As 2017 draws to a close, my mind turns to making resolutions.
I’m a big fan of them, no matter how short lived or unattainable they may seem to be. There’s a certain optimism in the idea of a fresh start, self improvement, a change for the better.
Resolutions I’ve made in the past were fairly mundane until recently:
- yoga twice a week
- keep a journal
- stop buying so many shoes
- volunteer more often
- seriously, nobody needs this many shoes
The past few years have been a bit more focused:
- try not to let the past keep hurting you
- develop a stronger spiritual practice
- now give some of the shoes away, Imelda Marcos Jr
2016 and 2017 have been really hard on many folks, myself included. My guts roil with the worries of our time: the decimation of the environment, ratcheting up of aggressions between countries, political parties, and people, animal abuse, the suffering of refugees, the sick, the lonely, the discarded- not to mention my own list, with friendships that have proved hollow, unpleasant exchanges online and in my inbox, the way physical infirmity has a way of adding a grey cast to the experience of living.
I find myself overwhelmed and often paralyzed. And then I feel bad, and then it gets worse. You have no idea how much I appreciate my students and the catharsis of teaching. Doing something constructive, developing respect and understanding- introducing someone to a part of themselves they don’t even know yet. It’s a way of tapping into a reserve of good stuff that feels mostly out of reach these days.
My resolution for 2018 is going to be peace. To contribute peace rather than negativity or ego. Pema Chödrön has some excellent teachings about working with big feelings about injustice and heartache (search: Don’t Bite the Hook and Activism without Aggression), and I come away from it with a few concrete ideas about how to make small but meaningful contributions to a peaceful world, through music, and thought I’d share them with you.
- Music is an offering. Interact with parts of your community not usually served by the classical music scene- not as a sage from on high, but as a way to connect. The connection goes both ways.
- Sponsor a music student, teach someone for no charge, play with new people.
- Go listen to new music. Make new music. In all of these things, do it as an ambassador of goodwill and a curious student of the world.
- Cultivate kindness towards yourself and the players around you. Judgment is poison. Appreciate the effort. If the effort is lacking, appreciate the struggle. If the struggle is not apparent, wish that person well with all the sincerity and softness you can muster. If you fail at this, forgive yourself and try again next time.
- Peace does not mean allowing injustice to stand. Music can be a powerful tool. Organize or volunteer to be in a concert to support a cause that’s important.
- If you’re in a position to hire musicians, this is an opportunity employ people who have not traditionally had access to the trusty pipeline of prosperity. Ignoring people who are struggling and suffering is an act of war. We are all complicit until we are active and recognize how rich the world is with chances to make amends, to offer peace.
- While peace is active, because there’s a firehose of disaster available 24/7 online and on television, take time to cultivate yourself, away from screens and noises, demands and frustrations. This is where the private music practice can be a wonderful respite, a meditation, a single physical task that envelops your attention and allows you to recharge.
Tomorrow’s post will be a step by step guide of how to practice in a concentrated, meditative way.