The first time I meditated, my mind felt like it was on fire.

There were so many thoughts. Am I doing this right? What am I doing? Will this help me? My toe itches. And on and on.

How was I supposed to stop all these thoughts?

I wasn’t.

To my great relief, I learned that this wasn’t the point. In fact, it wasn’t even possible. Instead, I was invited to observe my thoughts, like clouds passing through the sky.

It’s a daily practice, one I’ve been at for more than twelve years. And no one keeps me more in line than my six-year-old daughter.

Just this week, Olivia said, “Mom, don’t be mad. I had the thought that you don’t appreciate me.”

These moments used to floor me. But I’ve grown used to them. Olivia is a sharer who loves to discuss her thoughts and feelings. (Note: She nicknamed our guest room “The Talking Room.”) I took a deep breath and settled in.

I asked her to say more. She explained that when I told her it was time to go to bed and stop talking about her (very elaborate) plans to open a “Calming Station” at our local music school (how cute-and wise-is that?), she felt unappreciated.

Deep breath.

I explained how much I appreciated her enthusiasm and deep care for the students. I told her how excited I was to work on the Calming Station with her. I suggested we talk more about it tomorrow, so that our minds could relax before bedtime.

Then we took our hands and drew a line up to the sky.


This is how Olivia and I practice letting go of our thoughts. We pretend they’re attached to a balloon. We set it free, tracing its route up to the sky, watching it float away.

Musicians need balloons too.

How often do you catch yourself lost in thought while making music? Here are some of my gems:

“Oh no, here comes that spot!”
“What’s for lunch?”
“I’m hot.”
“I’m cold.”
“Am I a good enough pianist?”

From the mundane to the profound, our thoughts can distract us from making music mindfully and with joy.

Mindfulness provides an alternative.

Through meditation practice, I learned to let thoughts come and go, to observe them without attachment, and even to get curious about them. My mind often feels like a just-shaken snowglobe, but I’ve learned to watch the glitter settle. It’s just human nature, after all.

And that’s the key.

This is how our minds work. Compassion for ourselves helps us relax so that we can respond to our thoughts with curiosity, openness, and a lighter touch.

Imagine how it would feel to make music this way. With a calm mind, our technique flows effortlessly, our confidence soars, and our hearts open to our audience.

To more balloons for all,