The word is…
There it is.
Such a fantastic word both as a noun and a verb.
Noun – the state of wonder.
We’ve all experienced wonder at some point in our lives — an amazing performance or masterpiece, a breathtaking vista, or the simple beauty of a flower. The sad part is, many of us choose to shut the door to this state of wonder at an early age. Perhaps our society teaches it out of us. Perhaps we just don’t want to appear childish.
The fantastic bits about being in a state of wonder: your body becomes relaxed and your mind becomes totally absorbed in the experience. You become fully present, with uplifted energy and consciousness.
To develop the state of wonder, start with the basics: the wonder of creating sound.
Many of you may know the 30 seconds of focus exercise that I do with my students young and old, beginner and expert. I have them play a rich, open string, and ask them to watch how their bow moves across the string, listen to the sound, feel the resonance of the instrument, and breathe. Their job is to keep their awareness on one or more of these, returning their attention back again from any thoughts that may arise to the simple act of enjoying one note.
One note played with full awareness and enjoyment has great power for both the musician and listener. It is a widely underdeveloped practice in music education. When even one note is accompanied with a sense of wonder, no matter how many times we may have played or sung it, it brings ever new enjoyment.
Replace the stale with the state of wonder. Practice not only in your music, but in your living, in your relationships, in your meditation. What can you notice that will fill you with a state of wonder? It will change your life as it is changing mine.
Verb – the act of wondering
Wondering is a choice. And it is a really good choice.
Wondering opens up curiosity. It opens the closed doors of fixed notions. It opens up new possibilities instead of staying in the ruts of old ways.
Let’s say I’m playing my cello and crash and burn on a hard spot. Chances are, my initial reactions will be shame, self-judgment, and frustration. These reactions can be replaced with the practice of wondering.
Instead of beating myself up or contracting my body with frustration, I can simply practice asking:
- I wonder what went wrong?
- I wonder if there is another way of playing this?
- I wonder how I can make it better?
- I wonder if others have found solutions that could help?
Immediately it changes the emphasis to an inside-out approach, rather than the outside-in comparison and judgment. The act of wondering opens us to the richness of true inner growth.
The cool thing about wondering? It’s not important to have all the answers!
I’m a recovering know-it-all. If someone said, “I wonder why this is…(fill in the blank)?” I felt that I needed to come up with the right answer, and I had to be right. Otherwise, shame on me for not knowing. I know, stupid attitude, right?
Now my practice is to answer, “You know, I wonder about that too! I wonder if it is because…” It’s a humbling act, but boy, is it freeing! And sometimes it opens us up to fresh new insight.
The energy of wondering is the most important thing. Instead of feeling stressful and contractive, your energy rises upward and expands as you practice wondering. Try it for yourself and see. Try wondering especially in meditation, when you can get still and notice it the most, by asking:
- I wonder who I truly am?
- I wonder how I can better attune myself to joy, love, peace?
- I wonder what happens if I open my heart wider?
For me, I want to spend the rest of my life in a state of wonder. I turned away from it as a teen, buried it deep as a young adult, and am finally now reclaiming what has always been mine. Practicing wonder is an act of remembering, for wonder has truly never left us. Even though it may have been ignored for decades, wonder can come back and crack us wide open.
This article was first published April 17, 2021, at DavidEbyMusic.com