Build Yourself Up

We are very rich in time just now – what will we do with it?

Snowmelt from the Catalina Mountains flows through braided channels in Tanque Verde Wash, Tucson, AZ. Photo: Su Lupasco Washington


This particular moment is a fantastic time to pick up the kalimba. It attracts you into the NOW and invites you to focus in as deeply as you can.

And when the world looks as it does right now, with fear and uncertainty, having something that you CAN do to create beauty and an aura of peace gives you a confidence-boosting sense of control over your life.

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I know that some of us have very important and demanding jobs that are stressing us out. But others of us have an abundance of free time on our hands. Either situation you find yourself in, the kalimba is a great tool for dealing with our reality as it is.

Playing kalimba might seem like an escape – and it is. I love to get lost in my kalimba playing. I can disappear into the instrument for hours.

But playing kalimba also gives me a renewed sense of peace and accomplishment that puts my head in a good place. It makes me feel wonderful when I can create such beautiful strands of music.

The video below is of me, playing my song “Build Yourself Up”, on the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba. I love to play as I walk in the natural areas around my home town, Tucson, AZ.

Playing kalimba gives me a sense of purpose. To create ever better music. To become better. When I push myself a bit on something new, I can feel myself getting better and better, day by day, and even hour by hour. What a wonder, to be on a path that, so long as I take steps on that path every day, I am becoming better each day. But it is all like that: yoga, writing, painting, pottery, cooking. To me, it seems that the results of practice might come a bit faster on kalimba. I suppose that is why I am a kalimba player.

The kalimba is a tiny little universe of music that YOU can actually control. With 10, 15, 17 notes… the musical possibilities of the kalimba seems small enough that you might actually be able to touch mastery.

And when I touch the edge of perfection and gain mastery over a certain passage or a certain song, I come into a great sense of fulfillment. When each musical success, I come to feel that I am fulfilling my purpose – to create a piece of joy and beauty in the world. Even if I am the only one to hear of feel this music, its affect on me, my mind, my heart, my emotional outlook – is real. And those will help me pass on my peace in my interactions with other people.

This is deeply satisfying – that while I am not the master of the waters I sail in, I can be master of my own boat. I can choose what songs to learn, what music to play, and to a large extent, I can master how I feel and interact in that moment of playing.

The music that I create with my kalimba… but also the process of practicing, playing, and growing musically day by day… is soul nourishing. Each day, it gives me countless moments of joy and wonder, and envelopes me in a sense of meaning, even if I question the meaning of events outside of me.

What goodness can we get out of these times? Pollution is down, activity is down. Mindfulness is up. And I suspect that for many of us, personal transformation is up. We have the time to slow down, to look within, to rediscover a child-like sense of wonder, to be present… and to be at the beginning of a long journey that will take us to new place.

Where do you want to go? It is time to decide. You chart the course. You are the captain of your own soul. Take it to a place that makes you happy and brings light into the world.

Oh, and the video below is me singing my song “Build Yourself Up”, all about taking care of yourself in this stressful time.

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