Harp Strings, Heart Strings

25 May

I was tuning my harp recently, and started thinking about all the metaphors that are present in a harp. My harp is a double-strung harp, meaning it has two rows of strings instead of one row, and so it takes quite a while to tune, so I had some time to think about it.  Read on, and consider how harps and harp music illustrate- with a little metaphorical imagination- the human condition. After every statement, please insert “just like with humans”.

It takes a long time to tune a harp.

Each string has its own tuning peg. You have to turn the peg until the string is tuned to the chosen key.

Harps are sensitive instruments; temperature and humidity changes can make them go flat or sharp.

You can tell when a harp string is in tune with its fellow strings: when you pluck it, all the strings around it resonate and sing.

One string, when plucked, sounds lovely; but play many strings together, and you get a whole variety of interesting music: melancholy, uplifting, mysterious, sweet, cheerful…

If you want your instrument to last and play well, you really have to treat it with care and respect.

There’s a sweet spot for every string, where it resonates the most and sounds best.

Harp music has been used for thousands of years to heal and soothe. (Listen to the Hurrian Hymn, written in about 1400 B.C.)

A harp is a very expressive and flexible instrument! You can play almost any kind of music with a harp. (Check out Dorothy Ashby’s jazz harp, paraguayan folk harp harp metal, a wunderkind on classical pedal harp  West African Kora, pop music, and of course, celtic music! )

Please remember this: our ultimate destiny as human beings is to realize our capacity to love, heal and make music together!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Mindfulness, Schmindfulness!

14 May

 

Why be mindful? What does being mindful look like? It’s slowing down to pay attention to what’s going on right now, both in your body mind and in your surroundings. “Mindfulness” is bandied about in popular culture all the time. Wanna be hip? Just say this magical word, put your hands together to resemble an attitude of prayer, close your eyes halfway like a buddha in meditation, and not only will you feel good but people will think you’re pretty hot. “She’s really got it together”, they’ll say. Joking aside, if you take the idea to heart you’re bound to find some real benefits. With practice, you’ll notice things about your bodymind, behavior and surroundings that you normally would have let go under the radar.

 

Ok, so let’s just make a list of possible benefits to see if this mindfulness thing is all it’s cracked up to be.

 

You’ll notice, appreciate and take pleasure in the taste of your tea, or coffee, or food in general. I once took part in a mindful eating exercise: I ate one raisin and one walnut, fully experiencing every aspect- sight, touch, taste, even sound! When lunchtime came, I found I was already full, just from being fully present with not even a mouthful of food! We notice and appreciate so much more when we take the time to experience the whole enchilada, pun intended. Who knows, maybe your tastebuds will get so mindful, you’ll become a well-known wine connoisseur!

Speaking of eating and other daily occurrences, what about paying attention mindfully to the fundamentals of daily living? You might get a better appreciation for the work that goes into the food you eat, the furniture you sit on, etc. Who made that food; who made that chair? Slow down and taste deeply; look deeply! How many people have sat at this table at the coffee shop where you’re working at your computer? Who made the coffee you’re drinking? Think about it- how many people were involved in bringing that “cuppa” to you?

 

Your connection to your intuition- that small, still voice- will be sharper, and you’ll notice if something doesn’t feel right-or if it does. Your senses will be heightened, and your ability to focus will improve when you’re under the influence of this natural brain drug called mindfulness.

 

You’ll be a better listener, paying attention with laser-like focus to whoever is talking. And you’ll become a better observer, noticing the things and people, smells and sounds around you. Perhaps this will lead to a new calling, as you are sought after as a shrewed detective. Look out, Sherlock Holmes!

 

Mindfulness makes it easier to be your own best friend. Do you remember what it’s like to receive your best friend’s ministrations when you were in distress? Maybe your mom died, you got divorced, you suddenly found you were an empty nester- and your friend came through for you, supporting you when nobody else could and you needed it most. Sometimes, you have to fill that role yourself, to provide for yourself what a best friend would. That can take the form of permission: to take yourself out for tea or to a movie, maybe to spend an hour in the garden, or ten minutes in meditation. Or perhaps it means some tough love in the form of a good talking to! Being mindful of your emotions, you can notice that you need to be a friend to yourself instead of taking out your feelings on the people around you. After all, you’re stuck inside yourself, and that can be either a blessing or a curse…might as well make it a good thing!

 

Something that a mindful attitude can do for you is help you be less isolated from your fellow humans. When you’re slowing down enough to notice and appreciate the little things in life, those protective barriers that you’ve put up your whole life may develop some cracks in them as you make small, daily indirect or direct connections with the people around you. Then, instead of living life unconsciously and waking up one morning to find decades have passed you by, you’ll live each day with gusto, and be a conscious part of the true world-wide web!

 

The problem of quantum mechanics and bodywork- not a problem!

21 Jan

You are a Quantum Being! You are not just a collection of bones and muscle, ligaments and organs and blood with a brain that makes everything go! That reductionist view of a human being is laughingly outdated, especially with the increased understanding of ourselves we are gaining from the study of quantum mechanics; or I should say, the increased understanding of what we don’t know about ourselves, but which is suggested by, quantum mechanics!

Quantum mechanics is “the branch of mechanics that deals with the mathematical description of the motion and interaction of subatomic particles, incorporating the concepts of quantization of energy, wave-particle duality, the uncertainty principle, and the correspondence principle“, says the dictionary. Now, I can’t explain those concepts to you in a mathematical way, but that sentence defines for me some of what I do on a daily basis in my studio! I often say when trying to explain the bodywork that I do, that I tune in to my client’s body and mind, ‘hear’ where the problem or need is, and then do what that person’s body tells me to do. But how does one teach how to do this? There are certain things that are easily teachable, tools I’ve learned in my 25 years of practice: engaging the tissues rather than plowing through them, using the principle of thixotropy when addressing connective tissue in the body, using arms and legs as long levers. But how do you explain getting sudden and correct knowledge of something your client hasn’t ever verbalized to you? Or “seeing an arrow” in the body pointing to the area of greatest need, as your client exclaims, “How did you know that was bothering me?”? Or sensing what can only be described as ‘energy’ coming from the body- drawing you in, or pushing you away? These things that occur in a bodywork session are difficult to describe and difficult to teach; I’ve come to rely on the “I Don’t Know” Principle.

The “I Don’t Know” Principle: is it the same as the Uncertainty Principle?

The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics says that we cannot measure the position and the momentum of a subatomic particle exactly. The more precisely we know one of these values, the less precisely we know the other. So, your observation of either position or momentum will be inaccurate- and interestingly, the act of observation affects the particle being observed. This experience I’d had so many times in the massage studio was finally explained for me in the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know!?”, in which a young basketball player uses his basketball as a metaphor for subatomic particles: “When you’re not looking, they are waves of possibility; when you are looking, they are particles of experience.” I work with this wave particle duality in my studio all the time: when I focus my attention directly on a client’s problem, whether it’s their hamstring muscles or some energetic information, I can see only part of the picture, a little frozen piece. But when I open my mind, soften my touch and listen with my heart rather than my head, a whole world of information can speak to me; waves of possibility! When I teach bodywork, I emphasize to my students that when they decide ahead of time they know what their client needs (perhaps based on what the client said during the intake interview, or from conclusions the student drew herself), they have effectively cut the lines of real communication between them and their client’s body and mind. It’s like finishing someone else’s sentences, because you think- incorrectly- that you know what they are going to say! So I teach them to say this mantra over and over again: I don’t know. In other words, if you want to really know what the body needs, you need to relax, put your hand on the client’s body, and open your mind like you’ve just dialed the body’s number, and you’re wondering what it will say when it picks up the phone! If we’re looking too directly at the body’s information, we’ve congealed that information into experience-maybe ours, maybe our client’s- but when we say “I don’t know” and keep a soft focus that allows for those waves of possibility, then we are open to EVERYTHING! This includes information from the body’s physical, emotional and spiritual aspects, plus all the other aspects of which we can’t even conceive! This is similar to looking at the constellation Pleiades in the night sky: you’ll see it better if you look at it out of the corner of your eye.

Align yourself with what you know to be true. The reason I’ve named my business SoundHeals Holistic Health is because I recognize the amazing, vibrational nature of our bodies and our universe. I know that health is really a state of vibrational alignment with our bodies’ natural desire to thrive- it’s only when we get in the way of that natural tendency that we become ill. Can we tune in to ourselves and our fellow human beings to be more holistic in our lives? “Holistic” means ‘characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.’ All aspects of a human being are intimately interconnected; all human beings are also interconnected; we work better when we work together, as a whole. If we can remember this, then we will become better bodyworkers and better human beings.

My lesson about letting go

27 Dec

Sometimes I think it would be better to be a cat: as far as I know, my cat lives truly in the moment, and doesn’t show any sign of clinging or aversion the way we humans do. This could be a sample of how the mind of my cat works: “I am hungry. Give me my food now. I’m waiting for my food. Petting is good. Yes. I’m hungry. Give me my food now. I’m smelling my food- smells good, eat it!”

The following is a true scenario that illustrates how I am not like my cat. This is an example of how my mind works: “WAIT! I came to my dad’s house to cut some boughs for decorating my house for Christmas like I have for years, only to find that dad had the lower boughs of his 50 foot tall spruce tree cut off. Now I can’t cut any boughs, like I ALWAYS have!” (Pause to feel the enormity of this reality). (Pause to pout like a little girl whose daddy should be there to take care of all her needs and wants). (Pause to remember that Mom, who died in July, ALWAYS let me do this- and who would NEVER have cut those lower limbs off her tree! But- she’s no longer here). What I actually say to my dad: “Oh. That’s right; you had the lower limbs trimmed off your tree. I’d forgotten. Oh well, things change.” (Experience extended mental struggle, and grief over how things used to be). (Experience the dawning realization that it’s hard to let go of what’s familiar and comfortable. Engage in self-talk: It’s ok, Christina. Things do change, and that’s ok. This is a year of big changes, and how you experience them depends on how you view them).

What’s amazing to me is that the above thought process and concomitant emotions took only several seconds to happen; and the echoes of those emotions and thoughts continued for many days afterwards. Letting go doesn’t seem to be something that happens immediately, but is rather a process of refinement and maturation. Here is where Thich Nhat Han’s method of addressing our emotions can come in handy: “Hello, my little grief; hello, my little anger.” Then when you have problems sleeping, or with your digestion, or your skin breaks out, you understand that you’re literally processing your emotions, through your body, and you can have some compassion and appreciation for that!

When we acknowledge our emotions, they have less of a hold on us. As life continues to throw events at us, and we gain more and more experience dealing with them, that refinement process gets faster and faster, until we encounter a difficulty and…seemingly shrug it off. At least, that’s my theory- I have yet to embody that ability!

Back to my cat; perhaps she’s not so different after all. When she encounters a difficult change in her life, she has stomach and elimination upsets, sometimes on the carpet, sometimes on the wood floor. At least she knows how to relax and take care of herself by eating well (voles and mice) and doing her daily yoga!

What will we do, now that Trump is President???????

9 Nov

This is something I’m hearing despairing people say a lot, the day after the election. Some people voted for Trump because they agree with him, a lot or a little. Some people voted for him because they didn’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton. And some people voted for him to make a statement, assuming he wouldn’t win. And voila, here he is, President Elect of the United States of America.

So, what will we do now? Personally, I’m going to redouble my efforts- not to incite revolution, or say things that put ‘those Trump voters’ in their place- but rather to practice the principles that I hold dear. Let’s face it, it’s time for a revolution of kindness here in the grassroots arena! A revolution of kindness; love; truly listening to each other, even when we disagree; seeking to understand the other person. A revolution of being kind to ourselves, recognizing our feelings when they come up, and taking responsibility for them without using other people as a target for our anger.

What were some of the comments Trump made, that made your blood boil? Was it his misogynist comments, or his comments about muslims? How about his wish to build a wall to keep out ‘bad hombres’ from Mexico? It could have been how he incited his supporters to violence, or his disregard for what you consider sound environmental policy.

What do you believe is important in life? Is it the Golden Rule? Is it based in your religion, your life philosophy, how you were raised?  What gives you joy?

Ok, then- this is the time to put your principles into practice! Wherever you may be, do something to counteract a Trumpism. Volunteer at a women’s shelter. Read the Q’ran, and learn something about Islam. Volunteer to teach English as a Second Language to a person from Mexico. Join a Dances of Universal Peace group, and learn to express yourself peacefully! Support Environment Colorado, or some other environmental group. Take the negative behavior Trump exhibits, and use it as a ‘mindfulness bell’, as the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh would say: every time Trump says something awful, there is the bell telling you to act in a positive way to benefit your society!

A Zen master visiting New York City goes up to a hot dog vendor and says, “Make me one with everything.”
The hot dog vendor fixes a hot dog and hands it to the Zen master, who pays with a $20 bill.
The vendor puts the bill in the cash box and closes it. “Excuse me, but where’s my change?” asks the Zen master.
The vendor responds, “Change must come from within.”

The hot dog vendor is right- change does come from within. Your kind thoughts, words and actions do have a positive effect on those around you, and on yourself. Change your society for the better through serving it. As the great Indian poet and writer Rabindranath Tagore said:

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

 

Look up!

2 Dec

Dear Reader,

I want to share with you a short technique to bring perspective to your life- look up.

My mind is often somewhere in the future, or in the past, and rarely in the present. It’s usually fixated on something; and when I say fixated, I should perhaps say, ‘fixed’, as in ‘not budging’. “I can’t believe she said that to me!” (past thought), or “How am I possibly going to be able to do everything on my list?” (future thought), etc. Or, my mind is scattered, going a mile a minute and everywhere at once.

Sometimes, breathing is enough to bring me to this moment, but sometimes I need something visual and metaphorical- like moving clouds.  Looking up, I see fluffy, white clouds in a bright, blue sky. They look down on me and, compassionately witnessing my struggle with myself,  seem to say, ‘It’s ok. You’re ok. You’re part of us, the clouds!’ It stops me in my tracks, and I take a big breath, and for one small moment, I’m in the present as well as I can be. I’m connected with everything on the Earth, and I smile!

Give this a try- it’s fun! I’ll be you find that it changes your moment, too.

The Walking Tree

9 Apr

I recently took a lovely walk along a new (for me) trail, located right outside of a subdivision. The countryside was similar to that I grew up in: yellow, dry grasses, rolling, dusty hills, meadowlarks perched on survey stakes, calling out in their impossibly complex song. I love the meadowlark- every time I hear one sing, I grin and my heart sighs, remembering that beautiful sound from the halcyon days of my childhood in the country! I don’t hear meadowlarks much, living in the city as I do- they are birds whose habitat is the field.

The longer I walked, and listened to the sounds around me as well as the rhythmic sound of my own footfalls, the more I experienced the feeling of walking without moving: like when you’re at the airport on one of those moving walkways, and your pace is the same speed as the walkway- people outside the walkway speed by as you walk, and you feel as if you’re almost standing still. I found myself waxing poetic; I felt like I was a tree, rooted in the ground and centered in my own body, and I created this poem to express how I felt, and to remind myself how great it feels to truly feel at home in my body.

The Walking Tree-  by Christina Hildebrandt

As I walk forward, my mind says, “Do this!”, “Accomplish that!”

It lives forward in time and place, like a dog eager for his walk and half out the door.

But my heart pleads, Stay here; stay in this moment, in this body.

Smell the aromas around you; stay in this body.

See the things around you; stay here now.

Be like a walking tree.

A tree is vertical; it occupies its space gently. Rooted to the ground, yet flexible, it bows to the wind when necessary,

Seeing everything around it, breathing the air (inhale, exhale).

When you walk, walk without moving, like a tree.

You may go forward, your steps walking on the path,

But like walking on a moving walkway, it seems as if you remain still

And the terrain, and time, and people, pass by.

Remain in your heart- in your center. Watch things as they arise, and observe them to pass away.

Remain in your body, like a tree: rooted and centered.

Remain in your smile, as you live each moment, as you experience every sensation, observe every thought

And smile!

Be like a walking tree.