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So I admit, I’ve been feeling  a little bit guilty these past two weeks as I’ve been saying goodbye to students, responding to questions like, “How are YOU doing?” (in that concerned tone one uses with the bereaved at a funeral), with a big smile on my face. Happy. I feel happy. I feel light and happy to be letting go of something that was done in my mind and is now done in the physical world. I celebrate so many things right now, like my freedom, my creativity, my health, my energy, my desire to enjoy my own life. And I also celebrate setting people free to find their own truth, to go more deeply into the world to find what else is there for them.

And yet it is interesting to watch how tightly they hold on, grasping for anything that will give some illusion of continuity for the story they wished would never end.

I read this today, from my favorite book of Zen stories, Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?, by Ajahn Brahm:

“Grief is what we add on to loss. It is a learned response, specific to some cultures only. It is not universal and it is not unavoidable….there is an alternative to grief. Not that grief is wrong, only that there is another possibility.

“Grief is seeing only what has been taken away from you. The celebration of a life is recognizing all that we were blessed with, and feeling so very grateful.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Most people are fearful of change. Our social systems are designed with this in mind. We are given a set of rules to follow, a group to feel we belong to, a language we speak in common, and in return we expect that nice warm feeling of security to fall asleep to each night.

The problem is most people secretly crave change. This is what I hypothesize, at least. We see the world as a projection of ourselves – our innocent hope, our sparkles of joy, our dark looming fears, our deepest regrets. How we feel at a particular moment of our lives can create a whole set of circumstances to validate that feeling. We see through eyes of our own choosing. And while the brain rapidly becomes accustomed to patterns and systems and habits, the heart – which is the seat of these longings of the soul – seeks constantly to breathe new life force into the experience of each moment. We long to feel alive.

The problem is we don’t realize that holding tightly to everything we already have, everything we think we “have to” have or “have to” do, everything that “should” have been, our lives begin to be ruled by fear of change, resignation that things will never change, and anger that we are tied to the way things will always be. “Suck it up”, our mind tells us. “Drown it in some alcohol,” suggests another voice. “You’ll never be able to change,” says another. And most of us actually believe these thoughts.

We want “better” results, “higher” status, “more” of everything, but we don’t want to face the reality and necessity of change. “You mean, in order to get what I want, I’ll have to do all that??!!” you say to yourself. “No way! I’ll stay right here, thank you very much.” Even if it means clinging to the past, holding on to things we no longer need, and pleasing people who are no longer part of our lives.

I recently saw the Pixar movie Up, a charming love story and beautiful film about an old widower, Carl, who, on the brink of grinding out his last days on earth in a state of rage and regret, decides to take a final risk and follow a childhood dream. On the eve of being carted off to die in the local nursing home, he acquires superhuman energy and inflates thousands of helium balloons, releases them through the chimney of his house, and the entire building takes flight, foundation and all.  [Definitely go see this movie, too! It’s a keeper!] Read the rest of this entry »

My copy of Rolf Gates’ book, Meditations from the Mat, fell open to this page today, reflections on the concept of aparigraha, Sanskrit for “non-hoarding” or “non-possessiveness”, and one of the seven yamas or personal observances of the yogic path. Rolf interpreted it in a way I had never heard before, which was about letting go. I had always thought of aparigraha as non-greediness, not taking more than you need, not overeating or overindulging. However, Rolf’s discussion of the concept as letting go spoke to me directly today.

Aparigraha advises us to travel light while on the spiritual path. We must let go of the old to make room for the new; we must grieve our dead and then let go in order to love the living….More difficult is the aspect of aparigraha that concerns worn-out beliefs. Many of the basic assumptions that guide our daily choices are unconscious, unseen….Collectively, these old thoughts and ideas are an energy in our lives that rob us of the moment….Just as we take boxes of our old clothing to the Salvation Army, we can begin shedding our old ideas.”

“You’re not a hoarder, you’re a nonrelinquisher.”

These words, spoken to Rolf by his own yoga teacher, held a mirror up for him, allowing him to see a deep-seated belief that “once I have something, I had better hold on to it, whatever it is. This is not about coveting or hoarding or greed. It is just fear in another color – the fear that comes from want. It is the fear of those who have done without.”

“I am not a hoarder, I am a nonrelinquisher. I don’t want to grieve the loss of anything. Aparigraha is an opportunity to learn how to say good-bye.”

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m going to start getting very specific with my Vision Boards from now on. I am beginning to really feel the idea behind the Law of Attraction, or the Secret, or whatever you want to call it.

The key is the state of mind in which you enter in to your visioning process. If you grasp at things from a place of wanting material things or events to happen, without checking in with your essential nature – asking if you REALLY want it, or just THINK you want it – nothing will manifest. Or something will manifest, but it won’t be what you REALLY wanted.

It takes so much re-education or un-learning of the mind for us to focus on what our heart and soul REALLY want. I spent the past ten years or so trying to live a life that looked a lot like the lives of all the people I was ever TOLD to admire and look up to. These were the people who were put in my environment from an early age and held up as examples of the ideal. When I really investigated it from my heart, and my experience, I found that none of these versions were quite right for me. The problem is, knowing what you DON”T want is only the first step. It’s an important first step to get clear about. When you’re clear about what you don’t want, it makes space for other things to come in. Getting clear – REALLY clear – is a daily practice and constant process. It requires breathing, silence, stillness, then joy, movement, and vocalizing.

When you can get clear, make space, and allow your heart to sing to you, then the magic begins. Read the rest of this entry »

“Our integrity is the basis of our confidence in ourselves and the confidence we inspire in others.”
-Stephen R. Covey

Grief can make a liar out of you because there is a disconnect between how you feel, and how you think you’re supposed to behave.” – Maria Shriver

This was the opening line of a piece that hit me to the core this morning, written by Danielle LaPorte and sent to me via email by Gail Larsen of Real Speaking. It’s all about grief.

Number three on Danielle’s list hit me the hardest:

“Denying grief her power squelches your vitality. You can dream and laugh and march on, but until you swallow the bitter tea that Grief has brewed, things won’t be as vibrant or grounded as they could be. And that’s half dead.”

And then number six:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” (Maya Angelou). Grief needs to hear your story told. Speak it out to a sacred listener. Be witnessed.

And finally, number seven:

“Tell a new story, one that includes the description of how you healed.”

Danielle captured the essence of what seems to have been appearing over and over again in my life this past year. Read the rest of this entry »

I just tried some brand new things with a subset of my students tonight. It was a ride. I had to stay in a state of calm while the kids swirled around me and took freedom to its outermost limits. I learned a lot about their personalities. The challenge was the mixed level group, and the pre-teen behavior of my oldest student. I was trying to think back to when I was her age, and the answer is, I was having violin master classes with Josef Gingold and competing in international piano competitions by the time I was her age. I was very serious. I can’t relate to what her life must be like. I am trying – desperately, it seemed today – to reach into their worlds and see what goes on when the limits are taken away.

I did a sequence of four things:

1. Listening – lie flat on the floor and listen to Bach

2. Conducting – learn how to use arms to move with the music and find the beat (we used Bach and Mozart for this)

3. Rhythm Orchestra – the kids divided into three groups and were in charge of a rhythm. I conducted them, bringing them in sequentially. We then matched these rhythms to a movement from a Beethoven symphony

These first three parts of the class worked quite well.

Then I moved onto more improvisational stuff….and the ride began.

Peril #1 – One idea, good or bad, can spread like wildfire. Read the rest of this entry »

I felt my energy fall away from me today. Just like that. It was like leaves off a tree, gentle but certain.

I have tried to make a conscious decision to teach in a different way – a way that feels more life-giving to me. The problem is I am so “well-trained” that I see only what is missing, what more can be done. I was an observer of myself today. I realize that the goals of memorizing this much music are simply unrealistic for some kids – although very attainable for others. I stood there saying, “How they play is not about me. They are doing their best. I am doing my best.” I watched as the part of my brain that was trained to be critical of everything began to list all the things that I “should” be doing to “fix” things. But the core of me – that place of stillness and observation – said I have done all that I can do and it is the week before the performance, so we have three more chances and that’s it. They will show what they have to show, and it’s their performance. I have made this WAY too much about me. Read the rest of this entry »

…well, this will be a few more than one.

It just dawned on me that I don’t have to teach violin at all. I could stop tomorrow and I would still have contributed a great deal in my life to this point, as well as accomplished so much that I am grateful for.

I don’t need to do it “just because” I had the opportunity to do it. I was perfectly ready to throw that all away as soon as I went to college. Why is it so hard now?

I also don’t owe it to anyone to “give back” if I happen to change my mind about what I want to do. I have been doing this for five years. I’ve given back more than I ever thought I would give back in terms of music.

I am really fascinated with people, their stories, their bodies, their voices, and their relationship with sound. I like that I have a certain familiarity with music, but I’m not so tied to my violin that I need it to identify myself. I will be able to come up with a new Twitter handle, but it’s just not that urgent. I have been coming to more and more CIIS sessions without my violin, with the desire to continue to free my voice. I know I have musicality in my body. I love music because I am alive in my spirit. I want to enjoy that. Period. Nothing else to prove. Read the rest of this entry »

About a year and a half ago, I started going into a friend’s recording studio late at night and doing improv violin over a variety of tracks. I started voraciously devouring new music on iTunes, hunting for licks, grooves, and melodies to use in my playing. What I didn’t know at the time was that my passion for music and listening was presenting itself to me. The only thing that kept me from throwing myself completely into that arena was the physically grueling schedule of recording from 10pm to 2am, often on weeknights (my recording engineer was also a gigging percussionist and performed on weekends).

There were SO MANY things I didn’t realize about those few months. Tonight I listened to some of our partially completed tracks for the first time in over eighteen months. I abruptly stopped interacting with this friend of mine around April of last year. I can’t explain it to myself, but I was just “done”. I couldn’t find the words to explain it to anyone at the time. I just stopped returning phone calls and emails. I felt bad about the sudden silence, but felt even worse about the idea of trying to find words that might not be accurate, or worse yet, being talked back into doing something I just didn’t want to do anymore.

I still don’t know what it was that drove me away so suddenly and completely. Perhaps it was fear of the magnitude of beauty that I had within me.

As I listen to these tracks, with fresh ears and a newly found level of listening that focuses on SOUND, not CONCEPTS of “right note” or “wrong notes”, “being in tune” or “out of tune”, being “good” or “bad”, I realize that I was good. We were good. There was something very good about the music we were creating. I had NO IDEA what I was doing at the time, and that was the great part. Read the rest of this entry »

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice —

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life that you could save.

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