Today someone asked me, “What do you do when something goes wrong in your career?” The question stopped me in my tracks. When I thought about it, I could identify many things that have gone wrong in my career in the past twenty years. I don’t have to look far for examples, the most recent being this: My performing partner decided our “act” was useless to everyone – “like a snowball for an Eskimo,” he said. No matter how much I tried to explain the value of hearing great music performed by excellent musicians – he couldn’t get past the lack of great venues and great paying gigs. So what did I do? Well, first I kept up hope that he’d change his mind – maybe it was just a bad day for him. When he didn’t, I blamed him for being too picky and impatient. We really hadn’t paid our dues, in my mind. But worst of all I stopped performing – because of him. Really?
Since then, I have been like a lazy tiger who sits around all day waiting for someone else to bring it food. Blaming my partner allowed me to relinquish my own responsibility for my career. I had terrible feelings of being unworthy, and worst of all, because he gave up on me, I also gave up on myself. So when someone asked me that question above, it hit me like a mac truck. When something goes wrong in my career, I stop? Not acceptable, I had to change.
So, I turned to the internet and to some of my favorite inspirational books to find advice. I looked into this phenomenon: letting the world and other people get me down…well, really, stop me from doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing. Here’s what I found: most of the suffering in this world (I’d call this suffering, wouldn’t you?) is caused by three deep-seated beliefs. 1. I am imperfect; 2. I am different; and 3. I am the doer. These questions come from ancient Indian scriptural texts though I do not know exactly which ones. At any rate, I thought it couldn’t hurt to contemplate these three as they relate to my music career.
First, let’s turn around “I am imperfect” and call it I AM PERFECT. OK, that’s a hard one to swallow but let’s entertain it for a New York minute anyway. My google dictionary says that perfect is: “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.” I admit, if I could believe that I AM PERFECT, my suffering would certainly be lessened quite a bit if not eradicated.
In what universe could I imagine that I am perfect? I am very judgmental of myself: I am overweight, teaching much more than I sing, I haven’t practiced seriously in months, I am worried that I’m past my prime, and, my partner broke up the band. These thoughts stop me from singing and make me feel terrible. I am more than imperfect – I’m a hot mess. So, where do I look for the opposite of this belief that makes me suffer? How do I make myself believe that I am perfect so I can stop these terrible feelings?
Please pardon me a moment while I close my eyes and breathe and see what comes up. [pause] OK, here’s a leap: I do believe in my inner goodness (inner light?). So, deep down inside, my inner goodness may be perfectly in tact and even perfect. I can go with that. Why go with that you say? Doesn’t everyone have goodness (light) deep down inside? Isn’t that a bit lame? Well, I’m going with that because 1. I have to try something – that other thought is really painful and this one is so joyful and 2. I have direct experience with my inner light or my inner goodness. If I can draw my mind to the conclusion that I “have all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics;” and I am “as good as it is possible to be” and allow myself to experience the good feelings it causes, isn’t it worth a try? Let’s call my inner goodness/light “my perfection,” the chewy chocolate center of the tootsie pop. No matter how crumpled or chipped or smashed the tootsie pop gets in your purse, the chewy chocolate center remains in tact – perfect. It may take a while to get to that chewy center – I may have to work at it, and until I experience it – I don’t even know it’s there – but if I focus on the chewy chocolate center, instead of the deeply flawed wrapper and candy coating I might feel better. If I feel better I might start singing again.
But even more that that. I actually can get behind the fact that I really do have all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics to be as good as it is possible to be — and what’s more, so do you. I have the inner qualities or virtues to be as good as it is possible to be. If I focus on my inner goodness (light) – which I really do believe in and have direct experience of – then I can choose to remember that and to act from that — to be “perfect.” We all just choose to believe the other thing and to suffer. It’s a simple (but not easy) matter of changing my mind. Simple.
OK, then, what elements, qualities or characteristics do I need to implement to start singing again? I do have discipline (at least I used to have that), I have a good ear (that didn’t go away), I have the deep desire to uplift people with my singing (still inside), etc. When I think about it, I know exactly what to do: get up and find some music to sing to prepare for a performance of some sort – I have a faculty recital coming up in April that I was going to skip but maybe I won’t skip it. I’ll pick something to perform that makes me happy (that reflects my inner goodness?) and start practicing today. I know it is going to be painful and I won’t sound very good for a while, but I also know from experience that the voice will bounce back eventually if I keep up regular practice. I know that this performance in April is not going to make me rich and famous, but, if I believe in my inner light/goodness “perfection” and implement these qualities, singing on this program will help me to be happy and feel like I’m contributing my talents to the world. I’ll have to find another collaborator, so I’ll mourn the loss of my old performing partner (being angry at him and blaming him doesn’t help me mourn the loss of him) and then move on. I am open to finding a collaborator that is just as great of a musician but who also believes in the power of music to uplift people – whether or not it makes you rich and famous.
So, by contemplating just one of the three deep-seated beliefs that cause suffering according to ancient sacred writings, I have lessened my suffering a bit and given myself an assignment to practice the new belief that my inner goodness (light) is perfect. Nice. Imagine what will happen if I practice not only singing, but believing I AM PERFECT.
Let’s turn around the second statement: I am different. What is the opposite? I am not different? I am the same? The same as everyone else? That is a hard one too. OK, I am the same as everyone on the planet. How about, MY INNER GOODNESS IS THE SAME AS THE INNER GOODNESS OF EVERYONE ON THE PLANET? That is easier. What if I just take a leap and buy it? How will that help me to start addressing other people to book singing gigs? The inner goodness (light) in me will lead the way – it will appeal to the inner goodness (light) of other musicians, venues, and audiences. I’ll start with you, dear reader. Soon I will post some of my music here. Let me get in shape and prepare something beautiful for you. I’ll rely on your inner goodness to accept my gift whenever it comes. Will you?
Finally, let’s turn around the third statement: I am the doer. What is the opposite? I am not the doer? I don’t do it? My inner goodness/light, perfection, that is the same as everyone else’s inner perfection, is actually what does my actions? Or are the actions done by my perfect me (not my lazy, irritated, angry, self-pitying me) not really done by me? Are there two mes? OK, let me go back to my own experience of my own inner goodness. Let me also take a leap and say that my inner goodness is my “heart.” If I do something from my heart – or wholeheartedly – perhaps the heart is the doer? So the turn around is this: MY HEART(LIGHT?) IS THE DOER. Yes, my heart is part of me but the impure, depressed, dejected, me sometimes does the actions – let’s call the negative parts Bozo. So, there is Bozo, and there is Inner Goodness or The Heart – the light of the heart?. Yes, this is pretty deep for a Monday morning. So, I’ll end this blog with the statement that I can contemplate – My inner goodness (light) is Perfect – The same inner goodness (light) resides in all – My actions are reflections of either my inner Bozo or my inner Heart and I’m going to try to act from the heart – to make my heart (or light) the doer. Where is music in all this? Perhaps music is a reflection of the light. Music is perfect and comes from my heart – music affects all people equally – music comes from the light in the heart of the composers and performers and adds to the light of the world, uplifts the world. If I focus on music, and do what it takes to make it regularly and with a positive mind, I will be happy.
I am light. You are light. The world is made up of light. Therefore, I sing.
Thank you for reading this morning contemplation. Check back regularly to hear some of my “perfect” music. I’ll post it as a vlog. I’d love to hear your comments.