Meaning to a Muse

Reflections on Creativity, Well-Being, and Life Meaning From a Transpersonal Music Psychotherapist's Perspective

Your Re-Sounding Self: Being Your Voice, Being Your Truth

What comes to mind when you think of the word “voice?” Do you immediately think about the voice of someone you love? Someone you fear? Or do you associate the voice with singing, causing you to begin thinking about the sound  of your favorite singer?

Finding a New PerspectiveYou may instead think about your own voice. If so, what thoughts come up when you think about your voice? Are you feeling a pit in your stomach at the mere thought of thinking about your voice?

All sorts of judgements can come up when we think about our voices. We may judge the way our voices sound when we speak or sing. I frequently encounter people who have long held the belief that they were “tone deaf” or unable to “carry a tune.” I can’t begin to tell you how many times people have told me stories from their childhood where they felt shamed by their school music teacher who told them in front of the class to “just mouth the words.” (Note for the music teachers out there: Such stories have often come from older adults who were in school during the 1950s-1960s).

Still others may judge their voices from the perspective that what they have to say has no value. This can be especially common for those who have experienced abusive situations where they were told “not to tell anyone,” or were given other messages that were devaluing to who they are.

The Depth of Our Voices

As you may be able to guess, our voices can communicate a lot. From simply being a way to relay our thoughts and feelings, our voices can also express our values and beliefs. These can be in regard to ourselves, as well as in regard to others.

There is the actual content of WHAT we say, along with HOW we say it. With that, what we say with our voices can be both conscious and subconscious.

What We Communicate

The “what” of what we communicate is that which we’re saying. This can be understood as the words we’re using, or the ideas we’re expressing. However, what we communicate may be conscious or subconscious. For example, the conscious part of what we’re saying are the actual words. However, if our words aren’t congruent with our body language, tone of voice, or other non-verbal communicators, then we may actually be communicating something completely different than what we are aware of.

Exercise: Stand in front of the mirror and say something positive about someone, something, or some situation that you really don’t like. What do you notice in terms of your posture, tone of voice, or facial expressions?

How We Communicate

The above exercise touches upon how we communicate. As you can guess, this may also be conscious or subconscious. There are several components to how we communicate. They include non-verbal forms of communication, such as our body language and facial expressions, as well as tone of voice.

Sound Production & Vocal Health

On a fundamental level, how we communicate is influenced by how we use our voices to actually make sound. For example, you may have heard about the vocal phenomenon called vocal fry. It has been frequently reported on, including from the perspective of gender and empowerment.

However, vocal fry can also be damaging to your voice because of the way this form of speaking causes the vocal folds to move.

By understanding how we make sound, we can begin thinking about how we’re saying things. If you work in a profession that requires a lot of speaking, you may notice that your voice becomes tired or raspy by the end of the day. What would it be like if you knew how to use your voice in a healthy, optimal way?

Thinking About What We’re Saying

When we think about what we’re saying, we’re taking into account our thoughts. What is it that we want to say? What do we really think about what we’re saying? Do our thoughts make sense? Will they make sense to others? What would it be like if you could easily express your thoughts?

Getting to the Heart of What We’re Saying

Likewise, how do we really feel about what we’re saying?  Are our feelings really aligned with our thoughts and what we’re saying? What would it be like if your thoughts and feelings were aligned as you spoke?

[Webinar] Re-Sounding Your Self: An Intensive Voicework Group

If after reading this, you feel like you’re ready to change your relationship to yourself and your voice, you may be interested in the “Re-Sounding Your Self: An Intensive Voicework Group” I offer through Thevoicework webinar Spirituality Center at Learn It Live. In this 4-session course I cover the fundamentals of sound production, vocal health, and articulation. The interplay of our thoughts and emotions are also addressed within the context of singing, but can be carried over into speaking, as well.

The format of the course is structured as hour long voice lessons, where vocal concepts are introduced that build upon the concepts covered in previous sessions. Educational information is provided, which is then followed by vocal exercises that support and reinforce the topic of the session.

Participants are encouraged to sing and have fun with their voices, for it is through playful practice that mastery can be achieved!

If you are ready to befriend your voice, and ultimately yourself, you can register for the course by clicking on the course image or by clicking here.

 

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Music to Bring Light to the Dark: An Interview with Jess Rosario

Jess RosarioJess Rosario is a singer-songwriter in Longmont, Colorado.  She can be found performing around town as both a solo artist, and with various groups. A true lady of “rock and roll,” she and I recently sat down to talk about the role music has played in her life, and her relationship to music. You can listen to our conversation below.

(Note: Maya Bennett is the singer referred to in the interview. Learn more about her projects at  http://www.mayabennettmusic.com.)

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“The Prairie Scholars'” Way: An Interview with Jessica Eppler

Jess EpplerA few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with my friend, Jessica Eppler of The Prairie Scholars. During our conversation we talked about the role music plays in her life, and her experiences as a full-time musician in Longmont, Colorado. The following pages capture our time together that afternoon:

Faith: So… my first question is, “How long have you been making music?”

Jess: My earliest memory IS making music. When I asked my mom about this memory I have, she told me I was about 3. She’s a piano teacher, so there’s a piano in the house. It’s about Christmas time, my mom is in the kitchen making food, and I am at the piano picking Christmas songs out by ear. I would finish one and she’d go, “Alright… ‘Silent Night,’” she’d, you know, throw one out there, and I’d pick it out by ear. Just one note at a time kinda thing. But yeah, my earliest memory is picking Christmas songs out by ear! [laughs]

Faith: Crazy. So, you must have an amazing ear to be able to pick that out at 3 years old.

Jess: I’m not sure how well I was doing, but… I was doing it. [laughs]

Faith [laughing]: It was well enough that your mom could recognize the song.

Jess: Yes, true. That’s something. So, yeah, music has been in my whole life.

Faith: Cool. So I guess because your mom is a piano teacher, I guess she was making music while you were in utero?

Jess: Oh, for sure. She was probably teaching before then too, and she and my dad would play together. He plays a little bit of piano and guitar, but mostly plays the drums. They both sing, and my mom does piano and guitar, and a little bit of cello. My brothers are both musical, too. One more than the other, but… [laughs] They’re both musically inclined.

When I was a kid, my mom had a home studio. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be in the house during teaching hours. My brothers are older than me so they’d keep an eye on me. We’d either go upstairs or go outside. We were never supposed to go inside to the main room. I would tell them, “Hey, I’m gonna go make us a snack…” And I’d sneak inside ‘cause I knew when the really talented students were coming. I’d go sit by the door and listen. I’d tell my mom later, “I want to learn that song that goes like this…” and I’d sing it to her. And she’d go, “Where’d you hear that?” [laughs]

But, yeah, I’ve always liked it. I’ve always wanted to do it. I didn’t necessarily think about doing it for a living, but… You know, it’s funny how the skills that you have are what you have to work with in life. So now I do music for a living. [laughs]

Faith: Nice. And how long have you been doing music for a living?

Jess: Oh… I guess full-time, this will be 3 years. but I’ve had my fair share of day jobs. I had 7 years at Starbucks. You know, just trying to get health insurance and pay the rent. [laughs]

Faith: The American Dream…

Jess: Yeah… my husband, of course as you know, Andy, we do music together. He’s been full-time for almost 3 years, too. Mostly, it’s been a lot of playing music, but accidentally learning skill sets like how to keep your books clean and fill out paperwork. Reporting all your income. Your miles that you drive. Receipts. We keep receipts when we spend money for the business, you know, like this. This coffee is a tax write-off because I’m being interviewed about music.

I actually wanted to go to college for psychology, and it was my parents that influenced me to go for music. Which is totally opposite of most people’s experience with their parents. They said, “Try it for a semester, and then if you don’t like it, go for psychology, that’s fine.”

But once I went, I loved it. I met Andy and things just kinda fell into place. I just kept moving forward with it. My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to find a job because I knew I didn’t want to teach music and didn’t know what the options would be. But I’ve made my way. I’ve found a job. Made my job. [laughs]

Faith: There it is. You studied music, but was it for performance or…?

Jess: It was called “Commercial Music” And it was a program at South Plains College in Levelland, TX. You take classes like songwriting, music history, some theory classes, vocal lessons. My major was in voice because I already knew how to sing and read music, and I figured it would be the easiest thing to major in. [laughs]

There were classes like “Performances and Promotion.” I had one really amazing professor who I’ve never forgotten, and I still send him thank you notes. His name was Scott Faris, and he took the time to sit down with me one-on-one, and teach me how to do Turbo Tax, he taught me what kind of information you need to keep if you want to do music as a business. What you need to be thinking about. So I’m forever indebted to that man.

Andy went to school there too but he went more the recording route. We took all the same classes, but I kind of favored the promotion, booking, contracts, numbers side of things, and he kind of favored the Pro Tools, sound engineering side of things, and so together, things just clicked into place. We have some overlap: song-writing, playing and that, but it’s good that we have pretty different skill sets so we can cover a broader spectrum together.

Faith: ‘Cause to make it full-time as performing musicians you need to have both of those…

Jess: Yes, most definitely.

And, you have to find a lot of legs to stand on. You can’t just play shows. One, your body is going to give out eventually. Two, our business model is that we’re staying local, we don’t want to tour so we can’t just play the same show for years. We’ve put out at least 12 collections between the 2 of us. That was the last count from last year, and I just put out a piano album in December, so it’s more than that now.

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Embodying Voice & Self Reflection: An Interview with Francine Brocious

FrancineFrancine Brocious is an author based in Pennsylvania. Her writing style is built upon self-reflection, and she recently wrote the book, “All About Me: A Journey of Self-Reflection,” which encourages others to dive deeply within themselves. She and I have known each other since 1999, when we both were music majors at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Below, she shares with me her experiences with music, and development as a vocalist.

  • How long have you been making music?

Since I was very young.  My parents said I’d wake them up by humming in my crib!

  • When did you know that you wanted to make a career out of music?

When I was in high school, I joined choir and had a wonderful choral director.  I got very involved in all choir things.  I loved the director, and I found I actually had skill with things like sightreading and learning songs easily.  I also loved the choral sound and the excitement of doing the concerts.  I loved the social aspect as well—feeling like I was included in a larger group and doing something that felt bigger than myself.  After my high school experience, I decided that I wanted to be a music teacher just like my director.

  • What led you to music?

My father could play by ear on the piano.  He never formally studied, and his sense of rhythm was…questionable.    But he always (eventually) found the right chords to play things like simple rock-and-roll tunes and such.  Both my parents sang in church, generally in the congregation, and then later Mom sang in the choir.  (Pop sang loudly, and he’d hold out the second vowel of any diphthong for as long as possible!)    One day, when I was probably 5 or 6, my parents found me trying to plunk out the Sesame Street theme song by ear on the piano.  They made me take piano lessons from then on.

  • What were some of your earliest experiences with music?

I hated practicing piano!  I would always wait until about half an hour before each weekly lesson.  After my parents divorced, Mom made me keep studying.  I didn’t really have a say in the matter.  But I never felt prepared for my lessons, and my teachers would always comment on that and tell me to practice more.  It was always obvious that I hadn’t.  This cycle likely reinforced a sense of self-sabotage and guilt in me from a very early age, in addition to other guilt I was getting from my mother for other reasons.  I just learned to deal with it and accepted it as normal, because I could never get out of taking the lessons.

I also hated the severe stage fright I got for each yearly piano recital.  I was never told how to manage this, or given the impression that I was still an okay person even if I messed up.  It wasn’t that Mom would scold me if I made mistakes.  By that time, I’d become my own little perfectionist and didn’t want to make any mistakes, yet, that’s all that would happen when I would freeze up or my hands would shake at the piano.  I was told to do my best, but I knew it wasn’t my best, and I hated the whole process.  I hated getting compliments from people who meant well, and Mom just brushed off how uncomfortable I felt as well.

Otherwise, besides that, I remember liking school music classes.  I remember in maybe 3rd or 4th grade, consciously realizing that I was one of the only students who was singing in tune with my teacher and the piano when we learned new songs.  I also remember seeing the movie “Mary Poppins” in 3rd grade in music class and becoming obsessed with it.  I loved Julie Andrews’ voice.  I probably watched that movie 90 times that year after I got a video of it from my grandma for Christmas!

  • What role does music play in your life?

Currently, I still sing, mainly just at home for my own enjoyment, although this semester I’m excited to be back in a community choir.  For fun, I’ve been studying, on my own, the solo parts of the chosen large work we’re performing.  Even if I never get to sing them in a performance, it’s very satisfying to know that after all these years, I can actually sing them well!  I also still love to listen to music and have created a very unique Pandora station filled mainly with inspirational current pop songs, 40s jazz standards, and even some calypso/reggae!  My husband and I attend choral and instrumental concerts several times a year as well.

  • How has your relationship with music evolved as you’ve gotten older?

As with music, so with life—that is so true for me!  I started studying voice for fun in high school and continued in college, pursing music education.  I ended up switching out of my music education major when I saw a local elementary school concert on TV and realized that it really wasn’t for me.  I graduated with a vocal performance degree.  I’d had big dreams of being on the Met stage someday, but I never actually landed a performance role in college, other than my required recitals!  I was terrified to practice in the non-soundproof practice rooms.  I had a very rigid body, and the severe stage fright continued.  So I never was fully ready to learn the technique that would allow me to sing as expressively as I’d always hoped I could.

Recently, I realized how much my musical life revolved around unconsciously trying to find other mother-figures after dealing with a mom who was emotionally unavailable, not nurturing, and very guilting and controlling.  Most of my music teachers filled a mother-figure role at any given point in my life.  The lessons I learned from those relationships and many others have helped lead me into what I feel I am being called to do in this world right now.

When I was in high school and college, I used to love just the intellectual challenge of learning the music.  I had talent with sightreading and have a great ear.  Theory was always easy for me.  But I wasn’t able or ready to open myself emotionally to what the music required until I was much older.  After years of being shut down at home, I didn’t feel my voice had any value—literally and musically—even though I still wanted desperately to be heard.  So I really didn’t know that “being expressive” was something that came out of a complex mixture of human experience and vulnerability, as well as physical, emotional, and perhaps spiritual freedom.  Once I understood this intellectually, I became so frustrated that I couldn’t actually embody it.

It’s only been recently, after some additional study many years after college, that I feel I am really able to embody my expression so much more authentically.  And now I also have the technique so that my body doesn’t get in the way.  The last period of study was one I voluntarily chose, and I removed all pressure on myself to perform during that time.  I also committed to serious practicing so that I could really see what my voice was actually capable of.    

Interestingly, now that I actually have a “classically-trained” voice, it’s been challenging to sing in many regional groups.  It physically hurts me now to sing straight tone for long—it’s very tense for me, and that’s what most choirs seem to require, either in their auditions or based on the rep that they choose.  So right now I mainly sing overall at home for fun, as I don’t feel called to pursue advanced degrees or look into internships which are often open only to younger singers.  The business, systemic aspect of that is frustrating.  It would be nice if there were more open auditions for things, especially in the classical voice world.  That way, there may be a greater chance for someone like me who hasn’t gone through the system properly, is more of a late bloomer, but still has the capabilities, training, and talent to do professional work.  I do feel that my true life callings are elsewhere, but I certainly wouldn’t mind doing some professional singing work on the side from time to time, now that I feel confident and have the technical and expressive capabilities that would allow for it!    

  • What role does gender play in how you relate to music and the music business (or your chosen music-focused profession)?

I don’t know if gender has impacted me personally all that much in the music world, truthfully.  I really think that subjectivity has impacted me the most.  For instance, if a leader or director, regardless of gender, prefers a certain sound or genre of music, and my voice has different qualities or is better suited to other genres, that has impacted me.  This may be less challenging in a professional setting, as certain singers get known for singing specific repertoire.  Yet, in a choir setting, it becomes more challenging, as it can be very difficult to get so many singers with different levels of vocal experience to sing a particular genre with a certain technique or sound.  There are also so many schools of thought within the teaching world, and many seem to believe that they have the “right” way.  Yet, I’ve sensed that physical vocal freedom may be less valued in the professional music business at times than who someone knows or what they’ve previously done.  There are many paths to find vocal freedom, I’m sure, as each individual singer is such a complex mix of physical structure, health, emotions, and life experiences.  Yet, I personally place the most value in maintaining physical and vocal freedom long-term, as I believe that is what will enable a singer to keep singing well and pain-free for decades throughout their lifetime.   

  • What advice would you give young girls who are just developing a relationship with music (ie- performing, studying, composing)?

If you really enjoy the process (mostly)—if it is actually fun for you, definitely keep it up.  Don’t do it because you feel forced by parents or anyone else, although I know this is inevitable at times if they won’t listen to you and you feel you have no way out.  But allow yourself to find some aspect of music (or even something other than music) that can be your own—that can be enjoyable and free for you, no matter what else may be forced.

Know that if it is your biggest dream to be a professional musician, you can certainly pursue it.  Know that your worth is separate from who you are as a musician, and it is separate from how anyone reacts to your expression or not.  Whether or not you make that top school, whether or not people attend your concerts, whether or not you get picked over at auditions, you are still a valuable, worthy, loving, and wonderful human being.  Nothing can ever change that.  Even if the whole world would refuse to see or acknowledge your gift, you could still choose to share it because it is you and it is yours.  No one can take your music, your gifts, or your spirit away from you, unless you allow them that power.

If music becomes not fun or you feel burnt out, give yourself time off—however long it takes.  Try other things, both creative and not creative.  What matters is that you feel that you can truthfully express yourself through music or through any other medium.  And don’t ever let any person or any society tell you or make you feel like you should ever stop expressing yourself.  We need you and your voice and your music, or you in any other way you want to express yourself—we need that now in this world more than ever.

You can read more of Francine’s work at http://www.francinebrocious.com.

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Guided by Music: An Interview with Stephanie Bolton

StephanieStephanie Bolton, MA, MT-BC, is a board-certified music therapist and Fellow of the Association for Music and Imagery. She is based in Huntsville, Alabama. Her private practice is called Healing Sounds Music Therapy, and she specializes in the areas of depression, divorce, and anxiety. She is also an author of guided visualization books, including “Diving Deeper: 30 Guided Visualizations for Individual and Group Work.”

As does Rachelle  from last week’s interview, Stephanie also has both her bachelor’s and Master of Arts in Music Therapy. After graduating with her Masters, Stephanie completed training in Guided Imagery and Music (GIM), a specialized form of music therapy practice. GIM was developed through the work of Dr. Helen Bonny, a pioneering music therapist and consciousness researcher.

In our interview, Stephanie and I spoke about:

  • The role of music in her life and what led her to a career in music therapy
  • What GIM is, and what led her to this specific form of music therapy practice
  • Why it’s important to work with a professional when doing GIM

Guiding Through Music

Listening to music is a common practice in our society. We listen to music for many different reasons. Sometimes we use music as a distraction away from our troubles or thoughts. Other times we may use music to honor and celebrate key life events. Because listening to music is so commonplace, it can be easy to dismiss the power that a song can have on us. During our conversation, Stephanie spoke about the complexity of music, and why training as a GIM practitioner is important:

Because music is more than what we hear. Because music affects us on so many different levels. And sometimes we’re aware of that, and oftentimes we’re not.

Hear our full interview by watching the videos below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

You can find out more about Stephanie’s work as a music therapist, at Healing Sounds Music Therapy. You can also find her book, “Diving Deeper: 30 Guided Visualizations for Individual and Group Work” in digital form and in paper form.

 

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A Life in Music: An Interview with Rachelle Norman, MA, MT-BC

RachelleNorman-smallheadshotTo kick off the March “Women in Music” series, I’m happy to share my recent interview with Rachelle Norman. Rachelle is a board-certified music therapist in the Kansas City area. She is a music therapist through and through, having both a bachelor’s and Master of Arts in music therapy. She focuses her work on eldercare, and she is an expert on how music can be used to enhance the quality of life of older adults.

As an entrepreneur, she provides direct music therapy services through Soundscape Music Therapy, and as a music program consultant to eldercare organizations through Soundscaping Source.

In our interview, Rachelle and I talked about:

  • the role music plays in her approach to music therapy
  • her own experiences growing up with music in her life, and how these led to her becoming a music therapist
  • how music fits into her life now: as a music therapist, business owner, and mother.

Being in Music

Musical relationship is fundamental to Rachelle’s work. While all music therapists use music in their work, a music therapist’s approach to the work can differ. Rachelle’s approach to music therapy is music-centered, where the music IS the therapy. In the following quote, Rachelle describes her outlook on music therapy, and illustrates ways that people can be together in musical relationship:

I see music AS therapy. So what we’re doing in music. How we’re playing music together. How they’re receiving music from me- or how I’m inviting them into the music as listeners, as dancers, as instrument players, as singers or storytellers. All of that’s where we get the therapeutic outcomes.

Watch the full interview below if you want to see our full interview. And check out Soundscape Music Therapy if you’d like to learn more about Rachelle’s work as a music therapist, or Soundscaping Source to learn about her consultation services.

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A Month of Women and Music: An Interview Series for March

Singing StatueMarch is Women’s History Month in the United States. As a way to commemorate, I’ll be sharing a series of special interviews done with some of my female musician friends. Each woman has a different relationship with music, and works with music differently.

The inspiration to this series began with my wanting to do something to highlight women and music. I was especially interested in the experience of women in the music business. As I thought about it more, I began thinking about some of my amazingly talented female musician friends. As I thought about it even more, I began to recognize that the “music business” could be rather vast, if it’s interpreted as working with music for a living. With these thoughts in mind, I wanted to share the stories of some of my friends as a way to illustrate the diversity of what it means to work in, and with, music as a woman.

Women Working with Music

Each woman I interviewed works differently with music. Two are music therapists. Two are performing musicians active in the community and in the music business. Another woman trained extensively as a classically-trained vocalist, and is now finding her voice through writing. The common thread among these women, however, is that music has been significant in their lives.

The Women’s Musician Series

The talented women you’ll get to meet over the course of this month-long series are:

 

 

 

 

Both Rachelle and Stephanie are board-certified music therapists in the United States. Even though they are both music therapists, they work with music differently and serve different populations. Rachelle specializes in working with older adults, while Stephanie specializes in working with Guided Imagery and Music (GIM).

Francine and I both studied vocal performance at Viterbo University. She is an author who now sings for pleasure, rather than for performance. Her experiences as a singer, along with her own personal healing process, have led her to truly finding her voice through written word.

Jessica is one half of the Prairie Scholars. Together with her husband, Andy, she frequently performs along the Front Range, but calls Longmont, Colorado home. An accomplished pianist, Jessica also performs as a solo artist, and recently released a solo album of piano music. She is incredibly active in the the Longmont music scene by creating with Andy open mic opportunities for up-and-coming local musicians to perform in public, and by booking local musicians for paid shows at community venues.

  • Jess Rosario Jess Rosario

Jess is a Boulder County singer/songwriter with a bold, soulful voice. She is involved in both solo and group projects along the Front Range.

I invite you to celebrate women and music this month by learning more about these women, and the ways they work with music. The series begins on March 1st, when I’ll be sharing my interview with Rachelle. A new interview will be published each week.

 

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Music and Mindfulness

Mindfulness. It seems like almost everyday I read something new about the benefits of it. Research on BalancedRocksmindfulness suggests that it could be effective for:  depression,  managing anxiety and stress,  as well as with emotional regulation and relationships. It’s easy to see, then, why mindfulness is becoming incorporated into healthcare, education, and business.

Making Mindfulness Accessible

It makes sense that more people are becoming interested in learning about mindfulness. We live in a fast-paced world where we take in so much more information than we realize. With mindfulness, you connect with your breath as a way to become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in that moment. This is done in an accepting, non-judgmental way. By incorporating mindfulness into your life, you can become more aware of the fullness of your lived experience, as opposed to unconsciously or narrowly reacting to situations.

While a secular approach has been taken in introducing mindfulness meditation to the West, the practice of mindfulness meditation is rooted in Buddhism. However, it should be noted that other spiritual traditions also have contemplative practices. Nonetheless, some people may not be willing to engage in mindfulness meditation because of  judgements they have against meditation. They may see it as something “evil” that is contrary to their spiritual beliefs.

Still others may find it too challenging to sit in silence. (You may be one of those people!) These challenges could be due to a variety of reasons. Often one of these reasons is because it just feels uncomfortable. (And yes, sitting in silence, observing our thoughts without getting caught up in them CAN BE uncomfortable!)

My own interest in mindfulness began when I was studying at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Maintaining a mindfulness practice was a requirement of the graduate program, and I am grateful that it was.  Incorporating mindfulness into my life helped me became better able to handle stressful situations and strong emotions.

Since graduating, I have worked as a music therapist with people who have neurological differences, such as Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Alzheimer’s. Working in these areas has made it clear just how we all take in and process information differently. Because of this, I often think about how mindfulness can be incorporated into my work as a music psychotherapist. I also think about how mindfulness can be used by other music therapists in their work.

Music as a Mindfulness Practice

I take a mindful approach in making my own music, and this has led me to explore ways in which music can be used as a mindfulness practice. I have found that this has been a helpful way to introduce mindfulness to those who may not be able to engage in meditation (or who aren’t quite ready to engage in meditation).

Using Music as a Mindfulness Practice webinarIn the “Using Music as a Mindfulness Practice” webinar I offer, I illustrate several ways that music can be used as a mindfulness practice. The following two examples are taken from that webinar. They are ways that I have successfully led people in engaging mindfully with music and sound, including with music therapists from outside the United States. These activities were selected specifically because they are widely accessible to people and don’t require special equipment.

  1. Authentic Movement to Music

    This activity involves choosing a piece of music that you can move your body to mindfully. Preferably this song should be without words. This is so you can listen to the music without getting caught up in the lyrics. Your focus should be on your breath, while being  open to how your body wants to respond to the music. As you move, be aware of how your body is wanting to naturally move. With this movement, try to do so without judgement. If thoughts or feelings arise, simply label them as such and come back to the movement that is being elicited through the music.

  2. Vocal Toning

    Voicework can be intimidating to engage in- even as a trained singer! Because of this, I find toning to be a safe, simply structured vocal activity. From the perspective of toning as a mindfulness practice, toning is simply breath made audible.

    To tone, select a vowel that you can sound on a sustained pitch. (The more you do this, you may find that certain vowels resonate with you more than others, or that what resonates with you may shift and change from experience to experience).

    When toning, set aside a few minutes when you can engage with your voice in this way. Direct your  awareness to your breath and sound. Notice what thoughts, feelings, or sensations come up for you as you tone. Label them as such, and then return to your breath and sound.

I invite you to play around with these ideas for yourself.  Set aside several minutes a day where you can engage in one of these mindful musical activities. Afterwards, notice what happens to the quality (and quantity) of your thoughts. Simply observe, without judgement. And, if you would like to learn more about other ways that music can be used as a mindfulness practice, you can register for my webinar here.

 

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In Tending To Others

BeingAWoundedHealerIn tending to the little piece of Mother Earth that is the front yard of my house, I reflected upon the current state of the world. In preparing to welcome winter and the return of light, I raked up the plethora of honey locust pods and cut back at the dead plant growth in order to be able to invite back regenerated life in the spring. As I did this, I thought about how someone somewhere on the other side of the world may have been doing a similar thing.

It made me wonder what their little piece of Mother Earth looked like and felt like. Was it dry and dusty like my little slice of suburban land near the Foothills of Colorado, begging to be revitalized into something more conducive to a semi-arid climate? Did they feel a similar sense of ownership, pride, and responsibility in taking care of their home?

My thoughts then shifted to how many people may have wanted to to be tending to their home, or how they may have at some time done a similar thing, but they could no longer do so because some sort of a tragedy left them displaced. Such tragedy could be the result of a natural catastrophe or it could be entirely man-made terror. Of course, climate change is helping to weave these two things together so that the situations become more intertwined and complex.

In tending to these unfolding thoughts, I reflected upon my own situation as a therapist, teacher, and musician living in a part of the world that has its own unique paradox of affluence and poverty. This led to more thoughts about the role I play as a music therapist, counselor, and music teacher in my community- particularly in regard to the long-term development of the children, teens, adults, and families with whom I work. I reflected on how fortunate they are to be able to have their basic needs met, as well as to be able to have access to opportunities for engaging with music on a deep and personal level.

These thoughts were immediately contrasted when I began reflecting upon the circumstances faced by many refugee children- especially those who have to make the arduous journey alone into a strange land. What will the cumulative, long-term impact be for them as individuals, and for us as a global society? Will these children and their families have the opportunity to find solace and healing through music? Will they be able to make meaning out of their experiences, or will the trauma remain deeply encoded within themselves?

Will we, as a global community, be able to overcome our collective, interconnected trauma, or will we continue to perpetuate it?

I wish that I could answer this question on behalf of everyone, but I can’t. I understand that the situation is complex, with many nuances that I may not be able to fully comprehend. However, I do understand that I have a role to play in helping make the world a better place. Sometimes it may only be in tending to Mother Earth, while other times it is in tending to the needs of another person who has endured unspeakable pain. In those situations, I find myself forever grateful for the skills and expertise I have as a music therapist and counselor with a keen interest in other worldviews.

May each of us come together in tending to that who we are, and that which we intend to share for the betterment of humanity. And so it is.

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Rethinking Yourself and Your Life as Music

You Are Music. Your Life is Music

I am MUSIC? My LIFE is MUSIC?

Have you ever thought about yourself as being a piece of music? What thoughts come to mind when you look at yourself from this perspective? It can be a strange thing if you haven’t considered it before. Even with my experiences as a music therapist and musician, it took me some time to more fully understand what this meant.

However, much like a musical composition, we are made up of a variety of parts. The physiological processes that occur within our bodies have their own rhythms and tempi. Likewise, the quality of our thoughts and feelings can affect our personal “tempo” and “dynamics.” In this sense, our thoughts may be fast or slow, while our emotions may be explosive or subdued.

Looking at it from this way, it can be easy to see ourselves as a musical composition that reflects our sense of health and wellness or disease. In the video below, I speak a little more to this metaphor of being music.

After watching the video, take some time to reflect on what sort of music are you composing with your life. What are the quality of your thoughts and emotions like? Are there aspects of your life that you’d like to change? If there are, and you feel as though you would benefit from some outside professional support and guidance, contact me to see if I may be able to provide you with that assistance.

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