fear-and-courageLike many, my heart rate increases when I audition behind a screen. It’s distracting and annoying.

As a 20-year meditator, I’d like to tell you that my years of inner practice has completely fixed this.

But I can’t, because it hasn’t—yet.

So then what good is meditation for a performing musician?

One of my goals is to completely overcome the fear and hesitancy that plagued me early in life in sports, music, and social relationships. Fear infused my intense swim practices, my interactions with others, and difficult shifts into high positions on my cello.

I remember marveling at others, “How can you not be afraid?”

I tried dealing with my fear by inflating my ego and deluding myself. Then, when I was 29, my life came crashing down and I finally had to figure out how to deal with my fear and insecurity.

I found meditation. I found teachings that made sense. And I found these words that began a journey of a lifetime:

Look to the source of all power, if you would conquer fear and weakness. Seek it in the farthest depths of Being, in your own Self.

But it wasn’t power that showed up first as I began to meditate: It was peace. It filled my life with blessed relief.

Next to come was love. Little by little I opened my heart to this Divine presence and shared it through my music.

Then came an inner joy that thrilled my soul. I learned how to infuse this bliss into my playing and conducting. I learned how to take the inspiration of the composer, conductor, and fellow musicians and blend in the energy of the audience to create a personal cocktail of uplifting superconsciousness. My hope is that others can taste a little of the joy that I experience.

But blind auditions are a different story.

Personally, I’m not interested in experimenting with beta blockers, although many tell me of their success with them in auditions.

Instead, I want to find this source of all power which has left beguiling hints through the years, lifting my consciousness far beyond the fears that lurk in my subconscious.

Last year during my Oregon Symphony audition I was ashamed, angry, and bewildered by my inner reaction that bordered on panic and the mental flatline of “playing possum”.

Over and over I’ve heard, “Never be afraid!” Why am I failing at this? I must be doing something wrong!

Yet little by little, I’ve felt the clutches of subconscious fears begin to fall away.

I learned that to experience fear is one thing, but to “be afraid” is a choice to dwell in that negative state. I began to focus on my potential rather than on my subconscious fears.

Last month I auditioned for the Portland Opera. My mind behaved, I stayed positive, but I congratulated myself too much on that success that I never fully committed to my performance.

So last Tuesday as I auditioned yet again for the Oregon Symphony I had one goal: to enter into the music with all my heart and mind. This time as my heart rate increased, I was ready for it. I didn’t fight it. I welcomed it and brought the increase of energy into my commitment to the music.

As I waited for the results, I felt a great assurance of inner success. Although I was one of the 78 cellists who did not get the job, it was a major milestone in my life, for I had accomplished my goal of living and playing in courage.

Courage is not reserved only for those who seem to have all the talent.

Courage is for each of us. Courage is showing up. Courage is commitment in the midst of an elevated heart rate. Courage is showing up to rehearsal after being harassed by the conductor, as my friend from my last post has heroically done.

So if you, like me, want to chide yourself for not yet being able to control your pulse, be patient. Keep working and notice the little signs of your evolution. Look to the source of power that lies deep within.

Of course your pulse will quicken—it’s an adventure of a lifetime!


Fear, Courage, and My Misunderstood Pulse

One thought on “Fear, Courage, and My Misunderstood Pulse

  • May 22, 2016 at 10:04 am

    David this is such an amazing blog. Thank you so much!


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