On top of this I had a music lesson as well. I didn’t feel up to that either, but I knew I couldn’t cancel last minute. So I went, and I explained my situation to Kalyan, who is a wonderful, award-winning musician and a most amazing teacher.
‘So what do you do when you feel like this?’ I asked.
Before I go on with the story, I need to explain that the kind of music I’m learning is really my own. Unlike with classical music, there is no score and no ‘how to’, the music just emerges as I play and sing. Sometimes it’s totally improvised, and sometimes it settles into a melody.
So here I was, one hand on the keyboard, the other on the bellows of my Indian harmonium, feeling now very awkward and vulnerable on top of not feeling good. What on earth could come out of a state like this? The only reason I was prepared to do this was because I had come to trust Kalyan’s experience and insight. And then tones happened, and a soft music arose that was a perfect expression of me at that moment. I was stunned by its beauty and newness, struck by the fact that a state that had felt quite unbearable could turn into something so beautiful and, dare I say, almost sacred. It was like a spotless white lotus flower that grows out of the darkest, grimiest mud.
The lesson turned out to be quite the experience, as more music happened, new, unexpected, and striking. As I reflected on this later, it occurred to me that it’s a perfect metaphor for life. There are two ways of living life. One is to live it according to some score, some rules or ideas as to what to do in a particular situation. This is reassuring as we feel prepared: we know what to do, at least most of the time. The other way is to not have a script and to respond to a situation as it presents itself in that moment. Of course it’s relatively easy to do this when we feel good and confident about ourselves. It’s a lot more challenging when we feel shaky and wobbly on our feet. But it’s when we dare show up like this that the real magic happens!
PS: If you're interested in hearing me chant, cllick the button below, the chanting comes up toward the end of the little video (the chant is very traditional, though, no improvisation happening there, unfortunately!).