Keep listening

July 13, 2009

A friend of mine, who I’ll call Steven, lives in Shanghai. He may or may not be able to read this blog, depending on whether or not it’s a day when the Chinese government decides to block access to all blogs, YouTube, and foreign news media. I wonder what it must be like to get up each morning, and, as many of us casually look out the window to see what the weather might be, have to check how small the government has decided to make you that day.

Thankfully, we have skype. Steven and I chat at least once a week, using text. Neither of us has wondered whether those messages are being reviewed for future censorship by the Chinese government. Maybe we should.

Steven is an entrepreneur. He is tackling the daunting task of trying to identify a business idea, secure funding, and launch it in a country where every single interaction he has is brand new. He is so clearly a foreigner. He is learning the language, studying it each day, taking lessons with a private tutor, going to a speaking practice group of foreign-born students. It is frustrating! He says it has made him feel so humble and inadequate at times to be struggling with the kinds of words that any five-year-old in China is fluent in. It has whittled him down to the core to have to learn the basic building blocks of how to “get by” in a new language and culture.

He grew up with me in Libertyville, and frankly, he was someone I thought of as a “pretty boy” – he played tennis, had blond hair, wore pink Polo shirts, drove an Audi in high school, and just seemed to me to be on the other side of that invisible social line. He was one of the “cool” people. We really only became friends as adults, after I saw him at our tenth high school reunion and heard that he was living in San Francisco. I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s cool! He MADE it out there!” I wanted to know how he did it, what brought him there. It was that part of me longing for examples and stories of how people broke out of the known and followed a dream. All I remember him telling me that night in 2003 was that after college, he was working in Tennessee, hearing about all the cool stuff happening in Silicon Valley, and decided to pick up and move there to get in on the action. He got into a dot com, which was acquired, and rode the crest of the wave all the way to the bottom. And he looked happy, relaxed, still loving life. Read the rest of this entry »


Love is…

July 10, 2009

I think I finally understand why my parents never wanted me to try to make a living as a musician.

You know what it feels like to fall in love – head-over-heels, ga-ga, out-of-your-mind in love? And then, you know what it feels like when you’re hurt by that person you love? Or when you lose that person? Or when the person doesn’t love you back?

Well, sharing your art with someone is a lot like falling in love. To actually do it well – meaning that you’re actually passing on those best parts of yourself to someone else – requires opening yourself so wide that you invite everything in. That means you can’t choose to “block out” the bad stuff, or give only just enough that you don’t get hurt. It means you invite in the heartbreak. You invite in the disappointment. You invite in the frustration. You invite in the agreement that despite all of that, you’ll keep showing up and trying again.

You do it because you embrace the beauty of seeing someone else grow in your presence. You do it because you know what the human spirit is capable of. You do it because sharing your appreciation of life with even one other person makes your experience richer. You invite all of that pain in because you think love requires it of you. Read the rest of this entry »

I believe in magic

July 3, 2009

There is tremendous power in telling the truth of our own experience.

When we witness the courageous acts of others – people doing things that we long to do but think we are too afraid to do – something changes within us. We begin to believe that it’s possible for us too. The shift is so dramatic and clear, it’s like magic. And this is the beginning of our process of coming alive.

I am now in the final week of a juicy four weeks “off” from the normal activities of my work as Founder of The Music Within Us. The last time I took this many weeks of time entirely for myself was probably the summer between high school and college, when I studied French at the Universite de Paris Sorbonne. Since then, I have been on a constant path of doing, taking great care to stay “busy” and have something reassuring to say when people asked me or anyone in my family how I’m doing. You see, I have been assimilated into the materialistic culture that has become America. I have learned the rules of that so-called game of rising to the top of the heap, and reaching The Promised Land of status and being perceived as “best”.

But I’ve also been listening constantly to the inner voice of my true self. This self has spoken to me in many ways, and I have found the courage at various points in my life to give outer expression to the whispers of that inner voice. I wasn’t brave enough in college to admit that I did not want to go to medical school. So I powered through it, and got in. But sitting in a lecture hall with one hundred thirty other students who had gotten there because of their penchant for taking multiple choice tests and writing essays about “wanting to help other people” did not feel like a place I wanted to call home. But I continued to power through. Read the rest of this entry »