About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I'm always interested in seeing how different musicians react to applause. Some of them stand and just soak it up, while others radiate delight (think Yo-Yo Ma). Some bow deeply (especially Michiko Uchida) and others nod their heads. Practically everyone is generous in including colleagues in applause.

We take applauding at concerts for granted; however, one of the things I learned at Fearless Camp last summer is how difficult it is to accept applause.  One of our ongoing exercises at the camp was graciously accepting applause whenever it was offered. Jeff instructed us to stand up, look at the audience, smile, and bow. No fiddling with music, no leaving the stage before the audience finished applauding. It sounds simple and straightforward, but it is very difficult.

Most musicians are naturally very hard on themselves when it comes to critiquing their own playing, so smiling and bowing while thinking about all the mistakes you made feels like a sham. We think we don't deserve this acclaim. Jeff stressed that it's about the performer's connection to the audience. The people who came to hear you want to thank you for the performance and express their delight in the experience of hearing this concert. To respond with words or body language that shows you don't agree, is churlish and ungrateful.

Since everyone did a lot of performing that week, we all had many opportunities to get better. Our fellow Fearless campers also made sure that the applause was long and sustained, so you really got to practice being gracious when it was your turn!

I don't have a lot of opportunities to take bows in my life away from Fearless Camp, but when I do, I find it's easier now. I like feeling that connection with the audience. Now I guess I need to spread the idea to others. I was caught by surprise at a performance with a musician I didn't know well when she swept off the stage after only a few seconds of applause. The rest of us felt we had to follow her. It was a low-key performance and several people came up to talk with each of us, but after Fearless Camp, I felt like the performance wasn't as complete as it could have been. Perhaps she was not happy with the performance or maybe that's the way she was taught.

In thinking about why we often feel we don't deserve praise and admiration, I thought about one of my favorite quotes, from Nelson Mandela:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our darkness that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, talented and fabulous?"
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us. It's in everyone
And as we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.