Posts Tagged ‘love’

Balanced focus and love-based motives

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Guest Blogger, Amy Duncan

imagesBuilding confidence from a sense of loving what we do, can bring far greater results than focusing on our lack of abilities and our fear of failure

By Anna Bowness-Park

Every morning, the great cellist and pianist Pablo Casals would play two of the Prelude and Fugues for keyboard by Bach. He felt that it started his day with God, because he felt “Bach wrote every piece to the glory of God.”

In the art world the pressure to practice and perform can be huge, and the accompanying stress can lead to some serious health concerns that musicians often ignore or hide. Casals, who played well into his nineties, had an approach that quietly focused his day with a spiritual love that permeated his life, music and health, explained musician Nancy Sheeley, who is a pianist and teacher in Victoria, BC.

schumannSheeley feels that how we approach and focus on the tasks we have to do each day is important, and affects our outcomes. For example, in the 1980’s some techniques espoused both outside of and within the music industry were influenced by Western views of accomplishment. The Jane Fonda’s fitness workouts told women “No pain. No gain.” Sheeley found herself unconsciously using that catchphrase in her practicing techniques, with the result that she experienced a serious injury from forcing her practicing and ignoring the discomfort.

Under the tutelage of a new teacher, Sheeley learned a whole new practice method and realized that she did not need to buy into this Western view of achievement in order to play the way she really wanted to. What she subsequently learned was a daily routine that was closer to Casals’, whose musicality still inspires her.

Sheeley’s new teacher encouraged an approach called “The Alexander Technique.” Along with the more “mindful” approach espoused by Alexander on how to sit, stand or play an instrument, she also embraced a fresh new prayerful perspective. As a result, she found her approach to playing – both in practice and performing – came from a natural and relaxed place within, bringing a healthier balance to her life and music. And, this brought permanent healing of her injury.

She also realized she needed to be more aware of the motive for her playing and teaching. “Expressing love in my teaching and performing is the motive for what I do,” Sheeley remarked. “I resonate the most with music that was written with a spiritual intent – such as Bach. And I recognize that the source of that love has a divine origin, rather than human. That is probably the central point of how I work.”

As a contrast to the way Casals approached his music, she pointed to the sad story of the great 19th century pianist and composer, Robert Schumann. He suffered from deep insecurity about his piano-playing as his wife Clara’s greater musical ability flourished. Schumann’s anxieties led him to develop a painful exercise machine to strengthen his fourth finger, and he additionally practiced with weights on his fingers, focusing on these exercises for hours. Sadly, this led to permanent injury and lessened his ability to perform.

Thinking about these examples of Casals and Schumann had me considering not just the motive behind what we do, but how we focus. Building confidence from a sense of loving what we do, can bring far greater results than focusing on our lack of abilities and our fear of failure.

While acknowledging that focus is important, Sheeley has found it benefits her to sometimes set aside a difficult section of a piece of music and to focus on something else, but with the same motive of love. “I love to knit, write and walk. I learned to knit at a young age, and have always been fascinated by yarns and fabric textures. When I knit, it doesn’t mean I am not focused – I am focused in a different way. I find knitting helps me process my thoughts about the music I am playing, even if I am not thinking much about the music. Knitting is my meditation. Then when I come back to the piece, it is with a fresh view.”

Sheeley found that if she kept focusing on the problem she was having with a certain musical section – trying to force a resolution – it only made her more tense. When she turned her focus to another thing she loved, she found that a sense of love resolved the problem naturally. And with it, the unhealthy stress and tension left. For Sheeley, love is the focus of all that she does.

We don’t have to be a musician to understand that discovering and focusing on our innate qualities with a spiritual love can bring confidence to our activities and better health to our lives. Just think what a sense of meaning, joy and vitality Casals brought to millions, as well as to himself, through his practice of love.

Anna Bowness-Park writes about the connection between thought and health, and the part that spirituality can play. She is a Christian Science practitioner.

This piece was originally published in the Vancouver Sun.



The Thin Line Between Fear and Respect

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

As a teacher, a parent, and inspirational music composer, I am conscious of this subtle line of demarcation between the undesirable and the desired.  It moves and waves from case to case, from situation to situation.  It requires complete consciousness to keep it in control.

I want to be feared by no one – not even my worst enemy.  If I am feared then I truly am an enemy.  If I am respected then the enmity disappears and the relationship between constituents is in balance.  Cross the line and welcome in the beginnings of war.


Top 10 Things We Take For Granted

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

1.    The Heart That Beats – Why does the next beat take place? After all, it’s not like it’s bouncing.  Each beat, each pump of the pump comes because of this thing called ‘life’.  Do we have anything to do with this life essence?  Not that I know of.  I can locate no responsibility for this energy.  It is something that is given.  I do not engender it.  It’s there whether we think of it or not.  It’s there for us.  We have no clue where in space it comes from, how it got there, why it’s just always there.  But it is.  There is always the next beat of the heart.  And you have trouble believing in some higher power?

Freeway Traffic

2.    The Breath You Take – (See above) Also, I think of the complex machinery that activates this life activity.  What a miracle!  We slap a baby’s bottom and it starts.  Then it continues with relatively no input from us for a lifetime. The average respiration rate for a person at rest is about 16 breaths per minute.  This means on average, we breathe about 960 breaths an hour or 23,040 breaths a day or 8,409,600 a year. If a person lives to 80, then that means on average they will take 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime!  That’s you.  That’s me.  Cool.

3.    Those We Love – Why is this?  These are the folks we should appreciate the most, but seldom do.  These are the people we should count in our blessings every day.  But these are the people that we expect to love us back because we love them.  Perhaps it’s the nature of love.  We love and expect love in return.  And you know, it almost always does – return, that is.  In fact, I’ll bet that it always does when our love is pure.  That’s the nature of love.  It’s a circle.  Instinctively we know this and so we tend to take it for granted.


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