I love days like these…cloudy, a bit cold outside, listening to spa-like music of piano and violins…and the time to write undisturbed. This moment follows a vacation day from the pulpit, so I’m feeling recharged, contemplative and very grateful. I enjoy my work; I also appreciate the occasional Sunday off. It helps keep life in perspective. I believe too much of any one thing is either an obsession or a burden leading to resentment. But what is enjoyed or repeated in moderation allows the mind and body to fully appreciate its temporary nature. After all, all of life is temporary to some degree.
This is not something I understood much, if at all, twenty years ago…or even five years ago. Given my upbringing and early adulthood, I felt it was required to not only “suck the marrow” (Thoreau) out of each life experience before releasing it, but to do it quickly, urgently, before it got away or was taken away…and my opportunity was gone. Savoring an experience and trusting it could repeat itself – even if in a slightly different form – was a foreign concept to my old way of thinking. Fortunately, I can now appreciate a slower, richer pace…and still accomplish all I set out to do.
That’s one of the principles taught in many meditation classes: take the time to meditate each day and you will actually find you create more time to get things done in life. Another benefit to doing things in moderation is the ability to “enjoy the journey.” By slowing down, being mindful and focused, you can fully embody the experience you’re having rather than rushing through it and only skimming the surface of what it really offers.
This idea became vividly apparent when I was learning massage techniques…I had to slow down in order to really feel the muscles and the repairs needing attention below the skin’s surface. It also allowed the muscles time to respond to the pressure I was applying and releasing…to bounce back and heal. While I do very little massage anymore, a similar example is now being expressed through the piano lessons I must practice and comprehend.
It’s impossible to learn to play the piano well in one day…or one week…or even one month. Yet by steady and repeated practices, I do see progress. I can now read most of the notes on the bass clef; something that was a frustrating mystery a couple months ago. I hear myself getting better with each painful hour I spend at the keyboard – painful for others who may be listening, so I’m now wearing headphones to save them the agony.
It does my body and mind little good right now to work at my piano lessons for more than an hour at a time. Moderation is the key. Practice. Walk away and do something else. Practice. Do some stretches or take a walk. Practice. Go to work, write an article or sermon. Practice. Each time I come back to the keys, I feel stronger in my skills…I notice my progress…my hands seem to remember what they’re supposed to do. This moderation routine allows me to make greater headway AND enjoy the overall experience, rather than beating myself up verbally, practicing hours on end, and becoming frustrated because I don’t see that I’m getting it as fast as I think I should.
Would I like to learn more quickly? Of course! In the meantime, I am enjoying the process. I’m marking the pages of accomplishment each week. I’ve discovered old family music sheets that I can learn along the way (for variety from the lesson plans). I listen to music in a whole new way and am humbled by the talent all around me. And my body is grateful for the diverse physical positions throughout the day.
My new mantra is: EVERYTHING in moderation!
Try it. Enjoy it. Live it.