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By Renée Tillotson



Plugging away in my Still & Moving Center office at the end of a long Friday, I keep hearing delightful strains of music reverberating through the wall. What is that?!?

Curiosity piqued and my senses enchanted, I follow the music out the door and around the corner into our Membership room, Creativity Unbound. There I find two of our human songbirds singing and playing the keyboard: Mālia Helelā, our kumu hula, and Dustin Hara, our business consultant. 
Instantly and unusually deciding to renounce work, I ask to be a butterfly on the wall. They happily agree and treat me to several marvelous Christmas carols that they will soon perform at our Silent Night observance of Winter Solstice. I listen to their voices rise, fall and interweave in harmonies I’ve never before heard in these very traditional songs. From the roots of my hair to the soles of my feet, every part of my body tingles!
I pull Anna Morales, studio manager, off her quiet front desk shift: “Stop working and come listen!” She does. Mālia has to leave, the music wraps up, and we fall into conversation.
“Dustin, how did you ever live without your music?” I ask. “You have the most electrifying music story I have ever heard. I know that accompanying Faith Rivera’s singing at our Diwali last month was the first time you’ve played publicly in years. How could you not play?”

He replies emphatically, “I really don’t know. When I play I’m so free. The music just flows out of me. I don’t have to think about it. All the busy planning and thinking that I constantly do just stops. I love it.”

Listening to him, I can tell what he says is true. The music simply ripples out of his fingers and vocal cords.

 Dustin muses, “I guess I just played so much professionally and in churches, that I got burnt out. It didn’t feel right anymore.” 
Hmm… I think sometimes we let the money and pressure ruin something that gives us so much joy. And sometimes we just forget how vital that activity is to us. “I stopped dancing for way too long,” I say.

Anna exclaims: “ I can’t imagine you not dancing, Renée. Nia is such a big part of who you are. How long did you go without dancing?”
I heave a sigh and realize, “I went a quarter century without dancing. All through junior high, high school and college, my gymnastics provided me with dance. Once I graduated that was it. I got busy with my adult life of marriage, kids, work, my spiritual practice. When I found dance again through Nia in my late 40s, it was such a relief!”
I get excited: “It’s so important to do what we love!I recall in that moment, however, that Dustin’s love affair with music has been quite tumultuous.
Dustin showed early musical talent. His parents, both preachers, somehow scraped together the money to give their young son piano lessons. They sent him to a highly respected, old-school Japanese piano teacher, who rapped him with her bamboo wand if he went out of perfect posture or dropped the quarters he was supposed to balance on the perfectly still back of his hands while pressing the keys with his fingers. 

Although he learned quickly, the rigid, punitive training took all the joy out of music for Dustin. Within a couple years, he gave up lessons. His parents kept pushing him to play and he kept refusing. 
Eventually, his father couldn’t stand all that talent and good money going down the drain, especially when he had a church to fill with music. “Next week, son, you are going to play at our Sunday service.” 

Thud. Dustin’s heart fell. 

At this point, Dustin was an overweight, confidence-lacking teen who had forgotten everything he had ever learned in piano lessons. He couldn’t even recall how to read music.

By the time that next Sunday ominously rolled into being, our young Dustin had worked himself into a silent agony of premonition. He knew his doom was at hand. By the time he sat down at the church keyboard, perspiration was bursting from every pore. His eyes were swimming and he was sure that his fingers would slip and slide right off the keys. 
The church service started, and Dustin suddenly got a clever idea: He was going to accompany several musicians on the keyboard. All he had to do was…wait for it… TURN OFF his keyboard! He SEEMED to be whaling away on the keys without ever missing a note… by not actually making any sound at all!

Needless to say, that little trick soon revealed itself. After the first song, the music director walked over to Dustin and turned up the volume on his keyboard. Terrified, Dustin turned it off again as soon as she walked away.

During the second song, Dustin saw Ms. Patty Sakal gesturing to the tech crew to raise the keyboard’s volume in their mixer. No can.

Before the third song started, Ms. Patty walked straight to Dustin, flipped his keyboard back on and gazed deep into his eyes. “Honey, you just gotta flow.”

How on earth would he even pick out a tune, let alone provide music for the entire service? “Oh, sweet Jesus,” he prayed, “this is on you. If you want me to make a fool of myself and wreak this music service in your holy house of worship, I will do it. This is on You.”

Well, they say miracles can happen, and indeed one seemed to come blazing through Dustin on that remarkable day. All of Dustin’s musical talent, training and true love for music came bursting into the church that morning, filling it with glorious notes in praise of the Almighty. His hands found a way to play every song, including pieces he had heard but never played before. The congregation went wild with appreciation. Dustin’s father was the proudest man in the world that day.

Dustin had found his gift and his love: music.

What’s your gift? What’s your love? Are you giving yourself a chance to do what you love? 

Write and tell me about it!

Renée Tillotson

Renée Tillotson, Director, founded Still & Moving Center to share mindful movement arts from around the globe. Her inspiration comes from the Joy and moving meditation she experiences in the practice of Nia, and from the lifelong learning she’s gained at the Institute of World Culture in Santa Barbara, California. Engaged in a life-long spiritual quest, Renée assembles the Still & Moving Center Almanac each year, filled with inspirational quotes by everyone from the Dalai Lama to Dolly Parton. Still & Moving Center aspires to serve the community, support the Earth and its creatures, and always be filled with laughter and friendship!

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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)