Coach’s Challenge for 3/23/09

Good day, team,

This morning when I awoke, I found that the music I had listened to yesterday was still in my head and my heart. My husband and I had attended a wedding, and then last evening we went to hear a tabla drumming master.

The wedding ceremony was beautiful, full of memorable moments. But I was left with two distinct impressions: the incredibly beautiful voice of the man (thank you, Kevin Walsh) who sang during the ceremony and the joy I saw on the faces of the bride and groom when they turned to their friends and family at the end of the service.

Later, at the tabla player’s performance, there were dancers and other entertainment, but again I woke up with the memory of the music.

I often think about what in my life leaves the most memorable impressions. If I sit in a meeting for an hour, what am I left with? Often, it’s the expression on someone’s face, or something they said that resonates with me, or the way the light filters into the room.

I also wonder about what goes unnoticed, slipping away as the seconds click by on the clock. Unfortunately, many moments pass when I’m drifting in my own imagination, distracted, or just in a state of dullness I refer to as “a low hum.”

But music wakes me up, even when I don’t like it. It soothes me when I do love the sound and transforms my state in ways that are a mystery to me.

This week’s challenge is about music or art in any form that serves you in that way. What transforms you, gives you that feeling of being uplifted and inspired and changes you in the moment?

My associate Kate Dwyer sent me the following article this morning, coincidentally, about music. It’s an excerpt from a speech by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of the music division at Boston Conservatory, welcoming the freshman class. (If you’re interested in reading the entire speech, send me an e-mail, and I’ll attach it in my reply.)

“The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you: The Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible, moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

“One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the ‘Quartet for the End of Time’ written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

“He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

“Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music?

“And yet from the camps we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen: Many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, ‘I am alive, and my life has meaning.’”

Your challenge this week is to figure out what makes you feel alive and do more of it. In my case, I think I’ll play a piece of music that I particularly enjoy each morning this week before I read the newspaper or go online. Or perhaps I’ll play the music afterwards so that whatever information I take in about how bad the economy is, or how our politicians continue to criticize each other, or which local people were arrested for their terrible deeds, the music will serve to inspire me and give me a better chance at having positive experiences throughout the day. Perhaps you can listen to your favorite radio station on your drive to work or on your iPod if you take the bus. It always makes me happy when I pull up to a stoplight and see someone in the car next to me singing at the top of their lungs and rocking out to a tune that fills their heart with joy.

Whatever it is that gives you that spark of life, realize that it’s not just worth doing, it is essential to your physical well-being and emotional survival. Find time to build it into your day. It will change you, I promise!

Have a good week,

Kathleen

Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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