Posts from the ‘Self-Help’ Category

Social media – Ruining Your Life?

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In the last few years I’ve noticed something very concerning in my life. It crept up on me and surprised me even more given that I’m not of the iphone generation. I grew up with radio, then black and white TV, (rationed, regulated viewing) books, music practice, drawing, cassette tape, creative writing, sports and board games.

 

I noticed recently, that I had become addicted to my computer – that I was logging into my social media stream as a comfort blanket (despite the anxiety generated by seeing news and current events) and was checking messages and micro managing all my music business related communications in a way that I never associated with myself. In the cold weather, I even liked the warmth of the laptop and the cheery screen saver! I have a long attention span, single-minded focus, an ability to really enter the zone – or so I thought. But I have found my mind wandering whilst doing things that I usually concentrate on fully and have found myself breaking up the day with social media check-ins. For obvious reasons this has been heightened at the time of Brexit and now the current emergencies in the USA which do require than one stays informed. It’s also a side effect of having  to promote and self-publicise my work as a musician. Sometimes it feels like 90% online promotion/admin and 10% rehearsing/ performance energy. A problematic equation!

 

I fully appreciate all the amazing things that super fast computers and interactive media platforms give us. Free education, endless archives, search engines, alternative news reports, social activism, (‘clicktivism’) international messenger services, entertainment at the drop of a hat. Used wisely, all these things can make us more informed, more intelligent, and more empathetic.

 

Or they can make us more and more passive and unable to distinguish reality from fantasy.

 

Let’s take back our lives!

 

Top Ten Tips to master social media/computer addiction:

 

1. Make a commitment to watch and ration the time you spend on your computer – which these days probably means your smart phone. When you log or switch on, know where you are going and why. Do your errands (emails, research, skype call, Facebook message to transatlantic friend, or promotional twitter fest for your forthcoming gig) then put it away.

 

2. For every hour spent on a computer, looking at that screen – spend 2 hours doing something organic, such as playing a musical instrument, interacting with children, animals, or a meaningful conversation with a friend, exercise out-of-doors, reading or just being. Try writing a letter (made your hand ache did it?) or drawing or painting as a way to relax, process information or think up new ideas.

 

3. Time is an artificial concept anyway – so whilst you time the necessary evil of your computer tasks – when you are away from it – don’t look at the clock and experiment with discarding clocks and watches. Let your time be elastic – there is so much more of it than you think. Modern physics has shown us that the physical, phenomenal natural world is mostly empty space. Enjoy this miracle and focus on the content of what you do in your time – not the time itself. That means not checking your phone clock.

 

4. Still using a relatively old fashioned non-smart phone? Good! Well meaning friends or colleagues still trying to give you phones so you can stay in touch/not miss opportunities etc? Don’t apologise for not having a mobile phone or for not using social media much. Think about where coltan, the mineral in all our devices comes from and the human cost of mining it. With this in mind, think twice about upgrading and buying new devices all the time.

 

5. Try going for 2 days at a time without logging on. Deal with that initial feeling of panic. Especially in these recent times, we want daily news immediately – just to know the likely level of catastrophe, as things change rapidly. But deal with it. Ever consider that the real catastrophe is that speed for speeds sake is taking over our lives?

 

6. Invest in and experiment with some protective devices or practices that balance the radiation coming off your computer and phone. I wear and recommend sacred geometry devices from The Template.

 

7. No phones in bed at night. Ever. Best way to ruin your relationship.

 

8. Enjoy all the silly fun clips, memes, mash-ups, twitter trends and entertainment that is on offer – but regulate yourself. If you catch yourself surfing, idly, late at night, make a plan to go to bed and get proper sleep and proper dreams before that threshold. We only do that when we are too tired to resist – and if that makes you worried – it should.

 

9. Following on from that, be very discerning as to what images you let in. Some things can’t be unseen or unknown once encountered, and if you view stuff late at night, it will go into your dreams. Nothing wrong with that, so long as you are choosing what.

 

10. Without getting into a paranoid mess – please consider the fact that your computer may be watching you. Those ads are popping up because someone, somewhere tracks your internet searches and your status and value as a consumer. Doesn’t that worry you?

 

Still reading? Stop it! Go away. Log off and go and do something that matters. Create the life of your dreams in actual reality! So many worthwhile things: friendship, sex, cooking, being in nature, laughing and joking with others, writing a song, perfecting a martial arts sequence, traveling, walking, watching, listening, thinking, dreaming or shouting in the streets at the injustices of the world. You, yourself, your mind, body and spirit – this is the most miraculous of technologies. Let the computer be your servant – not your master.

 

Resources:

 

The Template Sacred geometry and more.

 

Minerals for computer processors and how we get them. Who really pays for our ‘free’ technologies.

 

Cell phone addiction amongst the youth in South Korea.

 

Possible solution! South Korean Space out contests!

 


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On being a lone wolf ‘jazz monk’

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I am a hermit crab, beavering away in my burrow. A solitary squirrel sequestered with my plans and lonesome longings in a mystical, maniacal, animal monologue of mixed metaphor.

I get quite few joke names, which include things monk and hermit related.

Beset with the guilt, the grandeur, the hauteur – that I ought not to be … an auteur.

Can’t help it. Anyone else out there with lone wolf syndrome?

New service based entrepreneurial models tell us now that business, creativity, society is all about connectedness – the ‘we’ not the ‘I’. And the new spiritual paradigm, likewise. Social media platforms now join us together 24 hours a day. There’s a pressure to get out there and network – fill the diary with at least one ‘out there on the scene’ social thing per week.

I’m trying. I look from the very pretty, but seemingly dead and self-regarding pixels of my smooth running technology and gaze outwards and upwards at the sky. The multi-hued data of nature…the wild wind, the raw information of the elements, insects, birds and flowers – all speak more loudly to me than my social engagements and responsibilities. Nature speaks in non-verbal, non-linear blocks of light and shadow, silence, sound and memory, signature scent and rhythm. Repairing brain cells that I lost through gazing at the computer screen or tirelessly tapping out tedious tendrils of text. Minds more patient than my own have made perceptive, peaceful and functional parallels between technology and spirituality. In every sense we have reached peak information saturation that requires of us something more intelligent than previously. As departed writer and psychedelic adventure Terence McKenna noted, this expanding endless ‘novelty producing’ universe has reached warp speed where a quantum leap through hyper dimensions, as hyper-humans, is the only next step. I sense a split – some beings and places are already there – others have fallen into stasis, atrophy and living death. There is pain and a pulling sensation.

Whatever, I’m pretty sure that the internal quest for self-knowledge, the mythical inner journey through the souls terrain, is not via the technology of computer networks, or even actual social engagement, but through the older, more organic spiritualities of lucid dreaming, sleep, silence, reflection – contemplation and co-operation with the balance of time and the natural world, of death, birth, renewal, decay and transformation. For me, this means periodically enjoying the almost forbidden pleasure of allowing my phone batteries to die in the middle of nowhere leaving me, temporarily and genuinely – unreachable. For those in the know, I often joke, I can be reached more quickly on the telepathic frequencies – and I reckon this is one of the skills we should be (re) developing. This requires quantities of time, alone, listening, watching, catching the wisps and impressions that blow across the still waters of the mind. It’s a state of active receptivity that sends many people into a panic and which they’d rather fill with chatter.

It’s an age-old dilemma for performers and entertainers who are also solo flyers and contemplatives who find it difficult to breathe in crowds and who tend to prefer the silent, but instructive company of beetles. I suppose it is this magical and necessary cusp that is my material. The artists job is to bridge the gap between the twilight worlds of image and association and the broad daylight of ‘everyday’ consciousness. This is how we heal ourselves and others. I’ve heard that wolves, though misconceived of as ‘loners’, are in fact very social and communal. It’s all about the balance.  Let us all honour our own methods and rhythms for navigating our creative seasons.

 


 

 

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Core Strength for Singers and Musicians.


 

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Abdominal strength. Why is it so important for singers and instrumentalists?

I use a selection of ‘for the core’ exercises when I teach singing, and am always amazed at how many people aren’t used to connecting here – and the revelations that come when they do. Vocalists, if you want to make that long note something extra special, it’s the corsetry of your abdomen that’s going to make the difference. Your vital capacity, (the extent that you can hold your breath) will fuel it – but the layers of the abdomen (including but not restricted to the diaphragm) will support the breath and will also keep you standing rooted but tall, anchoring your whole body as you sing. I think of the voice as a divine instrument – it’s like lightning coursing down to earth – energetically, metaphorically and physically. You need to be as stable as possible when this power pays you a visit and to be the best lightning rod you can be.

I don’t necessarily advocate stomach workouts for the sake of vanity, bombarded as we are with unrealistic fashion images that can be very harmful to self-worth, (especially for women) if taken too seriously. Very few people have the kind of washboard torso glamourised by popular magazine culture. But if you do take some time to get to know your abs, you will certainly have a stronger back – great if you have to wear a guitar or bass, or sit upright at a piano, or carry heavy gear.

The internet is full of information, so this post is not supposed to be a comprehensive index or a definitive ‘how-to’ manual, just some pointers that I find useful as a musician (and martial artist) who likes to function at my optimum strength and fitness.

About Pilates. Joseph Pilates was a German bodywork pioneer who, according to accounts, discovered that his could rebuild his body, after prolonged illness, by using his core to lift his own body weight. He came from parents who were involved in alternative and progressive healing modalities, at a time when many holistic explorations of mind and body were becoming more popular. ‘Controlology’ is a term associated with his work. As a German stranded in the UK during the war, he used the time to hone his methods. ‘Pilates’ as a method works the deep core layers of muscle – rather than the surface six-pack (rectus abdominus) that most of us find so impressive, but are unlikely to have.

Some of what I’ve found useful is based on Pilates, but I don’t think anyone needs to pay loads of money for classes. At the risk of upsetting Pilates teachers, I would say that a decent book or video will do, then explore it for yourself at home. (Also have a look at those who have reframed the principles to create their own workouts, such as tennis player Martina Navratilova and ballerina Darcey Bussell.)

The most important thing to get right, is that before you attempt any of the exercises, your entire abdomen must be fully engaged. This is a workout in itself and will yield results. Then that state of tension must be maintained throughout all the lifting exercises. This creates the necessary resistance that works the muscles. This is the key. The more slowly and consciously you can work, the better. I don’t recommend any special breathing counts, just breath deeply and evenly. Some people will disagree with me on this and other content.

(*Always work within your limits and fee free to explore other opinions and methods.)

Here Goes: 

1. Lie on your back comfortably with feet on ground and legs at a 90 degree angle. Engage abdomen. Place cushion between knees and squeeze to keep it there. Lift pelvis completely off the ground in one movement. Raise arms above head. Slowly lower pelvis. Slowly lower arms. Feel the sensation as the torso lengthens. Works the upper abs. Do 10 very slow reps if you can. Breathe evenly. Simple but deceptively effective. You’ll feel it the next day.

2.  Lie on back as above with feet on ground and legs bent at 90 degree. Engage abdomen. Then lift legs into air so they are parallel with ground. Lift up shoulders and back and crunch. In this position lift your arms, palms down a few inches from the floor and ‘beat’ them gently up and down. Breathe evenly. Feel the resistance in the upper abdomen.

3. ‘The Roll.’ Lie flat on the ground. Engage abdomen. Visualise your navel touching your spine and try to flatten yourself against the floor. Maintain this throughout. Point toes. Extend arms above head. Breathe in and raise arms, fingertips to sky at 90 degree angle. Breath out and slowly roll up all the way, flex toes and touch them. Roll back in same way very slowly. 10 slow reps if you can.

4. The ‘Sally Gunnell’. I can’t remember where I read this but this is a great one from an athlete who knows what she’s talking about. Lie flat on ground. Legs bent at 90 degree angle. Engage abdomen. Arms supporting head. Roll up in classic crunch movement, in 3 distinct stages – the upper abs, then mid, then a full crunch. Reverse steps very slowly and consciously. 20 slow reps if you can.

5. Lie on ground with legs at 90 angle. Engage abdomen. Then lay both legs to the side but still be facing up. Feeling the stretch this creates on the upper abs. Arms behind head. Lift upper body up the sky. Not rolling or crunching, but UP. Works upper and transverse muscles. 20-50 reps each side. 100 once you get strong enough.

6. Lie on back with legs straight as you can pointing to the ceiling. Engage abdomen and flatten your spine against the floor. Arms behind head. Lift upper body off the ground, not rolling but UP. 20-50 reps. 100 once you get strong enough.

7. Lie flat on ground. Legs at 90 degree angle. Engage abdomen. Hook one leg over the other. Arms behind head. Lift and twist whole upper body aiming to touch opposite knee. Works transverse and upper abs.

8. Lie flat on ground. Engage abdomen. Place hands under buttocks, palms down. Curl upper body and remain crunched while looking at feet. Lift legs, keep them straight and pointed. Lift up and down in smooth, controlled movements. Do between 10-100 reps, as you get stronger. Works lower abs. Very intense. Not great for beginners – but one to work up to gradually. The upper abs first need to be strong enough to curl properly, otherwise the neck starts to strain.

9. Begin this as above. When engaged and curled up with upper abdomen, lift legs as a unit about 12 inches off the ground. Cross and uncross legs at the ankles. Between 10-100 reps. variation: lift legs as a unit and rotate clockwise, counterclockwise, then in opposing circles. Smooth, controlled movements. Advanced.

10. Whole core exercise. Sit cross-legged. Engage abdomen. Then stretch out legs in front of you. Reach with arms towards toes in an almost balletic gesture. Then lower yourself  slowly backwards and to the side, all the way down to the ground. Roll shoulders across ground and rise up in smooth controlled movement on other side back up to sitting position. Then reverse or as a variation can go in circles one direction. Must be very smooth, slow and controlled. Very intense and almost meditational. Takes 100 % abdominal engagement, deep breathing and mental focus.

As you go through your daily life, notice how your abdomen is one of those key areas, (unlike the bicep or tricep) which doesn’t need an opposing lever system to work. You can simply command it. Even just tensing and engaging your core muscles will strengthen them. Even more so, if simultaneously engaged in other exercise such as running, weightlifting, push-ups and/or intimate activities with significant others that I’ll leave to the imagination! Always remember, especially in the initial stages, to support and rest your neck and head as these will try to do the work for you until your abs develop enough strength to lift your weight. Practice eventually makes this easier. Also it’s as well remember the saying, ”abs are made in the kitchen.” Diet is the crucial other part of any exercise regime – but not part of this blog post – that’s for another day!

Have fun!

 


You think this was tough? Check this out!  http://youtu.be/axeHMu3rk80

You might also be interested in my blog post about running:  https://fayepatton.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/the-benefits-of-running/

 


 

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Guy Kawasaki – those ’12 tips’ reframed…

 

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In this post, I thought I’d revisit some ideas I picked up (and am still processing) from author, entrepreneur, public speaker and self-styled business ‘evangelist’ Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki worked at Apple with the late Steve Jobs. He now has dozens of free videos online, books, a blog, courses and classes. (His recent book, ‘Enchantment – The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions’, is available through his website. )


 

As a musician, I am still getting to grips with this new business model of the 360 degree DIY artist/’solo-preneur’. No matter how many times I hear that the industry is now better for us – a global, open playing field where we can sell our wares directly to our customers via the internet and social media – I still find business speak difficult. At times I think artists are more vulnerable than ever to marketing gurus willing to take our money, in return for a kind of bogus access to the wider world via ‘tweets’ and Facebook ‘likes’.

Most of us weren’t taught this at school, and the learning curve can be steep. The myth of the rock star is etched into our modern culture. Traditionally, musicians are supposed to be volatile, semi-nocturnal, booze-addled egomaniacs with little thought for routine, pre-planning or self-analysis – at least not the business side of what we do. That was left that to managers, fixers, agents and record companies – with positive and negative results. But what does come naturally is: flights of inspiration, ‘blue sky thinking’, spiritual reverie, spontaneity and lateral thinking. Creative people already live in that space. That’s why I like this inventive and irreverent list – based on broad, sometimes random, cross-disciplinary principles. I’m going to unpack it from a musicians point of view.  The original film is full of humour and some great anecdotes – well worth a look.

Here we go with:

Guy Kawasakis 12 tips learnt from Steve Jobs:

1. Experts are Clueless. In other words, beware the aura of respectability that goes with traditional education. True knowledge comes from the bones, the body, the years and years of doing it. Trial and error. Experience. The humility of knowing that as we perceive something – it changes and so do we. The more we think we know, the less we know. There is everything to learn and nothing is ever quite what it seems. I’d like to expand this point to say that true experts can be found away from the self-appointed gurus or motivational speakers, scholars or graduates of any field. The best speakers and educators teach through the power of story, anecdote, humour, proven success, spectacular failure, exceptions to every rule, last minute turn arounds, luck and co-incidence.

2. Customers Cannot Tell You What Whey Want.  Most people do not know what they want and are highly suggestible. However, generally we all want to feel these things: prosperous, attractive, sexually desirable, powerful, youthful, respected, inspired, hopeful, loved, comforted and connected – to belong. Part of the whole, yet, special.  Advertisers know this and exploit it to the hilt, whether they’re selling beer, movie tickets, cars, razors, depilatory cream, ready meals, extreme sports holidays, condoms, clothes, weddings, perfume, luxury flats or organic produce. For artists, remember, the power is  in your hands. Despite what others may tell you, you do not have to conform to the latest trend. Write your music the way you hear it and speak your truth. Know yourself and stick to you plan. Bring the audience round, win them over, reel them in. The vast majority of potential customers quite like to be told what to do, what to wear, what to listen to, what products to buy, relieved of the burden of choosing, in a busy fast paced world. Every weekend people buy sunday papers with a colour section filled with explicit consumer directives, lists, selections, reviews and surveys. Literally, ‘Buy this. Eat this’ etc. That’s in addition to the adverts.  You can manipulate this too, to a degree. I believe artists make art primarily for ourselves – our sanity depends on it. If we can sell enough to keep doing it that’s a bonus and if we discover some sort of spiritual mandate about raising the collective vibration in the process, so much the better. Remember your art comes from you, or at least through you. You are the boss. believe it. Embody it. Love it. Then let your natural persuasion flow.

3. Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work.  If something scares you – do it. If you feel the urge to resurrect  an aspect of your skill set that you neglected, but which your soul is crying out to express – do it. Bite off more than you can chew, feel the terror and watch as your entire career grows and expands. This is hard for artists – every day already feels like a challenge, in terms of money, time, sleep, energy levels and the ongoing search for recognition. It’s worth reaching for the impossible and expanding beyond your limits. However it’s also worth saying that you have to balance this with adequate self-care and nurturance of yourself as the art-producing organism. Give yourself a time frame for your challenges and take yourself seriously enough that when you leap for the stars you have some support in place. Victory loves preparation and I think that fortune favours those who are ready.

4. Design Counts. There is an initial moment in every encounter where style does trump substance. It’s the first impression and it’s usually visual. People respond on this level in a way that’s instinctive and emotional. Something that looks and feels visually coherent and harmonious invites further engagement. Past this point, the non-visual qualities take over, but if you want to hook people in from the get-go, visuals matter. For musicians, decent photos are a must – so are clear graphics, text and pleasing colours for websites, posters, album covers etc.

5. Big Graphics/Big Font. Obvious and yet sometimes overlooked in attempts to be overly artistic and clever, especially in publicity and marketing. Make sure the information you want to convey is coming across. It can make the difference between customers buying your music, or proceeding to the next new face on iTunes whose biog and links they can actually decipher. There are people who willing to go the extra mile to read smaller text and rules can be broken in the name of artistic license. I write this blog with pale text on a brown background – which is not to everyones liking – but the overall impression reflects my style better than a more conventional black on white format.

6. Jump Curves not ‘Better Sameness’.  I like this – and also find it scary. It strikes a chord which applies to all learning. Jazz musicians know that true improvisation is not about playing your known scales as competently as possible. It’s about leaping into the ocean and letting intuition take over. Musicians need to respond to the changing times. What worked for the last year might suddenly not be relevant anymore. There’s no point in doggedly finding better, more persuasive ways to get record label execs to listen to your CD. These days, you’d best get your YouTube channel up and running, because that’s what they’ll expect to see. As an artist, you may have a trademark –  a good line in sad, bluesy love songs, or an affinity with an instrumental sound for which you are known. One day, be prepared that you may never write on that theme again, it’s time for a make-over and having previously been a guitarist you now only want to play the trumpet. Or ditch your backing band, shave your head and release a solo unplugged album. Which your existing fans may hate – but which your expanding audience is ready for. Embrace these quantum transformations wholeheartedly! The emergent butterfly no longer needs to excel at being the best caterpillar. Things move on. Respond. There’s enormous freedom in editing, speeding and cleaning your flow – be it songwriting, recording, networking or marketing. Minimum effort, maximum result is a mantra that works for me.

7. Something Works or Doesn’t Work. The best songs? Nice hooky melodic flow, not too long, beginning, middle and end. The best singing? From the heart, keeping it real on a subject you know about. The best breathing technique? Get it in, get it out. Best customer/fan PR? Draw the people in, give them something real, communicate your message, honour the time spent together, give thanks, let them choose whether to deepen their relationship with you. Be excited about what you do – desire is the rocket fuel that drives any project and pulls people in, making them feel part of a wider community all buzzing on a compatible vibe. Lack of desire for your own art will repel people. All artists go through ’empty shell’ periods where their marketing speak or concert patter becomes reactive, repetitive. Times like this, it’s worth stepping back from the public eye and rekindling the passion.

8. Value is Different from Price. Very important when a musician is negotiating for  session/gig/consultancy/teaching wages. If new instrumental students baulk at my fee, I remind them that the expertise I will bring to them is literally priceless. An investment that will give them hours and hours of potentially infinite satisfaction and empowerment beyond the initial lesson. Same for a gig or function. I’m confident that my value far exceeds the amount of money paid – which is really only an offering of energy in return for the raw material of my soul. Knowing your worth is hugely important these days, more so now that music has been devalued by a saturated marketplace where entertainment is free and ubiquitous. It’s hard not to be affected by this, lowering your prices and standards and also saying ‘yes’ to engagements which are exploitative. When there is a lot of genuine talent out there, how do you price yourself above or below the next person? Only you know if you have something that makes you truly special. Know your value. Then be bold and communicate that value through your actions and words.

9. ‘A’ Players Hire ‘A’ Players. A difficult one, as we’ve all hired staff who are functioning at a sort of intern level and whom we have to train on the job. This is ok for secretarial staff. It’s not so good for band members, session players, business consultants, photographers, engineers or publicity and marketing assistants who are going to be making crucial  phone calls to industry figures. How do you know at interview stage, if you are dealing with an equal and potential peer? They will not be awed by you, they will come across as genuinely self-possessed. They’ll be honest about their experience level and able to negotiate and discuss their own wages and value with an air of confidence. They’ll know your industry and the people in it and have shared reference points, gained through experience. They’ll be able to challenge you in a constructive way and have the right strengths to compliment your weak spots.

10. Real CEOS can Demo. The classic application of this is the music teacher who can play the piece, who knows the landscape inside out, has travelled the territory that the map indicates. Not all music teachers can! The practitioner who is immersed, body and soul in their craft. Not just the musicianship, but the realities of the industry coal face. Taken to a more metaphysical level – like Thomas Dorsey, if you are ‘living the life you sing about in your song’  if there is a congruence between your walk and your talk – this will translate to the punters. So many of whom are looking for something authentic and soulful with which to resonate.

11. Real Entrepreneurs ‘Ship’. Unless I’ve hilariously misunderstood this – this does not mean ‘shipping in the US slang sense, meaning relationship (like customer PR in this context.) This means get your product flying off the shelves  – let go of it and send it into the marketplace even though it may not be flawless and may have elements that could be improved. In other words, ‘done is better than perfect’. Be careful with this one. If it’s your musical product, it’s you that has to live with it being out there in the public domain and it’s counter-intuitive to plug and promote stuff that you feel is not your best. Still, I like the concept of not being too precious and embracing that moment when our art has to live independently.

12. Some Things Need to be Believed to be Seen. Popular books about the ‘Law of Attraction’ talk about this a lot. Have a vision. Everything that has ever existed, existed first, in the mind. See it. Make it real. I’d extend the definition of believed to also mean ‘felt’, in a vibrational sense. If you only work with what you know to be possible, or what you previously thought to be doable, you are not open to the unique path that is your very own. The future isn’t written, nor are the tools for writing it fixed, nor is the vocabulary set in stone. This is very true right now in music and entertainment, concerning media technologies and consumer habits. On an economic, ecological, global and galactic level, all is subject to change. So let your music career truly become a vision quest, holistic and grounded, right from creative inception to the online music store, to the movie sync deal, to the world tour, to the guest appearance at the protest march. Live your dream whilst creating the kind of world, you want to create music in and for. Let your ethical values shine through. If you don’t have some kind of  spiritual practice in your life, now is the time to explore that and to start working in a deliberate way with the tools of visualisation and manifestation. Guide your life from the inside out, design your own path and enjoy the journey.

 I hope you enjoyed this journey!

 


 

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online, graphics-design service, trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation, and executive fellow at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is the author of The Art of the Start 2.0, The Art of Social Media, Enchantment, and ten other books.

Here is the original film from Silicon Valley Banks CEO Summit in 2011: 12 Lessons Steve Jobs Taught Guy Kawasaki.

 


 

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The Art Of Nunchaku

 

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This unique weapon, popularised by Bruce lee and Dan Inosanto, amongst others, originates in Okinawa, Japan, but variations on the flail-like implement are common throughout South East Asia. Some theories situate it as an adapted farm tool, but opinions differ, since historically, martial arts were often the preserve of the ruling classes. Spinning my ‘chucks everyday, in hot sun, freezing rain, mud, ice or high winds –  is keeping me sane. For obvious reasons, I don’t want to glamourise weapons, aggression or violence and the nunchuks have a bit of a bad rep. However, like all weapons and fighting arts, if you train with the correct attitude, the idea of using it to cause grief, starts to really fade into the distance. Instead, it becomes the most supreme meditational tool, teacher and ally. As in life, I lose the rhythm and have to stop and unwind my self-entanglements. As in life, I drop them, I pick them up. The key is not how many times you fail, but the manner in which you recover. I am used to wielding quite heavy white oak Japanese bokken and Jo. Also I practice Kung Fu and lift weights – so I have quite a lot of strength. But the real beauty is that for this, physical muscle isn’t necessary – only the weight of the wood itself and the exact momentum needed to deliver it to the hand. It’s about pure feeling and flow. Having faith in movement. Free fall and flight. Mental dialogue chatters away, but the only constant is the clanking and rattling of the chain, and the powerful ‘phoommm’ sound of displaced air. There is the lovely, fleeting sense of mastery. (I’m doing something REALLY clever!) Interspersed with moments of indignity, ecstasy and the humble nobility of being covered in mud from all the wipeouts and flowerbed retrievals. A bit like life. At every new level and new move, the Nunchuks teach me, painfully if necessary, what I need to know. For instance, you really don’t want to hit your funny bone at high speed, or at any speed – the hard whack I gave myself disabled me for 10 minutes, and my fingers were numb and buzzing a fortnight later. Not so funny. (My flatmate looking out of the window, spotted me, prostrate, clutching my arm, face screwed up and breathing raggedly, unable to move. She thought it was part of my ‘spiritual practice’…a prayer perhaps?)

I have also learned that hitting myself in the face, hard, is something I only want to experience the one time. Accidents with this light, but deadly force, really, really, really hurt. Therefore, best to approach the practice, being as present as possible, with respect and curiosity. I feel like I used the nunchaku in a previous life. Like music, and certain languages, it feels like something remembered, not learnt for the first time. Like music, it plays itself with only a little coaxing. I am loving it, the simplicity, the dexterity, the mental peace. It’s wonderful to discover (rediscover?) a new (old?) friend.

(Note: Best to study this with a proper teacher and within the context of a dedicated personal martial arts training framework. It’s not illegal to carry them if  they are concealed in a bag and are for obvious study purposes but questions may be asked if you brandish them in public. If you want to buy them, you may be asked for ID that proves you are over 18. )

Resources:

Agogi Wing Chung  (Streetwise Wing Chun Kung Fu for the 21st century. Developed by Founder, Sifu Eric Nicos. )

Tao Sport (London based boxing and martial arts equipment supplier to the combative sports and fight community in the UK since 1988.)

 


 

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Happy New Year 2015…

 

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Wishing everyone in or around my life, a wonderfully Happy New Year! Pals, fans, colleagues, extended family, connections and ‘all my relations’ in far-flung places, from Japan to the US – who are never far from my thoughts. Heartfelt good wishes, love and solidarity in all our endeavours, as we shine sanity, creativity and positive change into our various interconnected communities for 2015 and beyond.

2014 certainly seemed like a chaotic and worrying year. In the UK, the rise of UKIP, increasing economic squeeze of the poor by the rich, more corporate theft, greed and compulsory consumerism, government cuts and ‘austerity’ (never theirs, just ours) and a creative arts industry that values artists and musicians less and less – that now weighs our net worth, Facebook popularity and media stats, (not our talent) before booking or funding us. Meanwhile, shocking levels of racist and state/media backed police aggression in the USA and the usual global desecration of the sacred green/brown/blue, life-giving Earth and her creatures. Somewhat of an annus horribilis on a personal level, I’ve moved house again, lost 2 piano bar residencies (sacked?) without explanation and am watching the cost (in every sense) of living in London rise and rise in what seems to be a rat race – trying to outrun/outwit impending burnout.

In a system that we know is wrong, yet where we are kept too knackered to do anything about it – How is one to live ethically, creatively and healthfully? Where is the balance? At what point does ‘positive thinking’ start to look like denial? When defiance and disgust might be more appropriate? Those of us with a spiritual bent always knew that these times would bring vast contrast. I believe we are seeing the thrashing, struggling death throes of a paradigm that knows it’s on the out and is panicking. Truly, I’ve seen and am seeing some hopeful things. Unprecedented information/alternative news and media on everything from fracking to banking, crypto-currency, transition culture, urban regeneration and human rights. At the grassroots level, I’ve seen collective outrage over the murder of Michael Brown, deep unease over UKIP (how/why does this party even exist?) increased support for women’s empowerment, (anti-racist and anti-sexist movements growing and learning from each other) and the unlikely figure of UK entertainer Russell Brand stepping up and coming into his own as a campaigner whose words and work are well worth a look. We now know a lot about how things work – how corporations own governments, what banks really are, and why traditional politics and economics are over. We know that true ‘wealth’ is people – our energy, love, diverse talents and skills, and the natural world of which we are a part. This knowledge is a coin worth something.

I have friends on the far left (radical communists) who would probably argue there’s no such thing as a ‘bloodless revolution’, (!) but I have faith in the more compassionate and evolved ‘meltdown’ model whereby empires fall in isolation, ‘overnight’, (macrocosmically speaking) as their life cycle simply comes to an end. People stop believing in them, stop needing them, stop colluding with them. Sooner or later, both locally and globally, we are looking at an informed populace that might just reinvent the future.

Happy New Year 2015. Let’s make it count.

 


 

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Ways to get your ‘Groove’ back…

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A light-hearted blog post. Ever felt stuck in old, repeating loops and thought forms, despite being a disciplined professional with good habits, spiritual practices and healthy routines that others would envy? Periodically, we all need a tune-up, a tweaking of our reference points. Those of us who practise ‘positive thinking’ don’t  always realise that whilst the conscious mind is busy ‘looking on the bright side’, the underlying dialogue can get stuck in a sort of low-level funk.

Whatever your industry or lifestyle –  you might be a musician, or artist, idealist, activist or dreamer, a self-help guru, entrepreneur, writer or inventor, I assume that you are an intelligent, questioning being, interested in and seeking maximum human potential? Yet, do you sometimes struggle with your own limitations and know you could function more freely and more intelligently? Our get-ahead culture focuses on speed, ambition, efficiency, task and goal orientated solutions, but what about all the more subtle parts of the self? How about some creative ways to have fun with your own perceptions and assumptions about the reality that you have constructed for yourself?

When your groove has become a rut…I give you my Top Ten Tips to get it back. Written from the perspective of an artist/ musician. They are mental, perceptual, philosophical. Play with them, don’t turn them into  a military drill!

1. Take a risk. When times are tough, we get conservative, we like to feel safe. Instead, take a leap! remember that first tour or festival, first time abroad speaking a new language or first impromptu radio appearance? Or a combination of all these experiences? Remember times when you’d had no sleep, no rehearsal, and everything was improvised? Remember the ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ quality and the magic, lucky feeling that you could not fail or lose? This is the ancient concept of ‘beginners luck’ or ‘beginners mind’ at work. Trust it. Do the thing that makes you afraid or uncomfortable. Without being self-destructive, be as curious as you can be each day with things that are unexpected, and that expand your horizons and experience. Like a snake, bite off more than you can chew. Confront your own blocks and your will find that you become the boss of your own comfort zone. Facing fear head-on, creates an incredible release of energy. It’s only when we face ‘death’ that we feel fully alive. Death as a metaphor can mean death of an illusion, the ego, self-image, or a comforting phase. It means change, movement – which is the only certainty we have.

2. Remember you’re an alien. ‘Make strange’ your surroundings by imagining you are seeing it all from the viewpoint of a visiting galactic tourist, from your favourite planet, whose denizens, customs and standards you respect and admire. The things about life that really, justifiably, piss you off: London traffic, the current government, the economy, crappy aspects of the media and celebrity culture, environmental destruction, corporate greed, the pain of your ancestors – you may start to find is just something you are encountering in your temporary stay. All part of the character of Planet Earth in her current phase of evolution. I’m not saying to forget the iniquities and injustices of our social systems – it all needs an overhaul, as anyone with a social conscience can see and feel. But letting it all go for a while gives you your sense of humour back, which will make you stronger in order to fight the good fight. It’s all temporary, you see. (Soon you will be reunited with your true kin from the Pleiades, Orion, Venus or wherever…)

3. Play games with chance, co-incidence and free-association. I don’t believe in handing over your power to external forces like fate or superstition. However, daily life is an oracle, if we practise the undervalued and all but lost skill of paying attentionObserve and notice patterns. They reveal that energy is in motion. Embrace chance conversations, and synchronicities. Try to spot and identify the tracks of animals. Watch the behaviour of insects and birds. Play guessing games, test out your clairvoyance. Extra sensory ability is, I believe, a muscle that can be developed like any other.

4. Create your own entertainment. Today, with laptops, iPads, iPhones, YouTube and Google, the availability of just about any kind of entertainment at the press of a button is a bitter-sweet luxury. It has the capacity to make us very intelligent and pro-active or very stupid and extremely passive. What could and would you do to amuse yourself if your internet went down, also the phone, also the TV? What thoughts could you have? What things might you learn? What physical abilities might you have to remember? In the relative boredom, what might you discover or create? We are so beset with rich visual stimulation that many of us neglect to explore our own visualisation skills. Try spending the evening silently gazing at a blank wall – you’ll be amazed at the images and altered states that you go through, quite naturally.

5. Practice Verbal and Mental Hygiene. You may feel pleased with yourself if you are able to practice the following – not speaking ill of others or of yourself, thus limiting the repercussions that our words can create if we indulge in gossip or complaints. But at any given point, the mental dialogue we carry around can be truly debilitating, simultaneously just off the radar, yet taking our best attention. It creeps up on us quietly and slowly…needless worries about the future, finance, past conversations, injustices, fantasies, advertising jingles etc. Stay in the present. Spit out that bone and feel the relief. Warning signs that the inner voices have become too turbulent are random instances of shattered crockery, bumps, accidents, getting jostled in the street or finding you’ve pulled off a nail or torn out your own hair.

6. Throw away the clock. Focus on the thing you have to do, not the time you have to do it. Things done slowly reveal themselves to fit just perfectly. They find their own time frame, taking no more or less than is needful. Observe your house and garden plants. Meditate upon cooking and eating – everything has its own rhythm. Why on earth is there any need to hurry? Is time a thing we can actually run out of?

7. Practise distance games. Pretend that your life is someone else’s and that you are reading the obituary. Chances are you would be impressed, right? That’s a pretty good life and record of achievement, you might reckon. So why are we so hard on ourselves? In dialogue with others, enjoy the sensation that the words are a radio or film script. Is this a movie you’d watch? Do the characters dilemmas interest and move you? If not, maybe you can change yourself or your social circle. Do the same with your daily actions, ambitions and issues. Would you waste 2 hours of your life watching this narrative at the cinema? Is your life truly epic and legendary in its scope? No? Then it’s time to change the script and raise the standard. Aim to be the heroine or hero of your own life – why not?

8. Embrace failure. What??? I hear you say. Yes, if you surrender to the extremes, an odd thing happens. Perspective happens. Ever lose everything and know with clarifying desire and heart wrenching grief, the value of what you lost, and just exactly what work you have to do to recover it? Ever step off your path and make a bad decision (which usually leads to another bad decision)? Curious how being off track can give you the absolutely best view of where you are not and where you need to aim for. While those on it sometimes can’t see it. When the only way is up, sobriety is ever-present. In any case, your ‘failure’ is entirely relative – paradise for someone less fortunate.

9. Connect with the elements. Yes, spend time in natural world…we have heard it before. How many times do we need to hear this, before we realise that our disconnection from the organic world is harming us and making us forget our own phenomenal nature? The elements call to us on a primal, archetypal level. If you live in mechanised city surroundings, it is even more crucial to do this and even easier to forget to do it. Therefore, do it. Feel the magic of lighting a bonfire and sitting with it all night. Feel the simple but definite excitement of a single candle lit in darkness. Experience the rush of a cold swim in rough sea or tranquil mountain water. Go out in high winds, thunder and lightning and yell your head off. Get your hands in the soil and plant some vegetables. Give your senses a treat. Smell is one of the most evocative and least understood of our senses. The scent of soil, seaweed, burning timber, rain and snow, decay, greenery, sun-kissed skin – all have a healing effect.

10. Very Big. Very Small. A mental game. Meditate upon the dimensions of things. Consider that they only exist in relation to other things. So, all is relativity and relationship. In your mind’s eye, zoom out from planet Earth. Then, zoom beyond. If you can, visualise our central sun, (one of billions in the universe) which is about 1,300,000 times the size of Earth. Then visualise the milky way and so on. Eventually you’ll come to a conceptual boundary, since the mind can only hold so much. Then what – what’s beyond the gate? Go there, see what you find. Eventually, there’ll be another gate. What’s beyond it? Do this for as long as you can. Float in the quiet peaceful darkness of space. When I see film of the inside of a human body, I’m struck by how much like space it looks. Maybe the furthest reaches of our infinitude are just a gap in the cell structure of a much larger organism that our instruments cannot measure. When you are ready, zoom back down – this time down into the earth, into the world of the insects – magnify and magnify their world, right down to their skin and wings and even what their mental space might look like. (They may be meditating upon the void, just like you.) Then zoom in further, beyond the Planck scale, down to the subatomic level, the very pixels of existence. Compared to this, atoms are giants, and the smallest insect is a universe.

There’s nothing like a bit of perspective. Life is miraculous, no?

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