Be Full of Yourself

I often say that music and life are the same. What challenges us in music challenges us in life. Where you feel restoration in life gets reflected in your music. That is why I also say that music is the perfect laboratory to develop our life goals. The worst that can happen is that you play some wrong notes and even that is a good thing because that is how we learn. And it teaches us to dig the wrong notes we play in life. Many people know the old saying that if you play a wrong note, play it again and it’s called jazz. Well, trust me, I’ve used that technique over and over again. In fact, it has now become part of my style. And I try to teach myself to live a life of jazz. Whenever I make a mistake, I make it again and it really gets funky. 

So now that we are in a major worldwide shift, I think it is a good time to make use of the music/life connection. After centuries of being taught that selfishness is what drives the marketplace, it’s getting so habitual, that we have trouble seeing through it to true humanity. That’s why during this time, when I see people being generous, it brings me to tears. Now that our lives depend on generosity, it’s like relearning to ride a bicycle. We’re a little wobbly at first, but it really does come back even after centuries of neglect. It’s who we are after all. 

There are many ways to practice generosity in our music. One good start is to give your music fully. Did you know that amongst the mountains and trees, we are considered the “Musical Animal?” Crows are the smart ones. But we’re the ones that use Music to align ourselves together in groups. It’s how we unify. If we forget that we are an organism together, Music gets us right back on track. Again, it’s who we are. 

This is how Matthew Fox says it. ” A time of shock and loss and trauma is very often a time for music—and poetry and dance and clay and painting and gardening and all the others forms of art as meditation.  With these practices we can pour our grief and sadness, anger and loss, that not only relieve our own souls but reach out to others’ hearts and souls as well.  Music and the other arts bear witness to how we are not alone”.

So, to take a chance and give your musical self to the community is a generous gift. If you think you’re not musical, it might even be a bigger gift, because it inspires others to take chances too. Share your genius. Brian Eno said, and I paraphrase, genius is a community phenomenon. We are so used to pedestalizing the individual, that we don’t notice the community from which it springs. He says that he is a beneficiary of this misconception. What this does for me is give me permission to let my genius shine, knowing that I’m not alone and I don’t have to protect it.

Then there is the listening. It’s the most important role to play in a musical group. And it seems to come easier for “non-musicians.”  “Musicians” have a lot to learn from “non-musicians.” Before the quarantine, I was doing workshops in a recovery center. One of the clients would sit quietly and knit and not sing or play. We were arranging a song one of the women had written. The knitter finally spoke up and said that I was singing the background part too loud. It was getting in the way of the lead. So I quieted way down and the song was transformed. All the other parts became stronger and the words stood out. It turned out that the person quietly knitting had the most to offer the whole group.

This is a time for listening. Listen to the nurses on the front lines. Listen to people losing their jobs. Listen to the marginalized communities in which they live.

And be full of yourself. The self is the container for the self. Be large in your genius. We need you now more than ever.

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