Everyone falls in love with music sooner or later. For one, it might be the time at Grandpa’s when someone put on Buddy Holly and the whole family danced like crazy. For another, it might be the roar of the crowd and the wail of the guitars at her first stadium show.
The seeds for my life-long love affair with music were planted very early in my life. Every now and then my parents would sit down and play duets, with Mom on the upright piano I still have in my house, and Dad on the old small-bore trumpet he played as a child prodigy in the 1920s, which was my first instrument. I remember the strains of the old Irish melodies and classical themes they would play. remember thinking, even as a child, that these tunes seemed to be sonic renditions of their love for each other and their life together. Their music, like their love, seemed to fill our home effortlessly and unselfconsciously, like the fragrance of a garden.
Here’s another seed in my musical garden of memories. Occasionally, upon taking a break from dusting the keys of that old piano, my mother would sit down and improvise in an easy jazzy style, spinning free-form echoes of the ballrooms and house par ties of her youth. These interludes were infrequent but always mesmerizing to my young ears. She seemed trans ported, utterly alone and yet completely connected to the moment.
In this effortless way, my parents germinated by example my appreciation for the simple yet profound power of musical play. This love took root deep in my heart and continues to grow to this day. This matter-of-fact approach to making music shows me that music is a totally accessible path to self-expression and a loving connection for everyone. You don’t need to slave at it or obsess over wrong notes. My parents cracked many, believe me, and smiled their way on to the next tune!
There is no need to master an instrument to experience the musical essence of self-expression, harmony, and rhythm. I believe wholeheartedly that these universal attributes of life are available to us within every step, every conversation, and every kiss. To live musically all we need do is listen and play at the same time, linking the concentration of a yogi and the exuberance a child.
Creation is a vast and timeless dance of vibration, a great divine composition of rhythms and patterns. In my book, Compose Yourself! Awakening to the Rhythms of Life, I explain how the elements of music—pulse, tone, harmony, etc.—correspond to the resonance of nature and how music energizes these attributes within our entire bodymind. As sentient beings, we naturally respond to these forces. Melodies move us to tears. The beat pushes us onto the dance floor. Sweet harmony resonates love in our hearts. Masterpieces of composition give form to our deepest thoughts and emotions. Following the clear example of the musician, uniting attention with intention, we can live a musical life.
The expressions of our musical nature are everywhere. The toddler dances to the music before she can walk. We have all been stung by a harsh tone of voice. The synchronized breath of the athlete or yogi imparts stamina and deep concentration. Our body is a magical orchestra of biological rhythms. Our voice is our instrument. The simple tools in the book provide a structure to bring musical resonance to your life, whether you consider yourself a musician or not.
Compose Yourself! presents scores of exercises and meditative activities designed to put the reader in touch with our innate musical nature. These were developed over decades of teaching at all levels. Another influence in the formulation of these exercises was my own struggle with recurring blindness due to a congenital visual handicap. When one sense is diminished, another often blossoms. As my vision deteriorated, the awareness of my essential musical nature became clearer and clearer. The exercises in Compose Yourself! instill physical, emotional, and spiritual resonance not through musical discipline per se, but through the musical attributes of resonance common to all of nature. What are the seasons, the tides, the rainbow, and the beating of a lover’s heart if not music? As we learn to sense to music happening all around us, our inner musicality can be appreciated, practiced, mastered, and expressed.