Enjoying our days, finding full engagement in the moment, is not simple. But its practice can be.
Like learning any craft, we can examine the parts to our sessions of work and engagement and see how they come together. The rest is about putting one foot in front of the other.
Every session of work is composed of four parts:
- The Decision to do something
- The Opening Phase when we prepare ourselves
- The Being Phase in which we rest our mind on it
- The Closing Phase in which we allow it to come to a rest
By paying attention to these parts, learning how we can better accommodate them, we improve our experience with those things we decide to be with.
One of the things I enjoy about music is how powerful a meditation it can be on these parts, all described as a metaphor within itself. When you pay attention to the components in music, you can see, too, how the same spirit appears in different media of work, be that in business, study, or otherwise.
For example, here is a practice session. (I’ll mention when to hit play below). When possible, I attempt to make every practice session a performance in itself.
First is the Decision to be at the piano. It is a decision that rests on many others including the arrangements of the keyboard, the cables, the software, the speakers, and more… all things having formed through evolutions and revolutions.
Though I have done considerable work on them over the years, each a product of many sessions, there is no need to think of them at the moment. They are only there to support the relationship between myself and sound for the current session.
Here we have an Opening Phase. I tap a single note listening for the music behind a single note.
That is the tendril of play. In any work, when we can find that tendril, a reflection of something meaningful appearing on a bed of other emotions, the work tends to be more genuine and healthy.
As an emotion, interest is not under conscious control. It is not forced into being. We can listen for it and sometimes modify the conditions that would invite it.
Once I hear it, I can move on. Here, I have a sense of movement and run with it. Why not? I have no idea where it is going. But I pay attention to where I am. Are any of my fingers feeling stiff? Are there any paths being hampered? Can I run a few notes through those areas to improve the flow?
With whatever the experience level, be that of a beginner on the first day of sitting with a craft or of someone years into a master’s journey, we listen for where we are and build from there.
Here, I have chosen something to practice. I am exploring some chord transitions that I do not usually try. Meanwhile, I look for a structure to rest them on. I am fully into the Being Phase, though certainly there are layers.
Something about the chord transitions is not working as I’d like. Pushing them would likely result in a headache . Perhaps I can return later?
I drop the chords and shift to something with more structure, at least for the moment. Though there is a scale change, that’s fine so long as its story continues.
This sort of pattern tests and exercises my short-term memory. I need to remember what I’m doing so I can repeat it. The more patterns, the more complex it becomes, and the more of an exercise it becomes.
In retrospect, I might consider everything before this an opening of sorts.
Here I blend into a major key and start exploring chord transitions again. Each path within has its own beginnings and ends, all resting on the knowledge, ideas, and skills that have come before it.
This time, I like the chord transitions. They have a nice progression.
… shifting back to a minor key…
Only a very simple touch is needed at this point. Only a few sounds can readily create a space.
A parallel would be when we are within the work and little else is on the radar. Small movements make large changes. We find another layer of Being with the work.
Even lighter, even fewer notes. Another level appears within the previous.
Now there is more space for flourishes.
Having that space created, there is a range of exploration available. There is a height to the session, where it seemingly peaks and crests.
Returning to some degree of structure, you can hear the ending’s first whispers.
This effectively begins the Closing Phase of a session.
The desire to continue may be there, certainly, but the practice of acknowledging an ending consistently brings a subtle sweetness that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Everything seems to take its own time. Without respecting that time, something goes awry.
Here I drift into some ending flourishes, weaving my way into a simple wrap up.
These musical sessions certainly resonate throughout my works and words.
Wherever you can find a decision, beginning, middle, and end, be that in practicing music, doing the dishes, or learning a language, there is some parallel of this same spirit that somehow thrives in certain conditions.
Work, good work in particular, is more truly about finding and practicing those conditions than it is about forcing its existence.
If you’re interested in finding the flow of your work sessions, consider the self-paced course Being Productive – Simple Steps to Calm Focus.