I went to see a clinical psychologist this week. Not because I feel desperately screwed up, but because – largely – I wanted to see whether I could develop more self-belief in my singing, and felt I needed some help to do so. I also want answers to some of life’s questions – but that’s another story.
If being ‘mindful’ is anything to go by, there is nothing hard and fast – there are no answers or rights and wrongs – but living in the moment is everything.
That is of course a very simplistic way of expressing it, but the basic theory – as I understand it – is that if you’re living fully in the moment (without regrets for yesterday or worries about tomorrow) then That Is Good. In terms of singing – or musical performance generally – it makes complete sense and ties in nicely with books Caroline (Cope) had told me about and shown me about performing: there’s no point in singing a solo with your mind on something else; you have to be fully engaged (I guess Method Acting takes this to extremes…). What the clinical psychologist told me was to do mindful driving, washing up and walking (or running). Nigel would just say ‘get a grip’ – which boils down to basically the same thing, in a nutshell.
It all got me thinking about the run I had done on Monday – and then got me thinking again when I ran yesterday. ‘Mindfully’ I ‘shouldn’t’ be writing my blog in my head as I run – or thinking too much (have you noticed how many times I have already mentioned thinking?) and in fact on Monday and again yesterday I was sending myself text messages every time I noticed something and wanted to comment on it, which meant that I’d written the thought or sensation down and then moved on. I think… (!)
However surely by noticing the small things around me when I run I am in fact being mindful?
Monday was such a lovely day that I did a quick mental calculation and realised that however un-running-fit I felt, I had time to get up Talkin Fell and back. The hills were calling to me: I wanted to be up at the top of somewhere and admiring a view. It’s so lonely up there, well away from traffic and (most) houses, that I was acutely conscious of all the noises of nature around me: the plashing river Gelt; chirruping bugs, tweeting birds, lowing cows; the occasional dog barking; the gentle thud of my feet on the ground. The afternoon was warm and still, shaken temporarily at one point by a thunderous aeroplane flying somewhere overhead but which I couldn’t see (I think it may have been on the other side of Cold Fell and flying into Newcastle).
I wasn’t running well but it didn’t matter. I rested at the cairns on the exposed summit, the Lake District fells and Scotland misty blurs, the Solway a faint hazy streak of grey, the cooling wind playing around with my hair. I wanted to stand up and shout, “Here I am, right at the top! Look at me!”. A bee buzzed around me and Tindale and Talkin tarns looked blue and inviting, and I stood at the top of the world and gazed and gazed, not wanting to rush back down. And at some point either while I stood up there feeling strong and part of nature, or on the way back down, the thought came into my head that I am a performer right through to the tips of my toes. I don’t know why; I don’t know what drives me to ‘show off’ (I’m not particularly exhibitionist, although I am extrovert rather than introvert); but performing is in my blood – singing, writing, being on the radio, running races, leading teams – all entail performing in some way or another.
We were lucky with the weather this week as it continued until yesterday (Friday) evening, when I decided I’d run down to Lanercost to get to the choir rehearsal for Carmina Burana. I’ve written about running up the Moot and along the Ridge many times before and it hadn’t lost any of its pleasure . The evening birds were singing; as I went through Quarry Beck woods I briefly smelt newly mown grass and freshly broken wood, but what was really obvious was that rain was on its way. You could smell it coming and see it approaching from the north and west. It was the blossom that really struck me on this run, however: tiny delicate white flowers spreading out over the wood floor; the hawthorn flowers; and the beginnings of bluebells. In two weeks’ time or so there will be an ethereal blue haze in Quarry Beck woods, the heads of the bluebells nodding at the stream as it splashes past down to Lanercost.
I popped out of the dusky woods just as my friends went past in their car; a peep of the horn and a wave and they were gone, and I ran on down to the old bridge over the Irthing. I had just a moment to enjoy the relative silence and tranquillity of the river flowing underneath before pressing on to lovely, ancient Lanercost – and to sing loudly, lustily, and high!