entry 2 - meditation
Listening: Gungor - One Wild Life Trilogy
Reading: 'Be Here Now', by Ram Dass
"It is my choice," he would write in his journal, "not to live in this restless, nervous, bustling, trivial Nineteenth Century, but to stand or sit thoughtfully while it goes by."
- 'Walden', by Henry David Thoreau
We live in an impossibly busy, fast-paced society. If Henry David Thoreau thought the 1800's were too nervous and bustling for his health and well-being, I can only imagine how he would react to an average Facebook or Twitter feed. The amount of information invisibly flying around and between us at all times is staggering.
The equally interesting and unsettling part is this -- since our brains are flexible, adaptable tools, they are changing along with our culture. In order to keep up with the barrage of information, our attention spans have shortened. These days, it seems most of us have trouble sticking to one source of stimulation: we check our email while watching TV, we text or check our various social media while driving. Even acknowledging that it could be life-threatening, our rewired brains still crave more, more, always more. Meanwhile, our media and advertisements are evolving to appeal to these ever-shortening attention spans as well. It's a vicious cycle, a positive feedback loop. Where is it headed, and will it ever stop or slow down?
We are casting our mental nets ever wider instead of deeper, and it comes at a cost. It is exhausting to the brain. An exhausted brain is less capable of dealing with stress, so it runs away from the issues by going back to intaking information. You can't hear your problems if the background noise is loud enough. I am and have been guilty of all of this.
Here's where meditation comes in. It's an ancient concept and practice, but I believe it is needed more in this day and age than ever before. It is the practice of slowing down the brain, of giving it just a moment of rest, in order to exit and dismantle the cacophonous feedback loop pulsating in your head. I have found, personally, that just five minutes of meditating can completely change my outlook and interaction with the world for the rest of the day. I urge you to try it and see for yourself.
If you're willing to try, here's a good way to begin:
- Find a comfortable sitting position and set a timer for 5 minutes. I usually use my phone. This allows you to not care or worry about how much time is passing, and hopefully get into the present moment.
- Begin to breathe more deeply and slowly than you have all day. Feel the breath come through your nose and fill your lungs. Breathing is quite an enjoyable process, if you really focus on it.
- After you've been still for a few moments, try a body scan. Mentally scan through the muscles of your body and see if any are unnecessarily tense. Try to relax them fully. The body is constantly sending signals to the brain; if you can quiet these signals of bodily tension and pain, it will have an effect on your mental tranquility.
- If I'm feeling stressed, it usually manifests as this tightness in my chest. After I've quieted my body, I focus on this tightness. I envision it as a knot, and then envision it gently loosening with each breath, until it comes fully unraveled. By this time, this is usually the best I've felt all day.
- Now that you've breathed some relaxation into your body, it's time to give your brain the rest it deserves. The goal of meditation is thoughtlessness; to take a break from generating thought after thought. The best way to do this is to just focus on your breathing - slowly in and slowly out, in and out. Thoughts will come up anyway; after all, your brain has been used to doing this your whole life. But if you recognize that you've had a thought, that's a victory! Just observe it and let it pass by, then go back to your breathing. Keep this up until the timer chimes.
Chances are, you feel a little better. If not, don't give up! It takes practice to really start getting the benefits. Meditating can be a little hard or frustrating in the beginning, the same way learning any new skill can be. You can't be an master guitarist in one practice session, after all. Have patience, and forgive yourself for being less than perfect right away. Laugh at your mistakes and shortcomings. After all, it's all just in your head! :P
I was going to include the concept of mindfulness in all things here, but it looks like I've gone on long enough (especially for the average 21st century attention span). I'll follow up on it in another entry. Thanks for reading, and take care! Peace and love!
entry 1 - A month after 'Grateful fool'
Welcome to the new blog! As part of the latest round of makeovers to the site, I thought I'd add a place right here at home to share anything from music news, life events, philosophical ramblings, books/movies/podcasts that I'm currently checking out, and so on. Here we go!
It has now been a little over a month since the release of 'Grateful Fool', our first full-length album. It was a long, grueling labor of love, but I'm so thrilled that it is finally out in the world. It's a crazy feeling - to take something intangible, existing only in your head, and manifest it into existence (cue maddened cries of "IT'S ALIIIIIIVE!").
To be an artist is to cherish the messy, flawed process from inception to creation, from intangible to tangible. Unless you're a machine, it will never be an exact replica of what you had originally intended. And that's okay! It's a convoluted, cyclical feedback loop of a process that usually lands you pretty far away from where you started: you envision a work, you begin to create it, you react to what you've created and soon enough it's taken you in a different direction. The best you can do is make some blueprints, dive in, and fully enjoy the process.
The making of 'Grateful Fool', while long, was definitely an enjoyable journey. Now, a month after the release, I'm pretty happy with the response so far. Our city has warmed up to us and many more people have caught on, there are good press reviews appearing, and to top it all off, Spotify themselves have placed us on a popular UK playlist that has gotten our song 'We're Alive!' over 50,000 streams in two weeks! Incredible. Next up, time to book a tour. See you on the road!