30 minutes before my Oregon Symphony audition I was poised and ready to go. I felt good, prepared, and calm. But as I waited for the knock on the warmup room door, my heart began to beat faster.

And faster.

What was going on? In the past two weeks I had played for 4 of the best musicians in the city without any elevated pulse. Something was different here.

I took some deep even breaths.

No change.

I did my process, but felt an unusual constriction that kept me narrowly confined.

This was something I hadn’t felt in a very very long time.

It has been proven over and again that meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system that slows heart rate, sweating, and improves blood flow to the brain.  It quiets the flight and fight system.

So why couldn’t I meditate?

Because I didn’t trust the knock.

At performances I know exactly when to be onstage and can plan accordingly. For an 8:00 concert, I know that I can meditate deeply from 7:40-7:55.

But that Sunday all I knew was that I would be in the 10am hour. Since I wanted to go onstage with my hands fully warmed up, I just kept playing.

I didn’t trust my fingers.

The knock came. I entered the hall, and was announced as candidate 37 (50 other fabulous cellists from all over the globe had come to audition).

The committee was halfway back in the hall, screened by a curtain. The instructions were on the stand: play a little of my concerto and then proceed to the 4 excerpts of Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Strauss.

I launched into playing, marveling at the sparkling overtones ringing throughout the hall. My heart rate was still soaring, though, affecting my control during soft, subtle passages.

Alas, although I played well, kept my focus and stayed in the moment, I was not chosen.

Something in me didn’t trust Sunday’s audition.

Although I know this adrenal response is felt by almost everyone, for me it felt like something deeper. Like I wasn’t in the right place.

But now fast-forward 3 days to another audition, this time for a college teaching position. I played and taught a sample lesson with a completely normal heart rate. I felt an immediate connection with the committee.

The trust I felt at Wednesday’s audition made me feel at home.

And just yesterday, 6 days after the audition, I had the privilege of conducting a choir of 80 singers from all over the world who had come to a dedication at the Ananda Village.

My heart was not only relaxed, but also filled with dynamic presence. Not only was I completely connected with the singers, but with something much bigger than myself. I trusted the singers. I trusted my conducting. I trusted the audience.

The wholeness of my heart on Saturday told me that I trust the inspiration coming through.

I was even able to sing in front of 600 people, something I don’t usually do.

singing at Ananda VillageSo the next time you start feeling an elevated heart rate, ask yourself these things:

  • Do you trust your situation?
  • What can you change to engender more trust from within?
  • Could it be a sign that you are not in the right place?
  • Or is this a fear that simply needs to bravely be faced?

The heart is such a valuable tool. May it lead you to deeper understanding.


What your heart rate might be telling you about trust

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