From the Heart, In the Heart—the essence of One Quality Note

A young jazz bass player, a student at Berklee in Boston, posted a facebook status that  a) allowed me to remember again why I do what I do and b) embodied the principle of One Quality Note for me.

Marika was playing background music for a marriage proposal (which in and of itself is a great idea! kudos, young man— and lucky woman!) and she said it put so much in perspective.

What’s Important in Music?

Here’s what she wrote:
Playing my best on my jury or in an audition (or whatever ‘meaningful’ situation) is cool and seems so very important at the time, but it matters most in real life, in moments of the heart… I’ve never played a note more earnestly than when I saw what was going on…

It then occurred to me that I don’t keep at this music thing every day for the sake of being a virtuoso or some musical freak of nature. It’s all so that I can be a part, to the best of my ability, of moments like that.

“Playing My Best Matters Most in Real Life”

Ain’t that the truth!

It doesn’t matter so much, really, in those situations where others are there to judge us. All the accolades and awards in the world mean nothing if, in those real life moments, we detach. Money, awards, accolades, fame—nothing inherently wrong with them. It’s what we value, what is truly important that matters. And at the end of our life, we’ll be more grateful and better for the heart connections we’ve made than for all the hardware we’ve collected. The two are not connected.

The Value of Being Earnest

There can be no faking earnestness. I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate this word a lot lately. I appreciate earnestness. Earnestness has solidness to it and stability. Marika said she’d never played a note more earnestly as when she saw what was going on.

Why? Why would this moment be any more special than another?

When our heart is activated and we can see meaning in a gesture of great love or great significance, we become entrained in that vibration. When we become entrained, the wave, the signature of that vibration, gets bigger. When people in a group are on the ‘same wavelength’ it’s not just a saying; it’s the truth.

If all the musicians in Marika’s group that day also played their earnest best… then imagine the force of that proposal! Magnification times awesome!

Make Every Moment a One Quality Moment

I love that Marika uncovered this stupendous truth: that making one’s best music (or any other ‘thing’) in real life is when it really counts.

My hope, too, is that she and all of us can aspire to live each moment with that same earnestness and attention. It requires attention and presence and understanding the love that is behind whatever is happening.  It requires practice. It requires a willingness to fail, because, well… it’s an aspiration and we have to take small steps towards that idea.

Small Steps

Marika has taken the first step. She recognized a moment when she was fully present to the awesomeness of the moment and was able to act on that presence with full awareness. That, in itself, is brilliant.

Every time we recognize and lean into one of “those” moments. Every time we leave our inner critic and inner chatterer at the curb and bring all of our parts together, we take another small step into that earnestness she spoke of. We can take another step into living our life as One Quality Note.

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This Year—Write it Down, Track it, Celebrate, Repeat.

Using the Walk Tracker app for the first time this morning, I discovered that it’s actually more than a full kilometer to the next farm down the road. (My car had registered .9 km several years ago when I measured.) And it’s .5 km to the first treeline and 1.51 km from my front porch around the corner to the third telephone pole past the sumac trees. ( and I must check out the great things sumac is good for!)

With all the news about the dangers of sitting down for hours at a time and here’s me, who has to spend hours at the computer or the piano or the art table, and knowing that walking or, exercise, improves blood flow to the brain (and don’t we all need more of THAT!) and knowing that, unless I actually wrote it down on paper and made myself ACCOUNTABLE, I wouldn’t do it….

(drumroll) One of my goals this year, 2013, is to walk 2000 km. Minimum. That’s a bit of a walk, really, when I think about it. That crosses a big chunk of this country. It’s almost the distance from Saskatoon to Barrie, or from Thunder Bay to Kelowna. (and I could walk from London, Ontario to Sackville, New Brunswick and still have a few hundred kilometers to spare!)

And how do I propose to do it? How does one eat an elephant (goes the old adage)? One bite at a time. It works about to a nearly 5.5 km a day.

  • Take a piece of graph paper that already has blocks of 25 squares marked out
  • Mark off every 25 km, working DOWN from 2000, not UP TO 2000 (reasons below)
  • Use different colours each day and colour in the little squares, one for each km you walk.
  • Put a marker or a sticker or something every 25 or 50 km
  • Create small rewards every 50 or 100… or less if you need to keep up the motivation.

I started a day or so before New Year’s and today I passed 75. I’m 3.9 km ahead of schedule. (At 100 km I’m going to splurge on a brand new pair of comfy walking socks!) I’ll post a photo of my chart later (once I find my currently, um, hidden little camera)

The actual goal isn’t important. But these things I know to work:

  • write a goal down and make it specific. Get it out of your head and onto paper.
  • I like START dates better than END dates. It makes the starting of the thing important. End dates make sure it actually ends.
  • track it. Use stickers, colours, paper and pencil.. make it visual. Get it out of your head and mark something down. Remember how much you liked it when your teacher put a sticker on your work?!
  • make up a game and rules about it.
  • reward small wins.
  • be kind to yourself— there will be days!
  • be true to yourself— on ‘those’ days, do the thing anyway. Tell your complaining mind to shut up. Better to do something than nothing.

Some Thoughts:

I count DOWN… because the numbers get smaller. SO!! YAY! I only have 1923 km left rather than YAY! I’ve gone more than 75. Try it either way. Doesn’t matter to me, but isn’t counting down to something more celebratory than counting up?

Rationalizations will get at you. It’s gonna happen. But then, hey… there’s another goal or project or new habit to form! I did that for a month. No excuses. At all. I made some, but having that in mind made sure I picked things up off the floor, put things away, went to the gym even to do SOMETHING.

Here’s a fun game. I’ve done it with meditation practice and mantra meditation practice.

  • Decide on a new habit (it takes from 21-42 days, depending on who you talk to , to create a new habit. With things like mantras, it’s often a 40-day cycle. Just choose.)
  • Repeat every day
  • TRACK and count the repetitions
  • When you miss, start again at one, with the aim of repeating the new habit 40 times in a row.

Think about this. You start today with the aim of walking 1 km a day for 40 days. Everything’s great for about 10 days. You get your little stickers or coloured dots on your calendar and they start to add up. And then you miss a day.

Start again at one. Do this every time you miss a day.

Now, you will be saying, as you miss a day and are wont to start again,  “But, I can’t get to 40 days in a row! Why bother?”

Here’s the thing: you may get to the end of the year and never have hit 40 days in a row. That’s not the point.

You may have missed a day a month or even a couple of days a month. That’s not the point. And YET…

You’ve walked 1 km a day every other day of the year. That could be 300 days that you DID walk! Why focus on the 65 days you missed?

Celebrate the 300 days…. then, start again.

Write it down. Track it. Celebrate. Repeat.

Oh…. and be kind to yourself.

Beyond the “Follow Your Passion” Paradigm

As I was mumbling yesterday about the whole “follow your passion” career illumination theory, I went poking around for other words that might work better. Words are important. We need to use the right ones and I was saying that I didn’t think “passion” was the right one. So.. what did I come up with?

 

ZESTY ENTHUSIASM
“Enthusiasm” came up in several of the quotes that I listed in the post. “Zest” was another one. Both were interesting and have possibilities— and limits.

 

Enthusiasm was originally connected to religious fanaticism, but it’s more common contemporary use is for “strong excitement or feeling.” It can refer to ardour, zeal, fervour, ambition, alacrity, obsession, eagerness, and yes, passion. It can also refer to a short-term enthusiasm or buzz— a one-hit wonder, or cultural blip in popularity.
OK, helpful and needed. One must have SOME modicum of enthusiasm for one’s work, wouldn’t you say?!

 

Zest and other food-related words seem to have more oomph! Other than the lemon zest variety, listen to these wonderful foodie words that have migrated to describe “an enjoyably exciting quality.” Piquant, relish, gusto, zing… and then… keen, invigoration, stimulation and thrill. (thanks, Merriam-Oxford Dictionary)

 

I’ve focused on these words for a bit because, really, the words we use are important. The foodie words above certainly give us bright shiny images in our imagination. While imagination is mucho importante, I’m still not convinced.

 

We toss “passion” around so flippantly. I wonder if it’s become so popular because it immediately grabs us by the gut and pokes at our emotional centre. These words are evocative and who doesn’t like to evoke a provocation?

 

“Passion” has a flame to it. And if people are sitting on their laurels, pining after their dream job, then, maybe lighting a fire underneath them is a good start.

 

But then what? As one reader here pointed out, passion burns out. The reader was commenting on relationships and expecting fireworks all the time, which was not my point at all, but it’s pretty hard to stay full steam ahead merely on a hotly lit match. Something else is required.

 

STEVE MARTIN TO THE RESCUE

 

Steve Martin

Steve Martin (Photo credit: lincolnblues)

 

We all need a little Steve Martin in our lives!

 

One reader posed a link to an article on <a href=”an excerpt from Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.” title=”Steve Martin’s Advice” target=”_blank”>lifehacker in an excerpt from Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.

 

And there—well, a start. SKILLS! And then ACTION! This SHOULD be a blinding flash of the obvious, but it isn’t. Maybe if we said, “Act on your passion,” it might help. It could also get someone killed (as in “crime of passion). In any case, the big problem with the phrase “follow your passion” is that you can follow it all day, over hill and dale, to the far reaches of the earth and over the rainbow, but unless you grab the darn thing and DO something about building the skills that will make you valuable and useful, it’s a useless, nay wasteful pursuit.

 

Steve Martin’s advice was to “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”

 

And being so good that “they” can’t ignore you requires work. The day-to-day kind of work that we all hate at times. As any successful person will tell you, it’s the daily grind of showing up and doing what you don’t really feel like doing all the time. And doing it over and over and over and…

 

Well, it’s a start. I’ve kind of got the “P-word” problem resolved, at least in my head, but I know there’s more.

 

Still need to focus myself on what I’m to do with the next part of my life, though! More later. In the meantime, I’ve absorbed all the time I’ve allotted for this little passion… have to go act on the list of other things on the list that inspire zeal, fervour, eagerness and zing in me today.

 

Comments welcome! We really need to sort this thing out so more of us can get our butts in gear (and our ‘buts’ out of the way) to make this world work better.

 

I’ve Just About HAD it with “Passion”—

Live your passion!

Follow your passion!

Find your passion!

Is it just me or has the word “passion” become cliché? I’ve been listening to Raymond Aaron’s Gold Bar of 100 interviews he’s done (which I’m loving, by the way); I’ve listened to Tony Robbins, to Oprah, to webinars, teleseminars, to audio books. I was reading The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau this morning. They toss of the “P word” like a frisbee for a dog. It’s driving me nuts.

Maybe it’s my upbringing where extremes on either end of the spectrum were actively discouraged. Maybe it’s my inclination to follow the Buddhist injunction to do everything in moderation. But to me, passion is about over-the-top, blind to everything else, extreme emotion.

In fact, the first three definitions of passion? 

  1. strong, barely controllable emotion.
  2. intense sexual love or desire
  3. an outburst of anger

THEN we get to a “strong enthusiasm.”

I went looking for “passions”… I know there are connections to the Bible and found an extraordinary list by Saint Peter of Damaskos, who gathered them from scripture. There are a LOT of them, including (in no particular order)

harshness, malice, greed, gluttony, stupidity, flattery, lack of discrimination,

laziness, dissipation, loquacity, boastfulness, secret eating (and solitary eating),

ignorance of beauty, heartlessness, throttling, and, um, hanging. (good to know)

Good things gone way wrong.

When I hear “you have to follow your passion,” the gut reaction is almost palpable. “Cliché! cliché! Stop with the cliché already!” I want to scream. When things become a cliché… my brain just turns off.. and then I go think.

So, I went looking for quotes on passion, to see what I might be missing. Surely, it can’t be all bad. If so many people are talking about passion, there has to be something to it, doesn’t there?

“Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavours.” W. Eugene Smith

“Passion is the genesis of genius.” Anthony Robbins

“Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.” Georg Wilhelm Friedrich

“Great dancers are not great because of their techniques; they’re great because of their passion.” Martha Graham

OK, I can handle this. But look…

On all these pages of quotes on passion, there were also other wonderful ways to talk about this curious energy.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  Howard Thurman

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. ” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Huh… “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”…and “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”

There’s more.

“It isn’t success after all, is it, if it isn’t an expression of your deepest energies?” Marilyn French (author)

“The main thing is to care. Care very hard, even if it is only a game you are playing.”  Billie Jean King

OK, I can get into these.

Don’t ask me what my passion is as I’m likely to throttle you. Ask me (or yourself) instead:

  • what are you good at?
  • how would you spend your day if you didn’t have to worry about money?
  • what did you want to be when you grew up (think back to your 8 year old self)
  • what do people ask you for help with?
  • where do you go first in the bookstore?
  • what kind of seminars, workshops, conferences, or talks pull you in?
  • what do you click through to on facebook?
  • what makes your heart sing and your body tingle?
  • what is an expression of your deepest energies?
  • what do you care very hard about?
  • what are you doing when you lose track of time?

Answering these questions tells me much more than the over-used, over-hyped, over-indulgent “P-word.”

Please….don’t talk to me about Passion. Dig deeper.

The First Carol of the Season

I happened upon this album in 2009 and it’s the very first song I put on before I start decorating for Christmas. I’d love to have a choral arrangement of this for my women’s choir. It reminds me of what it’s really all about and it sets a gentle mood. Particularly on a rainy December morning.

 

 

Tonight the Treble Makers Women’s Choir (a choir I founded in 2007 to provide women in our rural area a safe and encouraging place to sing and learn to sing) sings for a local church Christmas concert. Wednesday, we’re at the second of two seniors’ home concerts/visits. This busy week needs a strong backdrop of calm, gratitude… and a heartfelt smile.

I Think I’ve Broken My Brain—and Invented a New Word

Are you a hyperlearner? Maybe it’s hyper-learner. I think I just made up a new word. Hyperlearner. And it’s not related to “hyperlearning,” which is education made possible by using technology and “hypermedia,” which is a system in which various forms of information  (data, text, graphics, video,audio) are linked together by a hypertext program. And “hypertext”  is… well, never mind. It’s not connected to my definition of ‘hyperlearner.’

So, here it is. Sharon J Little’s official definition of ‘hyperlearner.’

A hyperlearner is someone who constantly crams huge amounts of information into the brain, through various media, such as reading, webinars, teleseminars, CDs. A hyperlearner has an educational CD in the car, has filters in her inbox for each of a dozen or more authors, speakers, coaches, mentors who teach on a wide variety of topics within one larger topic. This hyperlearner tries to read, listen to and watch everything; typically she does NOT have the same kind of filter in her brain as in the inbox. A hyperlearner could be seen to be trying to learn too much on too many things in too little time. A hyperlearner is, by definition, overstimulated, overinvolved, over the top, about learning.

This is not just your typical lifelong learner. That would be a lifelong learner; someone who keeps the brain in gear,

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning (Photo credit: Stephen Downes)

exploring new and interesting things, la de dah … de dah…. de dah….

A hyperlearner absorbs more information than a monster sponge. Holds onto it and then wrings it out in all kinds of ways—speaking, writing, teaching, seminars, workshops. But before the wringing comes the overwrought! The over absorption. The point after which not one more speck of information can be absorbed…. and then, the hyperlearner tries to suck in more.

Raise your hands, hyperlearners.

The sidebar to the constant learning is the inner demand, determination and directedness, which leads the hyperlearner to think that one cannot take a break. Or, rather, that breathing, doing a little nothing, listening to a little music or taking a full day off just to dream and think and sort it all out, is ,well, a waste of time.

Now, I KNOW that it’s OK to take a break. I know about walking, about smelling the roses (or, at this time of year, the composting leaves). I know about tai qi in the morning and having tea. And I do all that.

The problem right now is that I’m so interested and excited about what I’m putting together, that I don’t want to sleep, I don’t want to break. I want to dig in and get all kinds of content written and interviews set up and teleseminar series created….

And I will.

But today, before I launch into concert week and shore up some PR and get the groups focused on the last few things to get together…. I’m giving myself a break.

Not in the “You deserve a break today” (remember that McDonalds tune in the 70’s, which I don’t buy and which I think was a curse of an ad campaign, leading a generation of people to think they “deserve” things. That’s another post…) but in the… “It’s OK. You can take a day off and NOT hyperlearn. It’s not an excuse to let it all go. It’s needed and OK and everything will carry on. Just STOP” kind of way.

And I just bought the domain name… http://www.hyperlearner.com

Don’t go there… there’s nothing. But I’ve got the name. I’m gonna OWN this!

“Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break and do nothing.”   Sharon J Little

One Thing a Week

It’s not just the big things, like jumping out of an airplane.

When I came across this idea last week, the first thing that came to mind was… jumping out of an airplane. Something I would do—and my hubby wouldn’t.

But then I started thinking about small things I haven’t done or places I haven’t been.

walked in a Santa Claus parade

played the bagpipes, a sousaphone

learned to speed read

explored any of a number of buildings on the campus of the university

eaten oxtail

climbed a really big mountain

hiked pretty much most of the Bruce Trail

walked all the trails in the London area

biked several of the bike trails in London

explored Elgin county from end to end

driven a combine

attended a polka dance, punk rock concert, heavy metal concert or monster truck rally

It’s now on my weekly list… to do SOMETHING or go SOMEWHERE I haven’t yet.

This week, it was to the Danforth and Greektown. And into Leonidas Chocolates on Danforth where they serve a civil cup of hot chocolate.

Highly recommended. Hot chocolate comes with a small chocolate on the side.

And I sat outside on a warmish November day to enjoy it. And I loved the kale garden in the parkette I was sitting in.

a beautiful fall garden at Danforth and Logan, Toronto

Simple, small, memorable.