Let’s see.. just how many buzz-words and pop phrases can you combine into one pithy maxim for embracing life to the fullest? This is tough to stop once you get on a rollercoaster!
Seriously – sometimes we try to multitask to the point of just missing out on one really helpful, valuable moment…Do all of these ideas in my tag line really fit together? Although they sound counter-productive, today I’m feeling that they actually speak to me. Here’s my spin:
I’m a doer, a fixer, a mover and shaker, a stirrer-of-the-pot as you may remember from a previous blog from ages ago. Sometimes just sitting and being is a great challenge. Going with the flow can seem really passive, but a lot of the time it’s more of an active state of release, a conscious choice that requires an effort. To. Just. Be. And be ok with that. In today’s overstimulated world this is not what we are used to doing. It’s sometimes tough to decompress and focus on one thing…which can unfortunately lead to all kinds of challenges just sitting at dinner with someone, let alone trying to get something actually accomplished in the practice room.
So what happens when we go against that proverbial flow, when we resist? Last week in a lesson discussing syncopation challenges in an ensemble setting (i.e. – playing “out of sync” with material played in other parts), I related a story of how I had been so thrilled to ride a rollercoaster as a kid – this particular ride looked so cool, and so exciting – and my dad went on the ride with me! Big moment as a young child. Everything was just amazing…and then all of a sudden the ride stopped…and lurched for a bit, until it went backwards. Oh yes, backwards, as in reverse. I discovered that day I absolutely hate going backwards on rides. My stomach, my head, my body – everything rebelled, and I completely lost it. I remember my dad (poor Dad!) trying to soothe me, just repeating the wise words, “Come on – just go with the direction, go with the flow. Try not to fight it – you’ll only make it worse. Just lean in the same direction the ride is going.” I was fighting and leaning forwards, even though everything was whizzing past me in reverse, and more importantly – the harder and more intensely I fought to make my world right, the worse it got. Dad was completely right (imagine that!) - when I ceased the struggle and leaned into that unstoppable, unimaginable momentum that was carrying my little kiddo body away, even though I clearly did not want to go in that direction, I experienced a powerful shift, an ease, a release.
Advocating passivity in every life experience is not wise, and certainly not my intention here. This wisdom of knowing when to lean, when to flow, when to push, when to dig….this is a hard, life-changing accrual of emotional intelligence. Discovering yourself – your strengths and weaknesses, your usefulness, your potentials to contribute - is also an ongoing, tough, life-changing process. That day, though, I learned that sometimes you have to face your fears and charge on through them, even though they may terrify you and threaten everything that you understand to be right in your world; that sometimes letting go is the strongest thing you can possibly do.
No one likes to go backwards, to let go. I remember the great and thoughtful flutist Michel Debost discussing in a masterclass that one of the first muscle movements a baby masters is making a fist. A tyke will latch onto your finger and hang on with great strength, often requiring you to gently pry away their fingers. It all makes sense – that letting go is not human nature. Sometimes, though, we gain strength through that release, by being willing to take that risk to be sensitive and open.
This may require an active choice on our part, and one that may require practice. How can we let that be part of our practicing, of our self-expression? Being open to our weaknesses, whatever we way-deep-down perceive them to be, and embracing them – leaves us open to reaching our potential. I’m working hard to do this – and I know it will not be easy - I believe it’s worth it!