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evan pollack


The Two Hearts

All human beings live with two hearts.

One of our hearts is a physical organ that beats within us, pumping blood to all the places that need to keep us physically alive. We can see it. We can track its pulse. We know it exists.  And we know that without that physical beating heart of ours, we would be six feet under.

However, we have another heart. This heart is a heart that we cannot see with our eyes. This heart is much harder to track. In fact, this heart is at times so deeply hidden within us that we might not even recognize that it exists. But it does. This heart is the heart of the soul. And this heart is the one that I want to define and explore for musicians.

Depending on your perspective, the heart of the soul can live in one of two places. If you lean towards the scientific approach, it lives within your physical DNA and your brain chemistry. If are attracted to the spiritual side of life, you would say that this heart is located within that non-physical part of you that makes you, well, uniquely you. No matter where you think this heart is located, it works the same. It scans your life, like a search light at night, for moments that confirm what’s most important to you.

Now I realize that on the surface, the answer to the question, “What’s most important to you?” can be different for everybody. But is it? Don’t we all want to be loved? Don’t we all want to matter? Don’t we all want to be heard? The heart of the soul looks for pockets of clarity that help us to understand our circumstances. It hungers for opportunities to help you share your life with others. This heart will confirm what you probably have known all along:  that what is most important to you is your connection to the world and to those around you.

I can’t think of a more important realization for any musician. Why? Because the act of making music involves dealing on all levels with this concept of connection.

When we play our instrument by ourselves, we crave that connection to the notes we play. We want to feel the groove or melody deep within our bones. We want to play sounds that are pleasing to our own ears. We want to experience the sublime astonishment that comes from clearing our minds and just playing whatever comes through our bodies.

When we play our instrument with others, we want to connect our notes with the notes of the musicians around us. We want to support and strengthen the music coming from others with what we play. We want to feel the power that comes from all the musicians sharing the same vision of the music.

When we play our instruments in front of an audience we want a two-way connection. We want to touch their hearts. But we also want something from them. We want to them to listen and acknowledge that we indeed are sharing a musical experience together. 

While our physical heart allows us to live a life that includes playing instruments, the heart of the soul allows us to live a more vibrant life. This heart acts as a conduit to a life where wisdom, inspiration, inner strength and peace truly exist.

Imagine what your musicianship would be like if you felt the “beating” of your soul’s heart? You would truly feel connected to something bigger than yourself. You would have a desire to serve others with your gifts. You would want to share your life with other people and have them share their lives with you. By allowing the soul’s heart to come alive within you, the world resonates with energy, passion and hope!

So how can we access this heart?

The first step of involving the heart of the soul is to listen to yourself. Go to your practice room and play your instrument. Don’t think. Just play. Are you hearing things in your playing that make you feel alive and excited? Do you notice that you’re playing things that make you happy? That’s so important! Again, are you playing things that make you feel good inside? Don’t look for complexity. Don’t look for attention-grabbing tricks. Just focus on listening to yourself while you’re playing.

It might take a little time to get comfortable with the concept of just playing your instrument without any purpose other than to listen to yourself and see how you are feeling. Our brains like to jump in and tell us things like, “You should be working on that technical study right now!” Or, “You should be concentrating on those jazz beats in that book!” Don’t worry. There’s plenty of time for that. Trust me. Your brain gets quite a workout when it comes to studying an instrument. But what about your soul? When was the last time you allowed your soul’s heart to participate in playing music just for the sheer joy of it? The act of just playing your instrument without any expectations usually bring a sense of relief and the release of the freedom that we all need to make great music. This is your opportunity. Take it!

I would suggest one more step in the process of involving your soul’s heart in your musical life. Adopt an attitude of serving others with the music you make. Listen to what your band mates are playing and then add what you feel helps bring the best out in their parts. Also, consider the idea that you are playing to add to your audience’s life. These acts of giving on your part lead to the gift of receiving true appreciation for what you do as a band mate and as a performer. That’s a gift that any musician would take over the ability to play the hottest licks! 

We live with two hearts. We need them both. One heart keeps us alive. But the other one? The heart of the soul? That one keeps us more than alive. It helps us sense purpose and meaning. It gives us a connection to life. Once you discover your own heart of the soul, you’ll never look at or hear music the same way again. Become aware of this heart. Appreciate its presence and cultivate it. Your life’s music will begin to soar. And so will you!

—Evan Polack