At our local Open Way Mindfulness Center in Missoula, Montana for the second year in a row we’ve had a winter series open mic night. Last night was our last one for the season. From December through March on the first Saturday of each month our mindfulness center communities are invited to come together for an evening of sharing. We encourage all sorts of creative offerings and have had music, poetry, story telling, dance, art, comedy bits, Tai Chi demonstrations, rap, dramatic readings and the list goes on and on.
When advertising for the open mic nights I often add: Kids (and snacks) are welcome! It has been a wonderful community builder for our Be Here Now Sangha (spiritual community) and has brought all ages together to share in the wide array of talents and skill sets that we all have. To learn and be inspired by the diversity of one another’s sharing is what makes these evenings so rich.
I am a musician. I love music. I love listening to it, experiencing it in live shows, dancing to it, singing it and playing it. I grew up playing the flute in band and orchestra from fifth grade through my senior year in high school. When I was younger I took the usual ballet, tap and jazz dance classes and when I got a little older moved into hip hop. After I moved to Missoula I started dancing with an african dance class teacher and then switched from dancer to hand drummer and played the djembe for a few years for the class. African music makes sense to me and I love how it moves through my body whether through my feet or my hands. I picked up the guitar when I was around 19 years old. Mostly I write really simple songs of my own but I know a few covers by Bob Dylan and the Cowboy Junkies that I can pull off once in a while. My most recent musical adventure has been with spoken word and rap. Did I mention I love music?
What’s important to know is that while I love playing music I only play in the solitary company of myself. If I’m playing and singing and my husband comes home I put down the guitar. When we were dating and I played for him for the first time I made him sit in the other room so I couldn’t see him. I can play or sing with other people who are playing or singing but on my own is a different story. I can talk in front of people with relatively little problem but when sharing music my heart starts racing, my breath becomes shallow and quick and my voice can get easily lost in the nervous response to my body’s fight/flight reaction. I’ve spent some time looking more deeply into what the root of my fear is. It isn’t about the audience. I’m not afraid they’d throw tomatoes or shout obscenities or anything. I hadn’t had a negative experience to warrant such fear or mistrust of the audience. It was about me. I, like most if not all of us, have a deep seed of being unworthy and inadequate. This seed manifests for us all in differing ways and differing times.
In wanting to work through this fear I’ve been hosting these open mic nights and sharing every time. Sometimes it takes me a little while to get started when I’m in front of everyone. Sometimes I have to walk around a little bit first and start when my face isn’t towards anyone (for my spoken word pieces). A few months ago I came to see how much storytelling before sharing a song was helpful so sometimes I talk a little bit first. Getting up there, despite the racing heart and short breaths, has been such a beneficial process for me. I have experienced the opening that the open mic night promises in its name. A friendlier, more supportive audience I don’t think I could find anywhere. And now with this practice of sharing my heart doesn’t race for as long or quite as fast when I get up in the front of the room. My fears and struggles with inadequacy are settling down. And I’m learning to embrace the musician part of myself and share it freely.
It is easy to shy away from the places that are uncomfortable to us. To create a small comfort zone and not go outside of it. When we devote attention to where we are holding back and look deeply into those places we start cracking open. We become more adaptable and skilled. We grow and transform. We start waking up!
Coming to the Open Way Mindfulness Center, if nothing else, is a great place to meet great folks. My gratitude to everyone who shared your presence and supported my musical unfolding over the winter. See you again when the snow starts to fly in the mountains!