benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

Month: June, 2014

INSIDE OUT

I get asked a lot how to stay motivated.

 

“Nobody wants to fuck a fat faggot,” is what I always say.

 

Vulgarity aside, I want to make sure someone is at full attention to really hear what I tell them next. That my commitment to health and fitness is simply remembering how good I feel AFTER I’m done working out.

 

I’m not focusing on what I will look like. I’m focusing on what I will gain emotionally and psychologically. This gets me going. This keeps me going.

 

I love knowing that I care enough to invest in my own wellbeing. The endorphins may energize my body, but my attitude thrives in the accomplishment of successfully completing the first to-do item on my daily checklist.

So when the alarm goes off at 5am, I pull it together. Because I’m going to be a better person outwardly if I can spend a little time exercising my internal mechanics.

 

Jesus said the same thing to the Pharisees. He observed that their cups were clean on the outside but filthy and full of self-indulgent greed on the inside.

 

And it’s so true. Appearance on the exterior is never as important as the beauty that emanates from within.

 

After all, nobody is going to care how big your biceps are if you’re going keep on being a bitter ‘ol bee-atch.

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WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES

“Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

 

The Little Prince | Antoine de Saint Exupéry

 

“You seem like you’re in a whole different place. Where do you go when you close your eyes?”

 

A regular and favorite weekend guest wants to know.

 

I don’t go anywhere. If anything, I’m more present and more aware. It’s a way to focus on the pulse of the room so that my playing will be integrated as an underscore to the atmosphere. I’m phrasing melodic lines to float in and out of conversations. I’m an active participant in the many voices surrounding me.

 

“Why do you close your eyes during your lifts?”

 

My trainer thinks this is a curious idiosyncrasy.

 

I’m mentally preparing a positive mindset. It helps me concentrate on my form. I’m breathing strength into the body parts that are engaged in the work. I’m shutting out any distractions that will hinder the success of the set.

 

But lately, I’ve been closing my eyes more frequently so that I can better hear my calling.

 

It is my job to provide movement by music and I enjoy moving my muscles, but I am not always moved to be as attentive to the Holy Spirit. Many times, the things that I want to do are not the same as the things that I am purposed to do.

 

So I close my eyes and willing silence the incessant inquiries of my own individuality.

 

In that quiet space, I fix my vision “not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

 

When I close my eyes, I hope to see more clearly and more essentially with my heart.

IN TUNE

I fall in love immediately.

 

My personal preference is the same for pianos as it is for boyfriends: sound bright and play responsively to my touch. So when we bought the white Nordiska baby grand, I was thrilled that I finally had both a wonderful instrument and an adoring partner in my life.

 

The first time I had the piano tuned after he passed away, I cried.

 

Emotionally, it felt as though I was the one getting the dissonance hammered the shit out of me. Not by the trained hands of my technician, but by the handling of another master.

 

Although a complex science, tuning a piano is fundamentally about compromise. The intervals between strings are adjusted for harmonic synchronicity. Digitally, the resulting wave patterns can be checked with computer-aided programs. However, my guy does his finest work manually and with complete aural accuracy.

 

Father Lord, fix me.

 

I hadn’t been a practicing Christian in my adult life until that day. And at this moment, the Sunday Schooling finally decided to kick in.

 

With frequent playing, pianos should get tuned twice a year. With frequent praying, I’m guessing most of us could keep equal temperament and pitch perfect a lot more often.

INSTRUMENTAL

I am so beyond pissed. Someone has nodded at me, as though we are longstanding compatriots purposefully engaged in deep philosophical discourse, and with the kind of smug all-knowing absolute grit that only Infinite Ignorance can foster, authoritatively declares: the piano sounds good!

 

No, honey. I sound good. ME. The piano is out of tune and the action on the keys SUCK ASS. So just to clarify, I make this thing sound fucking WONDERFUL. Every. Single. Night.

 

I immediately regret being insincere in this patent verbal response-reflex. Remembering that pride is one of the seven deadly sins and friendliness, which is really all this man intended to be, is not, I breathe irritation back into calm.

 

Of all the pianos I am blessed with for work, the baby grand in question here will ALWAYS be a shitty instrument because it lives in a restaurant and has been abused for years. There is absolutely no hope for its repair or reconstruction. It is not financially feasible as an investment. It will never regain its original significantly expensive value.

 

On the other hand, I have just chosen to be a shitty instrument of my own arrogance. The difference is that whatever abuse I think I may suffer, I HAVE hope. I am repaired and reconstructed daily though God’s loving forgiveness. Thus, it is completely feasible that I can likewise invest in others and be of value to their lives.

 

In penance, I play the Prayer of Saint Francis right there and then.

 

There are many versions of this text set to music but it’s the popular hymn version by Sebastian Temple that I like best. The opening lyrics have been modified to “let me be a channel of your peace” from the original “make me an instrument if your peace,” but the following remains relatively consistent:

 

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

 

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

 

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Whether erroneously attributed to the 13th Centruy saint or written by another now anonymous author, these words remain beautifully relevant and poignant. I reflect on them deeply as I attempt the instrumental.

SEED

I like to think that it has made a difference.

 

I’ve been obsessed with chia seeds recently and have been putting them in everything. From salads to soups to shakes, I do it because the tiny ancient grain promises to boost energy and increase stamina. Its name means strength in the Mayan language.

 

I learn all this from the Bob’s Red Mill packaging that inspires me to try chia in the first place. It’s organic and costs a pricey $9.99 per pound? Of course it has to be great. Right?

 

Chia is a superfood. Meaning that it contains more nutrients per ounce that other types of food. All those extra antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals are supposed to keep cholesterol, diabetes and a whole host of other medical concerns at bay.

 

I learn all this from the internet. Where I also find out that chia comes highly endorsed by Doctor Oz AND Oprah! Now I know I’m on to something awesome.

 

Finally, I am told that it absorbs up to 10 times its weight in fluid. I will begin to notice that I stay hydrated over long periods of physical activity and my performance increases dramatically.

 

I learn this from the runners at my gym. They have nice calves so I need no other reasons to put ALL my faith into chia seeds!

 

If a tiny amount of faith, as small as a chia seed, is motivating my health fitness goals, then how much more faith should I place in my spiritual practice?

 

Apparently, the same amount.

 

A mustard seed is about the same size as a chia seed. And Jesus explains that even on this scale, faith makes all the difference in the world.

 

Except that the mustard seed kind of faith needs no additional verification or research. I never have to wonder if it’s really working or yet just another placebo effect of marketing.

 

All I need to do it let it take root and grow into something big, bold and beautiful.