How did a choir director, meditation teacher, and bagel maker go from a quiet, content life in Lincoln, Nebraska to a job as a Visiting Professor in Shepherdstown, West Virginia?
First, let me dispel the incorrect notion that meditation breeds apathy and/or passivity. While the Buddha noted that attachment was a primary cause of human suffering, in meditation you learn to develop the capacity to have hopes, dreams, and aspirations without becoming attached to a particular outcome. This is the key; I learned to try my best, to learn and grow, to LIVE MY LIFE, and to apply for that job. However, once I hit “submit” on that job application, I let it go. I may get the job, or I may not get the job. Worrying about it didn’t improve my chances of getting the position, nor was there any point in suspending my life while I waited for a response. Let me make a note right here: THIS IS VERY HARD. It takes time and practice to really believe that everything is impermanent, and because all things must pass, clinging to temporary sensations or constructs is foolish and self-defeating.
It turns out that I was a pretty good fit for the job. The position requirements–conducting three choirs, teaching conducting, and teaching a music appreciation class were all things I had experience doing many times before. More importantly, these were things that I enjoyed doing, and would like to continue to do in the future. I’m aware of the challenges of teaching in higher education but made a decision to move in this direction regardless because life isn’t perfect.
Next, I prepared for my interview. Friends, you can meditate for eight hours a day, but no amount of sitting in contemplation will substitute for doing your homework. I learned about the university, the department, and the people in my department. I sent some texts and made some phone calls to friends whom I thought may be connected to the institution and faculty. And, prior to the interview, I listened to a short, guided meditation that a friend prepared for me, and got into a good headspace for the interview.
Lastly, despite my wi-fi cutting out during my last answer on my zoom interview, I gave the best interview of my life. I spoke honestly, authentically, and tried to highlight my suitability for the position at every opportunity. I asked questions. I interviewed them. Because if I was going to move across the country on short notice to take this job, I had to be reasonably sure that it was the right position for me and that a long-distance scenario worked for my family. I focused on the elements of the interview that were in my control and let the rest be. Following the tech snafu, I re-connected to the zoom meeting on my phone, and finished the interview. The search committee promised to notify me of their decision by the end of the week and three days later – as they promised – I was offered the job.
As I write this, I’ve been at work in my new position for a week and things are going as well as to be expected. That is to say, things are going well because I do not have a pre-conceived set of expectations. I understand that I have influence over my immediate environment, but I do not have control over it. I’m open to and ready for whatever may come my way, and I couldn’t be happier.
Steve Grives, D.M.A., is a choral conductor, certified meditation teacher, and Visiting Professor of Music at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He can be reached with questions or comments through his email, . For further thoughts on mindfulness listen to “Midweek Meditation” on “The Steve Grives Podcast” available on your preferred podcast platform or at https://anchor.fm/steve-grives