Tenderness

195678.mints

This last Sunday, I performed for a church service. 

This isn’t the first time I have done so, and I’m certain it won’t be my last…I’ve been performing since I was two years old. However, this time, I wasn’t prepared. 

Lately, I’ve been writing my own music…or arranging my own music. Either way, it’s not just a simple task when someone asks me to play…which is fine, because I really enjoy writing music. I usually go into a few days of meditation until inspiration strikes and then I begin writing. Depending on the piece, one arrangement can take anywhere from four hours to a week to write. I had a month…plenty of time. And, I was excited because this particular Sunday’s pieces were to celebrate Love. I quickly found the pieces I wanted to perform and set to arranging them.

Then I was blessed with several other opportunities to play during Christmas week, and suddenly I was swamped with writing music, traveling to rehearsals, rehearsing, and then performing. The pieces for Love Sunday had taken a back burner, and I quickly realized that I now only had a week to finish them and rehearse them with my accompanist. After a few rehearsals, it was clear they weren’t going to go well, but it was too late to pick other pieces. By the time Sunday morning arrived, I was exhausted…and ill tempered due to my lack of preparedness. 

As I sat in the church amongst the other musicians performing for the carols and hymns, I felt anxiety rise within me. I turned to the musician to my right…a dear friend from music school, and an amazing musician.

“Do you want to do the solo numbers?” I asked.

“What?” he asked, surprised.

“Please?!” I pleaded.

“Why?” he asked.

“I’m just not prepared. I haven’t practiced enough, and the pieces are filled with flubbed passages.”

He thought for a moment, then offered, “How about I do a drone and dance a jig to distract them?”

“That would be great!” I replied, and couldn’t help but giggle.

Just then, one of the musicians passed a bag of spearmint candy. I absent-mindedly passed it on to my friend on my right. He took it, looked closely at me, and asked me if I wanted one. I politely declined. It was time for the prayer.

I closed my eyes, grateful for an excuse to meditate. I began yoga breathing: four counts in, hold one, four counts out, hold one, four counts in, hold one, four counts out, hold one… As I started to calm down, and began to think more clearly, I remembered some energetic protocols and did some energy work on myself. It took a bit of time, and I expressed gratitude for such a long prayer. By the time the prayer ended, I had come to a place of acceptance of my flawed performance that lay in front of me.

When I opened my eyes, I looked at my music stand in front of me. Tucked into the right edge of the music ledge was a little green spearmint candy. I looked over at my friend, his trumpet already up, ready to play, his eyes avoiding mine. 

“Thanks,” I whispered.

“I didn’t do it,” he feigned, then grinned shyly. 

Then I realized that in my pursuit of perfection I’d forgotten that it didn’t matter if I performed flawlessly…all that mattered is that I played with heart and tenderness.

Thank you friend for your tenderness.

Thank you for reminding me.

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Sky Angels

Today, I was reminded of an interesting phenomenon: as people age, the instinct to look up lessens. The article I read (for an Educational Psychology class, I think) described how when children play hiding games, their searching strategy included looking up more frequently than looking down. Consequently, when hiding, the strategy is to hide under things rather than on top of things. And, as we age, this process reverses.

Since then, I’ve often wondered if this simple change, the frequency of looking up vs. down, plays a role in losing the child-like wonder of the world as one ages.  I haven’t tested this idea except on myself…and I can tell you that whenever I take time to look up, I always feel uplifted, lighter, happier and more relaxed. So, I’ve also made it a practice to look up as often as I can while I go about my life. This, then, is the primary reason I look into the sky while walking from my car to my office each morning.

One recent morning, however, the sky captivated me from the moment I stepped out of the house. As one who struggles to accomplish anything other than routine practices before the hour of 10 am (including waking up enough to get to work on time), I feel quite accomplished even remembering to look up while walking to work each morning; to notice the sky before that moment means something spectacular is taking place. And indeed it was.

Wispy bits of flowing clouds, arranged in all different shapes and directions, filled the sky. I stared at it a while, quite distracted as I drove. And then I saw it…a cloud angel. Then there was another one…and another…and another. They were everywhere…and they all looked different. Some faced me, some were side profiles, some showed only their backs. Some had big wings and others had small wings. Some had streaming hair and others only had a head silhouette. 

By the time I could get out of the car and locate an image capturer (only my low-quality phone camera was available), this huge one was the only angel remaining in the sky. She held on to her shape until I snapped her photo and then I watched her dissipate. As she did, I felt her surround me with love and hugs and her presence stayed with me all day. 

Thank you angel messengers for reminding me to experience the endless amount of Divine Unconditional Love that always surrounds me.

I wish the same for you.

 

 

Let’s Meet & Be Merry!

On Thursday of this week, toward the end of my work day, a high-school senior approached me. 

Starbucks is having a buy-one-get-one deal!” he exclaims. “Would you like one?”

“Yes!” I eagerly respond. “What’s the occasion?”

“Let’s do some research!” he replies. 

A part of my heart melts at the word “research,” for it’s definitely a magical word. Research always opens a million doors of questions and leads me on incredible adventures into unknown realms from which I never return unscathed or unchanged. Already, at such a young age, The Research Bug has bitten this one, and I beam with pride.

“Oh!” I exclaim, “They’re promoting their holiday flavors! Which one do you like?”

We eventually settle on the Gingerbread Latte and he leaves.

Thirty minutes later, he returns with a carrier filled with four drinks…he’d bought two orders.

“How much do I owe you?” I ask.

“Nothing,” he replies, “It’s my treat. Plus, I bought another order to share. The next two people to walk through that door are the lucky winners.” He laughs in anticipation.

I look at the teenager, at a loss for words. How do I tell him to hold on to such a pure heart…that such kindness is hard to find in a world that focuses on domination, control, greed and war? How do I tell him that such generosity might be construed by cynics as naiveté or manipulation or foolishness but to pay them no mind? How do I tell him that his kindness, after a particularly challenging day working with an extremely difficult and demeaning man, heals the day plus much more?

Just then, two of his guy friends come running past him, both of them saying excitedly, “I gave mine to so-and-so…and an old lady who looked cold…and that cool homeless guy and…”

I keep my thoughts to myself and instead, reach out, squeeze his arm, beaming from every pore in my body, my heart expanding to 10 times its normal size.

Thank you” I say. And I hear in my head, All is well with the world.

Kitty Gem

Throughout the High Holy Days (see previous post), I experienced many beautiful spiritual moments linked together like a chain. There were many times when I wasn’t entirely certain where I was, the congregational bliss and joy was so strong.

In the foyer of the Institute, there was an area designated for cozy seating and conversation. The furniture in this area was all covered in this velvet-like emerald-green fabric…quite inviting. It appears that the Institute cat thought so too. I have no idea what her name is, but she was always available for snuggles between services.

Thank you kitty for your intuitive Reiki calming, centering and loving grounding. 

Communicating Kindly Part 2

After my previous post on communication, I’ve become even more aware of how frequently communication breaks down…not only between me and another person, but also between others. I noticed that for me, this issue happens frequently with the people I care the most about. Repeatedly, I come away from conversations frustrated, helpless, discouraged and unsatisfied. I knew I was missing something, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

In the middle of September, I stumbled upon the website for The Center for Nonviolent Communication. The title quite startled me, and I sat there, staring at the screen debating the pros and cons of such a title. Why would someone use such a strongly worded title?! My first reaction was fiercely opposed to the use of the word “nonviolent,” for all I focused on was the “violent” portion of the word. “Who wants to communicate violently?!” I asked incredulously, and then I stopped, once again startled. Well, me. Because it feels good. But does it help? Huh. Well…as a parade of images flooded my mind of past communication epic failures, I had to grudgingly admit…not in the long-run. Then I thought of all the other places in society where communication is violent and as the list progressed in my mind I became aghast. No wonder there is so much violence in our culture…because we foster a violently based language and form of communication.

At that point, I knew it was no accident I had stumbled upon this website, and I realized this was my missing piece. I also knew how deeply I wanted to change how I communicated with others. In exploring the website, I found teachers. And, not only teachers in my area, but also a free class through my local community college…beginning in two days. Unhesitatingly, I registered.

This is the now the sixth week of an eight week class, and I have to express gratitude for such a fabulous resource. I have learned so much about myself…about how I communicate and how my communication either connects or disconnects me with others, and how to remedy it. For example, I tend to respond to others by sharing a similar story from my experience. I think that by doing that I’m demonstrating empathy and understanding. However, after much struggling with that impulse during class practice, I experienced something quite different when I focused only on the other person and kept my internal revelations to myself until a more appropriate time. There is such a deep satisfaction that accompanies such an interaction, both for the speaker and the listener, that I found myself pondering the implications of this experience for quite some time. Then, I got to practice this skill outside of class.

Last week, a dear, dear friend reached out to me in a moment of deep overwhelmedness. This same dear friend is one with whom I often feel helpless during our communication. We’ve frequently talked about this disconnect and my sorrow at my inability to know how to help her best when she needs it most. I am so grateful for her patience with me and continued trust in my intentions. It is this gratitude that was one of the biggest motivators for taking the class. I was honored to have my first out-of-class practice with her.

This time everything was different! And I knew it was different as the conversation progressed. As I used the tools taught to me in class, I watched her progress through identifying her emotions and needs which then empowered her to express her needs and identify appropriate solutions. I simply offered support in the form of reflecting emotions back to her…nothing was about me. Afterwards, I felt myself tear up with joy and gratitude at the opportunity I’d just had. I was able to connect rather than cause a power struggle or judgement or shame or frustration for either party. I finally was able to be the friend I’ve wanted to be for so long. It truly was an empoweringly magical and beautiful moment.

Happy Birthday Mom!

This last weekend, I experienced the blessing of hosting two delightful friends from out-of-state. They popped by for a couple of days after their convention concluded and upon arrival, one of them presented me with this gorgeous arrangement of roses. When I asked after the occasion she replied, “My husband always sends me flowers on the birthdays of our children. I can’t take them on the plane with me, so I’m sharing them with you!”

Aside from the breathtaking joy of such striking colors and magnificent blooms, her husband’s consideration was almost enough to make me fall in love with him! After so many years of giving of herself to the marriage and her family, their children now grown and married with children of their own, he still remembers to honor the mother of his children and thank her for their lives on their birthday. 

I would like to share a marriage with a man like that.

Tea Friends

sweet!

A few weeks ago, I went to visit a long-time friend. We both grew up in British Commonwealth countries and met at boarding school. One of the many things we enjoy doing together is going to tea, as it reminds us of those times as children when we dressed up and went to full teas with our mothers. We are both quite capable of making and presenting our own full tea, but it’s just so much more fun to go somewhere and experience tea with others who love the tea experience. The challenge in living in the United States, is finding the right balance of appropriate food with the appropriate ambiance.

Because my trip was such a last-minute affair, neither of us even thought about reserving a tea at our favorite tea house until the day of the tea. Unfortunately for us, that tea house was completely booked up. While on the one hand my mouth was greatly disappointed that it wouldn’t be able to savor those sumptuous delectables, I had to acknowledge my excitement over that tea house doing so well in spite of the current economic status.

After sitting around, lamenting our misfortune and causing our stomachs to growl with anticipation for food that it would never see, we decided we needed to take some action and see if there were any other respectable options.

We settled on a newly restructured/reorganized/updated tea room called Sucree. Because it’s new, as of this posting, there wasn’t a website for it. We were delighted to discover that they had a handful of different types of tea menus, so we ordered one that included sandwiches, cupcakes, scones and tea.

While waiting for our tea to begin, I found myself captured by the beautiful simplicity of the mint arrangement on our table. I love mint in floral arrangements, but it tends to wilt quickly. Such a freshly crisp abundance of mint in a sweet tea-pot was quite lovely…especially because it demonstrated a detailed attention to something that could easily present poorly. The colors also captured me…a spring green in the curtain, a light mint green on the walls framed by white trimming, white wrought iron chairs and tables and delicate little chandeliers to spread the light about like fairies. The roses on the teapot, while normally annoying to me by being so cliché, popped out with just the right amount of accent.

Then the scones came. In my excitement, I failed to remember to photograph them. They were piping hot, fluffy, melted in the mouth, a little sweet, but more than acceptable. We were each served one (not enough in my opinion) on a glass tray with a dollop each of orange marmalade and Double Devon cream as schmears. I quickly committed to the Double Devon cream with great satisfaction…my throat can attest to the delight and ease with which it just slid on by.

Once the mouth ecstasy subsided slightly, I noticed a mom with her 6-year-old daughter sharing tea together at a nearby table. The daughter had a pink and purple magical fairy purse and was thoroughly engrossed in the entire experience. My heart expanded with joy that another generation would grow up learning what tea is really all about…girlfriend time…the best kind of friends.

Communicating Kindly

Mindfulness

I struggle to communicate well. To be honest, I struggle in communicating at all…the well bit is merely something to which I aspire.

I haven’t always struggled to communicate; not because I did it any better at any other point in my life, but because I didn’t know that I wasn’t particularly good at it. I honestly thought that what I communicated was as clear as the nose on my face (which is rather pronounced and impossible to miss). What I didn’t realize, is that it is possible for someone to see the nose differently than I saw it and that if I attempted to see the world through that person’s perceptions, mine would inevitably change as would my reality. And that was a truly remarkable moment for me.

I remember when I came across this book. It was completely by accident. I was reading the New York Times’ Review of Books, looking up a recent publication on Amazon in order to read reviews, when this one popped up in the result list. The title startled me because in that moment, I recognized why I experienced those many moments of frustrated and unsuccessful attempts to communicate with people I love. My body responded to the clarity by slumping in the seat, sighing deeply, and feeling a few tears slip down my cheeks.

I have been blessed with the gifts of articulation (a.k.a. a sharp tongue), strong convictions (a.k.a. highly opinionated), and heightened passions (a.k.a. a short temper). In the heat of a difference of opinions (a.k.a. an argument), all of these gifts come together alarmingly well for devastating results. My focus becomes more and more narrow as the importance of being heard escalates such that it quickly becomes impossible for me to even acknowledge that another person is in the room. My resulting words in these moments always cut with scalpel-like precision where it hurts the worst, and, much to my horror, I rarely feel regret. So, when I saw this book cover, it startled me into recognizing that it is possible to disagree kindly with someone I love. I know this isn’t a new mental concept to me, for my mother never ceases to remind me of kinder ways of stating my clear and precise attempts at communicating. However, this brutally honest, yet openly vulnerable appeal of a message was the catalyst that finally opened the light of day to my emotional understanding.

The necessity of such compassion in communication hit very close to home today when a dear sweetheart of a friend came out to all his extended family and friends in a beautifully constructed open letter to us. His vulnerability revealed to me how emotionally fragile we are in this water planet, and how vitally important it is to nurture relationships like tender sprouting plants rather than seeking to conquer one another in any fashion…a deeply ingrained pattern in me that requires a complete change in all that I do.

So, while I’m practicing communicating  kindly with you, should I slip into familiar and comfortable patterns, please hold up this sign…for I want to…and I do.

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