As a musician, how often do you take a stance of acceptance towards yourself? I see in my students and colleagues constant battles, efforts at correcting or running away from our flaws. What if those flaws don't need to be chased away? Is it possible to even embrace them?

What exactly is it that we are not accepting? In the course of playing, our experience comes to us moment by moment in the form of sensations, thoughts, feelings, perceptions. We might perceive a sensation such as "this doesn't quite feel right", or "this doesn't sound right". We might have thoughts like "I'm no good", "this worked better last week." We might try to fix our technique, to match a sensation we remember from the past. We want to play in tune, with proper rhythm. We want to please the teacher, to chase away our feelings of inadequacy.

Whether or not these are valid concerns, we still have the choice at any moment of either pursuing them, or accepting that they might not go perfectly. Why should we accept these things? After all, isn't our objective in practicing to eliminate what we don't like, to present the audience with a polished product that they will enjoy? This is perhaps true, but I wonder if those goals do not interfere with our actual work in the moment of practicing and performing. Our performance should be based on qualities such as aesthetics, physical comfort and athleticism, creativity. If we base our performance on avoiding that which we fear, what room do we have for exploring those other qualities? If the goal of technical training is expanding our knowledge of the cause and effect relationships between our bodies and our instruments, is it possible that avoidance can have a limiting effect on this exploration?

How then, do we practice acceptance? We must move toward that which we fear. We must notice when we are avoiding, not so that we can slap ourselves on the wrist, but rather so that we can make a conscious decision to stop avoiding. Can we take an attitude of "yeah, it sounds bad, so sue me"?

Exercise: Choose a small passage of music or technical exercise, visualize how you want it to go, and play it. Ask yourself "Did I feel at any point that my attention wandered away from my intention, toward something that needed to be fixed?". See if you can identify what exactly it is you were afraid might happen. Play the passage again, reminding yourself that the idea is now to welcome whatever it was you were trying to keep at bay.

This can be a scary exercise. What thoughts does it bring up? Do you feel you might be compromising yourself as a musician, lowering your standards?