Archive | May, 2018

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!

 

 

 

 

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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!