The Drudgery of Transformation
When people ask how the brain-hacking is going lately, I don't really have anything earth-shattering to report at this time. Mostly, I'm doing the drudge work now of firing up my mind with various methods of brain-enhancing activities. At this phase, my activities mostly include brain-training games, practicing scales on the violin, daily seated meditation, and reading about the latest research and technology related to neuroplasticity.
Yet despite the drudge work of researching, training, practicing, etc, I do know I am changing my brain every minute of it. I subjectively feel that the violin lessons are making the biggest impact on my brain at this stage. The violin is a particularly challenging instrument - said to be the hardest instument to learn, and it is indeed a struggle. Unlike the guitar, you have to find your position on the fingerboard by feel and by ear; you have to find the right amount of pressure, the right position, and get the right angle to avoid hitting the other strings as you saw the bow back and forth and try to a make a sound that isn't painful to the ears. To give some perspective to those of you that are sane enough not to try to tackle the violin in mid-life: If you hit a C note on a piano the very first time, it most likely sounds like a C. If you play the same note on a violin, it could just sound like a horrible screech, and not like a musical note at all if you don't play it just right (think fingernails on a blackboard). Practicing is very fatiguing for a beginner, and due to fatigue and the risk of a strain injury from playing with improper body mechanics, my violin teacher has me limit my practice to only 10 minutes at a time. Keep in mind, I'm probably, at least, around 40 years older than most of his students. In addition, I'm starting almost from scratch learning music theory and how to read music, and other than messing around with guitar lessons in my teens, I have no real music education (and whatever I learned back then, I can't remember).
Yet all of this struggle assures me that I'm not wasting my time with this method of rewiring my brain - my brain is most definitely undergoing transformation as I form new connections, and learn new skills and concepts. This is a mental and physical workout as I have to learn to control position and pressure with both my fingers and my bow. This is just a bit beyond the level of challenge that is motivating and induces "flow" - it mostly induces frustration. I still have to completely force myself to practice, but I keep reminding myself that someday, my future self will thank my present self.