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Rejoicing In Our Fortunes-Appreciation Training for Musicians (and others!)

Rejoicing In Our Fortunes-Appreciation Training for Musicians (and others!)

A guest post by Cynthia Brando

“...learning to rejoice in our own good fortune, we train in rejoicing in even the smallest blessings our life holds-it is easy to miss our own good fortune; often happiness comes in ways we don’t even notice.”

This excerpt is from one of my favorite authors, Pema Chodron, and is one of many from her that I read from time to time, to bring me back to reality when I get lost in the darkness. To not experience the joy of what life brings to you, whether big or small, is just that-darkness.

Scientifically we retain much more negative feelings than positive ones, because most of the time that is what we focus on. The process of factors such as thoughts, environments and emotions effecting the neural pathways in our brain is called neuroplasticity-you can read more about it here .Negative thinking effects me all too well.....As a musician, I am constantly hustling for opportunities; often stomping out the embers of small accomplishments in a hurry to race to the possibly bigger and better opportunity. I often feel like I  don’t have the patience to lovingly wait while a small step could become a larger one-instead, conjuring up all sorts of negative talk about something that didn’t work out right away; then discovering that down the road-it did; or being really upset about a situation that did not go favorably for me; then getting a surprise second chance to be in that same situation, and finding out that it was not all that I thought it was going to be. Let’s just say that I waste a lot of energy on being negative. I started to notice this in myself as a physical sensation of burnout-it seemed the negativity was weighing me down, so I was often tired and moody. In reading more from Pema Chodron’s book ,The Places that Scare You,  on her chapter titled, “Finding the Ability to Rejoice”, I was reminded of something so simple-“the key is to be here-fully connected in the moment.”

When I gain acceptance with my music, and an opportunity comes my way; I feel happy for a second, then it quickly dissolves into worry about the future; so the next time I practiced Pema’s suggestion of being in the moment-I got word that my newly recorded jazz cover would be featured on a popular online radio show. Normally I would be briefly happy, but then start getting busy trying to achieve the next thing. This time I sat quietly and let the acceptance seep in, noticing that it felt encouraging and uplifting. When negative feelings tried to penetrate and my mind wanted to move ahead, I returned my attention to what had just happened-someone liked my music, and that felt good-someone acknowledged a recording I had worked hard on… did this really feel? Before I would just glaze over the emotions, but now I noticed that my body felt joyous; the kind of joy that brings a smile to the face; I was even compelled to let out a little sound-a sound of joy. This is a very personal process and not one of ego or gloating-this is an exercise of self awareness of acceptance and positivity, and can be shared with others who are supportive and will appreciate and celebrate your happiness-it is not to brag about ones good fortunes…..Doing the appreciation practice will train your body to recognize positive feelings more, and decrease the moments where you lose this feeling to future worries and desires.

Pursuing music consists of a lot of rejection. It can be very difficult to take because music is often times a strong reflection of the artist and their intimate feelings. I often have to separate the emotion from my work when dealing with the business side of things; but it is still hard. I am a member of one site that keeps track of my rejections and acceptances. Currently I have applied to 98 music opportunities; everything from licensing, performing, contests and more. 96 are rejections, and 2 are acceptances; that is a pretty harsh scale and doesn’t take into consideration the countless other rejections I receive,  so getting fully involved in the rejoicing process is especially important to celebrate the sometimes rare occurrence of gaining traction in a difficult business. Rejection is the nature of the game, so getting accepted for something is a BIG deal, and needs to be celebrated! I am starting to do more for myself when I reach a milestone-dinner and wine, a massage, or going on a little vacation can be a real positive representation for a job well done.

So how to start practicing appreciation? Pema Chodron ends her book with what is called a "The Three-Step Aspiration", which "you can use to awaken compassion, the ability to rejoice, and equanimity. As always, it is fine to use your own words."

May I enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.

May you enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.

May all beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.

Sometimes rejoicing in the good fortunes of others is a wonderful way to share the commonality of each others hard work. As a musician, there can be feelings of competition and jealousy which are hard to work through even though we put on a brave face. Thinking of a fellow musician and wishing them well is a good start to create positive energy in life.

Meditation is as good practice to develop awareness of our thoughts and emotions.

Yoga is also good at getting us grounded in our bodies.

Another quote from Pema's book is "everything we see, hear, taste and smell has the power to strengthen and uplift us." This refers to her thoughts on how appreciating what is around us and taking care of our environment, gives us strength and confidence to appreciate ourselves....

My acquaintance and facebook friend Jacqueline Suskin has written a book called, "Go Ahead and Like it" about making lists of things you like, which can be a wonderful appreciation practice. (I'm currently waiting for my copy in the mail!)

Nature, music photography and fashion!

I love photography, and it is one of the ways that I develop an awareness to what is around me. I enjoy being in nature and capturing scenes that I find beautiful or interesting...

The new fall leaves....

beautiful rose....

So think about how you can learn to appreciate your success, plain ole' life, or the beauty around you!! I would love to hear your thoughts or practices in the comments sections!

-----Cynthia Cynthia Brando has been writing songs for many years and is currently residing in Los Angeles where she is pursuing professional songwriting and performing regularly around the L.A. area at such venues as the House of Blues. You can read about her experiences as a singer-songwriter at her blog: Perils of Being a Songwriter

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