joy

Jumping into Free Play

Peter and I having fun during a photo shoot in 2017. Photo credit: Kelly Fitzsimmons

I am a musician and since the pandemic hit last winter, I have been unable to perform live. I play lead guitar and sing backup vocals in an acoustic trio called Wendy Darling and the Lost Boys and over the years we have built a following and secured gigs at a number of local restaurants and festivals. The live events are always a lot of fun as are the practices leading up to them, each giving birth to an abundance of laughter, cheerful conversation, delightful consumption, fluid movement to the music, and an overall relaxed and joyful experience. Working and playing with the band has added a great deal of happiness and play to my life.

Over the course of the quarantine, however, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain an energetic and creative musical practice. Where at first, we tried new approaches like putting out Youtube videos and sharing material through GarageBand, these methods eventually got old and punctuated the absence of the brilliance that can only be captured through live interaction, the interplay of sound, ideas, emotions, surprises, and improvised reactions. 

I have felt myself falling into a slump and have had trouble regaining momentum. 

A couple of weeks ago, I confessed my growing disinterest to my guitar teacher and he quickly offered me a book he said would help re-energize my approach. The book, called Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch, outlines the benefits of using play to ignite passion, creativity, and progress. He gives examples of renowned musicians, artists, writers and inventors such as Beethoven, Bach, Picasso, da Vinci, M.C. Escher, Van Gogh,  Einstein, William Butler Yeats, and William Blake, all who have created in this way.  He talks about opening ourselves to divine play (known as Lila or Leela in Hindu philosophy ) in which we surrender our consciousness and need to control the outcome and open ourselves to whatever inspiration may come through. This approach allows us to tap into the spiritual collective and ultimately, join it with our own individuality to bring forth new and unique ideas. 

As distribution of the Covid vaccine moves swiftly and the world begins to open up, I am beginning to see the point as it applies to my life. I am realizing how much play time I have been missing. I miss performing with my band in front of a smiling crowd. I miss travelling, get-togethers with family and friends, team sports, parties, farmer’s markets, festivals, walking downtown with a street full of people, eating out in a lively establishment, watching the latest movie in a sold out theatre, laughing my head off with a group of friends. When I think about my pre-Covid self, I realize when there is play in my life, I am extra productive, a better learner, and relaxed. I have deeper and more meaningful relationships and increased imagination and creativity.

I am only part way through the book, but I have already begun to approach my daily guitar practice differently. Instead of making a to do list and going through the scales and songs with mechanical effort, I have been allowing the process to come forth. Some days, I play whatever happens to be on the music stand. Other times, I take a band standard and try it with an entirely different guitar tuning. I experiment. I create. I dance. I play. 

I am finding that all I need to do is show up and allow myself this opportunity, to lose all inhibitions and bring forth that which makes me happiest.  I am beginning to regain my enthusiasm and new ideas and accomplishments are starting to surface, just as Nachmanovitch promised.

As the pandemic cloud lifts and we are able to get together in larger groups, there will be more opportunities for play, and I recommend taking them. There may still be a period of waiting before it is safe to rush out into the world, but even now, we can begin to approach all endeavors with the child-like perspective of fun, surrender, curiosity and joy. We will certainly be happier and we may even discover a hidden treasure or two.

Other Websites.   Body: https://www.inbalancetherapeutics.net/   Soul: https://www.mysoulpurposeproject.com/  Music: https://www.wendydarlingandthelostboy.org/

Crystal Messages

Dr. Emoto’s photo of a love charged water crystal.

The holiday season has arrived and even though for most, this particular year will be a more low-key homestead style celebration, it still carries with it the pressure to shop, decorate, uphold traditions, and surprise the people you love with everything that will make their hearts merry and bright. In addition to that, it usually brings up unresolved emotions from as far back as childhood. It is a volatile time when all of our experiences come to the surface, good and bad, and visions of sugarplums dance through our heads alongside other less appealing confections.

This weekend, amidst the wrapping and planning, and just as my partner and I were feeling the holiday pressure mount, it started to snow. It was unexpected and beautiful. The flakes were large and full and we watched them drift slowly without hurry. We could sense their confidence and poise as they posed briefly in front of the window before continuing their descent towards the snow covered ground below. We stood in awe for a few minutes before looking at each other with the same realization. We could sense the flakes offering us an anecdote to the stress.  So, we grabbed our skis and headed for the woods.

About halfway through our trek, we stopped to catch our breath and take in the serenity and majesty of our surroundings. I noticed a clump of red bittersweet growing on a shrub near the river and as I looked closer, I was able to make out the individual snowflakes. Each held a unique and brilliant design and reminded me of a book I had read some time ago called The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto. 

In the book, Emoto illustrates the effects of words, pictures, and music on the structure and development of crystallized water (snowflakes). The water that was exposed to positive words such as love and peace (and classical music) turned out to be beautiful and intricate, which was evident once it was frozen into crystallized form. In contrast, the water exposed to negative words like hatred and war, (and heavy metal music) turned out malformed and less appealing to the eye. These findings led Emoto to conclude that wherever water is found, in our bodies for example, there will be a susceptibility to the quality of energy around it. Verbal words seemed to have the most impact. However, pictures, music, and the surrounding environment also had a substantial influence. Certainly, we can understand how positive and negative statements, sounds, and visuals would affect our psyche and emotions, but Emoto’s research goes beyond that, to illustrate how these energies have a direct impact on our physical composition as well.

As I continued to watch the snow fall, I could feel my entire body relax. There was a palpable calm which did not exist hours before in the midst of holiday preparation. I had changed in some way, perhaps physically. It may have been the quiet of the snow as it blanketed the forest or the perfection of the crystalized designs. Whatever it was, I vowed to keep the feeling close to my heart by bringing the visual to mind each time I felt the stress creeping in. I also promised to extend kind and loving words to myself and others, especially during these trying times. After all, peace, love and joy (even if only in a word) seem to be the best gift I can give this holiday season.

Masaru Emoto’s findings are spectacular. Here is a quick demonstration measuring the effects of gratitude on water:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDNhH8deZPg

Wendy’s Other Websites.   Body: https://www.inbalancetherapeutics.net/   Soul: https://www.mysoulpurposeproject.com/  Music: https://www.wendydarlingandthelostboy.org/