Category Archives: nature

Sound Baths, Music and Coping In The Time of Rona

I’ve had a tension headache for three days. Today, the fourth day, a Thursday, I feel it starting to subside. Anxiety is a fucker. And it can’t be the way I continue to move forward at this time.

I don’t want to focus on the endless volume of negativity that has poured out of this pandemic in an ugly rush of mismanagement and lack of care for human life.

Instead, I want to share how I’ve been using music and sound to calm my nerves and de-stress while practicing social distancing while not going stir crazy.

Sound baths

I learned about sound baths from Evelyn on The Internets, one of my fave YouTubers in a video where she talks about practices she applies when she’s overwhelmed. First of all, the words sound bath already sound amazing to me. Who wouldn’t want to bath in sound right now? Better than Purell right?

What a sound bath sounds like initially is something like white noise but with a more concentrated composition of layers of sound. At first it may sound like a humming but as you sit and immerse yourself in it like a meditation you begin to hear much more. The first track I ever heard that I feel is similar to a sound bath is by Bjork the mad sound engineering genius herself. I can’t remember how I came upon it but when I heard it it was if I had fallen off of a cliff of “traditional” sounding remixes of her music into something pure and raw that resonated with parts of my body rather than an attachment to melody or song structure.

It’s the Patten Rework remix of her song Stonemilker from the album “Vulnicura.” I thought it was an accident, that maybe my streaming service was skipping the track like a scratched album and something had gone wrong. But no, this was a controlled piece of experimental beauty that not unlike much of Bjork’s work just reached down into my guts and pried open my emotions.

I promise sound baths are 100 times more gentle. LOL!

Here is a layman’s definition:

The sounds are created by a variety of overtone-emitting instruments including tuning forks, gongs, shruti box, Himalayan and crystal singing bowls, chimes, and voice. When you sink into a Sound Bath and guide your awareness to your listening, you allow your brain waves to slow, shifting from a more active state to a more relaxed state, or even a dreamlike state.

There are many varieties of sound bath tracks available. I’ve found the majority that appeal to me on Spotify.  There are sound baths that range from 1 minute to 5 that resonate for the chakras and for different parts of the body and even some that are for each astrology sign. I find them to be very calming, allowing me to slow down my busy brain and focus on an underlying silence, a great expansive space. I’m sure sound baths must be derived from ancient spiritual meditative practices.

Also

I’ve also been watching things that make me happy like Carpool Karoake which is an instant happy maker for me since the only thing I love more than music is traveling in a car listening to and singing to music I love. The latest episode with Billie Eilish is just amazing. I can’t say I’m a super fan of her music but I do think that at 18 years old, she’s a pretty authentic human being, one of a kind and fully immersed in the joy, emotion and deep catharsis of her work as an artist. And she puts on nothing. She just is who she is. I don’t see that very often.

Chris Martin’s recent #togetherathome IG live was also very sweet and soothing and is also available on YouTube along with the Coldplay Tiny Desk performance I just watched this morning. Man, talk about a human who could never live without music! It’s just infectious to watch people who make music light up inside when they share it. There’s nothing like it.

I’ve also been forcing myself to get out and walk even if it’s just for a short while. I get cabin fever easily and thankfully there are a lot of beautiful parks where I live. I need the fresh air and the nature, to be able to see that life is still thriving and blooming.

Next week I start working from home proper and I hate the idea of the toxicity that surrounds that work seeping into my sacred space so I’m hoping that fortifying myself with calm and focus and positivity now will make that transition easier.

Who even knows what will happen tomorrow.

Stay safe out there. And stay connected even in the distance.

 

New Moon in Virgo

Virgo is the sign that governs health, habits & routines, making this an optimal time to consider practical ways we can implement healthy habits for increased well-being.

I started this morning by writing a 3 page letter to a close friend of mine who now lives in Oakland. There are a lot of things I’ve needed to get off my chest that don’t need to be shared on social media.

You know how long it’s been since I’ve written a letter?? I’d been wanting write a letter for a while. I’m starting to feel more like doing things I think about rather than just think about doing them. I feel has a lot to with this New Moon in Virgo energy coming in on Sunday.

I attended to gathering I helped put together to honor Khalilah on her birthday a few weeks ago. It was in Prospect Park near a tree she used to love to sit by on the odd occasion that she had or made time to sit and relax. I loved sitting out there with her. I loved relaxing with her in general because she was always so busy and being busy is not my natural habitat. So whenever we were able to slow down, I was super excited to hang out, talk, laugh, plan and learn with her. And nature being my favorite place to feel connected to spirit, it was always quality time for us.

Hawk

The gathering was really a beautiful and magical evening with exactly 7 of us ladies to start. When I arrived at Grand Army Plaza, I zeroed in immediately on a fluffy red tailed hawk at the top of a tall tree near the path to where we were going to gather. I just felt that this was part of Khalilah’s spirit.

The woman who lead the circle was someone who knew Khalilah a from Black woman’s leadership group that she was a part of and she lead with grace, playfulness, femininity, passion, reverence and an honor that I felt was absolutely befitting.

Guides

At one point she handed around a deck of cards for us to choose from and let us know beforehand that the message on the other side would be from Khalilah to each of us individually. I had to wait a few minutes before I read mine aloud because all I did was cry when I looked at it.

Since then I have felt a kind of building peace as I’ve worked on releasing and processing my grief and I’ve dedicated myself to self care in active ways because quite frankly, I’ve been falling the f&*k apart. LOL!

I’ve been talking things days by day, step by step, beating up on myself a bit less, rushing less and enjoying life for what it is. Precious.

This coming New Moon in Virgo which was the sign Khalilah was born under will be a powerful one for those of us who are dedicated to focusing on self-care and developing healthy routines in order to best serve ourselves and others. I’m actually excited about going back to the gym! LOL! But that’s because I know exactly what I need to focus on. It’s also because I’m fully aware that she loves me as she loves so many of us and still wants me to work on truly love myself.

Ashe’

 

Fire Feels

Smudging prayer

Recently, in a Facebook status, I shared a moment I had one morning when I was greeted by the manager at my local Pret. She exclaimed about how nice I smelled after we hugged and then asked if I had smudged that morning. I’m pretty sure I did a double take. I was like…ummm yeah, last night. How in the heck did she know? No one has ever asked me that before. She told me that she smudges in her space as well, which I know that many Black people do. But I came up on a very Hotepy household attending a lot of cultural events, meditations and chantings so it was always around me and now I understand that though many of us don’t always talk about it, we do it.

I’ve just never had anyone smell it on me before.

“Do I smell smokey?” I asked.

No, she said. It’s that smell after the smoke has gone out. It’s a cleansing.

Okaaay….I kinda got but I was still stumped at her sensitivity in picking it up so accurately. I had a few people in my Facebook network ask what smudging was to which I googled and tagged a few articles. And this morning as I think more about smudging and smoke in general, it’s got me thinking about the overall sacredness of smoke and how my earliest memories of it were watching the smoke from incense sticks that my parents bought, seemingly in bulk from Rastafarians in Brooklyn rising, and floating, morphing into endless shapes before fading into the air in our apartment. It was meditation before I was conscious of it, like watching clouds in the sky.

Since man’s first fascination with fire, which remains at the heart of civilization, smoke has been seen as the embodiment of this powerful element. We can imagine early man sitting around life-giving fire, watching the smoke rise and appearing to reach to heaven when man could not. Rising into the atmosphere, into mysterious realms that man could not comprehend.

-Jenny Smedly

 Stove lit

It’s made me think about the double sided gas burning fireplace in the middle of the house where I grew up in the Bronx and how I loved to sit and watch it in the Winter (in the mornings I would sneak down and cut it on even though my dad was trying to avoid a large Con Ed bill) the large roaring bonfires on sprawling back yards that we would sit around during dorm parties when I attended Bard College and the pit fires we made when on the few occasions my husband and I have gone camping with friends.

Candlelight

Aside from a candle I burn regularly in my home, I often forget how much I love fire. Like smoke, it changes shape, only more rapidly, sometimes with more volatility depending on the air, but it also provides light, hypnotically vibrant color, warmth, fuel and power. It’s easy to imagine indigenous people watching objects and bodies burn and believing that the smoke has transformed the physical into the realms of the spirit world. So it would follow naturally that certain natural elements symbolizing earthly properties when left to dry would be burnt to transfer their individual properties to bodies and spaces and things as a way of blessing, honoring, warding away negativity or drawing attracting abundance.

The nature of fire and candlelight has always made it a little easier for me to get still inside and in some cases for me to forget myself and become one with its movement. From the act of striking a match, to building a fire, to lighting a stove, I have a very respectful relationship with it. When nature is respected, it will serve and when it is abused or neglected, well…

Burning can be both destructive and cleansing. Fire like all natural elements will reflect its traits in the intention of the user, but it will never stop being fire.

Spring Snow

I was near Central Park at 59th street very early this morning for a Dr’s appointment and the first thing I saw when I emerged from the subway was the magical winter wonderland of Central Park all covered in snow. I was early so I took the time to cross over and walk in just far enough to see how breathtakingly beautiful and quiet everything was.

When we lived in Harlem, during Winters where it snowed heavily, I would pack my camera and my dolls, take the local to 110 and walk all through Central Park, all the way to 59th street. It was so magical, relaxing, creative and playful. It just made me breathe deeper. I loved seeing all the families and kids sliding down the steep hill next to the conservancy and all the funny, sometimes haunting shapes the snow would make after accumulating in fluffy chunks on top of things we see every day like benches and trash cans, steps and water fountains. Snow just kind of takes over and transforms nature for a brief time into a kind of abstract version of itself. And somehow after it snows it feels like anyplace quiet is extra quiet. You begin to be aware of the sounds of small things moving, falling, melting, and dropping.

CP Snow

I know that Spring just started and that this snow is not supposed to be on the menu but somehow I still feel the Spring beneath it all. It doesn’t even feel cold. It just feels like a different way to usher in Spring. Now check back with me in a few weeks and see if I still feel the same pending another Noreaster. LOL!

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For right now, I just felt blessed to have been able to tromp around like a child in the snow taking pictures and exchanging smiles with a few other people who were feeling the same Central Park snow joy. I really just wanted to keep walking deeper and deeper into the park and just lose myself in it all. It felt very meditative and I haven’t had moments of peaceful stillness like that in some time. So I’ll take whatever I can get. All signs point to Spring beginning. Even magnolia buds covered in frost are a promise.

Experience is a great Gift to ask for

On more than one occasion, my girl Khalilah has talked about how experiences are the only things she really wants as presents. The last few years or so, we’ve expressed how unaffected we are by the Holiday Madness that ensues during this commercially over developed marketing period called Christmas. As we get more mature, things are not really on our wish lists any longer. I know all I wanted this year were Sephora Gift cards! LOL!!!

Seriously. That was all.

But this year, Khalilah mentioned again that all she really wants is a vacation to someplace sunny.

I hear that!

But I never think to actually ask for it. Because…

Well who does that?

The first time I ever asked for an experience as a gift was because our wedding registry site provided it as an option. Such a thing had never occurred to me simply because I had never allowed myself to think it was something I could request.

Glass Blowing

I asked guests to fund a glass blowing workshop in Brooklyn. I have always been fascinated by the art of glass blowing. And it seemed like something extravagant and impractical that I might otherwise never get to experience. So we went! And I loved it! And I learned that glass blowing isn’t extravagant all. It’s not even cute! LOL!

You wear  clothes you’re comfortable in and not afraid to get dirty, you have to work outside because the heat from the glory hole and all the kilns would be suffocating in an enclosed space and you really have to focus to avoid losing limbs or burning the crap out of yourself. At least I did. But watching glass in a malleable state be blown and manipulated is still pretty hot to me. Pun intended.

And did you know that the craft of glass blowing has hardly changed since ancient times? What could be more practical than that?

Think about that next time you’re drinking…

from

a

glass…

 

If nothing else, America has shown me that nothing is off the table with regards to what we are allowed to demand. It’s just that we often we ask for things, not because we actually want them, but because we’ve been told what to want.

Black Spa.jpg

So far, my holiday wind down has consisted of a Winter Solstice trip to Spa Castle with Khalilah which we have managed to make for all the seasonal equinoxes this year (YAY US!) and which is something that gives me so much life, and rejuvenation. I think I slept that day at Spa Castle more than I have slept in all the times I’ve been there.

The next day, my husband drove us up to a house in Saugerties, NY that we like to rent out for deep but brief decompression and unplugging. It’s a cozy and comfortable house owned by a dear friend of mine. Every time we’re there it feels more and more like a second home. I feel that it is very much intended for simple, meditative contemplation. I mean it’s surrounded by nature, so it’s kind of hard not to be drawn inward by its energy.

Cute Cottage
Cute Cottage

A whole lot more sleep happened there. LOL! But the quality of rest when you’re away in a place that provides a unique and needed experience is just qualitatively more enhancing to your life than a material gift might be. These experiences and more are things which resonate most authentically to my spirit. Aside from glass blowing, which I would love to do again someday, spa time and time away in nature are things I return to over and over to reconnect and center because they always work for me.

So this idea of wanting experiences vs material gifts of is really onto something. It’s something I want to focus more on in 2018.

Stuff; I got. In fact, I’ve been thinking s lot about adopting a more minimalist lifestyle and I’ll come back to that another time.

But asking for experiences? Funding experiences that will enhance, educate, evolve, heal, inspire and motivate?

More of that please…