A Warrior’s Attitude of Musical Gratitude
What is the first thing that you do every day upon waking? Take a shower, check your email, mentally complain about your alarm seeming to go off earlier and earlier each day?
Bittu Mallick, a singer with an angelic voice I met at the India Yoga Festival, has a beautiful ritual he completes every morning upon waking. Before placing his feet onto the earth, Bittu makes pranam (a gesture of respect) to the ground, respecting the support Mother Earth provides and showing thanks for the natural blessing of another day. Passing by his parent’s room as a child, Bittu made pranam to his father and mother. In this way he pays his respect for all the love and nurturing that his parents provide.
Before Bittu has taken on any of the numerous tasks of the day he has already entered an attitude of gratitude. When we adopt an attitude of gratitude our problems seem to drift away as our blessings become more apparent and more abundant.
In yoga we strive to become humble and peaceful warriors. Men and women of strength, judgement, action, peace, and humility. We can see this emodied in the different warrior postures in our yoga classes. Warrior I cultivates strength, rooting our lower body to the ground and extending towards the heavens. In Warrior II we direct our focus, literally pointing at the task we are taking on. In Warrior III, we spring into action, lunging forward with all the focus and strength of our previous postures, like a seasoned warrior striking swiftly and surely. After the action has been preformed, we extend back into peaceful warrior, content with aligning our intention to our action and opening our hearts to receive new blessings. And finally we bow forward, filled with humility, saluting our own selves and all the beings we have affected with our actions.
A true warrior must have a cause worth fighting for, a cause rooted in the desire for ultimate peace. The true warriors of the world do not seek to conquer, to gain power over another being, but to create positive change. A true warrior recognizes the blessings present in our lives and shares these blessings with others. (Nelson Mandela is a true warrior who didn’t seek vengeance for his unjust prison sentence. He was grateful for the blessing of his freedom and used his actions to promote peace.) For us to become true warriors we must first adapt an atitude of gratitude.
Biitu comes from a lineage of classical Indian musicians and was encouraged to work on his musical craft for 4 hours a day, starting at the age of 7. Many days came where Biitu did not want to pick up his harmonium and devote himself to practice. But before grabbing his instrument, Biitu would make pranam to his harmonium. This simple act of showing respect to his instrument changed his attitude, connecting Biitu to his instrument of expression and his passion for music. After pranam, it became easy to focus on practicing because he was fully aware that he was doing what he loves.
As a drummer, I can easily relate to Biitu’s story. There have been days where the last thing I wanted to do was practice. During these times I lost my respect for the blessing of music in my own life. Every warrior has their tools, their instruments of change, and one of mine is my drums. No matter how much I beat on the drum, it always remains humbly ready to create a new song, a new dance. Now when I pick up a set of drumsticks it with a sense of reverance, a deep appreciation for the joy that music and drumming brings into my life. I mentally make pranam to this blessing before I grab my sticks, and let my musical warrior spring into action. And afterwards I am uplifted by the practice, the performance, and make sure to put the drums back in their cases (something I used to always neglect).
Bittu’s simple ritual has transformed my approach to my craft. Just the sight of drums now brings about a taste of the attitude of gratitude and an awareness of all the blessings in my life. This unconscious pranam brings about a sense of peace and contentment in an environment where society tends to encourage an attitude of ‘too much is never enough’. Perhaps this peace and contentment is what shines through in Bittu’s melodies, bringing blessings to my ears.