Author: Walter Silva

On / by Walter Silva / in Distonia Focal del Guitarrista

Prisoners of our own mind or prisoner of time?

Should I stop wondering how long it will take to recover from FD?

Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we have ever been aware of the toxic thoughts that have been with us tirelessly during long hours of practice on our instrument.

That little voice that resounds within us with false slogans and erroneous ideals is fueling fears and ghosts of an insatiable voracity, which can end up taking control of our minds.

Fear of making mistakes, fear of criticism, fear of failure …

Mind and time are inseparable, let’s say that one does not exist without the other.

Look at it this way, so that our mind can project its fears it needs time.

The state of psychological fear is divorced from any real and immediate danger. It is related to something that could happen, not something that is already happening.

It is evident that we cannot face something that is only a mental projection.

Therefore, we can conclude that time is an illusion, an abstraction, a product of our subjective experience. Instead of contenting ourselves with savoring The Now, that fleeting moment and only proof of our existence, we strive over and over again to project our mind into the “future.”

In this way, we become prisoners of our own mind and time and we live believing that we will be happy only when we achieve certain goals, be it material, recognition or success in our careers, etc.

This attitude, which plunges us into constant dissatisfaction and can favor the development of this movement disorder, known as focal dystonia, is the same one that keeps us in the illusion that we will only be happy when we overcome said disorder.

It is paradoxical, isn’t it?

For this reason, I always tell my students that we cannot try to get out of this condition with the same attitude that brought us to it.

We must begin to build awareness of movement and that requires a high state of presence, or what is the same, a high state of CONSCIOUSNESS.

In order to free ourselves from our mind, we must free ourselves from time and for this, we must begin to be in The Now.

On / by Walter Silva / in Distonia Focal del Guitarrista

How long is going to take me to recover from MFD?

This is a question that all of us who have suffered from musician’s focal dystonia or those who still suffer from it have asked ourselves at some point.

I found the answer in this parable:


Long ago, in T’ang China, there was an old monk going on a pilgrimage to Mount Wu-t’ai, the abode of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. Aged and weak, he was treading the long dusty road alone, seeking alms along the way. After many long months, one morning he gazed upward and saw the majestic mountain in the distance. By the roadside, there was an old woman working the field. “Please tell me,” he asked, “how much longer I must proceed before reaching Mount Wu-t’ai?” The woman just looked at him, uttered a guttural sound and returned to her hoeing. He repeated the question a second and third time, but still there was no answer.

Thinking that the woman must be deaf, he decided to push on. After he had taken a few dozen steps, he heard the woman call out to him, “Two more days, it will take you two more days.” Somewhat annoyed, the monk responded, “I thought you were deaf. Why didn’t you answer my question earlier?” The woman replied, “You asked the question while you were standing put, Master. I had to see how fast your pace was, how determined your walk!”

Something similar happens with the way to recovery from MFD. The right help and guidance comes into our hands, only when we have the determination and perseverance to achieve it.

On / by Walter Silva / in Distonia Focal del Guitarrista

Being slaves to the sound makes us “deaf to the body”

If you were going deaf, how do you think this would affect the practice of your instrument?

The answer is pretty obvious, right?

Imprecision in tuning, absence of nuances and dynamics, tendency to play everything very hard, lack of timbral resources and all kinds of deficiencies derived from poor auditory discrimination.

What if I told you that there are musicians who suffer from a type of deafness that is not auditory, what would you say?

Unfortunately, musicians become slaves to sound and forget about that sixth sense called proprioception, which plays a fundamental role in executing the movements that are so precise that we carry out our hands on the instrument.

The internal sensations, that is, the information that reaches our brain from our muscles, tendons and ligaments and constitutes the kinesthetic sense, called proprioception.

This happens thanks to the innumerable sensors that we have in our muscles, tendons and ligaments.

When we are playing, our entire nervous system is involved.

Basically what happens is the following:

The frontal cortex is like the conductor of an orchestra and its orders are transmitted to the motor cortex; later they are coordinated by subcortical centers where the postures are adjusted, and finally they pass to the medulla where the peripheral motor neurons arise.

All these elementary actions are corrected thanks to a flow of visual, auditory and sensory information that allows for precise muscle tone adjustment.

Sensory pathways are linked to the regulation of motor function at all levels of the nervous system. The hand, in particular, has innumerable sensory receptors scattered on the skin, tendons and joints, which collect information from outside and inside the body.

The exoreceptors are the sensors of the skin, that is, those of touch and the proprioceptors are those that describe the position and movement of each segment of the hand in space and provide us with the necessary information to coordinate the movements we carry out and for the knowledge of the degree of muscle tension.

What happens then when we do not listen to what is happening inside our body properly?

Well, that we become “deaf proprioceptives”.

When internal perceptions are imprecise and beyond our awareness, the musical results are worse, and despite their lack of effectiveness, they give us a false sense of security, so we get used to them and feel uncomfortable when asked to modify them.

This responds to the habituation phenomenon.

This type of deafness consists of poor sensory processing, which leads us to use much more force and energy than is necessary to play our instrument.

This negatively affects both technical and musical results and, over time, can lead us to develop different types of injuries, including DFM.

The musician’s focal dystonia keeps us in a loop of repetition of the symptom, which responds to a constant feedback process, related to erroneous proprioception.

On / by Walter Silva / in Distonia Focal del Guitarrista

Coronavirus and Musician’s Focal Dystonia, two sides of the same coin

This alarm situation that we live around the world has generated a wave of fear and concern for our health, as well as for our economic situation.

The confinement in our homes, in turn, leaves us alone in the face of all those ghosts and with a lot of time to think, which can contribute to further feed those fears and uncertainties and lead us to a state of anxiety that paralyzes us completely.

Let’s say that while our bodies are confined to our homes, our minds are traveling in the future trying to face something uncertain.

We can face the now, but we cannot face a mental projection.

It’s okay to make decisions and take certain actions NOW that can positively affect our future, but we can’t deal with what hasn’t happened yet.

Something similar happens with focal dystonia. Our noisy mind has accompanied us during long hours of study mining our heads with false slogans and erroneous ideals. Grandiose words like success and failure have taken their toll on our thoughts and almost without realizing it we begin to panic to fail, not to like…

Little by little we were losing the spontaneity and joy of “DOING”, without expecting anything in return. The pleasure of being in the NOW.

The DFM recovery process especially requires a very large presence state. This deep state of SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS is the one that manages to silence the noisy mind, the one that destroys that bridge of anxiety that leads you to uncertainty, to that illusory mental projection that we call the future.

So I encourage you to take advantage of the time that life offers you at this moment and use it in a CONSCIOUS way.

SELF-AWARENESS is the door that leads you to recovery and liberation.

I guarantee it is a worthwhile experience!

On / by Walter Silva / in Distonia Focal del Guitarrista

The brain, like a barcode reader

When I realized that what triggered the symptoms of focal dystonia in my finger was more related to my brain than to my hand, I began to investigate with the desire to understand what exactly was going on.

Our activity as musicians consists of learning and memorizing each one of those micro movements that we carry out with our hands, which translate into events responsible for generating neural networks that extend throughout many areas of the brain.

When I started having symptoms of focal dystonia, all those precise and fast arpeggio patterns, scales and other movements that were stored in my brain, were affected overnight by an anomaly that disturbed their perfect coordination.

One day something happened that made me think about it.

It was just any morning and I was at a supermarket checkout when the cashier was forced to pass one of the products several times through the barcode reader. There was no way for the scanner to read it.

Finally, she had to manually enter the numbers below the code itself.

My intuition led me to think that the movement patterns, recorded as neural networks, that my brain could no longer read correctly, resembled that corrupt barcode. Therefore, there was no point in continuing to repeat those movements over and over again, hoping that one day my brain would be able to interpret them correctly.

Research has reported an overlap or blur in the organization of the homunculus, referring to the representation of the digits in the motor and sensory cortex of musicians affected by focal dystonia. This means that the correspondence between the stimulus of each of the fingers that execute our instrument and its representation on the map of our brain begins to blur, with the consequent loss of perception and motor control.

So at this point, we return to the need to perform an action similar to that of the supermarket cashier. But in this case, how do we do this?

Well, by rewriting the correct patterns in our brain, extremely slowly.

This way, from the creation of new synapses, we are rebuilding in our brain that correct map, called Self-image.

The main problem we face in the rehabilitation process is the frustration caused by the slow process. For this reason, it is important to clearly understand its operation and face it with due patience.

The new movement patterns that we must record in our brains have great competitors, which are pre-existing neural networks with very strong synapses, which is why it is necessary to carry out fine, precise and constant work to obtain the desired results.