Experience vs. Acquisition

What am I doing with my life?  Can you answer that?  What kind of answers do you think you might hear to that question?

“getting a degree” “raising a family” “working until retirement”  “paying off my house”

Well those are all good and I’d like to contemplate the concept of generational differences in what life is all about.  A very bright scholar was talking to me the other day about acquisition in the baby boomer generation.  The baby boomer’s would be likely to give the aforementioned answers.  They were a generation taught or devised of their own experience the values of acquiring things.  College degree, career, house mortgage, lawn, climb the ladder, family, retirement.  Many of our parents are from this baby boom generation where acquisition is the priority of life.

generations

Now I was born in the 80’s.  My generation is not so concerned with owning cars, houses or retirement plans.  I, for example, have been in the same career or adjacent career field for 14 years however I have not kept with the same employer for more than 2 years. I own my own business.   I got one master’s degree and then I got another one.  I work freelance in a variety of music related fields.  I sold my car.  I’ve traveled the world, taken jobs just for the experience, tried everything once, and now live across the world from where I grew up.  What am I here for?  I’m here to experience things.  I will not hold onto a broken relationship – it was the lessons learned that were the gift of the relationship not the other person or the idea of us.  I wasn’t trying to acquire someone else.  Jobs offer insight into lifestyles but I’ve never wanted to stay in the jobs – just to gain the insight and experience.  For example, I’ve done over 15 national and global touring jobs, living on busses and hotel rooms.  It was never my intention to stay a nomad or make my life on the road permanent.  But I did it, grin and bear, for the experience.  I wasn’t trying to acquire a permanent position.

Now, as I’m advancing in age I am seeing the benefit of sedimentation.  In other words, slowing down a little and allowing all of my life experiences to congeal.  I’ve stirred up a whole whirlwind of information and insight through my experiences that I need now to allow to settle so that I can become a more stable, solid and realized person which will allow me to have influence and effect in my life.  What is my life?

At this point, I’m realizing that my life is about who and what surrounds me daily.  Long distance anything is over.  To sediment and become a fixed figure allows others passing by to see and recognize me, so feel secure and observe me, to be influenced, taught or interact with me as they wish.  Like big mountain as opposed to the wind.  I believe this is the progression of life for my generation.

I wonder what the newer generations lives will look like?  I can’t imagine they will be even more adventurous and experience orientated than mine ..!  What would that look like…not firming up in one place until they are mid 40’s?  Could be…perhaps the nuclear family is disappearing and our population issue will start to slow down.  More humans learning about themselves and the world, less just defaulting to breeding as a priority.

I wonder what the ultimate point of it all is… to see hundreds of years into the future how they live their lives…

 

Stay On the Beat but Don’t Rush

I was fortunate enough to have a handful of lessons and days spent with, in my opinion, the greatest trumpet player in the world;  Carl Saunders.  Not only is he an amazing technical bebop player but his tone is bluesy and personal, his range has no limits high or low, and his lines flow endlessly from tasty lick to tasty lick across the complete range of the horn in a one breath phrase longer than expected.  In short, he’s jaw dropping.  See for yourself:

Of course, he could also scat, sing, compose hundreds of tunes, play drums, bass and piano extremely well.  He is truly an extremely talented person.  In my time with him he gave me lots of honest feedback and very wise tips.  I’ve always thought that 70 year olds have the best advice.  They’ve really lived, accomplished much, proven their hold here, and are carefree enough to pass on their honest stories and lessons.

One of my favorite quotes of his was “stay on the beat but don’t rush.”  He was speaking musically but I interpreted this also metaphorically.  It’s about life.  Pay attention to where you are, consciously be aware and stay on the beat – in the moment – but don’t rush.  Don’t get ahead of yourself, don’t overthink or over do anything, just be where you are.

Musical time is also one of those things that gets better with age because it has to do with time itself!  Someone older who has been through many lessons and learned about what stays the same through the changes and the years will have better musical time than a beginning piano student.  Sure, this is because of their difference in experience, training and development but also their experience and understanding of time.  Or the fact that those 3 things take place over time.  So time improves as one gains more experience with time or simply has lived more life.

As CS used to end phone conversations, “stay on the beat, but don’t rush.” 🙂

Are You Going to Make the Change?

Why do you need to stay with something?  Is your dedication appropriate?  Why are you holding on to things that hurt or haven’t been panning out or haven’t been manifesting in the way you expect?  Here’s the thing; it may not be enough to just “let it go.”  You will actually need to change.  Look: life moves forward.  If you need proof just look at how yourself and others bodies are advancing in age and thus changing how they look.  Life is ALL about change.  In fact, that is what the Tai Chi symbol represents at the top of this blog.  The question is:  When you are hitting your head against something will you have the courage the CHANGE?

change

Let’s look at what change really means.  For starters, it does not mean taking a thought and saying, “OK, I won’t think that anymore,” or “I’ll adjust that thought or avoid that one or,” etc.  Change requires action to be real.  In fact, everything requires action to be real.  Intention is where you set your course of action but the actual result is where life happens.  Make the change.  That thing you are holding on to…a career, a relationship, a mentor, a belief, a job, a car, etc… it is actually holding you back.  You have to make a change.  Don’t be afraid.  In the making the change you are allowing for something much better to enter into your life.

Change is hard and scary at first but totally worth it in the end.  And when you’ve made a change and progress down that path for a while, great! but it will probably eventually be time for another change.  You will always be changing or rather, you should always need to be changing.  Don’t get stuck.  Change!!  You will still be there.  As you change you get a chance to drop some of your negative or non-helpful beliefs and add or emphasize more positive beliefs.  Optimism is really the ultimate goal for state of mind.  No matter how glorious something seems if it is making you feel something other than positive you must change, not just think, “ok I’ll let it go”…but change!  Now we are back to intention.  Keep your intention to feel optimistic and good, keep that above all other attachments, and you will keep changing for the better.

Intention leads the energy leads the action.  So your action is what needs to manifest.  You may be scared, you may think you are missing something but let’s be honest:  that thing you are holding onto is not working out!  That’s all you need to know. You should only be pursuing what is working out for you.  Always move on, keep moving on.  When you find the “right fits” they will be moving on with you and together you can progress towards better and better feelings.

You can’t change anyone.  You can influence people to an extent. You can’t alter the past.  When your dedication to something is not working out…job, person, relationship, dream, career, ideals, goals…then change them.  It was never your dream to have a dream that isn’t coming true was it?  So change the dream.  It was never your goal to have a goal that just isn’t happening.  The relationship you want is not one that you need to keep chasing around.  Let them go by changing.  Don’t be afraid, it’s natural, but better is beyond this!

Only Go With What’s Natural

Or another way to say it is do not go with things that are unnatural.  Here is my interpretation at the present moment of what Taoism is about in one aspect.

Hopetoun_falls.jpg

Have you ever found yourself in a real psychological difficulty?  I’m talking about depression, anger, obsession, all the bad things.    It is not natural to be psychologically disturbed.  My theory states that if you are obviously having a non-natural difficulty it is because the upsetting situation you got into came about not-naturally.  Therefore, only do what is natural.

If you’ve forced a situation to occur generally the results are not positive.  They are hard to deal with and that is not natural.  This happens because you forced the situation rather than letting a different situation naturally occur.   If you find yourself having to deal with some really tough thoughts or patterns of thought then maybe try saying to yourself that this is not natural.  You are having a not natural reaction to a situation that did not occur naturally.  Both the situation and your reaction were not natural.  Therefore, you have to let it go.  It was not real.  It was forced or contrived and simply not rooted in the only thing that has any power – nature or naturally occurring things.

Nothing in nature is trying to be something it isn’t.  That is why nature works so well and is so astounding.  Go with your own nature.  Don’t try to be something you aren’t, don’t try to have something that doesn’t come on it’s own, don’t force anything.

I hope this sheds some light onto the formerly confusing (for me) phrase “go with the flow” or “go with your own nature.”  In the future to avoid unnatural reactions (which are miserable and hard to break) you should only do what is natural.  You have no power to create things that are not natural.

Middle Yin and Middle Yang

“I can’t believe she did that to me!”  –  “I can believe that she did that me, it makes total sense”

“What a jerk!”  –  “I get it, I understand their behaviors”

“I need to forgive her”  –  “I’ll never forgive her”

“I hate myself”  –  “I don’t hate myself”

I don’t know.  What is bothering you?  Say it and then say the exact opposite.  Lakes and mountains.  Heaven and Earth.  Fire and Water.  Wood and Metal.  Yin and Yang.  Where are you leaning more towards one area?  As an exercise take that area and say the opposite like some of the examples above.  They are quite generic as only you can make it specific and useful.  The idea is to be middle yin or middle yang.  The more stable of the areas.  You see, in the I Ching you read hexagrams, which are 6 lines, really it’s two sets of 3 lines.  In each 3 line set you want to be the middle line.  The not exaggerated view point.  Try to see those situations that really drive you nuts from the exact opposites.   Look at this picture:

sinewave_as_generated.png

The exaggerated highs (full yang) and lows (full yin) are to be avoided.  So if you find yourself exaggerating some of your thoughts on a particular topic, like the experience of your last relationship, then try saying the exact opposite exaggeration with the goal of bringing your perspective more towards the straight line.  Middle yin and middle yang.

If your life can be represented by a string of a finite length then the more exaggerated the highs and lows are then the less your length it will be able to cover ie; a shorter life.  So the more you can keep your life steady and stable (it will never be a straight line as that doesn’t exist in nature) then the longer your life and health will be.

Making Decisions

This topic is so important to me personally.  My biggest area of struggle is second guessing myself.  This leads to undermining myself, sabotaging myself and setting myself up for failure.  All horrible things!  And why would someone do that to themselves!?

From an early age I concluded that life was confusing.  We each have family situations that offer various forms of dysfunction.  Mine was the death of a parent before age 3.  Kids cope in unbelievable ways and I’m beginning to see that I decided to accept that all of life was confusing and never really made sense or was trust-able.  I love the description of a tiger from the Chinese zodiac, although positive this stinger rings too true:  over-confidence and mistrust.  I interpret that as trusting nothing but thinking you can always meet the new challenge.  These traits enable me to pull back on decisions.  This is bad for mental health!  Life needs direction and purpose.

o-CHOICES-facebook

There’s a lot to deal with here and I’ve got my hands full.  Life, however, will teach me and through experience I’ll gain wisdom and maturity as long as I continue to self-reflect and work on myself.  My advice for someone struggling with making choices is to:

  • make a list of pros and cons ignore “what if’s” or outside pressures from people who haven’t demonstrated an investment in you (which sadly will be mostly everyone)
  • get your mind off it
  • do something that makes you smile
  • be calm and quiet, meditate
  • and ask your gut, your body, your inner being if this is right for you

You may not get a loud and clear response.  The next steps would be to imagine yourself making the choice and really “look where you are stepping.”  See all the details of daily in and out life if you make this choice.  Do research but not too much – there’s more power in your imagination than any YouTube video you may view.  Finally, if you feel positive and excited about it, maybe you should go for it!  If it crashes and burns you’ll learn a lesson AND you will have worked on your ability to make a choice.  If you feel like it would be punishing yourself do not make the choice.  If you are looking for the negatives and talking yourself out of it – stop doing that as it is your old habit clouding your mind.

Life is short.  Life has plans.  The worst thing to do is to be stuck.  Are you stuck?  Make a choice and then believe in it.  All there is here to do is to learn, there are really no wrong choices.  All there is here to do is learn. 

Look for what’s right

If I could live every moment seeing only the things that are right, the things I’m doing right, the things to feel good about, to feel proud of, to rejoice in…I can’t even imagine how much improved my life would be.  What really is the use in looking for what’s wrong?

In every moment you can see ways in which things are right or ways in which things are wrong.  Where your default setting comes from may vary and I don’t think it’s a simple answer or simple solution.  I realized tonight in a bikram yoga class that a large part of my seeing the negatives comes from a competitive mindset.  A gal in class was doing poses better than me and I noticed that – instead of noticing how well I was doing on the poses myself, my commitment to coming to class, and my general physical well-being.  How silly right?

We are taught competitiveness early in life and definitely in music.  What if that is a sick way of teaching children?  Instead of competitive how about thinking impressive.  Instead of finding all the faults how about praising the good things.  Build your strength and transmute your weakness through ..well I’m not sure about that.  Some very wise people (Master Ni, Master San Gee Tam) remind me, force me, shove it in my face at times, to be aware of and look at my severe shortcomings.

So there must be a balance.  A person who never slows down to examine themselves and consider their issues probably spells trouble for themselves and those they interact with.  However, maybe it is best to always see the good in your daily life.  Never compete since you’ll always just be trying to see who’s better and how you lack.  And set aside time daily for examination and working on yourself.

glass half full

Truly the glass is half full and half empty.  But there are humongous implications to your mental health and social well-being depending on which viewpoint you take.  Clearly, half full is the best choice.  Appreciate what’s good in every moment – there’s a lot of it.

Finding a Good Picc

That’s right, picc, not pic as in picture of yourself at your gig looking sharp 😉

I’ve played many piccolo trumpets over the years, A side, Bb side, and eventually settled on a Kanstul 920.  Also played were a Yamaha picc and a Schilke picc.  I’ve tricked out my picc by getting an osmun leadpipe (Bb side) and a Bob Reeves valve alignment.  Both were nice improvements.  Here’s a vid of me playing said picc:

Luckily I’m playing with some great musicians and we pulled that piece off quite well.  This is a fantastic picc piece from the Baroque era, composed by Bach, “Grosse Herr” from the Christmas oratorio.

Now for something completely different!  Here is one of my earlier forays into piccolo trumpet playing and I’m not ashamed to reveal it was with a drum and bugle corps.  In fact this show won the world championships in 2006…long time ago!  The piccolos begin about 1/4 through the video.

Pretty wild that we picked up those piccs from the sideline every day in the hot summer sun and played them, what a concept!

So how to find a good picc?  Well I’ll tell you when I figure that out!  Until then…try different mouthpieces lol!