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A Brain Concert

Monday night is music night, in our household. Without fail, whenever we are home in France, my wife and I drive up to Lyon, for rehearsals of the Ensemble Lyrique Pascale Reynaud. Pascale is a teacher of voice and a voice coach to many, many professional singers. The Ensemble Lyrique, in which my wife is a soprano, is her hobby.

I do not sing with them, because I like music too much. I use Monday nights to exercise my sound/color synesthesia, while I clear my head.

The Ensemble Lyrique is always preparing for the next concert, as I am, in my own way. Optimal performance is best achieved when a "concert state" exists in the brain. By "concert state" I mean "a relaxed body with a sharp, clear mind," much as you would experience at an exhilarating symphony. Achieving this state requires two simultaneous skills: deep relaxation and focus.

Deep relaxation is easily achieved by most people through diaphragmatic breathing exercises (breathe with your belly). A quick way to learn belly breathing is to lay on the floor and put a book on your belly. As you breathe in, make the book rise as you fill your lower lungs with air. As you breathe out, make the book fall as you use your belly to exhale all the air out of your lungs.

One can also use music to help develop concentration skills. In a study at the UC Irvine, students who listened to Mozart's Sonata for 2 Pianos increased visual-spatial intelligence by about 10 percent.

While listening to the music of the Ensemble Lyrique, I develop clear focus with the "One Page Miracle." On one piece of paper write down the following headings: relationships; work/school; money; physical health; emotional health; spiritual health.

Next to each heading write down what you want in each area. For example, under relationships, "I want to have a kind, loving, connected relationship with my children." When you finish writing all of your goals make multiple copies of it and prominently display it where you can see it several times each day. Frequently ask yourself, "Is my behavior getting me what I want?" This exercise helps to keep you focused on the things that are most important in your life.

Try this at home. Put on some music and start writing.

Any questions??