“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” ― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
I love this quote. Mozart is said to have been a genius. As the story goes, he began composing music at age five and wrote his first opera at the age of fourteen. His entire life was about music. His father was a musician and a music teacher. Mozart was immersed in music before he was born and likely never had a day off from either composing, playing, or thinking about music.
I don't know when Mozart was credited with that quote but one can assume he was likely an adult. As a curious person, I am always amazed at how some people can have their whole life consumed by one thing. He died at a relatively young age - thirty-five. The cause of his death is uncertain but medical experts have agreed that his busts of creativity and then periods of depression suggest he suffered from bipolar disease.
When I read the quote over again I think that he might have found solace in the silence between the notes. Perhaps a brief moment where his mind could be calm and appreciate the pause in action before the next note. As a meditation teacher I am constantly reminding myself and my students to take time in as many moments as possible and pay attention to the present moment. I wonder with a mind and a mental state like Mozart, if these moments of silence between notes were moments of mindfulness. The gift of silence is it is a period, however fleeting, where one of the five senses is not bombarded and allows our conscious mind to take notice of the absence.
Our subconscious mind which processes unfathomable bits of information twenty-four hours a day, takes care of running the machinery of our body so that our conscious mind can be freed-up for more interesting tasks like thinking and communicating and empathizing. Perhaps the brief moments of silence is where the creative genius of Mozart came from. The silence was the well he could dip into for not only moments of reprieve from his active mind, but also moments of inspiration.
While we will never likely be a genius like Mozart, we can learn something from people like him. Perhaps the most important lesson from the genius is how to better utilize our minds. Our minds, like a powerful computer, heat up and need time to cool down and recharge. By most accounts, strokes of inspiration or great ideas come from well of silence. As the summer winds down and many people return to a busier time with more routine, hopefully we can remember to take time and listen for the beautiful music that is made in silence.
It has been a few months since my last blog. Siri and I have been busy re-structuring our business lives after selling the Ekahi Center. This has been our first summer without managing the business in nearly five years. We were able to spend some time with our kids hiking and playing in the pool and we just spent eight days in Vancouver. Siri was competing her 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training and I did some yoga, writing, and running. The self-care felt foreign and at times...physically painful.
One of our favourite things to do in Vancouver is to take a baguette, some wine and cheese and sit on the beach. We did this the other night and it happened to be a new moon. During a full moon and a new moon, the tides are slightly more extreme. The alignment of the moon and the sun, as happens in the phase of a new moon, creates a stronger gravitational pull on the oceans. As we sat on the rocks, we were treated to a delightful ocean spray every time the waves crashed in front of us. It was like being on the front of the Log Ride at Disneyland. Speaking of logs!
At some point I noticed a large log making its way along the shore towards us. The high tide had just been reached and I assumed this log must have washed off the beach where it had been placed to protect the beach from erosion. After chatting and enjoying our libations, it was becoming clear that the log as coming closer towards us, albeit slowly. After about an hour, the log had ground its way down the shore and was hung up on the rocks right in front of us. It appeared to be in the middle of a tug of war between the pushing waves and the pull of the tide - now heading out.
It may have been the wine, but at some point, I began to sense that the log was struggling to be set free. I started to anthropomorphize the log. I could see the bark had numerous scars on it and I imagined the bark was like skin. I imagined the scars were sustained when the tree was cut from its life supply. I imagined some of the scars happened when the tree, now called a log, was unceremoniously tossed onto the back of a logging truck to be transported to the beach. Each scar seemed to tell a story.
As I watched the log "struggle" on the rocks, I could barely stop myself from pushing the log far into the ocean. I wanted to set it free from the waves and let the tide take it away. Then it hit me: I was treating the log, not only like a human but also as if I knew what it needed. It reminded me that we can never know what another person's experience actually is. What we may perceive as a struggle, may in fact not be for the other person. Even if a person allows us in and shares their personal experience, it is not our place to "push them off the rocks and free them from struggle." Even if we could do this, our hubris is robbing the other person of the learning opportunity. The struggle is the teacher.
At some point in our lives, we will all get hung up on the rocks. As we get battered around by the tug between the tides and the waves and ground on the rocks; we will all receive some scars. The beautiful part of scars, physical or emotional, is that we can look at them and see how much we have learned and how much we have grown. Like on the log, the scars tell a story. The next time you find yourself hung up on the rocks, try to breathe through the experience and see it as a learning experiencing. Similarly, if you should see a friend or a loved one in the middle of what appears to be a struggle, you can hold space for them but we must resist the temptation to truncate the learning experience and think we know best.