Leaning In

Since reading the TRC report last year, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get involved, gently, in the process of reconciliation. This isn’t easy; there are people out there who have suffered greatly and I know little of their culture or how to begin reaching out, never mind finding solutions. I’m worry about taking missteps that might offend or make the process more difficult. I’ve also been wondering, because of my Green Party involvement, whether I’m trying to simply score points – add some political traction. It occurred to me today that the reverse was actually true; my involvement with progressive politics has brought me to ask the questions. Asking the questions has made me realize that it is in my benefit, as a compassionate person, to lean in to my discomfort, reach out, and learn.

A Study in Contrast

My day developed into one of remarkable contrasts. It started with a Facebook conversation with a pair of Libertarians. I have to admit it wasn’t a comfortable thing. I like to find common ground with almost anybody and work hard to be respectful but they weren’t having it. At one point they accused me of being “an enemy of the people” and of having “sinister plans” and felt that it was okay to describe a fellow Green Party member’s opinions as “Hitler-like”.  Mostly because we stand up for some regulations to try to deal with social justice issues. This evening I attended one of CBC’s Beyond 94 sessions – a public forum on the ongoing process of Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people. These sessions are remarkable; the stories of pain, hardship, broken families, and anger are palpable. One fellow told the audience, the majority of whom were white, that it wasn’t our fault. This person, and his family, have endured real suffering at the hands of my ancestors and the society that has given me so much and yet he stood there and reached out with compassion. What a stark contrast to the privileged old white men who hurled insults at me because I care about others.  It seems like my day was designed to present me with two possible choices on where to invest my heart and soul. Easy choice.

Musical Mindfulness

There is a great deal of content on the web about the benefits of playing music; boosting memory skills, improving team playing, teaching discipline, etc.  I was pondering these benefits as my band played its way through four gigs over this St Paddy’s weekend. I put out a load of energy in every performance (at least, if I’m doing it right) and yet I can come off stage feeling emotionally and mentally refreshed. It occurred to me that maybe there’s something underlying all those benefits. Performance is a complex thing; playing the instrument, remembering the words and arrangement, listening to tone and timing, and engaging the audience. Keeping that all working together requires being absolutely in the moment. There is a conscious practice of observing yourself drifting away and intentionally pulling your attention back to the music. The times that the music is at its absolute best are when you are fully there; mentally, emotionally, and physically engaged in the art and audience. That mindfulness, the being in the moment, is as good a mediation as any.

Music, Shared

At times I wonder why I keep getting on stage and playing music. I’m a utilitarian guitar player, not a particularly talented vocalist, and neither songwriter nor gifted arranger. And yet, last night, we played the first of four St. Patrick’s gigs, and I re-discovered the magic. It wasn’t a big venue but it is cozy and we had a full crowd. We played our set and truly loved the music; not just enjoyed it but fully embraced it with our fingers, voices, and hearts. We pass that passion on to our audiences and they pass it right back to us in a beautiful symbiosis fueled by sharing music. This is why I keep doing it. It isn’t about the money, or the accolades, but about the pure joy of sending a few people home, myself included, a little happier than when we arrived.

Do… Or Do Not.

Comparing ourselves to others is a risky place. We took in a local performance of “Once” at a local theatre last night. Musical performances always leave me somewhat conflicted. As a mostly amateur musician, I constantly measure myself against the musicianship of professionals. In one part of the story a certain individual is told that they play okay but should not sing, ever, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that might be what I look like to the rest of the world. The company in this play was filled to the brim with fantastically talented performers.  While walking out, thoroughly entertained and thinking, as I always do, about where I stand with respect to music, I realized that it is a simple choice. Not quite Yoda’s black and white “Do… Or Do Not. There is no try” but a more subtle choice between inspiration and discouragement. It would be easy to go out into the night in a muddle of emotions but I realized, in one very lucid moment, that I could leave fully inspired. For that, and for the gift of music, I am very grateful.

Meditation Hibernation Part 2

Yesterday I expressed how I’d occasionally take an unintentional snooze during meditation. Today, I opened up the Headspace mediation app to do some practice. I’ve found this to be a wonderful resource and am part way through the level 2 Basics series. There are usually short commentaries before and after the session that, at this level, provide some simple whats and hows of meditation. In a remarkable coincidence, today’s summary revealed that in next few sessions they’re going to look at issues such as “falling asleep during meditation”. It looks like I will, happily, be meditating on nodding off after all.

Meditation Hibernation

I’ve been trying to make meditation a daily practice. This is something totally new to me. I can see the benefit of just being in the moment and stilling my mind for a few minutes, especially in the middle of workdays when I can feel really frantic. I find it helps with motivation, with having a positive approach to things, with not worrying so much. Problem is, I often find my self nodding off. Coming back to mindfulness as a response to falling out of the chair is probably not a recommended approach. I’ll have to meditate on that.