The picture hanging over the mantel came crashing down on the glass art…SMASH…shocking us out of a guided meditation. “Just let it be everyone—I’ll pick up the pieces later.” The voice of our gracious host, Theresa Koon, betrayed her sadness over what was sure to be a loss of treasured objects, but she didn’t want to further break the flow of the evening.
This happened right in the middle of my Four Accords workshop I gave last night, just as we were concentrating on opening the heart in a space of inner quiet.
Our spell of inner absorption shattered, just like the glass objects that we were sure had been smashed. We were befuddled by how the picture fell—we had been sitting absolutely still, and no truck had come rumbling down the narrow residential street.
I’m sure everyone’s heart, like mine, had also gone into sudden overdrive. Theresa again urged us to let it be, and that she would pick up the pieces later. I was sure it would be a mess and felt terrible for her.
As tragic as it was, it was a perfect opportunity to work with energy. “This is what happens in a performance when you really miss a note!” I said. We gradually worked our way back to inner and outer relaxation, and continued on our work that would eventually fill the house with powerful uplifting vibrations.
“There was a lot of energy moving through the house tonight!” one of the musicians remarked later.
The hundred-year old house and the even older Bechstein piano created a perfect setting in which to step back from the pressures of the modern performing artist into a time when inspiration and true spontaneity, rather than cold precision, ruled the music world. I had just read a NY Times article on spontaneity and music, praising older performances that were more inspiring than technically perfect.
Last night I also learned a great deal from those who, like me, have had incredible experiences of enrapturing bliss while performing, but with a shockingly different viewpoint. I was astonished to hear that their experiences of entering a state of transcendence in performance had attracted negative criticism from jealous directors and fellow musicians.
It wasn’t that they couldn’t access inspired performance, but that they were hesitant to go there, for fear of opening up old wounds.
They had learned that inspired performance was not safe.
Can you blame them? Professional classical music is not the safest of occupations. Before graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, young musicians have learned how to be utterly critical, able to cut down any performance and find all of the performer’s flaws. An inspired musician is a rarity, who can let down the walls of defensiveness and share with an open heart the inspiration they genuinely feel.
But here is the real surprise of the evening:
During the soon-to-be-interrupted meditation, one of the singers had just made the gutsy decision to heal these old wounds when the picture of Fra Angelico’s “Annunciation” came crashing down. She confided in me later:
When the picture fell with a crash it seemed to be saying: “NOTICE THIS NOW.” I thought about the angel telling Mary that a source of Divine Inspiration would come into the world through her. Mary accepted this role, even though some people actively opposed what she helped bring into the world. The loud crash together with this image confirmed for me that the healing was taking place. It encouraged me to allow Inspiration to come through me into the world without being distracted by anyone’s reaction to it.
Today I feel much lighter and singing feels more like it’s a part of me rather than belonging to critics. Some old repetitive questions about why I keep going have evaporated, and the whole topic of what to do with creative inspiration doesn’t seem as sensitive or as heavy.
(secretly, I think that she has superhero powers)
And all the broken glass?
Theresa lifted up the fallen picture and began to put all of her glass objects back in place, expecting the worst.
But nothing was broken.
The moral of the story? Have the courage to begin to heal those old wounds. Call forth your own superpowers to vanquish the old villains of negative criticism. Find that unbreakable power of spirit that will lead you again and again into the high realms of Inspired Performance.
What have you got to lose?