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Archive for March, 2010

This post was inspired by a coaching session. I have asked for and received the permission of the client to blog about it. The name I use herein is fictitious. Although the client is a musician, I invite you to consider your own craft or passion as you read about his discoveries.

One of my favorite coaching experiences is coaching a musician, in person, at their instrument (or with it, as a singer might be.) It’s not always possible to do this though when your clients live all over the US, Canada and Europe. I discovered that there is much we can do to create in-the-body and in-the-moment experiences for our clients even over the phone. Here’s an example of that.

Recently, while coaching a long standing client, whom I’ll call Tom, we got into a perennial discussion around readiness, or lack thereof, for an upcoming recital. As a university professor, Tom’s schedule is full and practice all too often takes a back seat to administrative duties.

His goal in the conversation was discover how he might “bring peace to chaos.”

We explored preparedness. Tom feels he needs to be extra prepared for concerts. What rattles him about performance deadlines and not feeling well enough prepared is that he experiences some measure of performance anxiety which impedes his ability to read the score. So, even if the score is there for memory slips, he can’t rely upon being able to see it.

[ I am all too familiar with this experience. Why we are expected not to have to see when we are in fight or flight mode is beyond me and I know it’s caused by the blood being pumped toward the torso that causes this effect.]

While describing his experience, Tom came up with this metaphor:

“I feel like I’m spinning in a blender, trying to focus but in a soup of chaos.”

I asked him, “Do you have a piano there?” He said “yes.” So I asked him to put down the phone and go over and play part of the piece for about 1 minute and to do so as if he were spinning in a blender. I wanted to bring the experience home to him in the current moment. I could hear him playing.

When he came back to the phone, we discussed what happened for him and what he noticed as he played “in a blender.” It was helpful to him to recreate the experience while not actually in rehearsal or on stage. In this way, he could bring more awareness to the process.

At one point, I asked “what do you need to create peace in the midst of the chaos of a spinning blender?”

He responded, “I need a minute to center myself.”

This was the off switch to his blender: “I need a minute.” It would become his private internal mantra.

As we explored how this would show up, he said that it meant he would deliberately allow himself the time to create the mental space he needs. He would allow himself to move a little more slowly before diving into playing. He would also allow himself more practice time in his schedule for any performance.

Tom needs to stand up for himself. He decided that if it’s about keeping himself peaceful inside, then his fears around disappointing others, making them wait, failing or playing miserably needed to take a backseat to creating peace within.

This peace within, in turn, creates peace in motion.

Tom said that standing up for himself also means not letting other people define him.

piano keyboard (c) March 2010 Kathy J Loh

So back to the keyboard he went. This time, I suggested he take his time, expand into the peace he wants to create (which I just now notice is a kind of double entendre for the piece he wants to create), and then play. He set down the phone and, after a pregnant pause, I heard him begin to play.

What he discovered in that second exercise was, in his own words “I need to take up space.”

We then compared actual performance with practice.

In practice, especially the early stages, we are listening with a critical ear, with curiosity, there is a sense of constant refinement and we are working individual measures and phrases at a time. We are getting the lay of the land and familiarizing the muscles with the routine; introducing them to nuances of expression. We move from shorter to longer arcs. I like to say, we are courting music at this point.

In performance, we are music’s only way to be heard. We are music’s instrument. Imagine you are music. You whisper into the ear of a composer who translates the whisperings into notes on paper. You then come fully alive through a skilled and talented musician like Tom. What do you care about?

I’m not so sure music cares about a bobble or dropped note when the arc is so much longer than that. In the same way that we can read this sentence:

Mry hd a lttl lmb

we hear the full message of music despite the occasional error. In fact, most audience members don’t miss a thing and only those with the most trained ear notice.

Let’s face it, we can assume a lot of forgiveness here. All too often, we assume none.

What music wants is to come alive.

It’s about the pure essence of the art and delivering the message sincerely, rather than being keenly focused on perfection of technique and score. And I say this as a composer who cares about every note I write. There’s a message in the music, that only music can express and it’s about that message, not perfection of each note.

I asked my client; “If you took out your ego’s ambition (which is also driving the fear of failure and concern for what others think) to be in the top tier of all pianists in the world, what would be the next tier?”

He replied: “All I have to do is be a seeker and co-create with music.”

Can you be a seeker and co-create with music and still reach the top tier?

If we are co-creating with music when performing, we are taking up space in a very special way. It’s not about our ego taking up the space. It’s about offering ourselves to the music, to the experience it will create for our listeners, in a way that requires that we command the space. In other words, we create a whole new wondrous space of music, sound, vibration, resonance, emotion, energy. We can’t create that space as magnificently when we are rigidly controlled and cautious.  It takes full on letting go, being a lover to music. It means not holding back, because music will meet you wherever you are from tiny and constricted to the full expression of Beauty.

Please note, I am not making a case for sloppy musicianship. I am assuming that the co-creator in this scenario is someone who has dedicated many disciplined hours to their technical chops.

Co-creating with music means stepping up to ownership of the true skills that all those years of dedicated practice have delivered to us.

You ARE a musician. Stop waiting to become one or receive some seal of approval. From this point on, it’s all play.  Proving, deserving, or earning are not needed. We don’t know what we can truly do until we stretch into it. The stretching will create learning and broaden our musical horizon. It will deepen our relationship with music, our instrument and ourselves.

Tom and I concluded the session by talking about what it means to claim ownership and to take up space as a performing musician, including the structures and accountability for that.

Tom offered that, as a “seeker and co-creator with music,” he thinks of practice time as sacred. It is not an after-thought or luxury on his schedule. He agreed to create that sacred practice space in his schedule and to hold boundaries with others around the use of his time.

From this perspective, saying “no” to others is honoring the sacred “yes” to music.

He also decided that, in rehearsal, he would arrive early and, as uncomfortable as it might be, he would take the time to make others wait while he centered himself before playing.  He also mentioned that ownership brings him the confidence he’s lusted after.

Ownership, being a co-creator with music, a seeker, a lover, creating sacred space for his passion, risking, stretching, taking up space; these are Tom’s off-switch to the chaos blender. He is now at choice. The switch is in his hands.

And now you, dear reader:

What passion awaits your loving, co-creation?

What will have you decide you have arrived and just dance with it, recognizing that there is always more to refine, explore and learn?

When is the more powerful yes the one that you say to yourself and your art (or even your life) than the yes that you say to the opinion of others?

I’m right there with you and taking a lot of my own medicine.

Copyright (c) March 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

Looking to create a sense of peace and balance in the midst of chaos? You’ve come to the right place. I invite you to check out my website and set up a complimentary consultation with me to see if coaching is appropriate for your situation.

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I noticed a Dark-eyed Junco sitting on the table in a corner of my garden. Junco’s are common here, no big deal and still delightful, but this one was courageous. He was not about to move even as I stepped outside to get a better look, though he did keep an eye on my every move. Then, I saw why he was determined to keep his post. A female, foraging for seeds on the driveway, appeared from under my car. With him keeping guard, she had no need to be wary. When he gave the signal, they both took flight to the shelter of the nearest tree limb.

Dark Eyed Junco - copyright (c) March 2010 Kathy J Loh

Dark-Eyed Junco (c) Kathy J Loh

This exquisitely represents the masculine and feminine principles to me. Not as in male and female gender, but as in the yin and the yang that makes the whole of each of us and all that is. The wild feminine dances while the masculine creates and holds the container. What is the water without the shore?

Spring’s return is a delightful time. The first butterflies emerge and dance with the wind. Wildflowers burst forth, seemingly and sometimes truly, overnight. The evening air is filled with the most delicious fragrances, my favorite being jasmine.

I’ve noticed the squirrels again. After months of gathering acorns, they seemed to disappear. Now, one has returned to its commuter route; feeding young in the nest? The first quail have appeared as well. Like the male Junco, the male quail also serves as a reliable sentry for the female and her chicks.

At the turn of the year, I wrote about the conflicting energies of robust New Year’s resolutions, astronomical events and seasonal cycles. While we experience a sense of new beginnings on the first of the year, it is mostly because we replace one calendar on the wall with another and we make a big deal of it with parties and a big ball in NYC that drops at midnight.

Winter is a time of rest, hibernation, integration. It is a feminine season and its element is water. Our energy is in retreat.

Spring brings in the masculine energy of fire. Everything wants to burst forth: chicks from eggs, butterflies from chrysalis, buds from branches, blossoms from stems, even us from our houses. The sun calls and the world responds.

This is the season when the energy to make changes, to transmute our realities, is most powerful. At this equinox, the dark watery feminine meets the active fire-y masculine and a new creative wave is unleashed. It’s where polar opposites meet and create the new way.  It is a time of birth and rebirth.

If we had intentions at the New Year that seem to have gone astray, we can likely revisit them now with much more success. As everything bursts forth, so does our enthusiasm. We now have the heart to be disciples to that which we most desire to create and that is the true essence of discipline.  We become the sentries to our own creative dancer.

The Spring equinox (in the northern hemisphere) occurs at 10:32 am PDT on Saturday March 20, 2010. At that point, we will be at a midpoint between the shortest and the longest days of the year; the balance of dark and light.

The entire time I’ve been writing this post, butterflies have been riding the waves of the breeze, surfing past my window. I take it as a sign. I’m not going to list, in bullet-point fashion, how to create your Spring Equinox Ceremony or ways to creatively magnify your intentions.

What I do suggest is that we all revisit what it is we want from life and what we want to bring to it.

What will have you dance like butterflies, surf like dolphins, soar like hawks?  Bring your brilliant masculine energy to create the container, the sentry, together with the wild creative feminine energy in you to make it happen. Imagine what becomes available when discipline and creativity play together.

Oh, and maybe clean out your garage and dawdle* a lot –   not necessarily in that order.

Postcript:

Just now, I saw a hawk land in the redwood across the way and I stepped outside to prepare to photograph it in flight, should it choose to circle nearer and overhead. As I waited, I became distracted by a small black and orange caterpillar crawling up the wall. Since I’d taken a little movie of one at my front door about an hour ago, I thought I’d get a couple of still shots of this one. When I zoomed in, I was surprised to find that a tiny spider was furiously working its magic thread between the caterpillar and the wall.

I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the same caterpillar. Had it traveled all this distance and found the right place to go into metamorphic goo only to become a banquet for a spider?

Let’s play with the Mystery Message here (and if you want more like this, sign up to receive Mystery Messages from me).

Using Ted Andrew’s book  Animal Speak for quick access to symbolism of these two creatures:

Butterfly (and thus, caterpillar) is about transmutation and the dance of joy.

Spider is about creativity and the weaving of fate.

These questions arise for me and I invite you to create more:

What will have you allow your creative urge to make a meal of the old you, your old stories and old identities, so that you may be transformed into one whose heart is light as a feather and dances for joy?

How might you be allowing the web of fate and the sting of life events dictate who you think you are and prevent you from becoming the joyful passionate being you were born to be?

Copyright(c) March 2010 Kathy J Loh -

Caterpillar and Spider

Post – postscript

I just went back out to check on the caterpillar-spider drama. Neither was anywhere to be found. Ten minutes gone and it was as if the event never happened. Wow – now that’s a mystery in and of itself. Then, to top it off, I saw a walking stick. That’s a rare sighting for me. This one was so small and slim it looked like a fiber shred. Wow – another delight delivered from the Mystery. How can I not travel life with eyes wide open? How can I not dance for joy?

Copyright © March 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

* For more posts on dawdling, click on “dawdling” in the cloud to the right or locate dawdling under categories.

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Ever had a brain lift? I make up that it’s like a face lift, but instead of erasing wrinkles, it erases beliefs.

I felt a wire in my brain snap during a coaching call with my coach, Jeanine Mancusi, the other day.  She’d asked about my ideas as to why my ex-husband went on to have an apparently happy life, the new young wife, dogs, etc., when he had been the “bad guy ” who had never behaved like he really wanted to be married to begin with. I made up all kinds of amateur analyses about it, finally admitting I didn’t really know and I felt I never would, because I’m not in his head. I’m not even in his life anymore.

Then she said something that hit me like Cher’s “snap out of it” slap in Nicholas Cage’s face in Moonstruck. She said:

“He chose to be happy.”

It was as if my brain went on red alert and all thinking had to be shut down in order to handle some sudden voltage. This is what it feels like when an illusion is pierced by the truth.

Uhm….it’s that simple? It’s that simple.

I was totally energized when we hung up. I got straight to work doing the things I’ve been resisting for months. As I marveled about the new burst of energy, I also mused and began to unravel, further, the tapestry of this belief I’d been holding. Actually, it’s the belief that was holding me….hostage.

The warp and weave of this particular tapestry comprised such notions as:

If you are good, you will be rewarded with happiness.

If you are bad, you will be punished and happiness will be withheld.

People who are bad and do bad things don’t deserve to be happy.

People who are good and do good things deserve to be happy.

People who do bad things and are still happy are cheating.

Now, how old do you think the person was who thought all of that up? It’s been hard-wired  in my brain for a very long time.

Suddenly, I understood the strange sense I have had all these years of waiting for the good news, the money, the soulmate to arrive. I have been awaiting, patiently and sometimes not so patiently, my reward for good behavior.

Here’s the catch: I’ll never be good enough. (Notice the collapse between inherent goodness and good behavior.) There’s always a thought or action that will land me in the penalty box in the game of life. If I sprain my ankle, I make an assumption (with the old belief) that I must not have been good enough. You know, like that old saying: if you bite your tongue you must’ve been thinking something bad about someone.

Even more wicked is this part: If anyone else in the world is unhappy (especially innocent people) then I can’t be happy because to do so would be in very poor form. It would be selfish and taking more than my share. (As you know, there is only so much happiness to go around!) A good girl learns to share. If I was happy and taking more than my share while others were unhappy then I would be a bad person and you know where that gets me….back into the penalty box; losing points and losing ground in my pursuit of happiness.

So, as humans will, I’d created an elaborate scheme for earning happiness which has to do with putting myself though lessons of unhappiness to grow myself and become the better, more deserving person and thus closer to receiving the reward of happiness.  It’s kind of like working really hard and doing extra credit homework for the A, or striving for sainthood.

Then all of a sudden, la-dee-da, along comes the realization that anyone, regardless of good or bad, (A student or F student), deserving or undeserving, hard worker or lazy, gets to choose to be happy just because they want to.

WTF? That sucks! And WOW you mean?

The waiting is over, sweetheart!

Right here, right now, I can decide to be happy and I don’t have to do anything to earn it, to pay for it, to coax it, to deserve it. All I’ve got to do is choose. The entire tapestry of the old belief structure had been pulled apart, string by string and there is nothing substantial to sustain it anymore.

3_3_2010

Perspective (c) K J Loh

A hawk is circling skyward outside my window as I write this. It reminds me to note that I covered this territory in this blog last October.  It’s no straight line, this evolution of consciousness. More like a spiral; each time we rise higher on the current,  getting an ever broader perspective. At the same time, like the hawk, able to see the finest details with clarity.

My resistance to doing what I wanted to do (written about in the two previous posts) was generated by several factors:

Rebellion: I’d been earning for a very long time and I was tired of showing up and not getting rewarded.

A holding pattern:  I’m waiting for my reward. Surely it will arrive any day now. (The scary thing about this notion is that I could easily wait myself into the grave.)

Indecisiveness: I didn’t know for sure what action or activity would get me the most points toward happiness.  I mean, if I’m trying to earn points then there must be some scoring scale for various activities, right? (Some of you might recognize this one as wanting to know if you are on the right path, doing the right thing.)

As I went to sleep that night, I reflected on this thought:

My life is a grand adventure!

I thought of all the adventures I’ve had so far. I was able to see the amazing life I’ve had. Yes, there have been tough times, but for the most part, I’ve lived a privileged and wildly creative life. I’ve participated in many amazing activities, taken fabulous journeys. Even the painful times made complete sense as part of the whole vista (a window I’ve peered through before).

I cried for the sheer Beauty of the Adventure.

I am currently at a point in my life where I can go anywhere and do anything I want. I have a blank canvas before me. I can work from anywhere as long as I have a phone. I have no pets, no spouse or mortgage to worry about.  I’ve dreamed of having this blank canvas for as long as I can remember.

What is the adventure I want initiate now?

As a coach, and a visionary, I am used to taking people and myself through the visioning process. I have lost my interest in visioning the places, people and activities many years ahead.

I am more interested in visioning who I am being come whatever may. I am enchanted by the Mystery. I don’t want to plot my course so much as dance with it. I don’t need a GPS, I just need my dancing shoes.

Whether or not someone else is happy will no longer be the gauge by which I measure the happiness available to me.

Happiness is not a competition. (Neither for that matter is unhappiness, but that’s another subject.)

My coach once asked me “Does Kathy get to be happy?”

I now ask you the same question: Do you get to be happy?

Notice, as you reflect upon your answer:

Any discomfort in your body

Any conditions you place upon it

What you make up about why or why not

Does everyone else in your life and in this world get to be happy?

Why or why not? What are the rules and conditions that dictate your answer?

If you are someone who says you don’t know what you want, consider that you do know what you want, but you don’t think you get to have it. Why not?

Ok now, who wants to go dancing in the Mystery with me?

Copyright (c) March 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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