Annapurna and Star-Gazing

‎”We can never exhaust the multiplicity of nuances and subtleties, which make the charm of music. How can we expect to produce a vital performance if we don’t recreate the work everytime? Every year the leaves of the trees reappear with the spring but they are different every time.”

– Pablo Casals

As the New Year opens up I feel the shift from the darkness of winter retreat towards a desire to open to the world, to gaze to the horizon of infinite of possibilities. This posture, Parivtta Janu Sirsasana, turns us towards the sky, and as B.K.S. Iyengar says, towards the stars. Can we gaze freshly? Can we find new meaning, a different approach, a more integrated experience in our practice?

I have just performed my ARCT piano performance exam with the Royal Conservatory Toronto. Never in my life have I prepared so hard for something and taken on such a challenge. It really defined the essence of practice- to rework, to rethink, to recreate something day after day until you know it inside out, backwards and forwards, in all it’s subtleties and intricacies.


I have been thinking a lot about peak experiences and the moments in our life when we push ourselves to the limit. In my 20’s I spent a lot of time trekking in Nepal. On one trip I had to climb a pass on the north side of Annapurna which was close to 18,000 feet, in very dangerous avalanche prone terrain. We had to get up at 4 in the morning, start climbing in the dark, my stomach was queasy, the altitude making it hard to breathe…and here you are having this unbelievable life experience, but you feel like crap and your whole being is pushed to the edge! The exam was very similar to that!! I found my edge…

I have yet to find out my results. However, for me, it’s not about the mark. It is about the totality of the experience, the beauty of the music, the sense of coming full circle and attaining a dream I have had since I was a teenager…and to have experienced such unbelievable support from so many people.

When Maurice Herzog became the first climber to successfully summit Annapurna in 1950, he wrote a famous book which ended with these lines:

“Annapurna, to which we had gone empty handed, was a treasure on which we should live the rest of our days. With this realization we turn the page: a new life begins. There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men.” -Maurice Herzog (born January 15th, 1919)

I have now climbed my Annapurna, and I didn’t have to lose all my fingers and toes to frostbite…and yes, my brain asks, did I pass? Would I do it again? For now, I am going to just rest, gaze at the stars and practice lots of yoga….

Thanks to Tim Bermingham for this photo!


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