Playing the Native American flute has brought me to some wonderful people and beautiful places. However, I have to admit that Springdale, Utah, a small town connected to the gateway of Zion National Park, is where it is for me. I love teaching at Zion Canyon Native Flute School. Playing and teaching in a place like that; surrounded by the red rock Sages, touches my Soul. When I am touched like that, I'm reminded that anything is possible.
The weather was perfect. I was walking alongside some of the nation's best flute instructors, and I was ready for my students. I know they were excited and ready to begin their first day of flute school. I was blessed with a wonderful group of students from 11 to 79 years of age. I started out the class with a story. I love storytelling. I told the story of the Rabbi who is captured by people who are his enemies and they put him in a prison. The Rabbi prays out to his acolytes, his students, to come and save him. The students sneak up to the prison, and see that there is barbed wire surrounding the prison. The students run off, saying, "We cannot save him when there is barbed wire surrounding the prison." The Rabbi, feeling a little frustrated, prays out again for his students to come save him. The students, again, sneak up to the prison, but this time they see barbed wire around the prison along with a guard keeping watch. The students take off running. The Rabbi calls out, "Wait! Come back!! They have me here against my will. Please help me. I do not belong here!" The students whispered among themselves, "We cannot save him. Now there is barbed wire and a guard." The Rabbi, feeling disheartened, prays out for courage for his students. The students, feeling a bit emboldened, sneak back to the prison to free the Rabbi, but this time they see the barbed wire and two guards in front of the prison, and they run off. "Wait! Come back!", the Rabbi cries out. "You have not saved me yet! How much or how little of harsh, hard things must Not be present in order for you to liberate me, your teacher?"
This is a great story to start the Beginners class with. I have learned there is a Creative Force within each of us. Some of us have locked up our Creative Force in fear of looking stupid. Perhaps when we were young those "well-meaning" people told us things like, "You can't sing, you can't paint, you look ridiculous." We may have been laughed at in our creations when they weren't meant to be laughed at. Then somewhere along the line, we, ourselves, pick up where they left off. We repeat the same messages to ourselves that hold us back from doing the things we want to do, and being what we want to be.
It's interesting to me, as I am in the second day of writing this blog, I have come to the realization that the "Rabbi Story" is not just for the Beginner of anything. The story is for everyone. Especially myself. Why? You ask. My music partner, Bruce, gave me a musical canvas last night to paint on with my flute. There were a couple of cover songs and a new piece he wrote. As I am playing and singing, I feel a sense of insecurity rising. I feel the, "I can't" trying to make its way through me. I'm hearing the critic in me saying, "I'm not sure you should sing this song", bla bla bla bla BLA!
Sometimes, and yes I can say "sometimes" today, I think when I go into something new, I'm supposed to already know it. Like, if I learned to play tennis today, tomorrow I should be at Wimbledon. No in-between, just Boom, baby, I'm there. This is the quickest way I can imprison the Creative Force; by allowing frustration to interrupt the learning process, and giving up. As I am playing my flutes and singing to the new pieces, I'm feeling uncomfortable. Why? Because I'm feeling vulnerable in the learning process. Somewhere along my life I began to believe that vulnerablity is not a good and safe place to be. However, I am here to tell you when it comes to creating, vulnerability is exactly where every artist must begin in allowing the Creative Force to do It's thing. It is vulnerability that allows the Creative Force to pull forth the uniqueness of each individual's artistry. We already have a Van Gogh. We already have a Celine Dion. We already have a James Taylor. What the Creative Force wants to create is US--you, me-- individually. If we don't allow ourselves to create because of fears then we rob ourselves and we rob our world.
A few of my students were very adamant that they would not play in the Student Concert at the end of the week. I do not feel discouraged about thier decision to not play because I know it is based on the first day of class. However, as they began to learn about their flutes, and play with the new embellishments I taught them, their confidence level began to rise. When I would ask for a volunteer, hands would shoot right up. I have learned this is a compliment to a teacher. There is an innocence in the beginning of learning that is very beautiful. It is a humble place, a vulnerable place--a willingness to learn. As a teacher I am blessed to honor it as such. This is a place to be gentle, patient, kind, and have fun. I am proud and honored, like a Mama, to tell you that each and every one of my students from 11 to 79 went up on that stage and played beautifully. Some were more nervous than others, but they took their deep breath and began to play thier Spirit to us; the Spirit that only they individually could play. The audience gave hoots and hollers for their beautiful songs.We all celebrated, not only their songs, but also the courage it took to be vulnerable and willing.We got to witness the look of satisfaction and accomplishment on each face when their song was complete.
Let's face it, in the learning stages of anything there may be harsh, hard things present that we must work through in order to accomplish a goal or a desire. What I have found is that the harsh, hard things are usually coming from our own heads. Learning can be fun. I don't use the word "should" too often, but in this case I say learning should be fun. Enjoying and Accepting (big word there) where you are makes the experience of beginning to learn something more pleasant. When you are not hard on yourself and move out of the way, the Creative Force can teach you how beautiful you are and how far you are capable of going. Liberate Your Teacher who is your Creative Force. Playing the Native American flute has brought me to some wonderful people and some beautiful places. However, the places the flute takes me within myself is why I love it so much.
With that written, I will go and play and sing to the music my music partner, Bruce, has created for me.