Vacations are just to get away from myself.
Music Teachers Need Vacations Too
I love to travel and explore new places, but I’ve begun to notice something: each time I go away, I gain something. It’s not just the usual rest, relaxation, and renewal. That’s vitally important, but it’s beyond that. I gain some mental space, I can think clearer, see my best options, and make better decisions.
But it doesn’t have to be a big trip.
Coffee shops, libraries, and hotel lobbies are some of my favorite places to write, plan, and get work done. Why? I started wondering about this. Is it just the beautiful furniture? The ambience of the space? The people? What I’ve begun to realize is that I’m running away from my stuff!
Have you ever rearranged the furniture in your home or studio?
I tend to do this a lot. I feel better immediately with some arrangements.
Wind and Water
When I lived in Hong Kong, I had a friend who was a feng shui master. This is the ancient art of harmonizing with the physical environment. Feng shui literally means wind and water. As a musician, I have no trouble understanding harmonization! Who wouldn’t want to be in harmony with their surroundings? It works, but over time, I forgot about it.
This summer, I was sitting in a state park reading, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. You may have heard of this book as it has been a NY Times best-seller.
As I read, I was intrigued. Kondo is a bit wacky, and I like that. She speaks metaphysically about objects and clothes. If you’ve ever seen any films by the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, then you will feel right at home. Musicians are metaphysical too! We believe in the power of sound and waves of energy even if we don’t fully understand it.
So here’s what I realized: you can access your best self from the outside in. By decluttering and purging unnecessary stuff, you clear space physically, emotionally, and mentally. It allows you to be the best you can be.
Each and every possession takes a little bit of our mental quota. Have you heard of decision fatigue? (I wrote article about it here.) It’s why they don’t allow presidents to order their own meals. There’s a finite amount of decisions a human being can make each day. It’s why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit everyday. It’s also the reason car salesmen wear you down with an overwhelm of options!
A 3-Step Process To Your Best Music Teacher Self
1) Purge your unnecessary stuff.
Donate, sell, or throw it away. If it doesn’t, in Marie Kondo’s words, “spark joy,” get rid of it. “Letting go is more important than tidying…Being surrounded by things that spark joy makes you happy.”
2) Digitize papers and/or sheet music.
Use a scanner or even your smartphone. Music teachers need to find music fast and I use a combination of digital files and bookshelves.
Don’t buy all the fancy bins and organizing tools, use your closets, shelves, and cabinets. Kondo has a rule about storing everything vertically. Even clothes. She has a special way of folding clothes.
For digital organization, use Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or something similar. See the guided tour of Dropbox below.
Depending on how much clutter you have, this process can be a weekend project or up to six months! But it’s worth it, soon your space will be reflective of the person you truly want to be. Detoxing your home and/or work space will also detox your body and mind.
Clearing Space For Learning and Teaching
Students and clients can also feel the difference. By having a clean, clear, tidy space for learning, they can focus on the content not the clutter. It’s subtle, but clearing your space will free up energy for them as well.
Just as customers like to walk into a beautifully designed restaurant, your clients will appreciate a beautifully designed learning space.
A Better Music Teacher?
I’m not quite finished with my detoxing, but already, I feel lighter, clearer, and happier. It’s a surprisingly simple way to change your life and access your highest, best self. If you feel overwhelmed during this process, take a break and listen to something like this.
“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle.
Recommended Reading and Resources
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – by Marie Kondo
- What is DropBox – a guided tour
- Feng Shui Made Easy – by William Spear
- A Master Course in Feng Shui – by Eva Wong
- Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience – by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – after you clear your space, you can get back into a “flow state.”