A Streak of Calm

Setting our piano journey in its living context.
Written by Andrew Eales.


A few years back I purchased an app called Calm, which has subsequently become one of the most popular mindfulness apps available on iOS and other digital platforms. With its range of guided meditations, ambient music, soundscapes, breathwork exercises and ‘sleep stories’, Calm has grown to become a superb lifestyle resource, and a deserved success.

Interestingly though, Calm also delivers user stats after each session, with a badge showing one’s ‘streaks’ of consecutive days of practice. I’ve regarded this feature with vague amusement; it seems to owe more to the culture of the gambling arcade than to the ethos of the meditation traditions.

There’s even the opportunity to share your official streaks on social media platforms, something I recently did myself having reached the modest achievement of 100 consecutive days, and curious to see whether it would generate much discussion with friends.

But then an odd, and instructive thing happened: it must have been less than a week later that I ‘missed’ a day…

Continue reading A Streak of Calm

The Pianist’s Breathwork

Setting our piano journey in its living context.
Written by Andrew Eales.


Breathwork is a form of meditation that relies on the body, rather than the mind, to do the work of calming. It lowers stress by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and increasing oxygen to the brain.

Breathing is the first and last thing that we do as humans. And yet most of us breathe in unconscious and restricted ways, leading to dire consequences for our bodies, physical health and emotional wellness.

But as Jennifer Patterson advocates in her brilliant The Power of Breathwork (2020, available here),

“Breathing happens unconsciously all the time, but it can also be consciously and intentionally engaged with. How present you are to your breath is how present you are to your life. By bringing consciousness to the breath you can interrupt automatic responses, reactions, thought patterns, and more.”

During breathwork practice we intentionally focus on and systematically adjust our breathing patterns. Such exercises have been a core element of meditation, yoga (pranayama) practice, and qigong for centuries, but have recently been popularised worldwide by the wellness movement and as a mindfulness technique.

Breathwork is now also recommended by the NHS here in the UK as a tool to overcoming stress. Many find that this practice promotes deep relaxation and leaves them feeling energised.

In this article I am going to consider the value of simple breathwork practice for pianists, explaining how and when it can be a helpful tool, and introducing you to some easy and popular breathwork exercises that you will be able to try for yourself, straight away.

Continue reading The Pianist’s Breathwork

Slow Progress

Take a little time to pause before playing on…
Written by Andrew Eales.


”Often we find ourselves in trouble simply because we are going too fast, disregarding signs of trouble that we would have seen if only we had been going a little slower.
All too often we get caught up in the rush; our whole culture is based on it.  Get ahead!  Do it now!
Sometimes the right thing to do is not to do anything.”

Solala Towler, Cha Dao (Singing Dragon, 2010)

These comments (which are taken from a book about the preparation and consumption of tea) offer golden advice which can be applied to pretty much any aspect of our lives. No wonder so many of us feel completely worn out most of the time!

For our purposes, I want to touch on the value of taking our time in two areas:

•  firstly teaching and learning
•  and then our personal piano practice

Continue reading Slow Progress