Are you? Can you answer confidently that the path you are on is your purpose and calling? Some find their purpose early on. Others take a lifetime of experiences to carve out their space in the world. My life as a wife, mother, musician and teacher never seems at a loss for things to do, and I am constantly checking in with myself to make sure my best efforts are keeping me aligned with my talents, passion and desire to do and give my best.
Today, I have enjoyed this admonishment for living my best life from American-poet, Mary Oliver:
Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
Looking at these from a musician’s perspective is inspiring.
- PAY ATTENTION. We would all do well to eliminate distractions that steal time and effort from our goals. Whether you are a musician or businessman, distractions are the interference that prevent us from doing our best. It isn’t our lack of ability, or talent that holds us back. It is the interference we get from the lifestyle we make or even the voice in our head that may tell us we cannot do what we dream of doing. Now, I cannot–nor would I want to–eliminate my biggest interference or distraction of my four children, but I can find ways to make our schedules work to support the growth of us all. I have to choose times to teach and practice that support them, which eliminates my distractions when I need to pay attention to my goals. Pay attention also means respecting the music in the way the composer intended. Each note is part of a larger picture, moving to or away from a thought or emotion. When I pay attention while performing, the music is being created with intent, heart, and feeling. I am invested and connected through each phrase and articulation. The technical chatter that may fill my head during intense practice of a piece is no longer there in the performance. I have removed the interference of the voice in my head, enabling the music to really happen. The advice to pay attention also includes being aware of the people around us in a way that fosters meaningful connections. These connections are what really matters in life. I love teaching violin and piano. I realize this more and more as I prepare music and think of ways to inspire and reach my students. I value the connections I make with each person who enters my studio. The advice to pay attention helps us to see and understand things as they really are in the moment they are happening.
- BE ASTONISHED. Be surprised. Be grateful. Be childlike. A musician who keeps this quality is able to enjoy their efforts and performances so much more than a musician who is complacent. Always be grateful for the opportunity to play music. Be grateful for an audience who appreciates what you do. Be happy to teach each student. Always hope and prepare for the best outcomes. Failures and shortcomings, are part of the process and shouldn’t be discouraging, but rather an invitation to learn more. Be anxiously engaged in reaching for the next goal no matter what your level of ability is.
- TELL ABOUT IT. I love this one because it echoes what my own mother has always instructed me to do. She would say that once I had learned something, I had a duty to share it. This isn’t in a self-promoting way at all. It is with the intent to lift and care for others. I have practiced nearly my whole life to attain a level of mastery on two instruments. What good would those hours of practice do if I only played for myself? I feel and love the responsibility to teach and to play every occasion that comes to me because of this advice. And I think this is why I love to teach and to perform so much! I am sharing a huge part of who I am in the hope of lifting and inspiring others.
As you consider living your best life, remember the advice of Mary Oliver. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.