The Key to Playing the Right Notes in the Musical of Life

In a past blog I wrote about how more often than not when any of us are asked how we are in the response somewhere will be a reference to how busy things are (even if just in our own minds). We just want more space to breathe. Recently I came across a metaphor that I wanted to share about finding the spaces in our lives and what we can do about it.

The metaphor has to do with music.

If you look at a sheet of music you’ll see notes and in between notes there are spaces. When you learn a musical instrument your body acts to play these notes. At first we have to go slowly to play one note correctly, stop in the space before the next note as we consider how we need to position our bodies to play the next note.

If we intentionally pay attention without being too harsh on ourselves, eventually the spaces become shorter and the sound of the music starts to come together beautifully (over time ofcourse).

However, if we lose our patience and just begin to start playing, eventually the spaces become shorter and the sound of the music sounds sloppy and not attractive to the ears. Eventually we may even just give up the instrument as the voices in our heads tell us how bad we are and how we’ll never be any good.

It’s our job to recognize the spaces in life where we can stop and intentionally choose to pay attention differently and perhaps even choose a different and more careful response. Over time, the spaces may get shorter as we become more effective at naturally playing the notes well.

This may be in a moment before reacting to our children where we notice the reaction and choose to consider their needs in that moment. Or perhaps it’s in the express checkout line when the person in front of us has 12 items and in that space we choose to practice mindful breathing. Or maybe it’s the space between lying down to bed and falling asleep where we consider what good things occurred in the day.

At the end of the day, we are the instrument in this orchestra called life. How we choose to engage and relate to ourselves and others through the process is the difference between hearing harmony or noise.

It all starts with the spaces and with an awareness of these spaces we can over time naturally and more automatically live a life that is music to our ears. This is the basis for The Now Effect (Atria Books, 2011)…stay tuned.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

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