The Treasure of Pleasure

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Poor health can make one always look on the darkest side, and cultivating an awareness of pleasure can end up lost in a world of pain and suffering. So, in an effort to cultivate that awareness, as part of a mindfulness practice, here is a list – in no particular order – of 10 pleasurable things I have experienced today:

1. String resonance
2. The smell of mint and tea tree shower gel
3. A friend I can talk to about anything
4. Orgasm
5. The taste of coffee that felt like liquid velvet in my mouth
6. The scent of my son’s hair
7. Tender and passionate kisses
8. ‘Krave’ cereal
9. Watching ‘Interstellar’
10. Discovering the game ‘Blendoku’

It isn’t about some positive thinking nonsense of ‘accentuating the positive’ but, rather, noticing the pleasurable, taking delight in the delightful. Being mindful of anything at all that is nice, or just isn’t crappy. It’s easy to notice the shit, because it’s loud and obnoxious. The nice stuff can be there, but soft and subtle. Therefore, it takes looking for it and making over it. And, that’s what I’ve done here.

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By Any Other Name (a big decision to make)

wpid-20140719_163024_20140720144052585.jpgI remember a long time ago when a publishing company wanted my mother (author and artist Ginilou DeMarco) to write her books under a non de plume (for the slightly less aware, an alias; for the just plain stupid, another name), she didn’t want to do it, and I couldn’t blame her. Part of having talent and sharing it is getting the credit for it as yourself. But, more and more I’m thinking that maybe, just perhaps, that is our ego talking: our bodies have these names, but our souls do not. And, so… I am considering releasing my next album under another name.

I love my name.  I always have.  My name is cool. It used to be very unique.  It isn’t anymore.  Unique, that is.  It is still cool (but, of course, I am biased).  I was proud of my name even back when people never got it right because only a very small handful of people had named their child “Autumn” (much less “Autumn Dawn” – I believe, I was the first…I may be wrong.  But, of all the Autumn Dawns I have subsuequently found out about, I am the oldest…making me the original since 1974) and I got called every other name starting with A instead of my name. Or, worse (and this still annoys me to this day, because I still get it occassionally), they would call me only by my middle name.  Ugh.  My name is Autumn Dawn.  Or just Autumn. It is NEVER “Dawn”!!!

In learning soul consciousness versus body consciousness (the internal and eternal as opposed to the external and temporary), I know that while this is my present name, it is not, however, who I am. This body’s name is Autumn Dawn, but I am a soul. And, the thing is, my music has never been successful under this name.

Now, the talent maybe associated with my body, I know.  But, creativity is a spiritual quality, an aspect of the eternal identity, the being or soul. And, specifically, music is definitely a spiritual thing.

So, these are my reasons for considering a release in another name.  Authors do it all the time (when they want to), and look at Prince, or the artist formally known as, Symbol, or whatever he is calling himself and releasing his music under these days.  And, many musical artists chose from the first to go by another name.  Of course, I know, Prince may not be a perfect example here, because he was successful as Prince…  but, yeah… anywho. Hopefully, you see my point.

While I am proud of my lovely name and proud of my gift (music), it isn’t much of a gift if it isn’t getting the exposure and getting out there.  A gift should be giving.  I have tried.  I have failed and failed and failed.  Well, “Autumn Dawn” has failed and failed anyway.

Thus, this serious consideration to release an album under another name (not sure what just yet).  I would really very much like to hear what other people (you, my readers) think about this.  Talk to me.  I’d appreciate some feedback here.  It’s a big decision.

 

 

 

Colours True (and a word about regeneration)

Firstly, please turn up your volume.

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For me, the original version of this song is the best. But, this picture and quote that I put up on my Facebook Page yesterday inspired this rendition of the song True Colours you are listening to now (or, you are if you turned your volume on/up as you were requested to).

This subject of knowing and being yourself, is at once so simple and so deep.

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I am presently going through what I call a regeneration (those of you who are Whovians will automatically get the reference) which began at the close of last year and is continuing on.  If you aren’t a Doctor Who fan…well, I feel very sorry for you…  um… leave now and go do whatever it is non-Whovians do.  Moving right along…  Regeneration.

When I posted this image on my FB page, I wrote this:

I’m regenerating.
It’s a process.
It isn’t just for Time Lords.
It can be painful…
but it is necessary in order to continue living.
I can’t promise you what you’re going to get.
But, the time has come…
and I AM regenerating.

This year I feel that, in and out, I am becoming myself. The outward display of that are the new tattoos and piercings. The inward display (the most important) is in my comittment to cultivate awareness and live in the present. In other words, meditation and mindfulness.

It’s about not diluting my colours for anything or anyone. It’s remembering. Discovering. It’s awareness. That with undiluted hues I may leave my mark on the world – not a watered down, dirty smudge, but a vibrant, beautiful work of true artistry.

Life Blows… Blow Back!

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Or, we could say, “Life hits hard; hit back harder!”

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Music is powerful. Music is influential. No matter what you tell yourself and your parents when you’re a teenager; the music you listen to affects you, in a very real way. Science now supports all this. Thank God for the invention of brain scans, ay? What you listen to will affect mood, ideas; it will influence you in subtle and significant ways. Deny it if you want to, but music is a spiritual force.

I’m not hear to preach at you. I am simply in awe of, well, the awesomeness of music. As a musician, it’s an honour and responsibility to use the “power” wisely (with great power, yeah, yada yada yada…Spiderman has nothing on us musos…we’re the real superheros and, dare I say it, villians). Music is a gift to us all and a helpful medication in the struggle to cope with life.

I am a huge supporter and believer in music therapy and the more I find it helping myself and my mental health difficulties, the more I want to share the therapeutic benefits with everyone who will, well…listen.

Listening is where we start. Not a passive listening, but listening with awareness. Music is meditative in quality, and right there lies so much of its healing power.  The Latin word for meditation is mederi, which means “heal, cure, remedy, assauge, comfort, amend” (see, you learn something reading my blog).

What is listening with awareness or meditative listening? 

Sitting or lying comfortably, choose a piece of music to listen to (for this “exercise” I recommend going for an instrumental piece so you can focus more on the music and avoid the temptation to get caught up following the story of the lyrics and how THEY play on your emotions or what they cause you to remember, think about, etc.). If it is a piece you are familliar with already, approach this listening session as if it’s the first time you’ve heard the piece. Or, you could choose something new to you. The idea is to approach the music with curiosity, as if hearing – not only music, but hearing itself – for the first time.  You are cultivating a sense of curiosity and wonder. You are cultivating a sense of gratitude for the ability to hear and for the gift of music itself.

Perhaps you’ve been taught that meditation is some Eastern mystisism that you wish to avoid. Lately my view has been quite challened on this subject. The medical and scientific proofs of the benefit of meditation on the brain is not to be sniffed at! You need not sit and chant weird words and it’s not about reaching some altered state of consciousness. It’s about becoming AWARE, about getting off the autopilot most of us are run by day in and day out, and grounding yourself in the present moment. It’s about taking time out of all your busy DOING to simply BE.

Ok…now, back to the music…

Actively listen. Don’t judge what you hear. Just follow along with the “travel” of the changing notes, follow the rythym and, as you listen, shift your attention to your body and see how the sound is affecting you. What do you feel? (This is why it’s better to try this with music sans lyrics because we are discovering the raw effect, the sensations, in the body – how the music effects the body, and working with those feelings rather than with emotions. And (now this is important) if (and when) the mind wanders (it’s what minds do), gently escort your attention back to following the music, right where it is. The mind may wander several times – that’s natural,  but every time it does,  gently (without beating yourself up about it) bring your awareness back to the music.

When the piece of music finishes, you could sit quietly for a little longer, focusing on your breathing, staying aware of the present.

Taking the therapy beyond listening.

Making the music takes this therapy a leap beyond listening. This gets you actively involved with making and using the gift of music. Some might even call it true magic.  The problem is, not everyone is musically gifted and so they can feel left out of anything more than the listening. Sure, having some kind of natural talent helps (greatly), but you can still benefit from something like joining a drumming circle and getting involved with making the healing sounds. Drumming with a hand drum (like the African djembe which I am playing in the second picture up there), helps with blood flow and circulation. And, if you have any kind of rythym at all, you can play – it’s a very “user-friendly” instrument.

You don’t have to play complicated rythyms. Experiment. The idea here isn’t to play to entertain others, or even to “entertain” yourself. This is for YOU. Time for you to beat the demons away. Time for you to personally take the power of music and let it IMPACT you. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge the sounds, just play them. Imagine you’re one of those X-Factor contestants that really think they can sing but are tone deaf and couldn’t carry a tune if a bucket was strapped to them to carry one in! Just play.

Like anything, it takes a bit of practice, but it’s worth it. I challenge you to play the djembe for 15 minutes and tell me how you feel afterwards? It’s invigorating. Much better than a gym workout, in my opinion – one, because you don’t have to be a super-athlete to do it, and both body and MIND get the benefit.

See, meditation doesn’t have to be freaky hippie stuff – it can be cool musician stuff (I know, sometimes, it’s the same thing…but yeah… I encourage you; give it a go).

Anywho, hand drumming is a great place to start your music therapy journey. And, you don’t have to join a circle (that just gives an added social/community type thing to it – it is fun to make music with others) – just get yourself a hand drum (again, I highly recommend the djembe) and begin. I am certain you will feel the benefit straightaway.

To comfort…to assuage (mederi).

If you follow my blog, you know I am a professional musician and have been singing since the age of 4. I am now nearly, coughcoughcough, shuddershudder, 40.  Throughout the whole of my existence, music has always been a great comfort to me. I have used my voice and the piano (mostly) to express myself, to express my emotions, my pain…to be the voice of my soul. Now, I am learning a new way to use music.

While I have always known music to be powerful and therapeutic, I am now using it in a specific and meditative (mederi) way and this has led me to expand from my comfort zone of voice and strings hit with hammers.

I am presently embarking on learning what I call “my second voice”.  This week, a dear friend of mine (another person I met because of this here series of books) sent me the exceptionally special gift of two Native American style wooden flutes.  And, when I play them, they speak to something deep within me and they become the voice of my soul, in that moment.  The sound resonates and clears my head.

Music therapy.  Awesome stuff.

Life blows.

I also had an appointment with a doctor this week who finally seemed to listen to me and see how badly I was struggling – crippled and not really living – because of my mental health. It was nice to hear someone who knows what they are talking about say that you can’t just choose to be happy; it’s a chemical thing. It was also nice to hear that she was going to get me properly diagnosed and see I eventually get some more specific help for my case. Refreshing. It won’t happen overnight; I still have to jump through some nhs hoops, but…there might be some hope, and that’s a big something. What do I do in the meantime?

Blow back! Oh, and I’m a musician, I welcome all your blowing jokes, innuendo, and double entendres…be my guest. Blow it, beat it, finger it, baby! 😉 It’s all good.

Yeah, it was nice to finally say to someone, “Really, there’s never a time I’d choose life (existing) over death…I’d always prefer to die,” and not have them give me some stupid, high and mighty response made in some effort to shame me into appreciating the “gift of life”. No, she listened, she understood, she promised to help. Now we see. And, for the moment… I play on.

Support my music. You can help me while I "play on".

Support my music. You can help me while I “play on”.

Fuck Resolutions

Pardon the language…but, I like the word (a lot) and, hopefully, it got your attention. Anywho…I suppose, that today (and tomorrow), blogdom will be inundated with New Year’s posts.  There will be the saying goodbye to the old and welcoming (with varying attitudes) the new.

Nothing magical happens when the clock strikes Midnight on New Year’s Eve.  If one can’t choose to change stuff in one’s life in the middle of a year, one is not suddenly going to do it on January 1st. It’s just another day.

I don’t do resolutions.  It’s just another way to set one’s self up for failure.  However, since this is the way we mark time… I would like to wish us ALL a better year than the last. Whether 2013 was a great year or (as in my case) a painful one, may there be massive improvement in 2014! May situations be used as opportunities to learn. May there be real personal growth. May there be awareness and living in the present.

ImagineThere is NO power in resolutions, but there IS power in the imagination….soooooo, I invite you to IMAGINE such a new year with me. Imagine a Happy New Year…

Tattoos (Decorating the House)

I was once asked by someone who was attempting – badly – to counsel me if my tattoos were a form of self-harm.  I laughed, not knowing whether to be offended or simply amused at such ignorance. Self-harm? When I had finished laughing I simply said, “U’h, no; definitely not.”

If I wanted to harm my body, I’d take a knife to it and slice and cut and gouge, etc. However, I have never done any of these things…to my body. Oh, I have most certainly self-harmed. Mostly by trusting and getting attached to the wrong people and by tormenting myself with thoughts in my mind. The wounds I have inflicted to my soul are more painful and harmful than any I could place on my outer shell – which is all this body is. Emotional and mental self-harm? Yes, I am guilty. But, my tattoos? They are simply me “decorating the house”.

In less than a week, I am looking forward to getting my seventh tattoo. It’s my Christmas present from my husband this year. It’s well over 4 years since my last and I have been itching for fresh ink.

A lot has happened since last I blogged. A lot. Some of it really quite devastating – speaking of self-harm.  This year has taken a real toll, but I have learned some helpful things.  For one, a friend of mine gave me Ruby Wax’s book Sane New Word (Taming The Mind), which introduced me to Mindfulness. Does mindfulness cure depression and mental illness? No. But, it helps one to cope with it. It helps one to live more in the present and, as I put it, it allows one to “jump the train”. You know, the train of thoughts that runs away with you and takes you to a destination you don’t want to go to? Yeah, that train. Mindfulness is a way of jumping off that bloody train before it gets all the way to that place you don’t want to go to. I’ve just begun my journey with meditation in this way, so I am no expert. But, in just the small time I have been practicing this awareness, I have found it useful. And, I am slowly rebuilding myself.  It cannot be stressed enough what hell these last few months have been like, and there was some time that I thought I could never recover. It remains to be seen how much I will recover, but I now have a tool to ground me in the present (instead of getting caught up in the past or fretting over the future) and help me to cope somewhat better.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

One thing meditation reiterates in the thinking is that we are not the physical. I am not my body. I am the person within, using the body. And, while some mis-informed, ignorant types may look at tattoos as either desecration of the body or, weirdly, some elaborate (not to mention expensive) form of self-harm, I am going to enjoy getting the decoration and then enjoy said decoration itself for as long as I am forced to dwell in this body. One day, I will be free of the thing. Until then, I am decorating it as I choose to.

Thank you for reading and I wish you all wellbeing.

Ooohhh, and how could I forget? I have also released a new single since last I blogged! It’s available from CD Baby and Amazon and iTunes.  So head over to whichever one of those MP3 music providers who prefer and get downloading!