‘Rock n’ Reel’ magazine reviews ‘Dangerous Loving’ – 4 stars!

”Smoke-fuelled and chameleon-like, tortured and released, Faye Patton exudes forgotten Jazz. Articulating and punctuating her vocal authority with her independent piano playing, this is a supreme effort of both freeform and choreographed musicianship. Definitely in the jazz pigeonhole, there are elements of highbrow funk in ‘Ripped and Torn’, boogie woogie musical theatre throughout ‘Susan Says’ and lounge blues with ‘A Game'; and more in between.

The beauty with these overlapping and contrasting styles is that there is no great leap from one track to the next and she makes herself an effective gatekeeper to the concept of the album as a whole. With flute, cello, trumpet and even flugelhorn joining the tales of lost love and, well, more lost love, the songs manage to stay intimate and retain the emphasis on her boundless vocal.” (Gareth Hayes – Rock n’ Reel magazine May 2012)

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The Motorcycle Diaries #2

retro Bike colours

 

Oh Yeahhhh…another hot, smokey morning on the bike, with many great insights into the learning process. Universal principles that seem to apply to absorbing new skills – relaxation, trust, and determination combined with divine nonchalance. What is ‘divine nonchalance’? It’s that mindset that says I can do this – millions of people can and do learn this, that means me too. I can just as appropriate for and capable of this task as any other human person – especially as existing stuff that I do such as playing the guitar and martial arts are actually much more difficult. It helps that I have a very patient, encouraging and experienced rider as my informal tutor. (I have true gratitude and appreciation for this and will be sharing everything I know about running and how to run as a discipline and practice for health, fitness and psychological empowerment.) The joy of skill swapping!

I think they are getting used to me now in Morrison’s car park revving up and looking mean. Had a bit of an initial mental block about balancing – solution: leap of faith and more throttle/speed, then I loosened up. I was a lot better today with left hand/right hand intuition and trusting that I can crank it up a bit and still be safe. I managed to ACTUALLY RIDE  a little bit and my parking was graceful and controlled, with no falling off!

Still really early days. Do motorbikes and jazz go together? Don’t know. Not entirely sure where it’s all taking me, but don’t care. Am so looking forward to an entire world of nerdy pleasure opening down the oily, grime, gold and glitter strewn open road of the future. Engines, wheels, gears, accessories, terminologies and vocabularies, pals, maps, journeys, and of course…a whole world of leather. Oh Yeah.

Till next time,

Bye for now…

Faye.

(P.S. For those that don’t know me, I am a ‘Nu Jazz’ singer/songwriter, pianist and guitarist, based in London, UK. You can can check out my tunes and videos on my WEBSITE and come and like my Facebook page. Come and say hi…I would love to hear from you!)


 

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The Motorcycle Diaries #1

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Now that I live with bikers, it seemed only a matter of time before this kind of thing would happen. First basic bike lesson, leather clad in boiling sunshine, courtesy of my extremely patient and expert housemate. I look cheerful in this shot, but inside, am a mass of jangled nerves, shaky legs and alien emotions having just got back from 3 hours of my first tentative inroads into riding this beast –  a reasonably lightweight 500 cc Kawasaki, belonging to our other co-resident – who is going to laugh upon seeing this blog post.

First impressions? Extreme appreciation for the surprising turns of life. Gratitude and celebration and sincere respect for the responsibility, power and precision involved not just in riding the bike, but watching my friend teaching a beginner (me) how to do it. I was in safe hands. I found it quite stressful but also amazing. I could get used to the heat and constant smell of petrol. Yes it is a bit like a pushbike, albeit with the instant death/collateral damage factor looming larger. Yes it is really heavy, but because of martial arts training I am really strong – used to lifting people and objects larger than myself. I only fell off once, (whilst stationary – classic huh?) so all in all, not bad. Note to self, next time, got to be less tense. (Breathing helps. I actually teach people how to breathe so…need to apply that!) More practice needed and more relaxation, feeling not thinking, and getting used to ye olde clutche controle.

Seriously…if there is something you’d like to do, do it today – just for no reason other than to expand yourself. Even if you are nervous, especially if you are nervous, or even mortally terrified. Fear is just energy waiting to be transformed into something useful and hopefully, fun. There’s nothing you can’t do. And if you know others with skills, don’t be too proud to let them show you stuff. Let yourself have some spills, cock-ups and silly questions. I remembered some priceless insights today about teaching music, which I intend to apply immediately. I had forgotten what it feels like to be a beginner diving in at the deep end, whilst the person showing you how is swimming in their element of 20 years. I’m even more aware of the fears, blockages and previous traumas students are dealing with as they walk through my door to sing and play for pretty much the first time. I need to allow more time for breaks, whilst each chunk of learning beds down. I can remember to allow students time to get used to new sensations, time to breathe and shake out, relax, laugh. Make it ok for them to ask questions and to make them feel that what they are attempting is normal and doable. And with each small step, to encourage periods of well deserved reflection, celebration and acknowledgement. It’s ok to feel proud and dazed and humble and a bit overwhelmed at various stages of the leaning curve. It’s really worth it. The great thing is that, in the end, we are all, more or less capable, more or less ok, more or less good enough to have a go.

Mastery starts with the attempt, no?

Till next time,

Bye for now…

Faye.

(P.S. For those that don’t know me, I am  a London-based Nu Jazz singer/songwriter, pianist and guitarist. You can can check out my tunes and videos here, and/or come and like my Facebook Music page. Come and say hi!)

 


 

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Some thoughts on the guitar as a ‘voice’…

Blue Songwriter

 

I have been woodshedding and teaching all weekend – including a guitar student who is learning very much from scratch the classical route, repertoire, and technique. Then, another client for whom I provide more of a singer-songwriter consultancy session, overhauling both voice and guitar accompaniment to improve both the technical chops of each and the overall performance. With an end goal of  building a set for busking and gigging everything from Nina Simone to Radiohead.

I always played guitar as a teenager, but in my mid 20’s embarked on a serious revision of my playing. I re-started classical tuition with a film score composer and former student of both Julian Bream and John Williams. In stepping right back to the beginning, I had time and space to really think about the following: tone, space, position, percussion, phrase and phase, dynamics, impact, texture and surface, fingers and fingernails, tension, volume, sound production, light, shade, emotion, narrative , left hand/right hand independence and co-operation – and the importance of every singe pluck and strike.

The guitar has a huge range of expression and I have learnt to play or aim to play as I would sing – aiming to make every note count. Here’s some random top ten tips which can be applied to a range of guitars, genres and playing styles. (These suggestions assume right-handedness – sorry lefties!) Useful for students and for teachers. If you can engage at least some of the time with these, it will add an edge to your playing that makes all the difference. By the way, whilst effects are a thing of joy, I would suggest stepping away (for now) from the SupaHendrixTurboMojoVibe pedal until you can create expression with just the bare basics – acoustic or clean amp sound.

* Don’t let anyone tell you that vibrato is inappropriate or tasteless.(Whilst playing 16th century madrigals for instance – oops!) Practice it anyway as a matter of course until you have the strength and balance and thus choice, to employ it or not. It can be the subtlest, sweetest thing and is a natural part of song. Try telling a bird not to trill!

* A good practice method is to drill a piece of material, taking it through a different sonic ‘rinse’ each time. Be imaginative and have fun. Play the piece ‘like a lullaby’,  or projecting ‘to the back of the Royal Albert Hall’, rising in volume as you rise in pitch, ‘as though your life depends on it’ or ‘with compassion’, ‘sunnily’ in a ‘purple’ way. ‘clean’, ‘dirty’ extra legato or staccato, or with a different tonal weight and colour for each phrase.

* Speed, technical tricks and advanced scale patterns are not as communicative as groove and feel and a simple idea played with assurance and not too quickly. Most listeners are hit by music on a subliminal level first. Relax and they will too. Also, silence speaks. Honour the spaces. Can you say what you want to say with less notes altogether?

* Never underestimate the value of the minor pentatonic scale. Know your fretboard and fingerings and you can build in passing notes, morph into blues or aeolian or relative major territory. Simple tools, infinite expression.

* A decent classical instrument has a big contrast between the left hand ‘tasto’ side of the sound hole (soft, muffly) and the right hand ‘ponticello’  (hard, metallic) area near the bridge. Get your strumming hand used to traversing these areas mid-phrase without looking.

* When playing on electric, experiment with striking downwards with the plectrum and nail simultaneously, literally crash into the string. With quite a lot of left hand bend and enough amp gain, you will get a pleasing pinched harmonic jazz/rock/soft metal effect. (but if this genre is not pleasing to you, avoid at all costs!)

* Make your phrases, riffs, solos and even chords more interesting and clever by looking at the punctuation of how you get into and out of every single note. Can you side up to the note? How about sliding off as you finish the note? How about rapid vibrato followed by fast slide up? Go through your piece with a toothpick and make decisions and fix them.

* A decent semi-acoustic guitar is also a drum, more so when amplified. Use the heel of your right hand to downstroke and damp/chop the chord at the same time. This can be very funky and ‘vibey’ especially when contrasted with more lyrical passages.

* Especially if you are still studying, you might want to remember the following general rule: The left and right hand are like 2 brains with different roles that interconnect but are independent. Both have to be relaxed and precise. The left hand is not there to express or be percussive or forceful or tense or effortful. Its job is to create accurate pitch. I see new students pressing too hard on the fretboard with the left hand, whilst neglecting the dynamic bite and expression of the right hand, which is what creates the tonal expression and velocity. Play like this for too long and you will get very sore left hand fingers and left shoulder tension and right hand fingers that feel ineffectual and weak plus an aching right hand wrist from overcompensating. (Obvious exception to this rule is ‘tapping’, where both hands are fretting, hammering and plucking.)

* Lastly, Silence speaks. Honour the spaces. Can you say what you want to say with less notes altogether?

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this. So who are the most soulful, most expressive guitar players? In terms of resources I would be hard pressed to cite my favourite guitarists for illustration of this – there’s far too many, both alive and deceased and all too different to compare. We should all listen, research and learn widely. But here’s just a few suggestions. Check out: Orianthi Panagaris (herself a keen devotee of Carlos Santana) Malina Moye, B.B King, Albert King (died 1992) and Emily Remler (died 1990).


 

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Dream On…

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(Photo is of Exmouth, Devon.)

Well, this is not the post, I had planned. I had something erudite and scholarly, yet post modern – the musical roots of this, that or the other.  The ongoing political injustice of so ‘n’ so, the joy of Japanese cinema, P-funk, Count Basie, Nu-metal and why we all need to know how to grow a vegetable. I will do that another time and will always have plenty of topics to explore in the ongoing 10,000 things of the Tao.

But right now I’m feeling dreamy, and a bit devil-may-care.

Ever get to a point in your own routines, where you feel, (despite the best will in the world and with all good intentions), in a bit of a rut? That your content schedule, practice regime, professional goals and habits are feeling somewhat rigid? Are you forgetting to savour life? Like Inchworm, ‘measuring the marigolds’ have you forgotten to actually smell the flowers that your creative life and soul has made it it’s business to create?

Small signs can be a giveaway and are in fact a gift from the subtle realms and from your own subconscious. Listen to them, for if you ignore them, bigger signs (illness, exhaustion, tantrums) can ensue. Unexpected internet crashes, flat phone batteries, sudden rebellions against the expectations of others or  self-imposed regimens. A sudden swerve into a much slower mode. Sometimes, in the midst of ‘busyness’, allow yourself to do things at a reaaaallllly laid back pace. You may notice a funny thing. The more slowly you work – you will still have time. And you may just do it better and with more presence and consciousness. As an artist, and as a human, it is necessary to dream. I’m not talking here about sleep dreams, or even the shamanic mode of lucid dreaming (both awake and asleep) that I cover, on occasion, in this blog. I mean…just trust yourself to drift, to muse, to meander, to potter. Have faith in the twilight mode – it’s a supremely rich soul landscape. Surrendering to it seems counter-intuitive for highly functional, motivated, speedy, successful people. But take a moment to remember where your art, your music, your poetry comes from. The soil of this playful, fruitful, non-rational, non-linear, right brain place. Here is smell, memory, free association, being-not-doing, love (lost and found) the murky contradictions of death and sex, decay and novelty, poetry, slang and broken vows, topsy turvy priorities, being enraptured (no, seriously…paralysed with pleasure) by the sunset. The still, yet thunderously present voice of nature, and the deep self that always, always knows and will tell us which way to go, if we just listen. The pregnancy at the funeral. The odd ache of pain that accompanies joy. The deeply intuitive, mystic profanely profoundly sacred mode, and sacredly rebellious, bilious sometimes libellous mode. The solace of silence. The open throated roar. The flood of gut wrenching sobs followed by manic laughter. Sheer bloody release.  The breaking open of the shell of the life you have created to bring forth a new phase. It can be frightening, inconvenient, yet exhilarating and clarifying. Especially if it brings social disapproval.

Once, long ago, I had a rebellion against my routines, against the containers (cages) I had set around myself. Late at night, in a deserted country lane, I lay down on the ground, in the road and took time to communicate with a passing black cat. We spoke, played and romped and I made animal noises. Slightly crazy. But to me, it was a break through back to true sanity and reality. I also have been known to leave relationships because I hear the (piercing, soul-calling, non-negotiable) voices of seagulls speaking truth to me. Let yourself walk in dreamland and receive visions. You can bring these fruits back to the daylight and thus is your art fertilised, revitalised. Descent and return – the eternal cycle. Honour it. Let it have its way with you.


 

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Guest post/infographic: Mind, Body and Jazz.

Mind, Body & Jazz: 
How Jazz Can Improve Your Health

mind-body-Jazz

Mind, Body & Jazz: 
How Jazz Can Improve Your Health

Listening to jazz music has potential benefits for your health as varied as the genre itself. The innovative riffs, cool tones and complex rhythms can bring natural relief for mind & body.

Mind

Listening to Jazz can actually have an effect on the type of brain waves you produce – which can be stimulating or relaxing.

Focus and Energy
Listening to upbeat music can:
• Help you focus and raise your heart rate.
• Provide motivation and reduce fatigue during a workout.
◦ Target beats per minute (BPM) should match your heart rate during workout:
▪ Walking -115 to 118 BPM
▪ Power walking – 137 to 139 BPM
▪ Running – 147 to 160 BPM
• Boost your productivity at work
THETA brain waves (4-8 hertz): Listening to the distinctive syncopation of some jazz can bring about theta brain waves, the most highly creative brain wave. They inspire new insights and solutions to unresolved problems (“Eureka!” moments).

Music Examples for Focus and Energy
“Cavatina” – Eric Alexander (114 BPM)
“Steppin’” – McCoy Tyner (142 BPM)
“Adoracao” – Eric Reed (126 BPM)

Stress Relief

Listening to relaxing music is just as effective at reducing anxiety as a massage.
ALPHA brain waves (8 to 14 hertz): Listening to music around 60 BPM’s can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat, resulting in alpha brainwaves. They make you relaxed but conscious.
DELTA brain waves (under 4 hertz): Listening to calming music in a relaxed position for at least 45 minutes produces delta brainwaves which can induce sleep… better sleep.
Better Sleep: Studies shows that just 45 min of soft, slow music (60-80 BPM) like jazz, before bedtime results in better and longer night-time sleep as well as less dysfunction during the day:
• After 1 week, 26% were sleeping better.
• After 3 weeks, 35% were sleeping better.
Less Depression: After listening to jazz music for an hour every day for a week:
Music Listeners had 25% less depression than non-listeners.

Music Examples for Relaxation
“Blue in Green” – Miles Davis (55 BPM)
“Almost Blue” – Chet Baker (56 BPM)
“Blue Train” – John Coltrane (75 BPM)

Body

Since stress is the root of many health problems, the relaxing effect of jazz music can have incredible healing influence. It physically changes your body by lowering your heart and respiratory rate.

Stroke Recovery
Listening to music (jazz included) directly after a stroke improves verbal memory, focus and mood. In just 3 months after a stroke…
• Music Listeners’ verbal memory increased 60% and focused attention increased 17%.
• Non-Listeners’ verbal memory increased 29% and focused attention increased 0%.
• Audio Book Listeners’ verbal memory increased 18% and focused attention increased 0%.

Pain Relief
Listening to jazz has been shown to reduce time and intensity of both general and migraine headaches.
Study shows that listening to music (including jazz) can reduce chronic pain. After listening to jazz music for an hour every day for a week…
• Music Listeners had a 21% decrease in pain.
• Non-Listeners had a 2% increase in pain.
Music therapy is increasingly used for pain relief in hospitals to…
• reduce need for medication during childbirth
• decrease postoperative pain
• complement use of anesthesia during surgery

Blood Pressure
Studies show that music (including jazz) and laughter can lower blood pressure by causing blood vessels to expand by up to 30%.
After 3 months of the music & laughter study…
• music group decreased blood pressure by 6 mmHg
• laughter group decreased blood pressure by 5 mmHg
• control group had no change
Immediately after each session also revealed a short-term dip of 6 mmHg to 7 mmHg.
The range of decline is comparable with someone…
• adopting a low-salt diet
• losing 10 pounds
• taking blood-pressure-lowering medication.
This change reduces risk of death from heart disease or stroke by up to 15%.

Immunity
Listening to jazz for 30 minutes boosts immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels. IgA resides in mucous linings of the body and acts as an antibody; preventing virus, bacteria and infection. The effect on IgA levels continues for an additional 30 minutes after the music stops playing.

Fun Fact

A study conducted by Dorothy Retallack in 1973 played music to plants for two weeks. Plants “listening” to classical and jazz music physically leaned 15 to 20 degrees toward the radio while plants “listening” to rock music grew away from the radio, became sick, and died.

International Jazz Day: April 30th
“International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact” #JAZZDAY

So beat that cold to the punch and crank up some Coltrane.

mind-body-Jazz

Sources
1. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/kimkomando/2009-07-16-exercise-music_N.htm
2. http://brainbasedbiz.blogspot.com/2007/01/jazz-stirs-creative-flow.html
3. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2010/03/19/music-soothes-anxiety-as-well-as-massage-does
4. http://www.unr.edu/counseling/virtual-relaxation-room/releasing-stress-through-the-power-of-music
5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4228707.stm
6. http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/02/20/35390.aspx
7. http://www.rmhp.org/blog/2013/04/jazz-and-poetry-month-rmhp/
8. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060524123803.htm
9. http://spearman101.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/5-medical-reasons-jazz-music-is-good-for-you/
10. http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/25/laughter.music.lower.blood.pressure/
11. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get-healthy/cold-and-flu/7-unusual-cold-remedies?slide=2
12. http://www.smilinggardener.com/plants/music-and-plants


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The ‘Woodshed’

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(Image from The Girls in The Band.)

The ‘woodshed’. That place where jazzers go to practice. How to explain to friends, family, loved ones and significant others, (and even some fellow musicians), the sovereignty, the absolute non-negotiable sanctity of the woodshed? How to really convey this?

I spend hours and hours and hours alone, in a room with myself and my instrument (s). And I love it. I think I love it more than anything or anyone. Only the pure ecstasy of performing – of going to the other end of the scale, of  extrovert, gregarious all out curtain-up showtime beats it. Very little else. Anyone who has had to fight for this sacred chunk of devoted artistic time can recognise its true value. Painters and writers know. Also nuns, monks, hermits, ascetics, celibates and renunciates.

Things I might do in the ‘woodshed’ might include the following: composition/arrangement, then drilling through and memorising guitar parts for various solo or collaborative projects. Or, maybe the world has literally DISAPPEARED because a song is coming through, coaxing, teasing or exploding its way through the veil. For me, new music comes unbidden, uninvited and with extravagant pomp and splendour. An idea grabs onto a random hook or scale that I was practising anyway, then not just one song but 4, then a surrounding concept album are suddenly THERE, all at once, demanding refinement. It’s a visceral experience of birthing something that will have its way and just HAS to come through. A feeling both ravenous and ravening. Or I might be just in a hypnotic grip of scales and arpeggios, diminished  and major 7ths all up and down the fretboard. Stamina for hands and fingers. For ages. Or the geeky joy of 2 handed tapping in kind of Nu metal/classical way that is frank and pure indulgence. People might fairly observe that playing guitar or indeed anything on your own for hours is kind of wanky. Well, maybe, but we all need that too. For myself, I feel an intense kind of dialogue  with music as a companion and the instrument as a partner that gives back exactly what I give out.

But yes, it’s a love affair.

The woodshed is about more than practice and preparation. (These are of course, essential, but as we know, can be overdone at the expense of spontaneity and creativity onstage, in the moment.) It’s about maintaining a bedrock of physical and technical ease. Being good to go. It’s about knowing the material backwards. Being able to tap into that wellspring of  energy. I cannot feel good about stepping onstage, unless I know I have taken care of my practice. I have to connect with that source every day, if possible. It’s nothing less than a spiritual discipline. Even though I also do a fair bit of staring into space, dreaming and scratching my head…

I could rhapsodise further but…the woodshed calls…’bye for now.

 

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(Trombone player, Melba Liston featured in The Girls in The Band.) 

 The Girls in the Band is a documentary by director Judy Chaikin. Contains glorious archive footage of the great female jazz bands of the ’40’s as well as interviews and music from contemporary musicians. Enjoy this trailer and track down the full film if you can!

 


 

 

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Beginner’s Mind

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Whatever it is, begin it. Everyday. Start again. Don’t think about the time you have left, or may have wasted. Eyes in front. Start. Don’t look at the clock. Time is a poor container. Only connect deeply with the content that you have to do, then do. Sink magically and with conviction into your content and master time. Think in chunks, slices, segments, ribbons, minutes or epochs. It doesn’t matter. Just begin and begin every single second if you have to. Begin. When did you, as a being, as a process, begin? You always have been. In reality, you never were not and never will not be – in some form or other. There will always just be now. Even before, that was still now, from the point of view of then…so, get present and stop worrying about the illusion, the veritable tyranny of the linear. It’s not real. Even if you are 1 minute from death, use that minute to begin what you always wanted to do or be. Sounds mad? It’s about how you think about it. Just wake up! That faraway voice in the back of your head. That is the alarm clock. Begin the rest of your life – now!

Begin. Step out into thin air. There is glory in the attempt. Just do it. Allow it. if you have any sort of spiritual life, you know that you are just an instrument of some bigger cause. A precious fragment of an expanding idea playing with its own edges and limits. Therefore, what have you to lose? Did you waste the morning through sloth or procrastination? You still have the afternoon.

If you have trouble starting, it’s all about perception and attitude. How do you begin your day? Make it enjoyable in whatever way suits you. Welcome it in. Think about how you enter your day and also how you leave – as entry into the dream/sleep world is also a beginning, waking up on the other side.

Do you have trouble finishing? Well, finishing is also a beginning – the beginning of the new transition into the next phase that your project or accomplishment has caused. We are just reference points upon an unfolding skein of existence.

In the worlds of  jazz improvisation or martial arts manoeuvres, you may think you know everything there is – every lick, hook, sleight of hand, combination of kicks, punches and locks. You may have a virtuoso tool kit, honed by experience and years of study. But you never know the context, the form your challenges may take, or the new travelling companions that may turn up. Be prepared for absolute surprises in each and every moment. Do not expect things to take a certain course because that’s what always happened previously. Life favours long periods of routine followed by wrenching, paradigm bucking, imagination warping change.

That means you too! Get ready to begin!


 

 

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