Tag Archives: artist

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.

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.

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

Stop. Be Silent. You’ll Be More Creative.

We’ve all heard it and we’ve all ignored it to some extent or other.

Meditate. Find a quiet space. Be in solitude. Sit.

We all need it; we all know we need it. And yet, we’re more likely to get hyped about drinking all that water we’ve been told to guzzle or about visualizing our dreams or about adding value to everything we do in our business than this. We’re likely to spend more time doing our makeup or washing our car, updating our status or cuddling with the cats than taking the 20 minutes needed to meditate, or to sit absolutely still, with no agenda, or to walk through a park on the way home. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

We’re more focused on the technical aspects of building our business, or the skills needed to teach the children. We attend meetings, network, connect on facebook. We listen to webinars, dash to the gym, get trapped in the agendas of others through the inbox. Children take music lessons, gymnastics class, play hockey and have play dates (really, WHAT IS THAT?! Can’t they just play?!)

We’re too busy and yet we can’t stop. This talk has been going on for at least 40 years: in the 70’s we started talking about stress and we developed stress “management” techniques. We might be able to manage the stress, but we’re still stressed. And getting sick of and from it.

We must Stop.  Every day. Sometimes we need to stop for several days and unplug. Apart from vacations, which many times is just another excuse for being busy somewhere else.

The Point of Silence

For the musician, the artist, the writer, the creative, the silence is the ground. Everything comes from a silent centre. That centre, the soul, infuses us with the energy— that creative, soulful energy—which has inspired the creative impulse in us since the beginning of life. Since the beginning of the beginning.

Recognizing the Soul

We can recognize, though perhaps not name, that soulful connection when we see it in a leader, a teacher, a conductor. We can recognize, too, when a conductor or a teacher has not done the necessary inner work: we can’t name it, but we can sense it.

Be Do Be Do Be

… while many musicians have developed highly sophisticated technical skill, and teachers have developed highly sophisticated teaching methods and strategies, they are devoid of the very spiritual energy which has provided creative impulse in humankind since the beginning of life. One simply cannot grow as a musician without serious and profound work on self in order to access soul.

The search to find and understand soul must be the foundation for all musical experience. It is to that end that every musician, regardless of ability or calling, should commit his or her entire being.”

from “The Musician’s Soul” by James Jordan (p. 46)

What I wonder is… if this is so important, why

a) do we hide the process of our journey from others

b) don’t we talk about this more often

c) do we spend SO much time in school on the doing.

I know of very few musicians, music teachers or conductors who have a defined, focused, regular, intentional—yes, that’s it, intentional— spiritual practice.

For the record, when I was teaching in school, I took the bus, biked or walked. This gave me time to focus, to unwind, to get into a rhythm. When I took the bus, I got off a stop early and did tai chi in the park, or went into the gym to do it. I did a 10 minute meditation every morning for most of those years.

Now, my practice is longer and involves writing, meditation, reading and qi gong. Every day… about 57 days out of 60. I consider it mandatory.

The excuse that “there’s no time” is bogus. Create it. Spend 5 minutes less on Facebook or Twitter. Get up 15 minutes earlier and really get UP. It’s a choice and we have control over this part of our life.

Make 10 minutes of quiet alone meditative space a priority. Every day.

The (Musician’s) Soul

Music teachers…looking for things they can DO with their kids on Monday. New technique this, new ideas that, new technologies, new ways to include , to diversify, everything you need to know, move, drum, sing, play. (I’ve been at a music teachers’ conference for the past three days)

Music teachers…a daily marathon to inspire, encourage, uplift, direct, pull up, put up, shout out, cheer on

It’s not just here, but in all journeys. Is it the doing or the being that is more important? When a conductor steps in front of a choir, a band, an orchestra, a classroom, a lunchroom, an office full of employees, WHO is it that does the stepping?

We bring all the who we are to all we do.

Resting, emptying, stilling, holding, letting go, living from the centre— these are the things to spend our efforts on, the things music teachers, leaders, directors, managers, visionaries, impulsers need to learn to do with the kids on Monday.

To teach from the inner place, the calm place, the high place, the focused, directed, together place.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. (Tolstoy)

The only thing we CAN change is ourself. And our relationship and response apparatus.

Do THAT on Monday, and it won’t matter what you do.

Need to Develop a Good Habit? Try stickers!

I used these for my private music students… and now, they motivate, reward and inspire me!

I use stickers, coloured dots and check lists to track my good habit creation. Just like I did with students when we were changing behaviours. Really. I respond to stickers, coloured dots and check lists. I make up games to get them! They are visual. I see them. Day after day. They motivate and reward me. (I’m pretty easy to satisfy. I guess I’m pretty self-directed.)

I DON’T want to see a missed day and eventually, the new habit becomes, well, a habit. I’m a pretty good self-checker.

In my head, at least, consistency is not my strong suit. But I KNOW that repetition is the mother of learning (thanks second year University Russian course—it’s a Russian proverb—and piano practice) and I also KNOW that I get more, better work done when I have my personal practice aligned.

Of course, that sounds all nicey nicey. Knowing and Doing are two different things. It’s hard to find out what works.

I have apparently stumbled upon the way that works for me. For now. I’m hoping this ‘game’ will let me play into a series of good, productive habits that will allow me to create and produce more… and better.

Right now I have several ‘behaviour projects’ underway. And tracking systems to go with them all!

  1. 40- day Mantras on Abundance and Removing Obstacles (thank you Lakshmi and Ganesha)— sticker in my planner
  2. 30-day post-a-day blogging challenge—pink dot on the tracking page
  3. Morning pages—sticker in the planner
  4. Meditation—ditto
  5. 10 000 steps a day walking goal—green dot on the tracking page
  6. stretch, do qi gong, yoga every day—planner
  7. 30 min/day reading of something intellectually challenging —planner

The morning practice is key.

I’ve had several versions of this for nearly 20 years. In the last years before I left teaching, my practice included biking 20 km to work, going into the gym and doing tai qi, leaving by 4:15 and not taking any work home. When I took the bus, I’d get off one stop early and do tai qi in the park, then walk to school. There are lots of ways to develop a habit. Now that I’m at home every morning and needing to accomplish other things, I have a different practice.

Here’s what I do now.

I get up early, make some hot water and fresh lemon juice and get my body awake. I prefer tai chi/qi gong to yoga on the whole. In the summer, I do a form of qi gong called Tao Yin Fa, outside on the grass. I learned it in the summer, and we were outside. I’m a certified practitioner/teacher. There’s a resonance there.

Last winter, I received a Rodney Yee yoga DVD—Yoga for the A.M. For me it’s more important to do something than to choose the right one. I make things simple. Follow the order. Don’t think, don’t fart around with it. Just get on with it. I’ve now resurrected a Tiger Shamanic Qi Gong DVD and put that in the mix. Doesn’t matter. As long as I do something for 15-20 minutes.

Morning Pages

Julia Cameron coined the phrase. Millions have joined the practice. Three pages, stream of consciousness writing. Sometimes it’s profound. Sometimes it’s a to-do list. Sometimes there are diagrams, a shopping list, a wish list, a what not to do list. Sometimes it’s just scribbles. Literally. Or, when it feels like there aren’t words, I write things like “keep writing” or “blah blah blah” or “pen paper scissors porch marble nightstars chocolate blah.” And then I’m off.

It clears my mind like qi gong clears out the chi-webs that form in the night.

Mantra Meditation

I’m on the third 40- day practice. That’s 40 days in a row. Every day. Without a miss. If I miss, I have to start again. Sometimes I’ve had to do it just before bed. But I do it. And that’s the point.

If I can build these small routines into a consistent positive habit, then I figure I can add larger ones. One step at a time.

I also use an emWave with that. This is a biofeedback device developed by the great folks at the  Institute of HeartMath, who researches stress, emotions, heart intelligence, coherence and more. I play a game. I only repeat the mantram when my heart is in partial or total coherence. This means it takes longer than if I simply repeated the mantra.

Meditation

This active form of meditation focuses my mind on a seedthought and orients me towards that for the day. It’s a method of soul contact and integration and includes the Great Invocation and, often, the Gayatri.

THE GREAT INVOCATION *

From the point of Light within the Mind of God
Let light stream forth into human minds.
Let Light descend on Earth.

From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let love stream forth into human hearts.
May the Coming One return to Earth.

From the centre where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide all little human wills –
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.

From the centre which we call the human race
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.

Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.

* adapted version
__________________________________________

This is a slightly adapted wording of the Great Invocation which was given out in 1945. In accordance with the changing consciousness and language of humanity as we enter into the Aquarian age, this “adapted” wording for the Great Invocation is offered in the hope that it will encourage wider distribution of this world prayer.

Many religions believe in a World Teacher, knowing him under such names as the Lord Maitreya, the Imam Mahdi, the Bodhisattva, and the Messiah, and these terms are used in some of the Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish versions of the Great Invocation.

Men and women of goodwill throughout the world are using this Invocation in their own language. Will you join them in using the Invocation every day – with thought and dedication? By using the Invocation and encouraging others to use it, no particular group or organisation is sponsored. It belongs to all humanity.

Reading for 30 minutes

I used to read while I was eating breakfast. I didn’t time it, but now that I read for 30 minutes (and time it) I realize I wasn’t reading so much then! And it’s the light stuff… Treatise on White Magic, Esoteric Astrology, and starting tomorrow or Monday, I’m heading into  a new pattern: I’m rotating through The Secret Doctrine… and four others, as yet unchosen.

I’m going to shake things up, though, and work at 3-5 books, 30 minutes a day, a different book for each day of the week, for the energy of the day, or just set them out and pick one up every day. We’ll see. As my father-in-law used to say, usually just before he played a nasty prank on someone, “Ya gotta have fun sometime.” Again.. more important for me to do something than to do the ‘right thing.’

30-Day postaday Blog Challenge

I’ve been sitting on the fence about blogging for several years. Rather, I’ve had blogs, but have had no strategy nor plan. Failing to plan=planning to fail. (quote attributed to Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and Alan Lakein. I’m going with Win and Ben) It’s been hit and miss to say the least. Mostly, I haven’t shown up. If you don’t show up, you don’t get results. Go figure.

So I decided to push myself to post something every day. Just for the practice. Without pushing for followers, without pushing for comments, without expecting anything. The project is to post something every day and learn. I started on the New Moon of Libra. So far So good.

10 000 Steps a Day

I’m not achieving this and didn’t fully expect to. Plus I was sick for a couple of days and my blood pressure was really low for a day. So, this week, I’m giving myself a break. The realistic target is 5 000 a day and 10 000 several days. When it’s not pouring rain and I’m not in the car, it’s easier. But it isn’t difficult at all if you do a few 20 min walks.

And so it goes. Brendan Burchard, in The Charge, talks about 30, 60, 90-day learning projects. Rather than start at the beginning of the month, I’m working with the first of the month, the new moon, the change of zodiacal sign and the full moon. This gives me a chance to get something underway before a new pattern begins.

We’re in Scorpio, so I’ve set a challenge (which I’m keeping to myself for now) and the Full Moon is coming up, so I’ve set a mental pattern to change over the next 6 months)

And I’m going to use stickers, coloured dots… and maybe even some gold stars. They’re more interesting than simple check marks, no?!

Looking for other ways to inculcate a good habit….

Routines, Limits and Creativity-Breaking the Rules

I broke all my rules this morning. (Rebel)

And I did it to fuel my creative self. (Good girl)

I slept in until after 8 (nearly three hours late), I didn’t do Morning Pages, Meditate, Mantra and heart coherence, Qi Gong or read right off the bat as I usually do. I had a quick bowl of Chex  rather than the hearty grains and chia and hemp and kefir concoction, and contemplated changing the homemade cocoa (recipe below) to a cup of Murchie’s CBC blend tea, but that was as I was pouring the drink. I left the house with my morning routine in tatters and went to a business showcase in the next town.

It’s Saturday. I remember it being housecleaning day as a child. It was watch cartoons and eat whole wheat Shredded Wheat rather than eggs and toast. (yup, on Saturdays, all hell broke loose at breakfast!) Saturday should be about something more relaxed than the rest of the week, but, seeing as I’m trying to corral my distractions, stay focused and keep the end in mind, I’ve been disciplining myself quite rigourously. And I need to stop some of that.  You CAN go overboard.

Routine? Discipline? Limits? and Creativity? They go together?

Creatives claim that limits and structure and discipline limit their capacity for creativity. They say that they need total freedom to contact whatever it is we contact that fuels the creative fire. Creatives claim that setting a schedule is impossible and, worse, useless.

This is hogwash of the highest order. Or disorder.

The reality is that the most successfully, consistently, productively creatives have a routine, some kind of regimen.

My morning routine and other “systematic” actions give me intense freedom within set limits.

When I follow the routine I’ve set, when I sit down and follow a task list, when I plan out my time, I eliminate a lot of possibilities, usually the ones that are distracting and take my eyes way off the goal. It sets the ground so that the niggly little things run under the radar, and the more important things have their time and space in my head and life.

But sometimes, you have to break the routines. They can become too restrictive. It’s not good when I get up and feel completely BOUND by the limits I’ve set myself. Eventually, the rhythm of work can move from a dance groove to a dried mud rut.

Today, I broke the routine. Intentionally. That’s the critical piece.

When we set out, with good intentions, to develop a good habit, or untrain ourselves from a bad one, we often go about it mindlessly. We don’t mean to miss, but we do, just because we forgot. We follow the same path every day and it becomes not only subconscious, but unconscious and unthinking.

I guess what I’m trying to build into my practice is the quality of conscious choice, of mindfulness, of clear awareness of how and where I move, think, speak and act.

The challenge was, though, could I still complete the things that I’ve set out as daily actions (meditation, mantra, morning pages, reading, movement—qi, walking, stretching—a blog post) but in a different order, at a different time, in a different place, even? Would I forget something? Because usually, once I’ve ‘done’ the morning, I’m off to the next thing.

Our brains seek novelty. New colours, textures, shapes and sounds, new places, new people, new experiences—these all stimulate our brains in a good way. I regularly go into new shops and just look around. I spy on the new colours, the shapes… and then walk out. (yup, I do! ) It wakes me up and sets up new neural connections. I’m good with that.

In the interest of novelty and poking at my brain,  I took my mala with me and did the mantra as I was driving. I asked questions or engaged every vendor (connect with new people and friends, ask people’s names, create new connections). I walked along the old railway line for the first time, then discovered the snowmobile trail that runs parallel. (new colours, sounds, smells). Went into the town’s grocery store (almost never go there).

Drove home. Shortened morning pages, a shortened reading time. Yes, not ideal, not what is most helpful, but today, it was enough.

And now… day 6 of the 30 day post a day challenge… done at a different time of day. Done and done.

Here’s that cocoa recipe… it’s pretty easy.

Mix cocoa powder ( I use Camino brand) with 1/2 tsp each of raw cane sugar and cinnamon. For variety, add 1/4 tsp ginger.

Pour in hot milk or milk substitute, just a little to start, to make a paste of the powders. Then stir well. Sit down with a good book or a lap cat and look out the window. Don’t do whatever was on your to-do list. Just for the next 15 minutes.