To Give and Receive

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. – Rumi

So here you are… You’ve taken down your instrument, you’re playing and it feels good. You have a regular music practice going, and a developing relationship with your instrument. Now someone enters the room. How does this change things for you? Do you wish that person would go away so you can continue your private musicmaking? Or do you welcome the opportunity to share your music? I think what usually stops us is the idea that we will be judged in a negative way. Once we get to the point of accepting what ever music comes out of us, this will matter less and less. It’s taken a while, but I’ve come to understand that when someone wants to hear my music, it’s an opportunity for us to connect.

When I play for you and ask you to receive, it’s like a conversation. A satisfying conversation consists of a person’s honest expression, received by an attentive listener. There is something so gratifying just to be heard. When I play something, I don’t need to be praised to the skies – in fact I would prefer that my music be simply received. If it touches you, of course that would please me. Really all I ask is for you to witness my authentic expression.

If the listener wants to join the conversation in a more active way by picking up an instrument, we can each express and listen – and connect in that way. But something even more extraordinary happens when two or more people play together. Something new is born that never existed before. The synergy that is created between two people takes on a life of its own, informing the players as they go, so that often they are quite literally “out of their minds” as they play. By this I mean they leave behind their everyday linear thinking – “oh, he just played that phrase, so now I should respond with this” – and they enter a free-flow zone of non-thinking. Those who have experienced this state report that they’re no longer in control, that the music seems to play itself. Of course, this can also happen when playing alone. But it seems like the energy of an audience, a single listener, or a co-player provides a favorable environment for it to happen.

If I’m making this sound like a holy state that is difficult to achieve, let that idea go right now. All it takes is a willingness to play – and I mean play in the sense of children playing. Have you ever seen two people play Heart and Soul piano duet, full of fun and love and have it turn into an unexpectedly creative tour de force? Or not – the point is you never know until you try. And you don’t have to study for years to pick up a tambourine or a pair of claves and accompany someone in an attentive musical way.

So the next time you’re feeling empty or frightened – take down a musical instrument. Invite someone along with you. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

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