Mom and Dad were both very passionate, intelligent people. But so different from each other!
I admired Dad for working hard and accomplishing a lot. In his moments of spare time during his 60-hour weeks as the town pediatrician, he read books and medical journals, and he studied foreign languages. I remember him once taking out his pocket Greek dictionary in the car to look up a word when he was stopped at a red light.
Mom, on the other hand, often spent time looking out the window at beautiful greenery. Although I couldn’t quite understand why she did that every day, I always saw something more beautiful than the greenery register deeply in her gray-green eyes as she sat there.
One day I came into the room where Mom was sitting like that and told her about a “brilliant” idea I’d had: “I just realized it would be great if people would always go from doing one thing to doing another! That way they could accomplish so much!”
“No,” Mom replied. “It’s important to relax.”
I had never thought of that.
I know now that in her relaxation, Mom was accomplishing much more than I realized. She was busy nourishing herself by taking in the beauty of the natural world. That way, she could then bring a refreshed, joyful spirit into the many things she had on her plate every day.
It was typical of Mom to bring in a single camellia from the garden and set it in a bowl of water on the coffee table. Her eye for beauty created an elegant visual environment that I took for granted growing up but that uplifted us all.
She thus transmitted to me a deep appreciation of beauty that has provided me with essential nourishment every day of my life.
I couldn’t know as a kid that adults have wholly different lives from children—lives in which they’re battling multiple stresses, including the emotional remains of their own childhood problems. Mom made it a habit to find needed solace and refreshment for herself by gazing out the window for a time each day.
We found out after Mom died that she was the head of the Western Division of the American Symphony Orchestra League. She was accomplishing far more beyond the house than we had any idea. She just knew how to manage her time and energy – a skill that we as musicians really need.
Today I credit Mom for a lot of my interest in meditation. And for the fact that mindfulness meditation—a practice of letting your mind relax—is what unlocked my potential at the piano, leading me to help so many others do the same.
The next time you’re busy trying hard to accomplish something in the practice room, I invite you to think of my mom looking out the window at the greenery and letting her mind relax,
Just stop for a minute, in the middle of everything, and let it all go. No cell phone—just a moment of reflection on something that speaks to your heart.
You might be amazed at what it does for you and your practicing.
Do you have an experience you’d like to share of accomplishing more in your practicing by allowing yourself more time to relax? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.