Music saved my life. Time after time, it has never failed to bring me back home to myself.
As it happens, I was born with a deep hunger for presence, that quality of being that is infused with a quiet aliveness that exists beyond space and time. You know, the place that music comes from. Ironically, it was a quality that rarely showed up in my family life – which only made me hungrier for it.
When I was five years old, I touched the piano for the very first time. Sure enough, there it was…. presence! As the sonorous strings sustained in the vast caverns of the grand piano, I was welcomed into a world of resonance that took my breath away. After spending endless hours with the piano since my childhood, I have come to know this presence as one of my greatest teachers and most reliable of allies.
Living in a culture where extroverts are celebrated, my hunger for presence co-existed – and often competed – with the fact that I was, truth be told, a true extrovert. I loved relationships! I generally gravitated towards where there was a great conversation and had a seemingly bottomless desire for engaging in a vibrant collaborative projects. Yet even though I indulged in my over-active appetite to interact with the world ‘out there’, it seemed as if I could never “do” enough to satisfy that part of me.
However, over time, life changes you. Sooner or later, we all start going through the initiation of loss as we live our lives, and begin to recognize how precious and fragile this life is. These events of loss have awakened me to more subtler realm of consciousness, invariably leading me back to the piano for solace, heart nourishment, and time to assimilate these events in my life that I couldn’t fully understand with my mind.
As a result of this ever evolving process, I’ve realized that for most of my life up to now, I’ve been living with the mistaken conviction that doing – without an appropriate integration of being time – was a more effective and powerful way to utilize my time and attention. It hasn’t helped to live in these modern times, when everyone seems to be encouraged to race towards the final product, rather than remembering that the journey IS the treasure, not the end goal! I never understood how necessary it was for me to access more reflective and receptive states of being so that I could experience an effective counterbalance to the constant doing in my life.
This is where music comes back into my life in ways that have been a revelation. By approaching music in a more contemplative way, it’s welcoming me into that power of presence that I had recognized so long ago as a young child. And as a result, this approach to music has awakened a new relationship to spaciousness and presence within me that is shedding new light on just about everything.
Not unlike when someone finally ‘gets’ the core nourishment that contemplative practice and/or prayer can offer one’s heart and soul, I started to comprehend that this habitual and insatiable hunger for incessant “doing” didn’t actually nourish me. Like a fresh bud growing through the concrete, a refreshing and more introspective improvisational style started to emerge from within me that has led me directly to a direct and satisfying experience of presence. The quality that begins to emerge is experienced as a kind of “holy moment” that brings me to a deep and satisfying quiet within myself. The depth of satisfaction that is arising as a result of this way of being with my music is bringing me to my knees with deep humility, gratitude and great respect. Whether you play the piano or not, this state is available to all of us, through slowing down, truly listening, and embracing the magic of the present moment. When one engages in life in this manner, a delightful portal presents itself to us that can offer a direct experience of Grace.
This portal is teaching me how to use the power of music to even greater capacities for embodying the kind of presence that heals. We all have the capacity to use our listening skills to experience the power of healing presence, no matter what the music sounds like. And when you bring your heart and soul to your listening –whether you are a musician or not – that presence shows up as a blessing with a potent, transformational power that all human beings recognize and are attracted to.
This contemplative piano improvisational style can be experienced on my new release, AutumnStillness, part of a new improvisational series call Exhale: Music for Sacred Space. You can digitally download the whole CD at a new website entitled www.WhatMakesYourHeartSing.net. These contemplative improvisations, sweetened with textures and colors, represent my explorations into the very heart of what presence means to me.
It is my hope that you can find music that can provide you with a sanctuary that can help you create your own balance between doing and the sweet renewal of being. These intimate moments of deep listening can help you to remember who you truly are and what matters most, skill sets that are essential for our lives during these extraordinary times of stress and change.