I sat at the end of a quiet hallway at Randall Children’s Hospital and unpacked my cello for what seemed just a few passersby on the 4th floor unit. My idealism faded away—what good could my music truly do for the young ones and families tucked away in their rooms? I could only imagine the frustration of not being home for the holidays.
I began to play The First Noel gently (for the sake of the rooms closest), and did the only thing I thought might have any benefit: I brought my awareness to my heart center and mentally projected Love into my notes.
Not my love of music, not my love of anyone specific, but the universal Love that you might feel especially this time of year.
What is Love?
20 years ago I was meditating in my house in Indiana, a few weeks into my practice. All of a sudden, I felt a tremendous presence of Love come over me—I was completely mystified! My wife was at work and there was no one else in the house. I wasn’t loving any one specific person, nor was I the warm recipient of some one else’s love (at least as far as I could tell). It was breathtaking.
Over the years I’ve experienced that Love during inspired performances and deep meditations, and on pilgrimages to sacred places.
But I’ve also experienced how intense striving for perfection in music can leave the heart constricted, tight, and anxious. It saddens me that so many musicians have lost (as I did) a capacity for Joy and Love through years of competition, comparison and the drive for perfection.
Perhaps there are some, like myself, who are ready to cultivate a deeper receptivity and capacity for Love, and share that Love through their music.
A difficult challenge
Performing with technical excellence as well as open-hearted Love is not an easy task. It demands not only hours of practice for correct technique, but also the ability to focus awareness in the heart and mind, while relying on the fingers to do their job well.
But opening the heart is not always so easy. Desires, frustrations, negative emotions get in the way. And so the musician’s heart is just like our musical technique—it functions only to the degree that it’s been practiced. You can’t assume that you can easily open your heart at a moment’s notice, unless you’ve been practicing. Everyday.
So here is a challenge for your heart, perfectly timed for the season, to cultivate the ability to share Love through your music:
- Take the chance to feel the capacity of Love that seems more present this time of year. Nurture it. Feed it. Give it room to grow within your own heart during a practice of stillness, such as meditation.
- Do the work. Take a look at what is holding your heart back from experiencing Love on a daily basis. What desires, negative emotions and habits are constricting your heart?
- Find a way to continue giving to or serving others throughout the new year, for kindness broadens the human heart.
- Spend time with heroes of the heart—read their books, watch their videos, or meditate upon their lives.
- Remember that to live with an open heart requires MORE energy, not less. More courage, more conviction, more confidence. It’s not all about those cute kitten pictures.
As I continued playing on the 4th floor unit, I kept my awareness centered in my heart, thankful of the simplicity of the carols and of the years of playing solo Bach. I focused my attention, envisioning universal healing vibrations infusing my sound.
Did that intention do any good? I have no idea. But my heart relaxed more and more deeply, and by the end of the hour, I felt more whole, more present, and more uplifted. It was exactly the result that I wished for the patients and their families.
Annie, the volunteer coordinator thanked me deeply, and said that even the children in the rooms far away and around the corner could feel a calming sense of peace.
One doctor reported that a patient had the best feeding in a long time while I was playing, accrediting me some measure of success.
I’m not sure how it works, but it works. Share Love through your notes and you improve the world around you.
Here’s wishing you the happiest of holidays and a 2018 filled with opportunities to experience that Love deep within yourself.