Tag Archives: summer

My Song

I welcome the first day of summer by attending a yoga and music workshop with musician and yoga teacher Jack Harrison.

We lie down and begin with some breathing exercises. Jack strums his guitar, recites poetry and sings.

Then he takes us through a powerful yoga sequence. No music plays now. All we can hear are Jack’s instructions and our breath.

My breathing deepens. I feel strong, present and peaceful.

Afterwards, we sit in a circle and sing. For the most part, I close my eyes and really get into it.

Occasionally, I open my eyes and appreciate what’s in front of me. The fantastic Jack Harrison playing guitar. And a group of people joyously opening their hearts together in song.

Next, Jack suggests that we sing any tune we feel like.

“Dissonance is beautiful,” he insists.

“Some of us were told as children that we weren’t good singers. I was kicked out of the school choir when I was a boy,” he laughs.

“But singing is easy,” he says with a smile.

Many of us spend our lives trying to fit in and appear normal. We’re told how to live and what’s expected of us.

But today for a change, we’re being encouraged to be different. We’ve been given licence to sing our own song in a way that’s right for us in this special moment.

We start quietly and self-consciously. But before long, we become louder and more confident.

I realise that it’s much easier to sing in unison. It’s actually harder to be different. But I’m determined to find my own song.

I go with the feeling. I put judgment aside. I allow myself to be me.

Somewhere between dissonance, unison and harmony, I hear my own voice. Tears prickle behind my eyes. Jack’s right, it is beautiful.

bird girl

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Cheerleader

Some of you will be familiar with a popular song of the moment, “Cheerleader” by OMI. Well, up until Sunday night, I thought the lyrics went something like this: “Oh I think that I found myself a cherry air.” 

Which makes no sense at all but I happily sang along anyway while enjoying the sunshiney sound of the trumpet.

On Sunday night, I was in a beer garden when OMI’s reggae tune came on. “Oh I think that I found myself a cheerleader,” one woman sang as she threw her hands in the air. Oh!

I’ve since heard the song several times and now that I know what OMI is actually singing, I can’t not hear it. This got me thinking. Is it the same with awareness? Once you have an awareness/insight/Aha moment, you can’t unhave it.

Anyway, that’s my thought for the day (well, one of them at least).

The Christmas Present

It was the end of September and I was practising mindfulness. I had just had the best holiday ever. I’d also experienced a summer of fun, friendship and adventure. I remember telling a couple of friends that I was in a “really great place”.

And then things changed. The following few months were turbulent. I felt stressed and under pressure. My feelings swung from anger and resentment to guilt and fear.

Ten days ago, I was asked to make a difficult decision. And one week before Christmas, I found myself moving out of one house and into another. I was shocked and exhausted, upset and excited, free and frightened.

My friends rallied around and took me on a couple of big nights out where I drank a lot of alcohol. The days afterwards were strangled with panic and depression.

I certainly wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. I didn’t decorate. I stopped meditating and exercising. I was just too tired to take out my tools for well-being.

I convinced myself that people wouldn’t like me very much if I wallowed and complained but I couldn’t pretend either. I wanted to be left alone but I felt needy for company and love.

I beat myself up for not snapping out of it, for attracting in this turmoil with my thoughts and beliefs. It’s all my fault, I decided. But I didn’t know how to transform it. It isn’t fair, I wailed.

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And today it’s Christmas. I meditate. I exchange gifts and well-wishes with family and friends. I gorge on chocolate and a variety of meats and vegetables. I take the dog for a walk. I watch movies. I give myself acupuncture. I rest. I write in my journal. I do everything I can to lift my spirits but I’m still lacking in enthusiasm and hope.

Suddenly, it strikes me that my suffering does not exist in this present moment. It has arisen out of my thinking. It lurks in my expectations about how I should be. It grows in my resistance to how things are. It expands with my longing for something more, something different. It strengthens with my doubt and self-flagellation.

I realise that this moment holds no pain. So I bring my full attention to right now. I become present to the dog as it snuggles up beside me. To the trees that line the quiet country road. To my laughter at The Big LebowskiTo my loved ones. To the clear night sky and the shooting star that dives before me.

This moment is perfect. My suffering is simply an illusion created by my thoughts, attachments and misguided beliefs.

Today, my brother gives me a gift of a beautiful necklace. I decide to use this chain as a reminder to be present.

Today, I give myself the gift of my presence. I shall stop telling myself that this moment is not enough, that I’m not enough.

Because when I’m truly present, this moment is complete. I am complete.

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Music Uplift

Certain music raises your emotional vibration. So I suggested that my Positive Living group find a piece of music that uplifts them. And in time, they could put together an entire playlist, which they could listen to whenever they want to feel happy or energised.

Last night, I scrolled down my iPod to see what I would place on my uplifting playlist. My choices had me shimmying, singing along to the lyrics and smiling as I was flooded with lovely memories. Here’s what I came up with…

1. Happy Face – Destiny’s Child

This song helped me put on my happy face when I was going through a tough time in my early twenties.

2. You Make My Dreams Come True – Hall & Oates

If you’re a fan of the film (500) Days of Summeryou’ll remember the scene where Joseph Gordon-Levitt dances through the streets after a night of passion with one very lucky lady.

3. You’ve Got The Love – The Source feat. Candi Station

This track reminds me of being spun on the waltzers by a sexy carnival bad-boy, and later, the emotional final scene of hit series Sex and the City.

4. What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction

No explanations, no justifications. Now excuse me while I check out some of their newer music videos. For research purposes.

*17.32 minutes minutes later* Yep, feeling pretty good alright.

5. Intro – The XX

Cooler than a pair of Ray-Bans.

6. Drumming – Florence and the Machine

This music had me dancing with wild abandon in my bedroom.

7. Taro – Alt-J

And this gets me belly dancing round the flat.

8. Halcyon – Ellie Goulding

I recall feeling hopeful and alive as I raced through the rain while Miss Goulding belted out the lyrics: “It’s gonna be better!”

9. A Real Hero – College feat. Electric Youth

I couldn’t put the treadmill on a high enough speed when this song came on my I Work Out playlist. And anything Gosling-related is feel-good if you ask me.

10. Instant Crush – Daft Punk feat. Julian Casablancas

Cruising along the coast, windows down.

Bonus Track: Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap

Another tune from (500) Days of Summer, this brings me back to sunny days lying on the grass and gazing at a clear blue sky…

I’d love to know what would appear on your uplifting playlist!

This is Your Song

Last night, I went to see The National in the O2. They were amazing. Matt Berninger’s voice sounded just like it does on their albums. And he really got into the performance.

The person with me commented: “They don’t write songs for the public, they write songs for themselves.” This really rang true. The lead singer appeared to let go when he was on stage. It was like he was losing himself in his passion, exposing his darkest thoughts and deepest emotions, sharing his heart with all of us. It felt raw and honest.

We could only get seated tickets, which was fine as The National’s music is quite relaxing. But there was no dancing or jumping in our section of the arena. However, after a while, the energy of the musicians rippled into the crowd. The woman in front of us started raising her hand and standing after each song. The man beside me played air guitar. And I swayed and roared in appreciation.

I gazed at a beautiful visual behind the band of the ocean and a sun-streaked sky. I was brought back to times when I swam in the sea or bobbed on a boat. I had felt free and alive.

I thought: How often do we experience these things in our everyday lives? When do we allow ourselves to let go and become one with that joy, that aliveness?

Perhaps when we drink alcohol, take drugs, have sex or go on holidays. Or when we attend gigs like this one. We connect with that passion when we witness someone living their dream, when another human being lets us in to the honesty and depth of their authentic selves.

We become truly present. We enjoy all of our senses. And we give ourselves permission to be free, even if just for one day, one night, one moment…

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Leaning into Life

Listening to the Hay House World Summit at the weekend, I heard one of the speakers say: “Successful people do what they want to do, not what they feel like doing.” At the time, I didn’t really get it. The following day, it hit me.

For quite some time, I’ve been teaching myself to get quiet and listen to my body. I’ve learned how to say “No” and how to know what’s right for me at any given moment. I thought the best motto for life was to “go with the flow”.

Then, I came across an article by Noor Shawwa, who wrote about the three ways we approach life. He suggested that we can go with the flow (lean back), walk away (quit) or make the most of it (lean in). A couple of days later, I read another article, this one by Jack Canfield, telling us to “Build Momentum by Leaning into It.”

Going with the flow is a welcome relief after a lifetime of resistance and control. But upon reading these articles, I realise that there is something empowering about leaning into life. If I always sit back and do what I feel like doing, I’d skip the workout and eat lots of cake. Alternatively, if I were to do what I want to do, I’d do things that make me fit and healthy and full of energy. Yes, I might feel like watching the latest Ryan Gosling flick (and that’s okay too) but I might want to prepare an inspiring Positive Living class more.

So today, even though I don’t feel like it, I take myself out for a cycle. And boy am I tested on that, as yet, uncertain balance between going with the flow, leaning in and downright quitting!

The wind is strong. No matter which direction I go, it blows against me. I huff and puff in annoyance. I want it to stop. A plump bumblebee dives onto my head and bounces off my eyelid. As I pedal along, a dog chases me, barking incessantly. I reason with it in a sing-song voice, trying to appeal to its gentler nature. Eventually, it gives up. Just before I cycle right into a giant pothole. I am totally jarred but I remain upright. Minutes later, two tiny flies simultaneously suicide-bomb into one eye each. I pull over and rub my eyes vigorously, only burying them further into their watery graves.

I sit back on the saddle and laugh. Up until this point, I thought everything was against me. Now it feels more like nature is working with me in order to wake me up. There is nothing I can do about the weather. I have two legs that are working hard to bring me into the beautiful countryside. The wind is warm (and it’s not often you can say that in Ireland!) and it’s forcing me to get more out of my workout.

Just as I relax into it, it begins to drizzle, thus breaking the weeklong spell of glorious sunshine. I can’t change the weather, I mutter. But I can change my attitude. I understand that leaning into life still requires going with the flow. It’s just about adding momentum. So I lean into the rain and keep going. I’m like a human hearse carrying two tiny insects who have sacrificed themselves for the cause – my awareness.

The Apple of my Eye

Let me tell you about my new crush. I’ve known him for years but never thought of him that way. Until I saw him again on Sunday night. He’s such a nice guy. He’s cute and tall and wears cool clothes. He’s down-to-earth, funny and super-talented. He’s quite skilled on a unicycle and even manages to look good in an elephant suit….

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Okay, so he’s an incredibly famous rock star. But you know I encourage dreaming big. If he wasn’t married with kids, I’d totally go for it. Alas, I have principles.

* On a side note, can’t you just picture this song playing at a summer festival? The crowd sings along in unison to the chorus as the delectable Mr Martin pounds away on the piano… TURN IT UP LOUD! *

Featured Image: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/fruit/apples.cfm?section=tree