When was the last time you paused from your busy life to do something specifically to feed your soul, to nourish your spirit?
I don’t mean just doing something you like to do. When was the last time you actually set aside a period of time – whether planned or spontaneous, whether for an hour or for a week – with clear intention to refill, to replenish, to rest, to inspire?
As I write, I’m in the Netherlands, and it’s the first of my two days off between two intensive multi-day programs. I awakened early and lingered in my bed to listen to the symphony of birds in the forest around me. I was already savoring the idea of a slow day at my own pace. I was looking forward to stretching out the day to be as long as possible. I was already imagining morning meditation with no time limit, a walk around a nearby lake, sitting in the warm sunshine of this bright yet crisp spring day with a warm cup of coffee, and, at some point, doing some writing. A perfect day.
Yet as I slowly descended the stairs from the sleeping loft of my little cottage to the open living space below, something else called out to me – something I hadn’t planned for today.
In that moment, I remembered that the memorial service for Joe Flummerfelt, one of my music mentors and former colleague and friend, had taken place just a week ago. I wrote a tribute to Joe in this column back in March just after he died. He was an extraordinary man, a consummate musician, and, as one of my fellow mentees remembered him, a “hero of the spirit.” In his obituary, The New York Times called him “the pre-eminent American choral conductor of his generation.”
As I opened the patio door to take in the fresh morning air and to be closer to the sounds of the birds, I realized that today could be my opportunity to watch the live-stream video of Joe’s service. This had not been my plan, yet the pull from my heart was strong and clear. It was time to rest in what I knew would be an extraordinary celebration in music and tributes to Joe’s life and work. I was tired after my full week of teaching, and I had a feeling that watching this video would fill me up again.
I made a pot of tea and settled in at the small table looking out into the lush garden. The giant rhododendron trees are just beginning to bloom – a perfect setting to rest and take in this experience. Joe’s colleagues, friends, and family had come from all over the United States to gather at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, his church home in the last years of his life.
As the live-stream began with a Bach organ prelude played by one of Joe’s former students, I could also follow the real-time chat alongside the video – comments from people who were tuning in for the service from afar. Once upon a time, I had known some of those people quite well. I was taking a journey back 40 years in time to my formative years as a musician, as a person, and as a teacher. I also noticed that 14,000 people had already viewed the video. That was incredible to me.
As I anticipated, this was so much more than a memorial service. It was even much more than a concert and celebration for Joe. This was a celebration and a lifting up of the highest ideals of life, leadership, service, inspiration, and healing in our world.
The choir for the service was made up of 40 or 50 of Joe’s former students and professional colleagues. They sang five choral anthems from the classical church music repertoire – pieces by Duruflé, Howells, Bainton, Brahms, and Lutkin that I had sung many times with Joe. The three hymns, also favorites of mine, were soaring and uplifting.
For two hours, I sat mesmerized by the music, words, love, and tributes. I saw message after message in the chat from people who had been my fellow students and singers with Joe – people I had not been connected with for many years. Tears flowed, yes, yet they were tears of joy and celebration for Joe and for so much more. I was celebrating all that he stood for as a servant to the human spirit, and touching the place where that desire and commitment also lives in me. I was touching the creative spirit inside of me, and my deep calling to connect hearts and inspire generosity in others by how I live my life. Joe was a great model for that. And I was reminded once again of the power and immediacy of art and music as nectar for the human spirit.
When the live-stream was over, I knew that my soul time was not. My whole system was still vibrating from the experience; my heart was filled to overflowing. I eased into my morning meditation, continuing to bathe in this energy, and then went for a walk around the lake in the sun.
These few hours of soul nourishment were such a gift. I was reminded once again that taking care of the soul and giving our spirits the chance to rest and renew, to be filled and inspired, is a necessity for a robust and thriving life, and for bringing our gifts to the world.
Life is full. You probably have a lot going on. What are you doing to feed your soul?
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