Tuning my share of 150 elementary string players before their joint rehearsal the other day was the perfect opportunity to practice sharing kindness and love from a relaxed heart. It kept me calmly focused, and definitely helped me perceive one string at a time out of the hundreds being played.
As the director took center stage and began rehearsing their combined piece, I sat on the sidelines and watched how they played along with varying degrees of success.
Suddenly, this realization came:
Working with our hearts is like learning a brand new instrument.
At first, we have no idea what in the world we’re doing:
Strings class: You want me to do what with my left ring finger?
Heart class: How in the world do I open my heart in the first place?
We’re tempted to ignore the teacher and focus on others:
Strings class: Hey! Let’s play swords with our bows!
Heart class: Hey! Let’s unleash our emotions on each other!
We rigidly control our learning path:
Strings class: Friend, you can release that death grip on your bow, nice and easy…
Heart class: Me? control issues? what control issues?
Strings class: I’m not playing that scary passage all by myself in front of all my friends!
Heart class: I’m not opening up to the unknown! Why would I want to do that?
But a good teacher changes everything. A good teacher will help us relax and focus, will give us the space to make mistakes and the opportunity to create harmony with each other’s notes and hearts. A good teacher will see beyond our fears, and allow us to see the potential we all have.
Who is your good teacher? I bet you’ve had many.
When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Sometimes the teacher comes in a formal role, like my spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda (born on this day, May 19, 1926).
Sometimes the teacher comes through books, videos, and podcasts.
Sometimes the teacher can be a friend. I’m grateful for those in my life who I learn from daily (you know who you are!).
And always the teacher is simply life. The circumstances in our lives been perfectly orchestrated with loving kindness to help us grow, to learn, to find our true potential.
But the challenge remains: Are you ready to learn? And are you ready to learn that it is safe to live with an open, relaxed, loving heart in the midst of today’s world cacophony?
A future possibility
In another moment during that rehearsal, I had a fleeting glimpse of a future in which we could combine learning music with learning through love. A gathering of musicians, teachers, and students working with the energy of the heart—relaxing, opening, receiving, sharing. Holding space for each other, blending our talents, our skills, our love, our friendship in the classroom as well as in our professional ensembles.
I have to wonder, what makes it seem such a far off possibility in the realms of musical education and performance? To teach how to relax, focus, open, and fully reap music’s benefits for the heart and soul, let alone the for the brain.
Why does it seem like it couldn’t be done? Sure, all the egos, budgets, notes, pressures…
But yet, I’m beginning to realize—
Maybe it can.