While my son is in his piano lesson at our local music store, I sit in the foyer tapping and swiping away on my phone. It is two weeks away from the end-of-year concert when budding musicians play their best rehearsed song on a stage in front of mostly parents. My son flat out refuses to do this. When he first refused, I made a couple of encouraging remarks to help him get over what I thought was his nervousness. But then I shrugged. No problem, I said, we can both just watch. He doesn’t practice, not formally. Some mornings, before school, he stands in front of his keyboard banging away at the keys overtop a terrible demo-song and sometimes he’ll turn off the accompaniment to play little tunes like Ducks on the Pond or Old MacDonald. While I am looking forward to his playing improving, I don’t encourage him to practice. He is only six after all.
While sitting, waiting for the half hour session to finish, another young boy comes out of a room wailing about not getting his song right and that he’ll never be able to play at the concert. His eyes are scrunched shut as he sobs and he holds his hands tightly over his ears while saying, “I have too much in my head. I have too much in my head!”
Exactly kid, I think, wanting to go over and put a hand on his shoulder or take him outside where it’s misting rain. He puts this well, the stress we feel from trying to do too much, or keep up, or just the everyday trying to hold it all together.
Previously, I wrote an article about seeking out space in our lives and how we react when we find it. Space can be a challenge to find but we all want more space. This abstract pursuit relates to freedom, lightness and joy. Much of life though can feel so crowded because of all the doing, the going, and the getting we push and are pulled to carry out.
Yutori is a Japanese word which translates to spaciousness, or living with spaciousness. This can be interpreted many different ways like leaving early enough to be on time for something, taking a moment for contemplation on a subject or being present when we are with another person. The spell of time after an experience allows for integration, for rest, for ‘taking in’ the encounter so that we become whole again, only now bigger and more expansive. Otherwise we can get jam-packed with experience, newness, and too much information and this becomes burdensome.
Reading poetry can slow us down. We read even one line of something true and it can create more space for us. From Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, read her first line
You do not have to be good.
Go back and read it again and allow these words to slow you down.
Even, perhaps especially, something this simple can take away some of the gravity we experience of simply being here. You do not have to do much to let go of some of the heaviness.
Spaciousness does not arise out of itself, but must be preceded by something – an act, effort, a song played on the piano, a line of poetry. After one of these more tangible acts we can spontaneously encounter spaciousness as a kind of calm. This idea, the cycle of creation, is represented when we make the sound of AUM. We chant AUM at the beginning of a yoga practice or at the end as a way of connected with the ‘sound of all things’ or all of creation. This is the mantra that is said to clear away obstacles and give us knowledge of our inner self. But the most important element of this act of chanting is the silence that comes after the sound. Through this perspective, we can rest in a little more peace, silence, and space. This word, or any other creative act can be a lever to take away the weight of things, to clean out the mind of too much stuff.
Joseph Campbell says, in Reflections on the Art of Living
If you want to hear AUM, just cover your ears and you'll hear it. Of course, what you are hearing is the blood in the capillaries, but it's AUM: Ah - waking consciousness; ou - dream consciousness; and then, mmm - the realm of deep, dreamless sleep. AUM is the sound of the radiance of God. This is the most mysterious and important thing to understand, but once you get the idea, it's very simple.
That overwhelmed kid, stressed about his performance, knew what he was doing. After some tears, some time away from his instrument, he took his hands away from his head and did calm down. He didn’t go back in the lesson room but no doubt he’ll begin again.