Some thoughts to share on my career, and the effect that learning the Art of Living has had on my music and my life...
Our normal school education leaves us with few clues for how to handle our minds or our negative emotions. Does it? Anger, fear, uncertainty, jealousy, rejection, depression can come at any time and sweep us off our feet, bringing those unwanted health, energy, career and relationship problems.
Most people are not aware of their breathing at all unless they climb five flights of stairs or develop asthma. For instance, have you noticed how your mind and emotions affect your breathing? With a burst of anger, or intense physical fear, or even sobbing, see how the breath dramatically changes. Similarly, we have those big heavy outgoing breaths when we are depressed or sad, or the smooth and integrated breathing when content, at peace. Smell a perfumed blossom, or enjoy a fresh mountain stream and observe how our inward breath predominates....
On the Art of Living part 1 course, a six consecutive day programme (totaling approx 18 hours), we reverse this whole scenario. By learning to use our breath skillfully, we can positively change our state of mind. It is a beautiful step-by-step programme of knowledge and experience, easy to learn, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. But workshop participants also come away from those few days feeling that it effortlessly (miraculously) touches and nourishes the very core of our inner spiritual life, our oasis, and gives a very concrete and practical basis for making wonderful progress in all areas of living. From the silence of our innermost being, a prayerfulness spontaneously dawns, the Presence becomes alive.
I have always equated deeper, sacred music to prayer. For everyone interested in this kind of music and its power for inner transformation, the first and most vital step is to tune up this human instrument, tune up ourselves. "Musician, tune thyself!" (instead of: "Doctor, heal thyself!"). And it follows, too, that to begin to fathom the depths of our world's most spiritual music (as a listener), this requires some stillness, silence and evenness of mind. Again the key is the breath. When there is attention on the breath and breathing, the mind comes more to the present moment.
Have you noticed how the mind vacillates between anxiety about the future, to regret or anger about the past? This very oscillation (cooling and heating) causes much of the stress and aging of our nervous system. Not to mention the sheer distraction of an "occupied mind". Again, the breath is the rescue.....
Living with uncertainty is a skill that dawns when one's mind and nervous become slowly cultured to live more in the present moment. For many, it is necessary to learn certain practises to cultivate these important skills. For creative artists, living with uncertainty is usually a reality! I recall the famous story of the well-known singer, an important international star, whose agent was just about to conclude a lucrative concert series contract after weeks of negotiating. In the final meeting, the financiers got cold feet and pulled out. The singer's agent stood up and protested fiercely and announced loudly to them all: "You can't do that, please! Don't you understand? My artiste has already psychologically spent this money!".
A career in music, like many of the creative arts, can be riddled with financial ups and downs, creative insecurities, and for many, neuroses (rhymes with "sneeze"!). The mind itself cannot control the mind. If you tell yourself not to think about something over and over again, does it work? Or can you make yourself fall asleep when you are worried about insomnia? The mind can be like a monkey if we are tired or jet-lagged (or any time!). Useful skills are given in this initial Art of Living course precisely for managing our mind, helping to set it free - magic keys which work so well in conjunction with the skillful use of the breath, offering us a practical rescue.
If the mind is like the kite flying here and there, then the string is the breath. A gentle tug and the kite goes in a direction which we want! The beautiful core process on the course, the Sudarshan Kriya, unique to the Art of Living, brings the mind effortlessly to the restful state, to the present moment, so much that the full value of life starts being directly experienced - joy and enthusiasm are restored in the deepest place of our own being. It is a beautiful supplement to any meditation or contemplative technique, also giving depth to any religious or spiritual practice or prayer.
The origin and source of so much of the great music and art on this planet comes from that same sacred place inside. It seems that it must be of common ownership between us all - or how could such great music resonate so deeply with so many hearts around the globe, from so many diverse cultures? This "inner happening" connects us more and more with the wonderful "one world family" and is the dawning of a sincere inner experience (regardless of particular faith) and sacred expression. In the absence of this experience, then limited identification comes: "oh, I am this belief or faith (to the exclusion of others), I am this tribe, this country, political stand, education, spiritual group, man, woman, club, profession, etc., etc." And from this limited space, many personal and communal confrontations happen, and bloody wars are fought between nations or tribes, and from this lack of belongingness comes all the fanaticism and terrorism that is being kindled today. Sadly, just turn on the news these days.....
This limited identification subsides naturally when our own inner experience becomes deeper and more expanded, and the mind is given a chance to come to rest at regular intervals through effective, effortless spiritual practice. Then we have that genuine inner experience of: "oh, I am pure energy and space!" and, "Yes, I am connected to all living things everywhere!" to, "Wow, I am made up of pure love!" From this place, service is born. To care and help for others. To uplift the quality of others' lives is a great gift to bestow. The heart expands. Love expands.
So we give thanks to all those whose activities are spreading this beautiful inner approach to life, cultivating that precious sense of belongingness among people everywhere. We can start with ourselves, and when we tune up the inner life, our human instrument, then our whole life becomes like music - harmonious and beautiful. What a gift!
For Art of Living courses being given near you, see: Art of Living - UK
The Art of Living