Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Tuning Slide: 2.16- Give Yourself a Gift

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Stephen Covey, educator and speaker, wrote one of the basic books on self-management in 1989, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Sometime in the new year I will be looking at these seven habits and applying them to our being and becoming musicians as well as effective humans. But for this week I simply want to think about the 7th habit which he called Sharpening the Saw- continually improving what we do and who we are.

On the Change Management Coach website, counseling psychologist and life coach Mark Connelly described it this way:
Habit 7 is about looking after yourself. You are the greatest asset you have and we have to learn to take time to look after ourselves. Stephen Covey suggests we pay attention to four areas in our lives:
Physical: Exercise, Nutrition, Stress Management
Spiritual: Value Clarification and Commitment, Study and Meditation
Mental: Reading, Visualizing, Planning, Writing
Social/Emotional: Service, Empathy, Synergy, Intrinsic Security.
Not a bad idea to consider this season. I have noticed that for many people this year’s season has been more low-key than usual. Several have said to me that the intensity and downright unusual behavior of the recent election campaign have worn us down. Energy levels have been depleted. The stress and tension evident in so many places can fog our brains and actions. We may find ourselves sitting and just wondering about everything and nothing. The physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional assets have been nearly exhausted. Many look around and wonder what happened to them and to the world we used to know. It feels dark- or at least gray and uncertain.

Yet this is a season of light. The three major holidays in the next two weeks are celebrations of light coming into the darkness. The Christmas season vibrates with light from stars, candles, and the hint of angels’ trumpets. The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah is called the Feast of Lights, celebrating the miracle of light in a dark time. The African-American Kwanzaa, begun 50 years ago, seven candles are lit bringing the light of the principles of the holiday season.

In addition to light and celebration of hope and unity and peace, gift-giving is very much a part of all three holidays. So, let me suggest that Covey’s 7th habit could also be described as giving yourself a gift and sharing your gift of yourself with others. As musicians we can be overly busy this season- but perhaps it can be seen as bringing the light of music to others. That shift in perspective can go a long way to changing how we see what we are doing. For example, I have been looking forward to playing with our quintet in church on Christmas morning. It is a gift to myself to be able to play the seasonal music in public. It is a gift to my own spiritual life to do it in church- even a church that is not part of my own tradition. It is a gift I am excited to share with those in church that morning. It is not a burden- it is a gift-receiving and gift-giving joy.

Then there are the many other ways we can gift ourselves this season. We can find those moments of rest and relaxation. Maybe we will have time to do some exercise or getting outdoors. (The physical.) We can look around and give thanks for what we have been given. We can celebrate our own spiritual and communal traditions and renew our commitments to our family, friends, and communities. (The spiritual.) We might want to take time to do some reading or meditating or listening to some good music. (The mental.) We can find ways to reach out to others, either with our music, a phone call, or connecting with friends. (The social.)

We need to take care of ourselves. That is not an end in itself. It is part of who we are. We need to be healthy for ourselves and to be able to share with others. We are social beings. We are spiritual beings. We are physical beings. All these come together when we keep ourselves as healthy and focused as we can.
Take care of yourselves. It has been a tough few months. Be good to yourself and those around you. You will be richly blessed.

Christmas. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa.

Celebrate the light and hope and peace within and around you.

Oh- and make sure you play your trumpet. That may be the most important gift to give yourself this year.

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