Living in Harmony

 

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The Henderson Symphony Orchestra conducted by Music Director Alexandra Arrieche

 

“Every note of the scale has an opportunity to be a part of a beautiful melody”.

One of the fun things I do is to perform with the Henderson Symphony Orchestra. It is a volunteer organization which has developed quite a reputation. During this week’s rehearsal, I had a few intriguing thoughts about how an orchestra, in many ways, is symbolic to life. The correlations were so fitting that I wanted to share them.

Glancing around the room, it became very apparent that our group is comprised of many diverse personalities. Musicians can be a bit temperamental but in order to make remarkable music, there needs to be a cohesive and collaborative spirit amongst those differing personalities. It’s important both to have a command of your own instrument as well as the ability to play together which produces a memorable performance.

Most instruments have supporting roles rather than constantly playing the melody; especially the percussion instruments or the trumpet, which happens to be what I play. This doesn’t diminish the significance in your role, it simply means the spotlight is not directed at you. Remember, the conductor – the one responsible for the outcome – doesn’t even make a sound during the performance.

Our next concert happens to be a “young artists” performance where junior high and high school musicians solo with the group. After rehearsing with one of the soloists, it was time for a break. However, just before being excused, our conductor, the incredibly talented Alexandra Arrieche, took a few moments to chat with the orchestra which coincidentally contributed to this article.

“Why are we here doing what we love”? she asked. “We are doing this for the younger generation. If we cannot inspire them to carry on and become better musicians that will eventually fill our seats, what is this all for”?

Ironically, I am not a big fan of inspirational quotes such as “Life is like a….(then insert a favorite analogy). However, in many ways, life IS like an orchestra. It is a community coming together to play beautiful melodies surrounded by lush harmonies. It is comprised of diverse individuals who study and practice in order to play an important part in the final result. Although there is no perfect analogy, the lives we lead consist of perfecting our individual selves while living harmoniously with our community. It is the ability to find your life’s purpose and helping others discover theirs. We all cannot be the soloist yet even the best of melodies needs a supporting harmony to really stand out.

This world can definitely use more harmony but it will never occur when we focus on the differences and segregate those who do not share our opinions and values. It begins by reaching out in kindness, creating an inviting atmosphere; one of understanding and a willingness to work together. Remember, no matter how much or how hard the conductor waves her arms, they alone will never produce the music. I look forward to your thoughts.

 

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Take a Good Look

“While others may criticize, how it affects you can be more important than what was said.”

Every day there are lessons we can glean and sometimes from very unexpected places. The other day, a notification came about one of my tweets. For the last few months, I’ve been engaged in a creative exercise of writing short poems and responding to others. Someone was not too fond, to put it nicely, of one of my responses and let me know in very blunt terms. Reading it put me in a somber mood.

As long as I can remember, my typical response to criticism was feeling shame; asking myself, “what is wrong with me”? However, I have also been working on improving those reactions to be more productive and positive. This incident created such an impact that I wanted to share it this week.

Shameful feelings are nothing new for me. In fact, I wrote a book on the subject and how I learned to heal from it. While shame is a topic on which I am fully aware, it does not imply that I am free from ever experiencing it again. Rather, it means that I am learning how better to manage it and lessen the once-tight grip it held over me.

In dealing with this uncomplimentary comment, my default reaction immediately made me feel I was at fault for something. However, in a few moments, I asked myself, “Why are you feeling this way”? and I began to observe and focus on those negative emotions. Oddly enough, this self-reflection dramatically slowed those feelings.

There were plenty of times I’ve received compliments on my tweets and no doubt could have fired back at this adversary. However, people are entitled to their opinions and there was no need to waste time defending my musings. Additionally, what I was most proud of was that this incident became a positive-growth experience.

While I’m not suggesting that each time someone criticizes you your reaction must be the same, it was a great lesson for me. Certainly if someone wrongly attacks you, there may be an urgent need to come to your defense and set the record straight. My particular experience had no influence other than how it made me feel and the best revenge was to transform it into personal growth.

It is easy to get into a shouting match but it takes strength to remain calm and focus on what’s important. Perhaps I should go back and thank that person for those unflattering remarks and progressing my self-improvement.

This week, when an incident causes you grief, “Take a Good Look” and see if there is something to be learned. Becoming a more caring, understanding, and self-aware person will make this world a better place. If you have recently had a similar experience, please share it in the comments.

My thanks again to my friend and photographer, Sonja Anderson, for the beautiful picture that suits this week’s article so well. Find out more about her on Facebook by clicking here.

 

Can Memories also be Healed?

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Photo by Sonja Andersen

“Change happens when we change the way we think about ourselves”

Healing is a vital part of good mental health. In last week’s article, forgiving oneself was shown to be a critical component in that process (click here to read that article). However, attempting to heal horrific memories is perhaps a whole other issue. It’s difficult enough not allowing them to traipse through your mind at will, so is it possible they can be healed?

It is possible. However, healing that type of memory does not mean it will never happen again. Allow me to share how a hurtful memory was healed for me in hopes that it shed some insight into dealing with your own.

One of the my most traumatic experiences occurred when I was fourteen. The details of the story are not pertinent but in a nutshell, I was being severely reprimanded by our school principal. Actually, he was more than a principal. He was also the head of the church and I literally believed the words he spoke were put there by God.

I was being chastised wrongfully in front of the boys in my class. Not only was there nothing I could do, I also felt tremendous shame. It was as though God was saying these things. I was confused, embarrassed, and a host of other self-destructive thoughts. (It wasn’t until years later I realized those accusations were unfairly put on me.) This incident robbed me of a lot of self-esteem and turned it into doubt and unworthiness.

Many years later, while relating this story to my therapist, I got angry and wished he would come back from the dead so I could punch him in the mouth. Thankfully, those feelings no longer remain; however, the healing began when I became aware that it wasn’t what he said to me that caused the damage, it was that I believed the words he spoke. As a young boy, there was virtually no other choice but to believe those thoughts about who I was because it was as though God were speaking directly to me. Believing anything differently would have been akin to raising my hand and volunteering to go to hell.

By forgiving myself for believing those deplorable ideas about who I was as well as realizing I had no choice but to believe them, the healing could now begin.

Nowadays when this memory replays itself, instead of thinking about it in anger, it is perceived as a healing moment and an opportunity for growth. This memory, which used to create feelings from fear to anger, is now transformed into one of healing . Do I still get passionate telling the story? At times. But when I think about the forgiveness and healing, I literally feel my stomach muscles relax, the same spot where my butterflies occur. The memory remains. What changes is the way I understand it.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences or want to know more. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly. My thanks to Sonja Anderson for the beautiful picture. A friend and talented photographer, find out and see more of her work at: https://www.facebook.com/photographybyandersen.

The Key To Healing

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Photo Courtesy of Jeff Finley

“Understanding how healing works can be beneficial in its progress and development”

With a subject as vital as emotional healing, presumably there would be much discussion on the best ways of effectively teaching it to others. However, my conjecture is that most don’t fully understand its transformative value. As mentioned in last week’s article (click here to read it), our journeys will be different, yet often important lessons can be gleaned when hearing others’ experiences. Additionally, having a great mentor or therapist can be instrumental in learning to apply them to our own lives.

The most difficult part of my healing was understanding how my own thoughts were the culprit. The biggest obstacles were negative ideas which I supposed were innately within me. Deeming myself unworthy and full of shame were what prevented any real healing. It was always much easier to point a finger at someone else and put the blame on them for being in my predicament. Undoubtedly some may good reason to lay blame at the feet of others; especially those who were young children and had no opportunity for defense or rebuttal.

While it would be completely irresponsible of me to say that every case of abuse can be dealt with in my same manner, many with whom I have worked discovered similarities and realized that while there was harm done by the abuser, much of the collateral damage was done by believing awful things about who they were. “I must have done something to deserve this” is a common thought while another is, “God is probably punishing me for something”. We diligently search for reasons why we deserved these terrible incidents to happen to us.

These destructive thoughts are precisely what we need to forgive ourselves for thinking. Even if we may have had no other choice during that moment, we don’t have to keep believing they are factual. Although hindsight may have shown us to be wrong, our actions at that time were the best we could do. Understanding that we were diligently trying to do the right thing and then believing those feelings of shame afterwards, these are exactly the points for which we should indeed be forgiving ourselves.

There is no controlling what anyone else thinks; but we can control the way we view and assess ourselves. We can forgive ourselves for believing terrible thoughts about who we were and are. No doubt, it is very difficult. Many cultures, religions, and even family traditions have been passed on for centuries with ideas that we are shameful, unworthy, or dozens of other disparaging notions. Unfortunately, they were used for power and control. It’s high time that we build our self-esteem and that of others. This kind of action creates and promotes healing, growth, and empowerment throughout the world.

Some of these ideas may be a bit difficult to grasp so please feel free to comment or reach out to me directly. I am dedicating the rest of my life to helping others heal and I consider it a privilege and a gift. My thanks also to Jeff Finley for the beautiful photograph. Find our more at http://www.jefffinley.org.