I bought myself a piano for Christmas. Well, it was a gift for "the family", but I bought it with the intention for me to play again. For me to practice again.
I'm really grateful my parents signed me up for lessons when I was just 6 or 7. I took lessons all the way through senior year. It was something I enjoyed, it was something I felt I was good at. That is, until the new kid in 3rd grade showed up. He was (and still is) a virtuoso, and he blew everyone away. I was a little shocked and a lot jealous at his ability to sit down and bang out tunes, fully memorized and emotive and fun.
My innermost third grader self knew: I'll never be that. I'm not a performer, and I'm not all that fun when I take something seriously. But if not to have fun, I really enjoy to play, for myself. I enjoy learning to play. And now that I'm just an adult in my own house, and with a keyboard that I can turn the volume down low or put in headphones--I can play for myself more than ever before.
As I start again in a mindful practice, I find it so helpful to be practicing something like an instrument along side mindfulness in the day-to-day. It is such a reminder of how to practice, and to feel the skills improve, and the muscle memory set in, and to know that everything about being a mindful, compassionate and grateful human also takes practice, and builds muscle memory, and it gets easier, though there will always be hard days in between.
My piano practice looks different from when I was a kid. I'm not taking lessons, and I'm selecting my own method books. I'm not preparing for a recital. It is now nearly impossible to play an entire song without some sort of distraction. Though that is frustrating, it is very akin to meditation in that way. And just like meditation, I am reminded to start again.
Do you have anything you practice that has a lot of method to it? Whether it's scales or athletic drills, there's a lot of value to repetition, to getting good at the basics, and to give a practice your full attention. Perhaps there is something you used to do that you could try again, or you want to learn something entirely new. There's no expectation to it, no one has to be born with skills in order to enjoy doing something, or even to become good at something.
A Mindful Birthday Practice
I turned 35 this week. 🎈 It's not a milestone birthday. I feel neither young nor old. I don't know that I've put a lot of weight around birthdays, except for when I turned seven, because that was the year I decided I could be brave enough to go down the 3 foot slide that threw kids into the lake. Nevertheless, birthdays are nice times for reflection, as is the turn of the new year.
I'm reminded of the mental exercise to imagine your own funeral. Some people imagine their 90th birthday party, which is a little more cheery, and a little more within the theme of birthdays. But, maybe some of us all already 90, or some of us don't like big birthday parties. So, the funeral exercise is not about designing your funeral, picking the music or the readings or the menu. It's for perspective in what people will remember about you and your life.
I like to imagine the afterparty, instead of the funeral itself. Beyond the formality of a eulogy and the tears of a service, there is often a lot of cherished memories shared over a cup of coffee or a glass of champagne. (Do people generally have champagne at their funerals, or only a lucky few? )
This year I experienced a really distinct change when I revisited this exercise. Many years ago, I remember writing about what I had done, accomplishments, success stories, like a legacy. What did I contribute to the world? What was my impact? People talked about how well I treated the planet, and probably said something about my mindfulness empire, and changing people's lives for the better.
Now, I am longing for people at my funeral to say things like, "Kaitlynn was always having such a good time!" and "She really enjoyed her time here on Earth." They're not talking about what I did at all, just that I had fun doing it.
So I'm now working on enjoying my time. I'm slowly trying to incorporate activities I truly love to do. I'm putting less pressure around accomplishments and perfection and things that don't matter all that much. It's a fine line, because I do really enjoy being productive, but it's so easy for productivity to be tied to the stress of getting things done, and I'm being mindful of letting that go.
What will people say about you at your funeral (or your birthday party when you're really old)? Will they remember things you've done? How you treated them? The grudges you held? Your beliefs? The potluck dish you always brought? The twinkle in your eye?
Still just me: Kaitlynn.