My, my, my…music and movement are on my mind this morning! (alliteration too, apparently) Last night I experienced an amazing evening of music by the über-talented Elvis Costello and his latest band of merry men – The Sugarcanes. (Nashville legends Jerry Douglas and Jim Lauderdale and more!) Playing songs from their new CD, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, as well as some Costello classics with new arrangements perfectly suited to the bluegrass sound of his band.
We were literally sitting right beneath Elvis, and it felt like the band was playing in our living room. They’re all stellar musicians and the sound was uplifting, and yet…something was missing. What was it? My husband, Doug, and I discussed this on our drive home and concluded the missing element…there was no drummer on this tour. There was a stand up bass player and the music had rhythm, but there was nothing driving the beat the way a drummer does. No drummer equaled no dancing. You wanted to tap your foot and clap along in time, but getting up out of your seat and dancing was just not in the picture. Not the norm for an Elvis show. As a Dallas Observer review said, “…the songs lacked a bit of propulsion.” Isn’t it cool how certain music can really propel you? This summer, my daughter, Riley Anna, and I began compiling a list of songs that absolutely make you dance every time you hear them. (You know – like the happy, Snoopy dance!) The idea began when we watched “Madagascar 2” – and the silly, yet infectious, song “Move It, Move It” had us both dancing around the room as if we had the proverbial ants you know where. “Wouldn’t it be great to have an entire compilation of these kind of songs?” I thought. “Songs guaranteed to lift your spirits and get you dancing and smiling when you need a little pick-me-up.” Songs deliver Instant Oasis Moments – five to ten minute bite-size bonbons of joy! Which songs have the power to levitate you from your chair and get you moving – even on the worst of days? What song always makes you dance? (whether you want to or not!) I’d love to hear your favorites and check them out. Here’s my short, but growing, list of songs that absolutely make you dance every time you hear them: Move It Move It by will.i.am It’s Your Thing – James Brown Pump It Up – Elvis Costello Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) – C&C Music Factory Love Shack – B52s You Drop the Bomb on Me – The Gap Band A,B,C – The Jackson 5Most any Putayamo Worldbeat CD I don’t listen to music as often as I’d like during the day, because my brain will not allow me to read and write and talk on the phone with my coaching clients while listening. I have to sing along, even if only in my head. But, music can be a great motivator in other ways. For example, I “get to” listen to an entire CD as a special treat while I do something like clear my desk or spend time organizing and filing. In fact, I was able to reorganize my mailing list this morning while listening to music and the time flew by! Listening to good music almost always inspires me to start making some music of my own. So, I’m off to the keyboards right now! Why not treat yourself to an Instant Oasis Moment right now and listen to a song that absolutely makes you dance every time you hear it!
(photo by Christy Cogsdill)The card with the cute photo of a chipmunk with overstuffed cheeks has been sitting on my desk since my return from Breckenridge, Colorado. He reminds me of the sweet little creatures that feast on sunflower seeds (courtesy of my dad) on our back porch. They’re adorable to watch as they scamper to and fro. They stuff so many seeds in their mouths that you’re absolutely sure their tiny cheeks will explode if they go for one more, and then somehow, miraculously, they pop in a couple more and do not, in fact, explode.
I’ve kept this card out because I wanted to use it for a blog post, but I just couldn’t seem to find the exact topic the photo conveyed. I’ve been home for almost two weeks now. Still not sure what this little guy was saying to me, I thought to myself, “I’ll just scan the photo and then I’ll have it – just in case.” And that’s when it hit me! The reason I resonate so much with those hoarding chippies is I can relate to them! They’re stocking up while the gettin’s good “just in case” they show up one morning to find no more seeds. Well, I too have a bad case of the “just in case” blues. I keep my grandmother’s china just in case I ever want to have a formal dinner party or tea. (I never do. I’m not the formal type!) I hold onto old toothbrushes just in case I want to scrub tile grout with them. (I never do. I guess I’m not the grout-scrubbing type either.) I stash decades of documents in boxes that overflow out of my office closet, just in case I ever need them. (like I could find them if I did – ha!) I recently read a great article on the “just in case” mentality, and I’m sure I clipped and stored it somewhere –“just in case” I should ever want to refer to it again. (Like I do today, but can’t, because I don’t have the first clue where it is!) I have this image in my mind…somewhere in the cosmos there are these enlightened beings watching me scamper around my office with my stacks and stacks of stuff. I can hear them now, “Oh, how cute. She’s bought another book on creativity. Wouldn’t you think she’d have enough by now? Do you think she’ll actually read this one all the way through?” Having just recently cleaned out and organized my bedroom closet and my daughter’s closet with the help of a wonderful professional organizer (Atta Girl Organizing), I know first-hand the fantastic feeling of letting go of things I really don’t need (give-away totes with ripped handles, sandals I haven’t worn in five years, clothes that don’t fit) and then putting the things I really do need and want in order. Seriously, my closet now brings me a feeling of peace and serenity. Sometimes I just look in it and sigh. It’s like my moment of Zen. My challenge to myself, and to you, this fall is to practice feeling abundant, knowing that I have plenty, and that things that I’ll need in the future will show up exactly when I need them. I don’t have to hang on to a bunch of stuff “just in case.” It’s interesting how creating literal space, seems to free up our time as well. Less stuff to deal with (clean, store, repair, manage) more time to create (write, sing, paint, play, run, design). What about you? Anyone have any ideas for making space in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s support each other this fall and enjoy the freedom of the “just in time” mentality, rather than the frenetic “just in case” pace of a squirrel storing food for the winter – which can make us nuts! P.S. – Here’s a link to that article I was thinking of earlier. It was written by Martha Beck for the April 2009 Oprah Magazine. I found it “just in time”!
At 9,600 feet elevation, you have a new appreciation for oxygen and your lungs ability to pump it through your respiratory system. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I take my morning run through the scenic mountain town of Breckenridge. During the first five minutes or so, my lungs experience a slight burning sensation and my brain sends little “are you kidding me – we’re really going to do this?” messages. But, soon, I find my rhythm and the clean mountain air feels great and my mind focuses on the tranquil beauty of the river, bright blues skies and surrounding mountains. (especially novel and amazing sights for a flatlander from Dallas, Texas) My body takes over and does what it’s designed to do without my giving it another thought.
It’s so easy to take something as omnipresent as oxygen for granted in our day-to-day lives. And yet, when we experience something as basic and ordinary as breathing in a new set of conditions (in a higher altitude, as we exercise, or a combination of both) its preciousness becomes more apparent. Even in my everyday life back in Dallas, I sometimes notice that I’m not taking full breaths. When I have this realization and remedy it by taking in a few deep, cleansing breathes, the relaxing and energizing effects are immediate and transformative – an instant oasis, if you will.
A wonderful doctor, Dr. Margaret Christensen, posts as signs all around her office that simply say “Breathe”. I’m always amazed how within the course of a visit with her, I’m reminded to breath a half-dozen times or more and how wonderful it feels. It’s unbelievable really, but most of us forget to really connect with our breath and breathe deeply the majority of the time. It’s as if we have this magical device at our disposal that we neglect to use. Feeling stressed, anxious or nervous? Take a nice deep breath and let it go. Dangerously close to losing your cool with your co-worker or kid? Breathe deeply and feel the calm flow throughout your body. Feeling particularly grateful for something, breathe in and let the positive energy expand within you.
My dear friend, Jane Baldwin, founder of Pranasalara, (which translates to “breathing through illusion to freedom”) leads amazing breathing circles. Using special breathing techniques, she guides you into a state that transcends the usual mind/body/spirit condition and allows you to experience a soul-cleansing release that is truly extraordinary.
So, the first lesson the mountains have shared with me this summer, and my gentle reminder to you is this – remember to breathe. You have the magical power to bring a calm, focused energy to yourself – anytime, anywhere – your breath. How great is that?
All the best from my oasis to yours,
My preferred method for building sand castles is the “drip” technique. You don’t need special molds, buckets or even a shovel. A glorious drip castle can be created using nothing but ocean water, sand and your hands. (thick brownish sand of Texas beaches is ideal –beautiful sugary sands of Florida – not so much)
If you sit right at the water’s edge, you don’t even need a bucket to hold the water. Just dig a little hole in the sand with your hands and let the incoming tide fill ‘er up. Then scoop out handfuls of soft, mushy sand and let it drip slowly out of your hands onto the beach. As you do this again and again, forms begin to take shape that look a bit like termite mounds or reverse stalagmites.
I love the free form way the structures evolve. I love the tactile experience – the way the sand feels as it oozes out of my hand – soft, squishy and warm. (I often give myself a little spa-like foot mud-scrub while I’m at it.) I love the process as much as the end result – which is one reason I find it to be such a satisfying creative endeavor. And, as a bonus – it’s supremely relaxing – therapeutic even.
Sand castles are not meant to last forever. I think their impermanence only adds to their unique magic. Like a sacred mandala, carefully crafted by Buddhist monks in ritualized ceremony, sand castles are meant to be enjoyed during their creation and by onlookers, and then lovingly offered back to the sea by the wind and the waves. (Once the Buddhist mandalas, with their intricate designs of brightly colored sand, are complete – they’re blessed, desecrated and usually released into a body of water to further spread the blessings.)
During my most recent trip to the beach, there were some major, architectural sand sculptures up and down the shore. Enormous castles complete with moats, turrets, bridges and flags. The coolest one was a life-size speedboat complete with bench seats large enough for four adults to sit in.
Mine, however, was more along the lines of the free-form structure that Richard Dreyfuss created over and over again in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. I think I remember him using dirt, paper and even mashed potatoes to build it. He had no idea what he was building – but he was inexplicably compelled to do so. Me too!
Drip sand castles are a nice reminder that there are times when process trumps end product, free-form trumps structure, and messy beats tidy and neat! (check out this “Wreck This Journal” post by Pink Heels for another great example of this)
What can you do today to play with a creative process, make a bit of a mess and just have fun with it? I’d love for you to share your creative/therapeutic ideas with me!
Beach people are happy people, generally at least. During my sunrise runs, most people I pass on the beach are content, if not downright joyful. Fishing, walking their dogs, running barefoot along the shoreline (like me) or up on softer sand in running shoes with headphones. To me, an early morning walk or run on the beach is one of life’s greatest pleasures and a true “oasis moment”. (I believe this would be true even if I were lucky enough to live near a beach and have the opportunity to run there anytime I wanted and not just the one or two weeks out of a year that vacation currently allows. A theory I hope to test in the future!)
Recently, I realized during one of these morning constitutionals that I was so focused on the stretch of sand just ahead of me that I had to remind myself to stop and take a moment to turn to the sea, to breathe in the fresh morning air and drink in the splendor of the foamy white waves rolling onto the shoreline. As I took a moment to revel in the beauty and rhythm of the rolling waves, the sounds of the surf and feel of the salty breeze on my face and the soft sand beneath my feet, I realized that this was just like our day-to-day lives. Often, we set off running through our days – seeing only the few feet in front of us – attention focused on the immediate tasks at hand. It’s only when we remind ourselves to stop and really take in the wonder and beauty of life that we can revel in the present moment. It seems to me that one of the benefits of mid-life is this is a time we finally begin to appreciate how delightful, how important and how absolutely necessary it is to stop and smell the roses (or sea air, or first cup of coffee of the day). In our 20’s we’re usually moving fast and furiously (even if we don’t know what we’re moving towards). In our 30’s – we may have others’ needs to consider (a partner, a child, a boss…) and we tend to put our needs on the back burner. But as we approach our 40’s and beyond, it begins to dawn on us – “Hey – this is my life. No one else is going to live it or enjoy it for me. I better starting doing some things that I want to do for a change!” Mid-life oasis here I come! And, if by chance you haven’t had that though yet, let me by the first to share it with you – take some time today, (take some time every day), to treat yourself to an oasis moment. Turn towards the waves and the rising sun in your world and revel in it. Paint your toenails or a canvas or a t-shirt. Toast your girlfriends or some marshmallows around a campfire in your backyard. Take a walk – even if it’s just around the block and notice five things you’ve never seen before. Dedicate the experience to yourself. Be fully present in the moment and let it fill you with delight. Then watch how little bursts of joy seep into other aspects of your day. You may find yourself smiling for no particular reason other than it just feels better that way. Beach people are happy people…and my wish for you today is that you enjoy a little bit of beach people attitude wherever you may be.