I’m a Buddhist and a zazen practicioner. I listen to a lot of dharma-related podcasts and one recurring idea that has come up recently is the idea that we get in our own way. I’ve noticed this a lot in my creative work; my compositions are generally worse when I try to Make Them instead of Let Them Be. Personally, I have a lot of work to do to “get out of my own way” and I was inspired this morning to talk about how I hold myself back (especially musically). I apologize in advance for this “public therapy” sort of posting. You don’t have to read this.
It all boils down to this: I should be doing something else. When I’m at home with my family, I should be grading or composing or planning. When I’m grading, I should be composing or spending time with my family. When I’m exercising, I should be grading or composing. When I’m meditating, I should be spending time with my family or grading.
I shouldn’t be sleeping, I should be working. I shouldn’t be working, I should be with my family. I shouldn’t be teaching, I should be taking time off this summer. I shouldn’t be sitting around, I should be making more money. I shouldn’t be blogging, I should be doing my job. I shouldn’t be doing my job, I should be taking care of myself.
I shouldn’t be writing this piece, it is too impractical. I shouldn’t be included on this program, I’m only here because of personal connections instead of merit. I shouldn’t be writing music, nobody wants to hear it. I shouldn’t be writing something this simple, performers aren’t going to want to play it. I shouldn’t be proud of my work, I should be self-deprecating. I shouldn’t be proud of my work, it isn’t any good. I shouldn’t have the job I have, I’m a nobody who knows nothing and a fraud.
I shouldn’t be a faculty composer, they are blights on the musical landscape (as we’ve heard many people say this summer). I shouldn’t be paid so much to do my job. I shouldn’t have health care because it is too expensive. I shouldn’t get tenure because I don’t have my music published by a third party. I shouldn’t be composing because my job is teaching, not composing. I shouldn’t call myself a composer because my job is grading, not composing.
Whatever I’m doing, I should be doing something else.
It gets crippling after a while. I’m working on it. It isn’t easy. I’m not the only person dealing with these sorts of issues, of course. But when I get out of the way, when I set all this stuff aside and just Do Something, the world opens up. I think I throw all these mental blocks in my way because I’m frightened of what would happen otherwise.
I shouldn’t have the life I have, I don’t deserve it.
What if I did deserve it? What if I actually believed that? What would my life be like then?
Back to work.