Ever since I became I parent, I’m often told by well-meaning folks to “enjoy every moment.”
Now that’s just impossible, right?
I can’t help myself, but every time I hear this expression, one moment comes to mind.
Headed north on 81. Olivia gets carsick. We pull over, cleaning carseat crevices we didn’t know were there. It starts to snow. We’re still forty minutes from home.
I did not enjoy this moment, and I’d love to meet the person who would.
Mercifully, mindfulness doesn’t ask us to enjoy. It just invites us to pay attention.
I tried to enjoy the moment this holiday. Thinking it might be Olivia’s last year believing in Santa, I leaned into the magic of Christmas. We had fun baking, making ornaments, and checking out a local light show.
But between those moments of joy, I was mostly exhausted. Olivia’s excitement kept her up late, so sleep evaded us. We traded a case of pink eye. And it seemed like we were just so busy.
Enjoy every moment? Yeah, right.
One day after all the festivities I took Olivia to Target. She was wearing a ridiculously charming unicorn headband and a flowing pink skirt, not a care in the world what anyone would think, as I would have had. As we made our way through the parking lot, a fluffy snow began to fall. Great, I thought. It never ends. I turned to my right. There was Olivia, my delightful unicorn, with her mouth open wide, catching snow on her tongue. I started laughing and could not stop.
And then I realized: I don’t have to enjoy every moment.
But if I am attending to them, I might step outside of myself for a bit and connect with someone else.
Isn’t that the whole point of music-making?
In her book The Places that Scare You, Buddhist nun and beloved author Pema Chodron writes:
“Sharing the heart is a simple practice that can be used at any time and in every situation. It enlarges our view and helps us remember our interconnection. The essence of this practice is that when we encounter pain in our life we breathe into our heart with the recognition that others also feel this. When we encounter any pleasure or tenderness in our life, we cherish that and rejoice. In a nutshell, when life is pleasant, think of others. When life is a burden, think of others. If this is the only training we ever remember to do, it will benefit us tremendously and everyone else as well. It engenders on-the-spot bravery, which is what it will take to heal ourselves and our brothers and sisters on the planet.”
What if musicians practiced this onstage?
Imagine the connections we’d make with our audience if we stepped outside of our own anxieties—wrong notes, grades, what others think—and instead opened our hearts.
As Chodron wrote, we all encounter pain and pleasure, and we all need to heal. Why not take that first brave step and open our hearts to those willing to receive our gifts?
I do not enjoy every moment. But my meditation practice ensures that I’m paying attention.
Sometimes that brings the joy of connecting with others. Sometimes it means offering myself compassion and saying, “This sucks.”
All of it is OK.
And, like the breath, music is always there. Waiting for our return.
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
“The Guest House”