Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Tuning Slide - With Gratitude

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Gratitude is the music of the heart.

It's Thanksgiving Week and it is hard to move past the week without talking about gratitude.

Will gratitude make you a better musician? Not as much as practice will, but it will do something just as important that will have an impact- it will increase your mindfulness, your awareness of yourself and the world around you. THAT will help your trumpet playing.
  • It will give you insight into your own life and emotions- an important part of being an advancing musician. 
  • It will keep you in touch with those around you that will make your life fuller and more enriching. 
  • It will keep you humble- which is another way of saying you will continue to be teachable- willing and ready to learn.
  • It will increase your happiness levels on a daily basis, say a number of research studies.
  • It will increase your energy and motivation more often.
  • Depression and stress will be more easily coped with on a daily basis.
As preachers have been saying for years on Thanksgiving, don't just save all your gratitude for this one day. It actually will make you a better person if you learn to practice it every day.
  • Dr. Amit Sood of Mayo Clinic suggests that you not get out of bed in the morning any day without some awareness of reasons or people to be grateful for. 
  • Keep a gratitude journal and review it on a daily basis. 
  • Don't repeat yourself- find new reasons to be grateful each day.
  • Silently wish each person you pass in a given period of time, grace and peace.
  • Meister Eckhart was a man of wisdom:
If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’
that would suffice.
– Meister Eckhart

One person who has helped me over the past couple years is Shane Burcaw. He is a young man with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and has been in a wheelchair his whole life. He also has a journalism degree, is the author of a wonderful book, Laughing at My Nightmare, is the founder of a foundation to assist others with Muscular Dystrophy and its variations, and has an incredible sense of humor. His attitude is nothing short of remarkable. No, he does not play trumpet (I don't think so, anyway!) but he is a person filled with energy- and gratitude.

Every week he posts a list called What Made Me Smile This Week. There are many things each week that bring a smile to Shane's face: meeting with college students at his Alma Mater (Moravian College!), eating turkey chili, giving a talk at an elementary school, writing, or just being able to stretch out after a long day.

Each week he makes me smile. He also reminds me of the wonders I miss around me when all I do is complain or find reasons to criticize. He challenges me, someone nearly three times his age, to see the world as fresh and refreshing each day. No matter what!

Maybe I should apply that to my trumpet playing and practice. How did my practicing today make me smile? What were the moments of gratitude and joy? Maybe I wasn't as focused as I needed to be, but what was neat about it? Maybe it was the particular exercise that is just fun to play. Maybe it was the ability to hit some difficult notes with a little more clarity. Maybe it was just the way I felt after making music.

What works for you? Where are you grateful today? Just enjoy it. No matter what!

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