Ukulele Spirituality

Freeing the inner musician within

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            After seven years of being in a case, I decided to pick up my ukulele again.  I began to re-familiarize myself with several major and minor chords, as my fingers were reminded of the nylon strings being pressed tightly against them and the calluses that sometimes form.  I attempted to follow along with a Youtube learning channel: Andy Guitar.  As I progressed to the third lesson, Andy encouraged me that knowing only four chords could be an entryway for numerous songs: C Major, G Major, A Minor, F Major.  I rehearsed and found empowerment in that with several particular strumming patterns. And then we landed onto The Beatles’ Let It Be.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

            As I sang these words and strummed my ukulele, I could not help but have tears form.  Perhaps it was the beauty of the words sung, and the reminder of sacredness that can exist within a song.  It could also be the power of finding musicality within oneself.  I have always reserved the creation and exploration of music for artists.  I could let them entertain me and suffice to find joy in that.  But to hear the lyrics and sounds emanate from myself was shockingly touching.   I know that my voice and skills on the ukulele are pure beginner, but that didn’t manner. 

            When I played these four chords, something unlocked within me.  The sounds were a transportation to a spiritual place. I began to cry in the act of engaging in this artistic endeavor.  I didn’t write the song lyrics or note progression, but I was participating in playing in it.  I cried for the years that had passed in which I had never afforded myself the freedom and latitude to immerse myself in music.  I had always compared myself to others who were better, played music for longer, or could do it as a career.  I used to think why should I make time to play or improve?  Why even start?  And now I was crying for the fact that I never allowed it to flourish.  Yet, here I was finding beauty in the simplicity of song.  Temporarily I was being the song, even if I was the only witness to this.

            During this time of Covid, perhaps you are in the same place.  Being locked down or staycationed in, we have nothing but time to engage in our artistic bucket list items.  It’s time to pick up that musical instrument collecting dust in the corner, pull out the paint brushes, start the book you’ve been putting off writing, craft your first poem since high school, or learn that tik tok video.  Whatever it is, whatever your age, it’s not too late to start. 

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.” 
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

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