Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I Want To Die At Work...

Because The Transition From Life To Death Would Be So Subtle…

Or so the joke goes. I certainly laughed when I heard first heard it. As I’m sure many people do. Many of us know what it’s like to work in a job where we felt dead or numb or just checked out most of the time. Where we’d at least entertain the thought or joke that death would be an improvement. My few brushes with office work certainly come to mind.

But things have definitely changed for me in this regard. My soul-deadening jobs really motivated me to find a different kind of work. Work that left me feeling good about myself, work that left me stronger rather than weaker, more alive rather than less alive. 

It took a while but I decided I wanted to study something that I loved and teach it for a living. I chose T’ai-Chi and I did what it took to make that happen. I studied with my teacher Andy Dale in Seattle for 13 years. I went to every beginner class he taught for 5 years, even though I had graduated to more advanced classes as well. I studied Iyengar Yoga concurrent with my first 6 years of T’ai-Chi to integrate as many posture principles of that art into my life as possible. And I soaked the T’ai-Chi principles into myself as deeply as I could so that those principles and my own experimentation with them could become my teachers for the rest of my life.

It also took a while but I eventually found a way to make music a part of my T’ai-Chi practice as well. I had started and quit performing and recording many times and it was nearly always a struggle to resolve the conflicts I had between the creative and marketing aspects of “the business”. I finally just gave up on the commercial part of the equation and just started to focus on what I enjoyed the most: writing, recording, performing, and sharing what I create. I put minimal attention on the stuff I liked the least: marketing and market considerations, politicking, strategizing, climbing and traveling. I decided to do exactly what I wanted creatively and forget about the business of selling what I do. I decided to make it all available for downloading free or with a donation. ( I decided that I would perform anywhere I felt like my music would be a good match and for whatever they paid, including nothing. I did this because it felt right, but the immediate result of this shift was an unexpected release of creative energy that was previously bound up in deciding how and whether to continue. I’ve been on a creative roll ever since that shift happened. I know I’ll never make much money at this, and my work will largely go unnoticed, let alone appreciated, but my goal was to find a way to enjoy it and that I have done. I have my ups and downs like every musician. I have encouraging gigs and discouraging gigs and everything in between. But I still really enjoy singing and making music, I love writing and recording and I love the process of making it available to the world. Like tossing a bunch of messages in bottles into the “sea” of the internet. I hope a few will land on friendly shores but it’s really the offering that’s the most fun. I see it more and more as a practice rather than as an ambition. 

Like T’ai-Chi, my music is a search for and expression of unforced balance, the right combination of words and sounds to give voice to something inside me that wants out. I have to be in a certain state to make the sounds I make and that state is what I would call T’ai-Chi. It’s been good do remember that I can share that state with people whether they’re listening to the content of my songs or not.

To me, teaching T’ai-Chi, especially the way I do it, which is mostly one-on-one private lessons, is anything but boring. To me it’s being in the middle of a compelling story and I don’t know how it will end. In other words, it’s an adventure. I have no plans to retire and the idea of working right up until the end of my life is pretty appealing. My work is good for me. I might have to do less of it if I live long enough, but it’s hard to imagine doing none. The same goes for music. Whether or not there is an audience for what I do, on or offline, I have no plans to stop singing or writing songs. Again, my work is good for me. I might do less of it as I grow older but it’s hard to imagine doing none. I don’t know how my next song let alone my musical story will end, so this too is an adventure.

The same applies to my relationships and to just practicing T’ai-Chi…my work and my life are not separate anymore.

It seems to me that life is both too short and too long to live in a state of numbness.

So now my thought is more like:

I hope I die at work because I want to die in the middle of an adventure.