Play 

I have been humming and hah-ing about this post for a number of days – unsure of how exactly to synthesize all the thoughts swimming through my mind.

But after far too many hums and hahs, I realized I needed to practice what I preach and just do it (see last post) ... so here I am. 

I have been travelling through Mexico: taking in new sights, sounds and energies, and spending time with old and dear friends that I haven't seen in many moons.

I have been reading, thinking, meditating, laughing, writing songs, playing guitar, practicing Qigong, and swimming in the ocean. (And eating a lot of quesadillas.)

I have been thinking a lot about the creative process (not a new topic for me, but always an interesting one), and trying to put it into practice daily. (Check out my instagram for a process peek, and to hear some new song snippets!)

I have been reading the book Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch, and getting very excited about the idea of centring the creative process around play. 

You see, I have spent the majority of my creative life being afraid to 'play', for fear of making a mistake. It is only within the past few years that I have started to learn about how creation can be joyous and playful, rather than tumultuous and anxiety-inducing. I am only beginning to shuffle off the years of perfectionism, people-pleasing and pressure, and begin to play. 

Speaking of play and perfectionism: 

I have been going through my hard-drive, and re-visiting old songs and mixes that were never finished or 'released' into the world.

It's funny – as I've been looking back on previous creations, I seem to give 'past me' a bit more of a break than 'present me'. The imperfections and raw-ness that I hear in mixes of old feels endearing, rather than frustrating, or in-need-of-fixing.

As I have been re-visiting these old mixes, I hear a sense of play. A sense of awe and wonder at the recording process, and the myriad ways we can sculpt sound.

I've decided to release some of these never-before-heard songs from my past. Starting with a song that I wrote in Beijing about 2 1/2 years ago, and recorded in my basement studio two Falls ago, called 'Scenes'. Here is the link to hear this song on my Soundcloud. 

I am so excited about continuing to play within the realms of sound, and remembering that there is no right or wrong way to do anything. In the end, recording is about documenting a certain feeling or moment. Documenting the ephemeral feeling of spontaneous creation. 

On that note: At the very end of the song (around minute 2:55), something interesting happens. I had a song structure with verses and choruses all prepared. Then, at the end of the recording process, rather than ending the song as planned, my subconscious mind took the lead – and I began to improvise a melody, while subconsciously singing the words from the Desiderata (a hand-me-down from my mom's youth) hanging on my wall. The words are:


Go placidly 

amid the noise and haste.

Remember peace 

in silence.
 

Those moments where the unconscious mind takes control are the moments we live for in the creative process.

I am dedicated to continuously practicing and preparing my mind, body and voice for these fleeting moments of inspiration.

To showing up every day, letting go of expectation, surrendering control, and allowing myself to be a vessel for whatever words, melodies, or sounds decide to make themselves known.

To letting go of my ego and the need to create something 'good', and instead allowing the process to be a game of divine play.*

Much love,

K

*Divine Play  – Lila (Sanskrit) – 'The play of creation, destruction, and re-creation, the folding and un-folding of the cosmos. Lila, free and deep, is both the delight and enjoyment of this moment, and the play of God.' 
 


Scenes 
 

Thought I'd be bold 

A wise man told 

me: this place is but a dream 
 

Faces - they've froze - 

they forget it's their own 

game: this world that we all see 


Why am I afraid to live the scenes I see 
behind my heavy lids of sleep? 


I waited to grow 

a new spine 

to help me hold 

all these moons and galaxies 


The water's so cold, 

but we aren't too old 

to be more than who we've been 


Why am I afraid to live the scenes I see 
behind my heavy lids of sleep? 


Go placidly 

amid the noise and haste 

Remember peace 

in silence. 

Remember peace 

in silence.

 

Fear Elimination  

I had a magical meandering conversation with a lovely friend of mine today in the park.

One of the things we were discussing was: achievement. And, what drives achievement. 

I was reflecting upon my childhood, and the factors that drove my desire to achieve back then. I realized they were all within the realms of people pleasing - pleasing my parents by getting A's and winning piano competitions, pleasing my teachers by practicing / doing my homework, and... well, those were the main things I spent my time on in my childhood, to be honest. :) 

Now, my motivations have become quite different. I have shifted to what feels like a bigger picture. Now, my desire to achieve all falls within the focus of fulfilling my 'purpose' in this world - doing the thing(s) on this earth that only I can/will do. 

As New-Age or 'hippie-dippie' as it may sound, I truly believe that every human being on this earth has the perfect potential to fulfill something (or, some things) that nobody else could ever fulfil. 

Martha Graham, an incredibly fascinating and innovative choreographer, has a beautiful quote about this topic: 

"...Because there is only one of you in all of time, this [creative] expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost." 

Whether your unique 'creative' expression is to tend a farm in a small community, own a hotel, be a yoga teacher, write a novel, take care of dolphins, research bats, or write an album... that thing can only be done in that particular way by you, and nobody else.

And the funny thing is - as much as we hum and haw about finding our 'calling' and being unsure of our 'purpose'... I think, most of the time, we actually know exactly what it is we should be doing. The hard part is actually doing the thing.

Which leads me to the next pathway in our park conversation: What is the secret to doing things?

It seems to me that, simple and cliche as it may sound, Nike may have had the answer all along:

Just do it.

I don't know that there is any other trick or secret to it. 

I have heard the same thing from so many different sources:

If you want to run a marathon, get some shoes and a running outfit ready at the door, set your alarm, wake up in the morning, and run. Then: lather, rinse, repeat.

If you want to be a songwriter, write a song. Then, write another song.

...Lather, rinse, repeat. 

You become what you repeatedly do. 

So, if it's that simple, why is it that we have such a hard time doing the things that we want to / know we should be doing?

In my humble opinion, it seems to me that the leading character in the show of not doing things is:

FEAR.

That big ol' F word is the one thing that keeps us from doing the things we know that we should be doing. 

So, what are we afraid of? Failing? Making a fool of ourselves? Creating something subpar? Being judged/criticized for what we did/created/made?

Probably all of those things. 

But in the grand scheme of things, how do those things compare to the possibility of a potential creative/human expression being lost forever? 

I'll let you gnaw on that one. And I'll also say:

I am so excited about continuing this journey of fear elimination. I have absolutely no desire to let even an inkling of fear direct any sliver of my life anymore. 

This blog is one of the many steps in this process of fearlessness. With just "a drop a day" - one itty bitty droplet in a massive bucket of consciousness... I hope to shed all the layers of fear, one by one... 

And I invite you to join me!

With much love,

Kathryn

 

Dear Ego:  

Hello again!


It feels good to be here for the second day in a row, sharing words from the moment, after hiding from sharing for so long. It feels good to remember that everything is impermanent - even these words that are etched into the e-sphere (foooo-reeeee-verrrrr!) ;) 

I just returned from a beautiful living room show, held at the home of my upstairs neighbours. I can't tell you how amazing it felt to be sharing music to such an attentive audience - seventeen squished-in human bodies, totally silent and deeply listening. 

The evening began with a beautiful poet - Phil Kwon - reading his thought-provoking, contemplative, mesmerizing words. It was apparently his first time sharing his poetry out loud, which felt extra special to me - I know what it's like to create art, and keep it insular for a long time - and then to finally allow it to seep into the consciousnesses of others. It was a truly memorable set of poetry, and I was so incredibly inspired by his thoughts and perspective. I also loved the way he began the set - inviting the listeners to join him in chanting "OM" three times... It seemed to really bring the energy of the people together, and carry everyone onto the same wavelength (not surprisingly) :) 

Next, the lovely Gillian Stone sang a set of her songs. Gillian is a long-time friend and collaborator of mine - she is one of my absolute favourite humans to sing with, and one of my absolute favourite songwriters. Her melodies are perfectly meandering, her words so lyrical and image-inducing, and her voice so expressive and powerful. It was lovely to hear her songs in a new space and time, and experience a different version of these stories. And, to sing with her! I jumped in on a few songs from the audience - songs we hadn't sung together in many many moons - and it felt so delightful to feel our voices meet and merge. AH, harmonizing! There really is not much that feels better. :)

 And after Gillian, I was up...

...Hm. Performance. I could write endless words about my own experiences with 'performance', and how my perspective of performance is shifting as time goes by... I will get into some of the nitty gritty of that at some point. For now, I will say - I have experienced some deep performance anxiety in my life, which has kept me from seeking out opportunities to share my music, and kept me tied up in knots of anxiousness for a period of time before and after each performance.

I feel so lucky that this experience is shifting for me. Ever since I began playing the harp, it has felt more and more effortless to 'perform'. I remember stepping into my first harp performance (about one year ago, in Nanaimo BC)... and feeling so calm - so in the moment - a totally different experience than I had ever had on a stage. That feeling has stayed with me, in varying degrees of intensity, in each of my subsequent harp performances. Though my technical expertise and dexterity on the harp is (at the moment) quite a bit lower than it is on the piano, or even the guitar, there is something about playing it that just feels so right to me. 

This performance, especially, felt so calm and comfortable. I loved not having to deal with sound equipment - everything was totally acoustic - and there is something that feels so right about just resonating with the space that you are in, and the people you are in the space with. No affected sound. All real and raw. And so intimate! I was so incredibly close to the people listening, and that felt really refreshing. It was really incredible to feel everyone's energy in such a visceral way - and to be reminded that whatever 'art' is created in that moment is created by the collective energy - not just by you (the 'performer')... 

And, speaking of collective energy - I decided to take a leaf out of Phil's book and begin my set by inviting everyone to sing a few tones with me. That felt beautiful - a perfect way to begin a 'set'. And later, everyone so beautifully sang with me on the choruses of 'Across the Universe' and 'Woodstock'. And reminded me that there is nothing as powerful as many human voices singing together. You can feel it allllllll the way, deep inside of your bones.

Tonight reminded me of the human-ness of art. Of the desire and need to connect. So much of performance anxiety, I think, comes from this pressure to be perfect - to play everything exactly as it should be played, and create a flawless 'show'. I felt, tonight, so at east with my mistakes - so comfortable with being a human, and expressing my art in whatever form it decided to take place in that moment. It is only our ego that keeps us from this place of content-ed-ness - this ego that tells us we must be perfect; we must be an incredible, flawless artist; we must always play the right notes, or else we will make a fool of ourself.

Dear ego: I will not heed to your crazy demands. I will be a human; I will create, and I will make mistakes. I will continue to share, with no fear of judgement or criticism. I will be who I am, without apologies or shame. 

And on that note - I shall sign off and head to a place of rest. Thank you for listening to my meandering thoughts of the night, and I would love to hear your thoughts about performance, anxiety, perfectionism, or anything else that you feel called to share... 

Much love.

-K-

Love the Process 

Well, here I am on the interwebs, doing something that I've been talking about doing for a while - a blog post! If you know me in real life, you know that I often come up with ideas that I get super excited about blogging / podcasting about... erm, but I never do end up doing anything about it.

Why, you ask? Well, I seem to be a pretty excellent procrastinator. I seem to have a pretty easy time finding excuses in order to not do the things that I know I should be doing. (Sound familiar?) 

Well, I'm done with it. I'm ready to DO. To finish things. To put myself out there. To be vulnerable. 

I want to share this journey - this process - to document progress, and to give myself accountability for doing what I say I'm going to do. 

And in order to do that, I am going to complete a short blog post every day - to force myself to casually output, and not be so precious about each thing that I 'release' into the e-sphere. 

So, tonight, I will simply share some of the things that I thought about tonight, and discussed with a dear friend. 

Attachment
Oh boy, this one's a doozy. Tonight the reminder was to not become attached to feelings of calm, blissful, centred-ness. I was discussing with my friend our experiences at the Solstice Festival last month... I spoke about how I felt so incredibly peaceful, in my element, powerful and calm while there - ready to take on the world and anything it threw at me, and so clear about my path. But since returning to the city, it's been very difficult for me to carry that centred-ness with me. I've become scattered and un-focused, feeling like I'm losing my sense of power and command of my life. Watching these negative thoughts float through my consciousness, and wondering why they are showing up, has been strange. Becoming overwhelmed by the amount of things I have to "do" and "accomplish"... feeling like there just aren't enough hours in a day... allowing myself to become taken over by worry and stress about things I cannot control... It's really distracted me from the present moment, and from enjoying the simple things in life. I am reminded to hold on to these beautiful glimpses of centred, calm power, let go of my attachment and craving for those feelings, and open myself to the present moment - to allow whatever it has to offer to unfold. As difficult as it is, these lower points seem to have just as many lessons as the high points - and I hope to learn to sink more into these moments, rather than wishing them away. 

Process
I'll be honest - I'm often the first one to become caught up in the idea of the view from the top of the mountain, rather than the journey up. For example - since I began my journey with the harp about one and a half years ago, I have often had moments of frustration - wishing I could learn faster, regretting starting so late in life, etc. In moments of clarity, I am reminded that the process is just as beautiful as the destination - in fact, the process is the most lovely part of it all, because it is this gorgeous uncertain blossoming of something we cannot yet imagine - something that doesn't even exist yet. I am determined to stay in awe of the process, enjoy the climb, and take my time.

Becoming
My friend quoted another friend of ours tonight, on the topic of process: "We're not human beings; we're humans becoming." (David Phillips, or some of you may know him as 'Grateful Dave'.) What a beautiful reminder, that we are all floating through this life, constantly shifting and morphing, becoming more and more ourselves each day. I often get caught up in this idea that "one day, when I have my sh*% figured out, I'll feel (x) or (y), or do (z)"... A recurring lesson that continues to show up in my life is: we are all constantly trying to "figure it out". There are no answers; there are only more questions. So, why crave the answer when you can amuse yourself with more questions? 

Well, those are my thoughts for tonight. I hope the meandering paths of my consciousness triggered some sort of helpful thoughts in your brain, or at least gave you some ideas or reminders to float around.

Oh, and, speaking of process - I will be sharing some songs tomorrow evening (Friday) from my upstairs' neighbours' living room, and there are a few spots left to come listen! If you'd like to hear my latest sound processes, some lovely poetry by Phil Kwon, and the songs of my good friend Gillian Stone, you can reserve your spot for the show here: https://artery.is/showcases/living_room_concertYjhJ

Much love to you all, and may you learn to love your process, and the processes of those surrounding your orbit!

-K-

 

Singing with Mindfulness 

For a few months now, I have been holding weekly intimate PWYC vocal workshops in my home. We have been discussing and practicing 'singing with mindfulness', exploring the voice using various breathing and movement techniques. It has been totally fascinating hearing loved ones' voices and energies shift from week to week, as well as trying out some new methods and explorations.  

I have promised this group that I will record some sort of a video, and/or give a homework assignment, for the summer - to keep everyone occupied and growing. So, I have come up with some ideas for "things to practice [over the summer], if you're looking to improve your voice, breathing, and confidence in singing." 

1. Keep a breathing/singing notebook to observe practices and shifts. 
2. Observe your breathing daily. Write some observations in your notebook - for example, how often do you breathe using your diaphgram (into your belly rather than your chest)? See if your observations begin to shift the depth of your breath  
3. Notice the sounds you make on a daily basis (especially involuntary - such as yawns, sighs, orgasms, etc) ... Notice whether you are holding in any sounds that need to be released, and if so, try to release them! 
4. YAWN more often! Take yawn breaks from work where you consciously force yourself to yawn. It will become natural after a while!  
5. Notice your body, and take observations in your notebook... are you tense, or relaxed? If you are tense, where are you holding your tension? Are you sucking in your stomach (a tendency that most women tend to have, thanks to all those damn fashion magazines...)? See if you can consciously release some of your tension. Be patient with yourself! 
6. Make some sounds in different spaces - walking through tunnels, on the beach, in your room, in the shower - and notice how different vowels and pitches sound different in different spaces. Don't judge - just observe! Have fun!  
7. Lie down and just LISTEN to a WHOLE record. Observe. Enjoy. Document your thoughts.  
8. Sing a song with your friends! Just pick a song you all know, and sing it - badly - and have fun! Don't worry about whether or not you sound "good". The important part is connecting with loved ones with your voices.  
9. Try this amazing qi gong video! It's only 20 minutes long, and does wonders for the energy. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/videos-detail.asp?video=30 AND check out Ali's amazing class at Yoga Village on Tuesday evenings!  
10. Try singing a (or a few) long tones when you wake up in the morning and/or when you go to bed at night. Pick a vowel ("oh" "ah" "oo" whatever!), pick a note that feels comfortable, and just go for it! Hold it and feel the sound in your body. Breathe in again, deeply into your belly, and hold the note again. Notice the sensations, where the vibration is happening, how steady the note feels, etc. Just observe - do not judge. Try it a few times. Experiment. Have fun.  
11. Listen to the sounds around you. Notice how they make you feel, whether you like them or don't, etc. Observe, document, explore.  

Some of these 'homework assignments' will really put you out of your comfort zone. I highly suggest that you do them anyways! I find that being pushed out of our comfort zones really helps to bring vibrancy to life, and helps us to grow stronger.  

Thanks for reading! I'd love for you to comment and let me know what resonates with you, what you've tried and liked, and if any encouraging shifts have happened. I am hoping to record a video soon with some more specific vocal/breathing warmups and exercises... don't hesitate to let me know if you're interested!  

All of the love. 

music & mindfulness

Thoughts on music, sound, the creative/human process, dealing with anxiety/perfectionism, healing, 
meditation and mindfulness, and other such topics... from a twenty-something singer-songwriter, harpist, nature lover, high kicker, wave watcher, tree hugger, life lover.