I just finished reading a book by Grammy award winning bassist, Victor Wooten, entitled The Music Lesson; A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music. The story presents ten basic elements of music as potent instructional tools for life. Each one of these elements–Notes, Articulation, Technique, Emotion, Dynamics, Rhythm, Tone, Phrasing, Rest and Listening–is explored by the twenty five year old student (told in first person as Wooten himself) under the guidance of the mysterious and elusive music teacher, Michael, who appears in his life at the precise moment he feels he doesn’t know where to go next. It’s a beautiful little book, introducing some complex spiritual concepts in a way that is both challenging and accessible enough to make the reader think. One of the concepts in particular, the Rest, “the underused and all important element,”stuck with me for days after I put the book down. Later in the week I found out why. I was at my annual physical, sitting there casually while the nurse took my blood pressure, when suddenly she looked up at me and said “That can’t be right.” She took it again. It was right. My blood pressure was up…way up.
At first this came as a surprise. Hypertension? Me? No way! I’m a yoga teacher! I eat right, exercise, philosophize, rationalize…I teach others how to relax! The news that everything else checked out okay was overshadowed by this bit of news. As I was leaving the nurse told me in a rather subdued tone that I should consult my internist in the very near future and sent me on my way. As I drove towards home, first making a stop at the drug store to get my own blood pressure monitor, I reflected on how in the world I had evolved from a perfectly healthy fifty something to a middle aged statistic with what is in many cases a “lifestyle” disease barely a year later. Could it have something to do with revising, completing, publishing, promoting and publicizing my first novel–perhaps my six month crash course in technology, becoming a web presence, learning the vagaries of social media? Or would it be more related to being the mom of three young adult kids spreading their wings in directions literally all over the globe? All or none of the above? Pure genetics?
I thought again of The Music Lesson, and how through the story, Wooten had illustrated the profound significance of the rests in music. All of the other notes are enhanced by the silences around them. In yoga, we teach that the most important posture of all is the relaxation, or Shivasana, the pause that ends every practice. Obviously I’ve been in great need of more pauses between the notes, especially all the notes in my head. As if by divine intervention, we finally had some winter weather the next day. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to help me stay in by the fire and immerse
myself in nothing but eating, reading and napping. According to my home monitor, this technique works quite well for elevated blood pressure. By last night I was so relaxed I think I barely had a pulse. Thus my belated New Year’s resolution…to play more pauses, to embrace Shivasana. My life might depend on it. Namaste.*
* A sanskrit word meaning “The light in me honors the light in you.”