“A wise person is like a jazz musician, using the notes on a page but dancing around them, inventing combinations that are appropriate for the situation and people at hand.” – Barry Schwartz
Yesterday I played improvisational music with a friend of mine and found the experience incredibly rejuvenating. It brought to mind ideas about the music of our everyday lives.
Every person is a musician – the body, thoughts, and language their instrument and life their music.
Showing up to meet someone for a conversation at a café is much like improvisational music (or vice versa). You don’t plan ahead what you are going to say. You don’t specify topics that will be covered. You don’t decide on how fast you are going to speak or how loud. You don’t make agreements about when one person is going to start talking and the other stop. You don’t make these rules because there is part of you that knows how to feel what fits in the moment. You have learned over time how to harmonize with people, to follow the music of interaction.
One of the reasons it’s so enjoyable to spend time with good friends is because the conversation is an effortless form of musical improvisation. You each can connect and improvise over the melody of your shared ideas and experiences while staying authentically connected to the music of your own life. This music of interaction flows when you connect with what is alive in yourself and others. By looking at our interactions as music, we have a new opportunity to see the beauty behind them.
“I see my life in terms of music.” – Albert Einstein
In every conversation, you bring the mellifluous music of your life into a space and choose what you will play. Your life’s music is your longings, feelings, needs, and experiences. In order to create harmonious music though, two important questions need to first be answered:
1. Are you in tune with your music?
Are you living authentically? Are you honest about what you are feeling? Are you connected with your deepest longings? Are your everyday activities creating the harmonious quality of life you would like? Does your life give you the same joy that feel when you hear a favorite song? Play with the ideas of seeing your life in musical terms and see if it offers you a new perspective.
2. And are you hearing other people’s music?
Are you in harmony with those around you? Playing in harmony does not mean you give up your music, it’s about finding the new beauty that arises from connecting your music to others’. If you sometimes struggle to appreciate what certain people say, think of them as a musician starting to play their solo with the jazz band. They are probably a little nervous because they want other people to see the beauty in what they play, sometimes the music may sound a little out of tune to you at first or perhaps it may be a little louder than you would like. But by changing how you listen, you change what you hear. By listening for the beautiful music in the words of others, you create a greater capacity for finding the joy of connection.
Experiment today with hearing others as being vulnerable musicians willing to stand up and play, whether or not you like the music right away. If you have the intent of listening anew and are maybe even willing to lend them some supporting accompaniment (empathic listening), you will create the capacity to better hear the beauty in their music as well as your own.