These past few weeks, as I’ve been immersed in creating Renew, my brand-new 8-day intensive, the sheer exhilaration of making something that’s never existed before has swept me past doubt, and all the other clamorous trolls that cluster under the bridge yelling out their warnings of impending doom.
This radiant being whom I love so much, and have been privileged to bring into the world, will offer her gifts to those of you whom she is here to serve.
The past couple of nights, my sleep has been jagged, disjointed. I wake at 2, at 3 in the morning feeling the profound vulnerability of waving bon voyage to my beloved Renew as she runs into the world with arms opened wide — into her own independent life. Will you embrace and welcome her… or not?
What if? says my tender heart in the dark of 2 am. What if you don’t see how exquisite she is? What if she is too much of this, or not enough of that, for you? I know the power of her presence. I know, from long experience, what creative transformations happen when women come together to support each other in our desire to create within the worlds of our businesses living proof of the world in which we want to live.
And yet, what if I haven’t been eloquent enough, clear enough, in describing Renew’s power, her potential to help you transform your life and the world of your business? What if all these weeks of dreaming and writing and making, all the work my team has so lovingly placed in service to bringing Renew to you — what if the unique power and beauty of this life we’ve tended to is lost in the deafening roar of an overheated marketplace?
For many months now, I’ve been taking piano lessons — a first, for me, because I’ve never played an instrument before; never learned the language of musical notation. I began these lessons last year, as my 71st birthday drew near. I began because I wanted the experience of a relationship with music that was more than moving to and being moved by it. I wanted to understand it with my hands and brain and heart and body. And I wanted to experience being a beginner at a craft that has been central to the human experience for as long as our species has inhabited this earth.
I wanted, also, to renew that feeling of openness and innocence, of meeting a world entirely new to me, with no preconceptions and no agenda other than to be in the presence of its mystery, to be transformed and transported by it. To discover, eventually, what we might create together.
Every Saturday morning, I meet with my lovely, kind, infinitely patient piano teacher over FaceTime. It’s an exercise in trust on both our parts. She trusts me to approach the day’s lesson in my own way. She offers the structure of chords and melody, music profound enough to speak to me, yet simple enough that I can learn to play it, using the alphabetic musical notation she uses with her youngest pupils. With generous grace, she makes room for me to take the lead in how I learn.
At first, I play only with my right hand — the melody of classic favourites. Fur Elise. Claire De Lune. Ave Maria. Pachelbel’s Canon. A handful of others. I play without attention to rhythm or phrasing, knowing these will come later, in a natural, organic sequence. I play clumsily, haltingly. With long pauses as I hunt for the right note on my keyboard. I do this for months, until the music sifts into my bones and makes itself at home there.
For the past eight weeks or so, I’ve found myself fascinated with the nuances of finger placement. A refinement I could not have approached without those months of scrambling after notes, landing on them as best I could, flying without a net, flinging myself at the body of the music like a gleeful three-year-old.
Fingering (using those fingers that allow for the most fluid movement of my hand across the keyboard) changes my brain, links my body to the architecture of the music. All these months later, I’m still practicing the same tiny repertoire, but I’m getting to know it intimately, the way I knew my sons when they were babies. Music is snuggling into my belly, making itself at home inside me.
This is how I learn — by a deliberate process of ongoing embodiment in relationship with the work. So that it lives in me forever, woven into my creative DNA, woven into every cell of my incarnation.
This is also how I teach. And the reason I chose the women I invited to teach with me in Renew.
What you learn with your intellect must live in your heart and belly, your body, your bones and cells — your daily life. Your creative work is an ongoing practice, an everyday renewal of your own becoming. We are human, flawed, frail, utterly dependent on the grace of the world for the very breath that sustains us. We offer our art, our businesses, as gifts to our world, in gratitude for the gifts that life bestows so generously upon us.
This is what’s woven into Renew. It’s not an offering you simply receive — though you will, bountifully, with overflowing hands and heart — but one you participate in making through your own engagement and generative activity. We create this experience together.
Last week, I played Pachelbel’s Canon, both right and left hand together, for the first time. And felt — with a zing of electric joy that had me leaping to my feet; that made all the hairs on my head prickle to attention — the two streams of chords and melody flowing into a single river that ran through me and enlivened the air around me like nothing else I’ve ever known. Indescribable, the thrill of it — holy, holy joy!
Thing is, in learning to play the piano, I aspire to nothing other than to be in intimate relationship with it, and with the music. My brain and body thrum to the minds and creative hearts of composers long gone who left me this inexpressible gift — the gift of their art. A gift that opens a universe of joy and meaning for a woman many generations removed from their own.
In everything I create, in everything I offer you, I seek that connection across time and space, across the terrain of history. I seek to make something that will invite discovery — of your own gifts and genius — and bring you joy now; and will offer the same to someone picking up and practicing the art I leave behind, 200 years from now.
I want what I make to have a life that continues to serve and bless, delight, inspire and transform anyone who is open to it, who seeks its gifts: Discovery. Illumination. Truth. Revelation. Renewal.
Joy. Above all, joy!
If you’ve read this far, I trust that you want this too. Our businesses respond to the specific needs of the communities we serve. Those needs are both in-the-now — strategy and action to bring vision to life, to serve your community’s everyday needs — and they include deeper, universal, soul desires that are as essential as breath: Love. Belonging. Relationality. Devotion. Beauty. Understanding. Purpose. Communion. Joy.
How we navigate these imperatives and meet them in the world of our businesses shapes the work that will continue to serve and bless beyond our lifetimes.
When you make something that’s built to last, in a culture that values immediacy, neoteny, moving fast and breaking things, the what-ifs have a field day. Yet what-ifs aren’t always trolls — they can be angels too.
What if you listened to the deeper pulse of your soul? What if you chose luscious nourishment over the mouth-feel of fast food? What if you built your business to create and offer that which will live and serve life beyond you?