The Practicing Mind

The Practicing Mind

If you want to get a new lease on life and music, check out this book: “The Practicing Mind” by Thomas M. Sterner. A fellow harp tech turned me on to this book because it was written by a man who is a musician and a piano tuner, someone who has learned how to escape tedium and other occupational hazards by learning a simple change of perspective, practicing the core skill of focusing your mind on what you are doing right here, right now.

The subtitles for this book are: “Master any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process” and “Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life” All I can say is- he delivers on the promise.

I am halfway through the book and already I feel charged up about how much easier it can be to learn new things, and put new life into the familiar.

One surprising insight I got so far from this book is his take on video games. I don’t know about you, but I think video games are evil. At least most of them. Thomas brings up one aspect of video games that I find fascinating: They create present moment awareness, an aliveness that comes from having no time to judge, get in your head. You don’t have time for that. You have to act, stay in the process. People love this experience, and that is why video games are so popular.

His message: immerse yourself in your practice for its own sake, use your goal as a rudder, not the main thing or as a head game of self judgement. He takes this idea and makes it fresh with new insights and ways to put it into practice.

Here is a quote from the book; “There are not that many ideas in this book; just a few, and they have always been here for us to discover. But they slip away from us in our daily lives so easily. They need to be studied over and over again from different angles so that they become a part of us. We are practicing learning them right now.

Part of my mission in life is to remind you (and me) over and over again of the value of the fundamentals. Nothing is more fundamental than actually being present in what you are doing. Get THAT habit in place and….. you have the fountain of youth (beginners mind), a cure for stress, and the ultimate short cut for learning.

I like to say that what makes you a better harmonica player makes you a better person, and this book is a perfect example of this. Everything you want from the harmonica is also useful in the rest of your life. The ability to improvise, express yourself, connect with your insides, learn and grow.

Thanks for reading this.


  1. Art Anthony

    January 7, 2013 - 8:18 pm

    Hi Richard,
    I will have to get this book!! this about your last email. To be able to focus on something without distractions and really concentrate is key. It will be a main goal for me I in 2013. Hope you have a successful year.


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