As I begin the New Year I have an intention to do my best to honor January's energy that is still slow and soft and invites us to be gentle and restore our energy. Energy that invites us to nourish ourselves on a deep and profound level. As the temperature keeps dropping I wrap myself in several layers of wool and enjoy the scent of freshly grounded coffee and herbal infusions with a book in my hand.
I spent the last couple of days reading John Marchese's book The Violin Maker and when I lay it on the table after finishing the last sentence I felt peaceful and hopeful. In an era where consumerism tries to take over everything it is extremely inspiring that doing things with your own hands infused with your spirit and love is in some cases, actually the best way.
That less is often more.
There are still places like the violin maker Sam Zygmuntowicz's workshop in Brooklyn where the centuries old traditions and craftmanship are respected and kept alive. Piano is my instrument but because my father and sister are violinists I have spent possibly even more time to listening to the sound of violin.
The process and history of building a violin from selecting the wood to varnishing and learning more about technical aspects of how the sound is produced is extremely fascinating.
To quote Sam Zygmuntowicz from The Violin Maker:
I feel that when we spent most of our time disconnected from nature and are surrounded by very fast paced and erratic energy it is hard to wrap your head around the idea of maintaining a meaningful daily practice for the sake of nourishing our souls and creative energy. Instead of getting grounded and centered many of us are trying to find the fastest way to get to the end result or solution.
But if we don't have roots that are strong enough every breeze of wind will shake us to the ground. The drive has to come from within, otherwise the expression becomes soulless and burns you out. Talent without the practice can take us only so far, having enough passion to learn and do the work is needed to the building of the strong foundation.
During those moments when I feel overwhelmed, irritated and frustrated wondering why there are so many e-courses I have been unable to finish or even start and feeling guilty of reading too many hours (because of course, there are always something more productive I could do) I realize that once more I have slipped into the masculine model. The definition of productivity lingers distorted in my mind and enables me easily to get trapped into the society's expectations and external definitions of success and progress that are heavily based on linear timeline and tangible results.
Only I can redefine those words so that they will support me.
I have always mentally fought against the linear model, seeking deeper meaning in everything I do or create but time after time slowly submerged back to linear model that has severely drained my energy and made me feel like a failure and a victim awakened by the realization that drowning is not too far away.
In the end, it always comes back to creating a deeper meaning and honoring the natural cycles and different forms of the energy flow.
Yesterday, while reading Annapurna Living pondering the connection with the feminine energy and it's cyclical nature I came across this beautiful short film My Friend Maia by Julia Warr.
Maia is serene and a gorgeous example of a woman who embraces the feminine energy in a form of a daily practice that emerges out of love of the life and movement.
Shot in Fire Island, New York, this film (4min. 23 sec) captures the secrets of eternal youth as Maia Helles, a Russian ballet dancer turns 95 but still remains resolutely independent, healthy and as fit as a forty year old. Made by Julia Warr, artist and film maker who met Maia on a plane 4 years ago and became utterly convinced by the benefits of her daily exercise routine, which Maia perfected together with her Mother, over 60 years ago, long before exercise classes were ever invented. (2011)
Film by Julia Warr :: Music by Lola Perrin
After watching the short film I wanted to find more about Maia as artists life stories always inspire and fascinate me. I found this film by William Taylor where Maia Helles demonstrates the Helles Method. The film starts with the heart wrenchingly sublime Chopin's Nocturne (Op.27 No.2) and the music stopped me to the beginning. I had to run to the upstairs to check if I have a sheet of music to that particular nocturne. I will watch the film later!
While reading The Violin Maker I was also observing my own relationship and resistance to showing up for myself in a daily practice, no matter if it's playing the piano, writing, cooking or moving my body. Not everything can be always fun or even meant to be, but by being patient and mindfully present in the practice and present moment it can be enjoyable.
Either breathing through stiffness in a yoga pose, keeping up with writing even it when it feels that there's nothing to say, or practicing a certain passage hundreds of time when playing the piano will at some point, when the process becomes automatic and I am able to concentrate on the interpretation instead of doing, open up the space for soulful energy to flow in.
Turned out I had the sheet of music and was ready to get into the work of practice. Unglamorously learning the notes and trying out different fingerings, playing out the first couple of bars; starting the groundwork for something bigger to eventually emerge when I'm first committed to the process of practice.
How do all these pieces integrate then?
By breathing deeply you can connect to the creative energy from within and observe how it naturally flows when there are no restrictions, daily practice can transform the energy into music, movement, words, paintings or other creations and can be passed on either as an individual and experimental piece of beauty and inspiration or a tradition that keeps living centuries after centuries, nourishing our whole beings if it is just kept alive by mindful practice.
Will you show up even on those days when the inspiration isn't palpable and honor the commitments you have made with yourself to nourish your creative energy and being?