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The Way of the Peaceful Musician

creativity inspiration learning the way of the peaceful musician Mar 12, 2024

by Peter Jacobson

The theme of our 2024 summer retreat is The Way of the Peaceful Musician. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing a series of essays that will go deeper into the principles and practices that make up this approach. This introductory essay will set the stage for what's to come. Enjoy!

The life of a musician can be very stressful. 

There's the stress of auditions, performances, rehearsals (often long ones with uncomfortable chairs, demanding directors and out-of-tune colleagues) and practicing, which can be rife with overuse and misuse leading to pain and injury.

Then there’s all the stress we create within ourselves. Take "imposter syndrome," a condition that the majority of musicians suffer from. It's a state of interval civil war. One side says, “I deeply love making music and sharing it with others.” The other side says, “You're not a real musician. You're a fraud.” Not exactly the conditions for peace.

Do you play the comparison game? I find there is almost nothing that will disturb my sense of inner peace faster than comparing myself unfavorably to another musician. It’s a total buzzkill.

Then there’s self-ageism and self-doubt. How many of us are guilty of telling ourselves it’s too late, you're too old, washed up? Or suffer from doubt that we'll never live up to our potential?  

It's staggering the number of ways that we musicians find to criticize, judge and be unkind to ourselves.

This begs the question: is it even possible to be a peaceful musician?

Obviously it is. And as proof, we have a certain group of musicians who meet all the often stressful demands of a musical life with grace, poise and peace.

The good news is that any musician, with the right mindset and approach, can learn to be like them. In this series, I’ll be sharing one such approach, The Way of the Peaceful Musician. It’s based on 3 simple ideas:

  1. There are universal principles that govern the optimal functioning of the human Self (i.e. the integrated mind, body, spirit)
  2. Anyone can learn to consciously cooperate with these principles
  3. And when do we experience peace and poise, harmony and freedom 

The material for this series will draw on the three fields of study that have interested me the most throughout my life and career: music, The Alexander Technique and spirituality. These three topics make up over 80% of the books in my personal library.

I’ve written extensively about music and Alexander Technique but less so about spiritual matters. However, as I get older, spirituality is become more and more important to my work as a musician and teacher. I’ve been a spiritual seeker for nearly 30 years and it’s hard for me to have a conversation about inner peace, the Self or even music without talking about spirituality. 

The Way of the Peaceful Musician is not a destination or a goal of trying to be a perfectly peaceful musician. Instead, it's a process, an attitude, a conscious way of being. Ultimately, it's a way of life in which you choose to make peace, health and well-being your top priority. And in doing so create the conditions for your musicianship and artistry to flourish more than ever.

If you choose to follow along with this series and put the material into practice I can't help but be excited for you.

There's so much possible for a musician who chooses a path of peace. 

 Questions for Reflection:

  • What does peace mean to you in the context of your music-making?
  • What are the unique ways that you "disturb the peace?"
  • Who are some musicians you can think of that embody the qualities of peace, poise, harmony and freedom?

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