I signed up for a 30-day gratitude challenge recently. To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to the non-personal emails that are delivered to my inbox, but today’s email caught my attention with its question: “Who inspires you to be your best self?”
At first, I thought it would be easy to answer that question. But when I started to think about it, my answers were a bit surprising to me. Instead of thinking first about people I’m close to, my family, special teachers, or role models in my life, the first people that came to mind were my students. And then, I was surprised to think next of my audiences.
Students and audiences?!
Well, it’s true that I just enjoyed giving an inspired performance of Massenet’s Meditation from Thais for a fundraiser this afternoon, and I taught a lovely class yesterday, so students and audiences have been very much on my mind.
But I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated before how much I am inspired to “step up to the plate” to serve my best self by these groups of people. In both cases – when I’m in front of a student or class, or an audience – I feel a certain responsibility to deliver my “best”.
I can be feeling down and dejected, but as soon as a student enters the room, something in me wakes up and becomes energized. My existence takes on an added dimension and new meaning in that moment as I take on a new role – one which serves.
I’ve never thought much about performing as “service”. Hmmm…. I must admit that I don’t think I had EVER thought of it using that particular word until a student brought up that idea in class yesterday, when we talked about how music and virtue might be related.
And yet…of course! Being a musician, performing for others, IS a form of service – just as teaching is a service.
The real beauty of it for me is how much each of these situations offers the opportunity for MUTUAL service and inspiration. The performer needs the audience as much as the audience needs the performer; the teacher needs the student as much as the student needs the teacher. There is reciprocal inspiration: while students and audiences learn and listen, the best teachers learn from their students, and the best performers listen to (feel, are aware of, sense, respond to…) their audiences.
When I perform or teach with awareness of my experience, with the intention to touch and connect and communicate and share and listen and learn and move and help and heal others, I am stepping into the fullest potential of my “best self”. My audience and my students inspire me to do this. And when I do this, I’m likely to inspire them in turn.
What beautifully beneficial relationships we can enjoy when considered in this way! I feel incredibly grateful to be able to step into these diverse roles. And I am very very grateful to all of the students and audiences who have opened up the space with their presence for me to take on these roles!
It is an incredible blessing to have people in our lives who are willing to receive what we have to give. So, thank you, dear readers, for being a willing part of my audience today. May you be blessed! Blessed are those who give – and those who receive! 🙂
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