This weekend I have the great opportunity to share some stories with high school seniors about what it’s been like living a life of being a musician. Actually, more about living a life attempting to follow my heart's passion. It kinda made me think of what giving a commencement speech would be like…..well, here’s what I would say, if someone asked this Spring at graduation time...
I love banjo playing in the airport
Dear Graduating Class of 2015,
Standing here at the dawn of the rest of your life I can think of nothing more fitting than to talk about...the banjo! No seriously playing the banjo has been a great teacher of deep wisdom and truths.
Actually, I find that anything in our lives can be looked at as a deep teacher of wisdom and truth.
From washing the dishes, to going for a walk, petting your dog, or talking to your mother.Everything is showing us our perceptions, our reactions, our judgments, our beliefs and what it is that's most important to us.It’s all there all the time waiting for us to take notice.
For me, being a musician, more specifically knowing how to play the banjo, has put me in so many different situations over the past 12 years that they have opened my eyes and mind to the secrets of what it means to be a human being on this crazy journey called Life.
So here are three things I believe are part of the living wisdom of Life itself. All of which I’ve gleaned while being a banjo player:
1 – People are good, just open yourself to receive – When Anne I and left on our cross country tour in 2010, we sold our home and drove out to share our music (play the banjo) in a larger way.We were following our heart’s passion to bring beautiful music to people who would hear it.People supported us everywhere we went, with meals, homes, childcare, money and everything in between.Sitting around hundreds of kitchen tables, sharing meals and living space, we witnessed the true essence of people from Wyoming to Tennessee and New York to New Mexico.PEOPLE ARE GOOD.
2- Live from your passion andpeople will want to support you – When Anne and I began our music life (playing the banjo), we did it because it made us feel so good.However, as we progressed, people began to feel that vibrancy coming from us and it awoke a desire in them to see us succeed.As if theywould somehow benefit from us continuing to be passionate for what we wanted.When we live from our passion and that which inspires us, we inspire others, stirring their intuition which says, “This is worthy of my support.”Dare to live from this space of passion and inspiration.Dare to lead with your heart.It will light the flame in others.
3 – Fear contracts, love expands – Having put in our 10,000 hours of live performance, it’s fun and amazing to me that I still get butterflies in my stomach sometimes before performing.It’s reserved for special occasions mostly (like our recent audition for The Voice) or when I’m trying something new on stage.Yet, every time I’m vulnerable on stage and in life, I grow.On stage it feels as if there’s nothing beneath you and you are falling over the edge of a cliff and suddenly, it goes perfect and you’re not falling but flying.In life it’s more subtle: the chance to be wrong as a parent or admitting to being petty with your spouse.These moments always, always make me like more of the person I want to be in life: authentic, loving, compassionate and grateful.In the case with my child, I usually end up getting the best hug ever, with the spouse, I no longer need to hide what scares me and on stage, the applause of hundreds of people cheering my success.So ask yourself, “Does this feel like contraction or expansion?”Fear or Love?I CHOOSE LOVE!
On Feb 8th, Anne and I hosted a retreat called, Awaken Joy. (watch the video on our YouTube channel) With a room filled with courageous people, we sang, shared stories and wrote about Joy in our lives and how we can support ourselves and each other in allowing Joy more access in our daily lives. Personally, it was very moving and I shared the following with the retreat participants. Perhaps it might be of interest to others, so here it is for you to read over and comment on.
It's a privilege to be able to share our songs and ourselves with you all!
I’m curious to see how you all did on Monday.Did you feel there was a new perspective on things or that you felt alright with how the day unfolded?Did you find yourself reflecting on your weekend?
Or did any of you feel the old momentum try to remind you it was there on Monday like I did?Sometimes when new shifts or deep experiences happen, the old patterns attempt to assert themselves as to not loose their hold on us and our thinking.If this happened to you, I recommend to first simply allow it be and then using the “deep listening” approach, see if there’s something inside you that is ready for change or ready to be heard.This takes tremendous courage and can even be scary.It could be you felt tired yesterday, maybe things felt lackluster or perhaps you wanted to just disappear under the covers.For me, it was the feeling of there’s too much to get to and I don’t have enough time.Anxiety coupled with the fear of failure.When I finally allowed it be, rather than trying to use sleep, the internet or reading to avoid the feeling, I saw it was an old story, an old fear.Oddly enough it was fear of an exciting and bright future.Fear that somehow I would mess up all the good in my life if I didn’t use worry and anxiety to keep myself motivated.I then remembered to apply this quote from the author Eckhart Tolle,“It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.”This created more space for me to enter a place of deep listening and respect for this old, familiar fear/ feeling.Because of our time together the day before I saw that this was my chance to EXPERIENCE my desire to allow JOY to come through me, even at this seemingly impossible time.As I accepted this fear by silently witnessing it, I felt the hint of peace underneath the fear.Like our conversation the day before, I realized again that Joy is always there, but we tend to cover it up with blocks.I noticed there was nothing for me to DO to get to the Joy, I just asked it to come through me.Some people might call this, “Let go and let God” others say it’s accepting the present moment.However you name it, I thank you all for helping me touch Joy on Sunday so I could more easily find my way back.Like tasting honey, I have again experienced Joy.This happened shortly before I went to bed and I soon fell into a deep sleep and woke up this morning feeling refreshed and amazed.How did this happen?Through knowing that life continues to give me opportunities to EXPERIENCE joy awakening within me.
So let the river flow, allow yourself to fill in the statement, “I’ve always wanted to…”Let yourself want more good, more joy, more love.Be okay with letting go of things that aren’t working, no mater how familiar they might be.We all want you to succeed and we’re all wiling to help you do so.Remember, even those voices in your head aren’t always true, like my father’s voice that turned out to be less true than his actual deep love and support for me and my dreams!
Have you ever been on a treasure hunt?Someone gives you clues and you piece your way to the final prize?
This past Christmas morning I created a small treasure hunt for our kids, Leah (7) and Sam (4).I had wrapped a package for both and inside there was a short, handwritten clue.Each clue led them to a new destination with another clue that then led to the next location.After several clues, they finally came to a box and inside was their present.The present wasn’t any more special or unique than any other of the “hundreds” of presents they received that morning.However, they both still comment on the “treasure hunt” present and the adventure of searching for and finally finding the present!Why is that, because we are beings who FEEL and EXPERIENCE life.We love to experience things, more than simply get things.The experience is how the vibrancy of life gets to move through us.This is nothing new to any of us, we’ve all gotten something only to have it lose its luster over time.But lately I’m being reminded of that truth over and over again.
This weekend Anne and I drove to Los Angeles to audition for NBC’s The Voice, a reality TV show.Several things came up as we even began the process of signing up to audition.First of all, Anne and I haven’t had a TV in our home since 1999.Second, we aren’t well known for our current list of popular cover tunes that are an essential part of the program.And third, with the thousands of performers auditioning, it’s highly unlikely we’d gain a second audition let alone make it to the final round of appearing on the show.Then why do it?Why go through all the trouble of lining up babysitters, finding a place to stay, sitting in a car for 10 hours, eating Wholefoods’ sushi?Because we knew this was an opportunity for us to experience our own belief in ourselves.To experience our own sense of worthiness.How?The entire audition process, the 4 hours of waiting, the 45 seconds of singing, the kind rejection at the end were all chances for us to EXPERIENCE our own self worth!To witness that worthiness does not come from outside of us but from within.It’s one thing to know that truth in your mind, and something completely different to experience that truth!This is why we speak so highly of stepping out of your comfort zones, because it affords you a chance to get to know the truth about what you think and believe about yourself.What are the thoughts and stories you tell yourself?These are the very structures your life is built upon.How do you examine them?By stepping outside of the story you’re telling (all the stuff you name as you, I am this, I do this, I am good at…) and taking a look around.
The day after we auditioned for The Voice, we drove an hour east to a beautiful town surrounded by mountains outside of LA.There we sang for a man in advance stages of Parkinson’s.We’d been invited to sing for him by his family.So we sang and shared stories of our adventures and inspirations for our songs while his family and friends gathered around this man and each other to weep, clap and sing along with us.This shared EXPERIENCE was a profound mixture of love, sadness, joy and acceptance one that I know I will cherish for many years.Their courage to step outside of their comfort zones, to be vulnerable with us and to weep, afforded them the experience of a love and connection that few people are willing to break their hearts open with!Incidentally, they asked us to sing Anne’s song, “Wide Open” twice.It was the song we sang at our audition the day before and contains the lines:
“I’m gonna lay my burdens down.
I’m gonna fly with no excuses.
I’m gonna break this heart in two.
Break it wide open, a heart wide open, I’m gonna try!”
Thank you for supporting our journey!Thank you for having the courage to keep showing up in your own life!As we care for our own path, so it becomes impossible not to show up and care for others’ as well.