clear, strong, and positive. Imagine the sound of the music you are performing, the positive reaction from the audience, people talking to you after the performance telling you how much they enjoyed it, and even how you feel after a successful performance. Try to really connect with the feeling of success.
Anchors are things like smells, objects, music, physical touch, flavours, and colours that help to create states of mind (an emotion). Many anchors we have work automatically and we are not necessarily aware of them. A great example of this for me that I am aware of is the smell of fresh baked bread.
When I was a child my mother always baked fresh bread. I love the smell and taste of freshly baked bread. Now every time I smell fresh bread it makes me think of my mother and her great baking skills! This of course brings on very comforting and happy feelings for me. The smell of fresh baked bread triggers the comforting and happy feeling for me.
We can create anchors (which create triggers) from anything, and many people create anchors based on religious/spiritual figures. Every wonder why people have pictures or statues of Buddha in their homes? The reason is every time they look at the Buddha statue (trigger) their state of consciousness is altered. It is altered because of the associations made with Buddha.
Most people think of Buddha as a peaceful, spiritual, and enlightened person, so if the people looking at the Buddha statue have this association and focus on these aspects of the Buddha statue, their mood/state of mind/consciousness will change. The visual of the Buddha statue will trigger the positive emotions associated. It’s all about the emotional association!
You can set up an anchor with anything including the clothes or jewellery that you wear. What things could you use as anchors to wear or have with you onstage?
The Power of Rituals
Many people have a series of activities they do to prepare themselves for a performance.
I personally like to arrive wherever I am performing early. This gives me a chance to check out the stage, get comfortable with the environment, and possibly visualize my successful performance.
As mentioned earlier, I like to have a little physical movement even if it is only stretching. Some people do group prayers, hugs, high fives, or say positive/uplifting things to each other before performing. These things would of course add to the sense of camaraderie before going on stage.
You should create some kind of rituals for yourself to prepare you for your performances.
If you are feeling anxious or nervous, BREATHE. Deep breathing helps to overcome stress and anxiety. Breathe slowly and mindfully. Breathe slowly in through the nose to your lower belly (abdomen) for about 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, then exhale through your mouth for about 4 seconds. Try to make sure that your whole body is relatively relaxed. Visualize a calm place while you are focusing on your breathe.