Tag Archives: music

creativity and mental health – a twitter chat

today i had the honour of moderating the weekly mental health and social media chat (“#mhsm”) on twitter. these are always such interesting conversations! our topic today was “creativity and the arts”. here is a slightly abridged transcript:

moritherapy: welcome to the weekly #mhsm chat about #mentalhealth and social media. today’s topic: creativity and the arts #mhsm

moritherapy: Q1 how does “consuming” the arts (listening to music, watching movies, looking at paintings, etc.) help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

moritherapy: my father, who struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder all his life, always said “there’s nothing more soothing than music” #mhsm

KerisWithaK: Consuming and contributing to the arts is incredibly healing! #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1: Consumption of the arts, movies, theater, ballet, opera… are an escape for me from my #mentalillness #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Q1. Music is for most a highly effective means of clearing the mind, taking your emotions to a different place #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1 Music that is uplifting to me, helps boost my mood. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy We’re partially here great topic tonight! Arts are a healthy outlet when coping with the side affects of recovery #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1: Certain movies, or TV programs help me focus on other things besides negative things that might be going on. #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1:think that the consumption of arts helps to stimulate my brain outside of its regular zone,which is gr8 for helping #mentalillness #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm I love calming music for anxiety. Feels like it regulates my heartbeat somewhat.

MelissaMashburn: A1: I have always enjoyed art, especially painters from the impressionist era. Something about it is very soothing. #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto interesting – you call it “escape”. sometimes that word has a negative connotation. what do you think? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art and creativity has the power to heal, center & empower people out of hopelessness. #mhsm

mySahana: Q1: Dancing creates a total body experience instead of being limited to just the head and cerebral processes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: It certainly can replace the stuff in my head for a while, that is escape #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Does the same for L RT @MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana oh, i love what you say about dancing – incredibly healing, isn’t it? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @moritherapy @stephintoronto Escape from suicidal thoughts could never be negative. For players/listeners, music can also be grounding #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I am not sure if this counts as “art and creativity” but sometimes I like to look around for inspiring quotes to lift my mood #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: It provides an escape from an otherwise seemingly hopeless world at times #mhsm

johnalchin: A1. The arts have the ability to mood-alter. Appropriate music can take the edge off a hectic day or motivate when feeling flat #mhsm

stephintoronto: @moritherapy i agree that “escape”has a negitive feel,but so does feeling crappy w #bipolar & #mentalillness ūüôā #mhsm

mySahana: @moritherapy Oh absolutely! It just shifts your whole experience and emotions to a different, almost tangible place #mhsm

Kidsider: @MySahana I think the arts in all forms really works towards mindfullness by stimulating all the senses in such a positive way. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I also find writing very theraputic #mhsm

mySahana: @kidsider Definitely true! I personally have had most experience with dancing but you’re right. Music, dancing, drawing it’s profound. #mhsm

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moritherapy: Q2 do you consider yourself a “creative”? how does your own expression of creativity help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: For L writing music also gives him a chance express feelings he otherwise has trouble getting out #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: As a student of music, playing helps me deal w/ emotional + mental pain, puts things in perspective, gives access to accomplishment #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A2: I think I am very creative. In the past it took the form of fabric arts, now it is almost exclusively writing. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: Even if I do not write about stuff going on in my head, just the process of writing feels healing to me. #mhsm

mySahana: A2: I’m very creative too and use it mostly to choreograph dances, to write and to create new experiences for myself #mhsm

stephintoronto: A2: i don’t consider myself a “creative” but i have come to realize that I need artistic outlets to help deal w #mentalillness #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I think through blogging and SM I would call myself a “creative” we’re all being creative now in breaking stigma #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A1: I find nothing feeds my soul & makes me feel less alone than great art – especially music & poetry. #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Here is a video of him singing and playing one of his songs a few months ago http://www.youtube.com/user/OJTLBlog?feature=mhum #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art starts in the mind #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A2– I like to write for 2 reasons – advocacy (feel empowered and possibly educate) & 2 humor to lol when I’m struggling #mhsm

mySahana: I have also recently started singing classes which has been a fabulous way to find my voice and tap into new skills. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i think that many people dealing with #mentalillness and #mentalhealth issues,is that they are blessed with creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: i feel like i’m in some sort of creativity hub, just listening and talking to you #mhsm guys ūüôā #mhsm

stephintoronto: creativity comes out for me in writing, painting, ballet, arts and crafts, poetry, photography, write comics…. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: @stephintoronto I have found that fact very interesting. Makes me wonder if the rest of the world needs to catch up with us #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana i love the idea of singing to find your voice – so important in #mentalhealth #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @unxpctdblessing Writing & graphic arts are my go to things when Im stressed/upset. #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write poetry as a means of expressing those moods & anxieties that won’t otherwise be spoken. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy i’m glad I have a few minutes this week to be creative with everyone too #mhsm

stephintoronto: feel blessed that so many of you are creative and i get to be the recipiant of it everyday. #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm Love to act in plays. It’s a real escape and you learn empathy for people through understanding your characters.

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write fiction too, but I don’t find the same kind of effect from it. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I can’t sing but loving putting sign language to music!! It’s a great way for me to”show” emotions #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn I wonder if strong creativity it is our brains compensating for the part of it that is not firing on all cillinders. #mhsm

johnalchin: For me creativity comes by singing, playing guitar, web design and building, enjoying musical theatre, photography #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: There are so many ways to be creative: music, theater, written and spoken word,… #mhsm

KerisWithaK: ASL is a great way to overcome what is known as ‘flat affect’. I had to learn how to overcome flat affect. ASL & theatre were the cure #mhsm

johnalchin: A2. I too have had a love of poetry since I was a young boy. I have written poetry in the past & iit s a great way to get out my angst #mhsm

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moritherapy: Q3 what do you think of the (controversial) idea that people with #mentalillness are particularly creative? #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn i have wondered if it is a bit like ppl who lose there sight and their sense of smell improves to compensate. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @stephintoronto @moritherapy at some level, I think all “artists” thrive on conversation (with others, self and their subjects). #mhsm

stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: L tends to be most creative (and at times almost frantic about it) when he isn’t doing well (especially when manic) #mhsm

unxpctdblessing: A3: I recently looked back through my poetry from college when I was supremely depressed/ lost in grief. Intense amazing stuff. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Its unfortunate that some artists are foremost identified with MH illness, inspiration/genius do not always have an obvious source #mhsm

mySahana: A3: I think sometimes it’s true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: RT @stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

moritherapy: there are some studies on the mental health-creativity connection but they seem to go back and forth #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy PTSD victims often gain a state of hyper vigilance making them more aware of surroundings, possible creativity boost? #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: A3: i’ve worked w 100’s of acutely ill ppl w #mentalillness + 1000’s w other illnesses-rec therapist. Have not seen or read evidence #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: RT @mySahana: A3: I think sometimes its true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: The schizoaffective family member I care for is the creative one in our family. She’s a brill singer, great fashion sense when well. #mhsm

moritherapy: example of study: creativity, schizophrenia and bipolar have similar dopamine system http://bit.ly/b3F8jE #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A3: For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a correlation between creativity & mental illness in friends & acquaintances. #mhsm

moritherapy: @Kidsider wow, never thought about the connection between creativity and vigilance, very interesting idea #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A3- I worry abt generalizations. As a person of color ppl assume I can do things ascribed to my race. Many times I can’t. #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: a1: con’d I have not seen or heard sufficient evidence about the people w mental illness -creativity correlation. #mhsm

stephintoronto: “Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031001061055.htm #mhsm

johnalchin: Wondering if there is a link between somatisation and the arts. Creativity as outlet for felt pain/grief/psychosis, etc? Anyone know? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Art can be a more effective way of explaining complex concepts and emotions than speech, symbols alone #mhsm

mySahana: @stephintoronto Great article! I wonder how this plays into effect considering creativity changes between childhood and adulthood. #mhsm

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moritherapy: Q4 creatives & people with #mentalillness live with feeling “different”. when there’s both, does it all get a bit too much? #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I dont think its matter of apmlifying the negative issues but a symbiotic aide in the struggle of mental health #mhsm

mySahana: @johnalchin I think body centered therapy addresses the issue of holding mental illness/stress/pain etc in your bdy #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A4: I’ve dealt with far more of a feeling of difference from MI than from creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @KerisWithaK “different” is perceived as negative. Leads to a hard, lonely life until difference is embraced positively. #mhsm

stephintoronto: wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all embrace our creative sides and say screw you to the #mentalillness side? #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @johnalchin @moritherapy A4: I frequently feel overwhelmed. But am learning to deal with it. #mentalillness #mhsm

moritherapy: @bentsinister there’s stigma re #mentalillness but the creative #stigma is less, or not so visible? #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I love it when people see people for people. Acknowledging and celebrating all that IS that person. #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer @johnalchin yeah, i think the word “overwhelm” is well placed here #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy I guess the only times I’ve experienced stigma re: creativity is when I got too “out there” for most people’s standards. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i’d be ok with being the creative artsy lady that lives in “there”,but somehow that always comes w the “crazy” label as well #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q5 can you recommend any social media sites or web sites about the topic of creativity and/or how the arts help with mental health? #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy When that happened, though, I was probably hypomanic, now that I think about it. #mhsm

johnalchin: @storiesofsommer @moritherapy I *HATE* feeling overwhelmed. I wan’t to have sense of control at all times. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A4 We R all different. I think much pain comes feeling that we have to be so much like others to be loved+respected #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto yeah, the whole “crazy” connection is kinda interesting. #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @moritherapy No, but it is actually something I have been thinking about starting for quite a while now #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy So I think that any stigma over creativity might be less, at least in my experience. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: My mom used to say I had multiple directions- couldn’t see “one way”. Now that’s called lateral thinkers! The new leaders! #mhsm

moritherapy do you guys know about the ikarus project re mental health and creativity?http://bit.ly/12nHkM #mhsm

storiesofsommer: Unfortunately, here in the states, I think we’re way behind on mental health resources. I’ve seen more progress in european countries #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer yes, it does look like particularly the UK are making great strides in the area #mhsm

moritherapy: another great resource: @soundtherapyrad does internet radio shows about creativity and mental health #mhsm

johnalchin: @KerisWithaK Yes, I say that my abstract random learning style means my mind is a lot like the world wide web. #mhsm

moritherapy: there’s the creativity and conflict people¬†http://bit.ly/9zqShT #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Oof! Im getting all shaky from the excitement/vibes in tonight (and a small amount of coffee). Can you feel it?! #mhsm

storiesofsommer: This may have been asked already but which comes b4: the creativity or the mental health issue? #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: as we’re closing, please let us know your blogs and websites so that we can support each other as a resource #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled Emotions http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @storiesofsommer:  http://www.storiesofsommer.com; life questions and how my depression/bipolar plays a part plus other random bits #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled Emotions http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com#mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: http://ReachOut.com – a place 4 teens, young adults to share stories on tough times in their lives & how they got through, MH expert vetted #mhsm

johnalchin: I’ve just added a Mental Health section to my website at http://johnalchin.info which I will be adding to over summer (in Oz) #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: http://www.our-journey-through-life.com Been slacking lately but really want to get back to blogging #mhsm

mySahana: Thank you for an amazing discussion! Please see our site http://www.mysahana.org addressing mental health issues in the South Asian community #mhsm

stephintoronto: i write about #mentalhealth #migraines #bipolar disorder…. when i feel up to it…http://princessrantsandraves.blogspot.com/ #mhsm

moritherapy: thanks all for participating in the #mentalhealth and social media chat. please come again, same place same time next week! #mhsm

“in love with the mystery” – ann mortifee’s new book

“mystery” – how do you talk about it? “the deeper you go into it, the more difficult it is to name,” says ann mortifee, and “everything becomes mysterious after a while.”

the first mystery that struck me as i entered st. mark’s church where ann mortifee’s launch for her new book and CD in love with the mystery was held was the image of paul horn, her soul mate and husband. there he was, standing in front of a cross as he gracefully welcomed the raging applause. why did this image speak to me so insistently? i don’t know. there seemed to be, in my experience (was it only mine? did others feel it, too?) a sort of communion, communication occurring between the man and the cross. who knows? no, i don’t know.

the word “mystery” is rooted in the greek myein, to shut, to close. it is that, perhaps, which is closed off to our knowing. all our knowing? or just the intellectual knowing?

ann certainly walks bravely into that thicket of unknowing: with words, images, music, and her voice. oh, her voice! it comes from a deep, deep place … and reaches a deep place inside us. when she let all her shamanic power loose and hurled that voice into space, she sang it into our ears and hearts – and again, into those deep spaces in between, where the mystery lies.

in love with the mystery is something physical you can take away that captures all of this. all the senses are engaged. “the whole work is a synaesthetic feast, an offering for the divine beloved,” says carol sill, who did the editorial work. the book feels good, has a nice heft, the pages are lovely to the touch. strange to talk about a book like that – aren’t you supposed to talk about the content? but any book lover will understand. there is something exciting, almost erotic, about touching, holding, weighing, allover feeling a new book. in love with the mystery is a book you want to hang out with, a book you can open on your lap while you drink a cup of tea on a quiet sunday evening, and while you listen to the music that accompanies the book. in addition to ann’s powerful voice and paul horn’s flute, miles black and edward henderson’s beautiful guitar complete the synaesthetic whole.

there is something melancholic about in love with the mystery – and it makes sense, given its history. in her talk, ann spoke often about the pain that deepens our understanding – shattered dreams and “the grit of disappointment.” these experiences inform the content of the book but there is more. the gentle images that form the background to ann’s writings were created by award-winning photographer courtney milne, who did not live to see the finished work of art. as well, the stunning design by diane jensen-feught was crafted in grief, as the designer mourned the death of her parents.

instead of an excerpt – you’ll just have to read for yourself – a few poignant lines from the talk:

“how does the mystery come?” asked ann.
“just keep breathing.”

august 2010 buddhist carnival: right action

every month i delve into the buddhasphere to come up with interesting tidbits in buddhist writing. this time around i was interested in the concept of right action.

the poem we start out with today is the famous shin jin mei poem

the perfect way knows no difficulties
except that it refuses to make preferences;
only when freed from hate and love,
it reveals itself fully and without disguise;
a tenth of an inch’s difference,
and heaven and earth are set apart;
if you wish to see it before your own eyes,
have no fixed thoughts either for or against it.
to set up what you like against what you dislike –
this is the disease of the mind:
when the deep meaning of the way is not understood
peace of mind is disturbed to no purpose.

thanks, tricycle!

right action and the death penalty

i’m including this one because the writer draws a (perhaps tentative) conclusion that is different from my own; it’s important to me look at a diversity of points of view. also, it’s fitting to start with this one because “do not kill” is almost always cited as the first exhortation in the teachings about right action. i like the simplicity of it, similar to hippocrates’ basic idea, “first do no harm”. here is an excerpt of the post dying for killing:

one of the most important things the buddha taught was “do not kill.” it’s commonly accepted as the first precept. so, buddhists clearly do not believe that it’s right to kill, to take life. as the buddha did not teach, “do not kill except in the following cases…”, it’s commonly accepted that all killing is wrong. this is why many buddhists are vegetarians, peace activists and conscientious objectors.

isn’t it amazing how something so straightforward can be treated with such confusion? because here’s where i start wavering.

right action and the body

here, in fact, is a translation offered by a buddhist from malaysia about the buddha’s teaching. it is interesting how in the west, the idea of right action is usually linked closely to ethics whereas this section clearly is concerned with what one does with one’s body:

and which, friends, are the 3 kinds of bodily moral behaviour in harmony with the dhamma? here someone, stop all killing of living beings, abstains from injuring living beings; with rod & weapon laid aside, gentle and kind, such one dwells sympathetic towards all living beings.

avoiding the taking of what is not given, one refrains from stealing,what is not freely give. one does not take by way of theft the wealth and property of others, neither in the village nor in the forest. abandoning abuse of sensual pleasures, such one gives up misuse in sensual pleasures. one does not have intercourse with partners, who are protected by their mother, or father, or mother and father, or brother, or sister, or relatives, who is married, betrothed to another, who are protected by law, in prison, or who are engaged to other side.

that is how there are three kinds of bodily moral behaviour in harmony with the dhamma… such is right action!

right action, teaching and fun
this excerpt here from back to buddhism illustrates why it can sometimes be difficult to find interesting posts about buddhism – many buddhists just don’t bother to stick the label “buddhism” onto all they write.

i really don’t think it’s necessary to categorize something as buddhism or not-buddhism; after all, there is really not much difference between the two. when i write about racism, i am writing about right mind. when i write about teaching, i am writing about right action.

so let’s see what he says about teaching.

in all my classes, whether they are english or computer science or meditation, i make a concerted effort to make sure it is fun. in fact, i try to make class silly. the class has to be fun for me and it has to be fun for my students. if we are not having fun, we are not learning.

… after lunch is the most difficult time to teach. to counteract the drowsiness of my students, i knew i would have to really knock the lesson out of the park.

it’s relatively easy to act out the verbs – walk, shout, am. it’s also not so hard to point to nouns and dress them up with adjectives. even adverbs are not so hard to impersonate

however, acting out through and at and with is a bit more of a challenge; toward was nearly impossible.
we made it through prepositions i had planned. salt played a big role in the lesson. the salt is on the table, above the table, under the table, with the glass, behind the glass. there was a combination of horror and laughter when the salt went in the glass.

right action, software and the mundane. oh, and green living

at first glance, this post on buddhism and software selection (first found on another malay buddhist blog, buddhist bugs) seemed a little lightweight. well, it is, just like the book they suggest, what would buddha do? nevertheless, there is something intriguing to seeing buddhist teachings applied to something so seemingly mundane (and yet very important for businesses, just like not stealing and not cheating). after all, if we don’t apply the teachings to the mundane, what’s the point?

and if you’re in the mood for more lightweight reading, go to mother nature news and read about the book what would the buddha recycle? once again, it’s easy to raise our highbrow eyebrows but let’s be honest – isn’t light and fluffy material like this that sometimes provides the entrance to more profound learnings?

right action and inaction
buddha’s pillow has a number of posts on right action, like this one on responsibility:

many of us choose inaction in stressful or frightening situations. this is not practice. inaction in the presence of conscious choices of right vs. wrong actions is irresponsible to oneself and one’s world.

right action and social responsibility
more on responsibility.  here`s an interview at shambala sun about social action:
goodman: kittisaro often quotes ajahn chah as saying, “if it shouldn’t be this way, it wouldn’t be this way.” yet we live in a world of great suffering. how do you reconcile ajahn chah’s teaching with the buddhist precepts of “right speech” and “right action”?

thanissara: at some level it’s obviously true”it can be no way other than it is right now. however our actions in the present condition the future.

buddha didn’t just sit there and say, “oh well, the world is at it is.” he acted. in fact he tried three times to prevent a war between those in his home country of kapilavastu and the king of kosala. yet he wasn’t able to stop the bloodshed. he had to accept that this was a karma he couldn’t alter, but it didn’t mean that he didn’t try. on leaving the area, it is recorded that his beloved attendant ananda asked him why he was so sad, to which the buddha replied that his people would be massacred within the week.

right action, therapy, living in the now and values

the smart buddhist, written by a therapist, has all kinds of choice morsels on offer. here he touches on a sensitive point for me, the idea of being value neutral as a therapist:

the experience of living in the present, paradoxically, can tempt us into experiential avoidance all over again, just in a new form. it’s quite possible to trade escape from the now for escape into the now. the recent enthusiasm for mindfulness and acceptance in the west needs to be channeled properly or we risk creating just another form of western self-indulgence. by themselves, mindfulness methods as they’re often used in western psychotherapy don’t give sufficient attention to the organizing influence of purpose in human life. in the spiritual traditions from which such practices were drawn, “right action” is specified through ethical principles. but western therapists are encouraged to take a value-neutral professional stance, and not direct our clients to any particular belief or “right action” enjoined by a religious or spiritual tradition. nevertheless, we still can help our clients gain access to their deepest aspirations and turn a life lived in the present moment into a life worth living.

right action and rightness

in the last little while, i’ve come across a number of situations where people understandably got a little itchy at the idea of rightness, for example in the comments on my post about trying to come up with a definition of mental health. what’s with this right action, right thought, etc.? part of this comes precisely from the doctrine of value neutrality that many of us been exposed to – in therapy for some of us, but definitely in science. historically, this is also (paradoxically) connected to the very fabric of democracy and human rights, for example when it comes to religious freedom. it is useful, then, to look at this idea of rightness. dogen sangha gives a bit of insight here:

there is none among the many kinds of right that fails to appear at the very moment of doing right. the myriad kinds of right have no set shape, but they converge on the place of doing right faster than iron to a magnet, and with a force stronger than the vairambhaka winds.

(even though each of milliaeds rights do never have any kinds of decisive form beforehand, and so there is no right, which exists before at the present moment, and at the same time there is no right, which continues its existence to the next moment. right is always exists just at the present moment, and such a present moment continue at every moment.)

right is a simple fact, which occurs just when it is done at the present moment, therefore it is perfectly impossible for right to exist at a different moment other than at the present moment at all.

right action and musicianship

we started with the art of poetry, let’s end with the art of trumpetry. here is a beautiful piece at macfune about musicians and right action

what, then, of the moral commitment of the musician? what is it to be a trumpet player? certainly we can differentiate between the hack who puts some plumbing to his lips every once in a while and the truest artist whose spiritual being is not separate from the physical processes inherent in performance. the difference is morality. the difference is how one lives one’s life, not how one thinks idly about right and wrong but how one acts.

(side note: nothing is still, nothing is constant, nothing exists from one instant to the next: all we are is action. there are no nouns in this universe, only verbs. all nouns are categorical statements that limit and defy the constantly changing nature of phenomenal existence. “i” should be understood as a verb, not a noun.)

right. so the musician is, like all artists, exploring the fundamental question of human existence: the moral question. when we listen to miles, coltrane, glenn gould, to the cleveland orchestra playing beethoven (!), or to any other great musician, if we pay attention we can hear a profound moral question posed.

i remember reading somewhere or other that the key to understanding jazz is to hear the hidden social message: in the softest, most intimate ballad are the seeds of a profound sadness, and in the most joyous, swinging celebratory bop number is wild rebellion, lurking just beneath the surface.

if you’ve made it this far, thank you! come again next month, on september 15, or read some of the other buddhist carnivals.

mental health camp recap #2

here’s another report from mental health camp. for some reason, i just can’t bring myself to get all official about it and write it from the point of view of the organizer, so i’ll write it from my personal point of view. so here are a few fragments, which do not do justice to the whole big event but which nevertheless will give you a bit of a taste:

our logistics on the day of were a little wonky; influenced, in part, i think, by the more official feel of the location. the event was in a beautiful building, the aquatic ecology research lab at the university of british columbia; the first one had been at the very intimate location of the sadly now defunct workspace. one of the things that were wonky were that the first presenters did not get introduced. steffi, who spoke about “ripping off the scabs through writing”, was understandably not very happy about it. what i liked was that we were to hear this complaint without getting defensive, and immediately rectified it, with the help of wonderful people like sue macdonald from the CMHA and kemp edmonds. (these two and our other volunteers were highlights in and of themselves!)

perhaps the thing that most stuck with me was the role that art and creativity played at mental health camp. there was steffi talking about her writing. there was j peachy who presented a whole session of sound therapy radio, complete with a live band (ranj singh and the discriminators), each of whose member was standing in front of a painting (see here for a video clip of it). that session also featured a young woman talking openly about eating disorders for the first time, as well as creative participation by the whole audience. j peachy is part of gallery gachet, a vancouver collective of artists who have experience with mental health issues.

also part of gallery gachet was a lunchtime presentation of the beautiful film crooked beauty, which “explores positive and compassionate models for transforming the experience of madness in our culture.” it features one of the founders of the icarus project, ashley mcnamara.

the icarus project envisions a new culture and language that resonates with our actual experiences of ‘mental illness’ rather than trying to fit our lives into a conventional framework.

exciting stuff.

there was michelle clausius, who gave a presentation about the artistic endeavours of the young people who contribute to on the house, the award-winning blog of covenant house. this is what covenant house does:

covenant house exists for those young people for whom there is often no one else ” young people aged 16 – 24 who have either willingly fled physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse, those who have been forced from their homes or those who have aged out of foster care. we bandage their cut-up feet from days and nights walking the streets; we give them hot food and a warm bed and we support them in their choice to change their present circumstances while helping them heal from past traumas.

another session where i experienced high creativity was katarina halm’s presentation on focusing. i loved how she used the yellow balls pressed against our bodies almost as “speakers” to help us feel our bodies better.

doing this with my good friend raul was a pleasure, once again. we feed on each other’s ideas and calm each other down when we fly too high. there were a few instances when we really needed that, most of it as a result of nasty troll comments directed at some of the presenters and also at ourselves. because of our support for each other, i hope we can say we managed to stick with our core philosophies: inclusion, compassion, and clear communication. thank you, raul!

a song for anorexia

this week is eating disorders week.¬† to start it off, here is a song one of my twitter contacts wrote for someone who was struggling with this difficult, often life threatening disorder (the fourth song, “you are not alone”)

and the lyrics:

you are not alone
music & lyrics by bob gray © october 22, 2003

there is a light, beyond the darkness
there is pain, inside us all.
sometimes we trip, on the roads we travel
as we reach up, sometimes we fall
and though sometimes, i know you’re lonely
with all my heart, i need you to know…

chorus:
you are not alone… i stand by your side.
with so many others, who hide, as you hide.
with all my heart, i hope you will hear me
you are not alone… you are not alone…

there is a peace, that you can get to
it will be hard, but you’ll be fine.
i’ll walk with you, in case you stumble
reach out your hand, i’ll give you mine
and though sometimes, you may be frightened
with all my heart, i want you to know…

repeat chorus:

bridge: (with choir)

but, beyond the hurt… beyond frustration…
beyond the mountains, we all must climb
there is the dawn, of a new tomorrow
the dawn of hope… i hope we find…

repeat chorus: (with choir)

soul music from a piano’s underbelly

soft, these sounds
steal again into my heart.
how’d he do it?
he played on the piano
like he knew all about our souls.

this is a little tanka – a short japanese poem – i wrote after listening to the CD of the wonderful sounds craig addy created when my friend and soulmate haedy were lying under the piano.

yes, under the piano.

one day, craig was kissed by his muse and he set out to design a little world under his baby grand. satiny cushions, soft blankets and inspiring colours created a womb of wonder under a firmament of melody and gentle rhythm that craig carried into our minds, hearts and bodies through the wood and metal of the piano’s underbelly. “touch the piano,” craig encouraged us, “you’ll experience the sound in a completely new way.” and we did, and it was true. the music came to us from everywhere – our fingertips, our backs that touched the vibrating floor, the air, our souls.

our souls – that was the deepest part. “how’d he do it?” i said in the tanka. i don’t know. does he know? maybe he’ll tell us. we had a very short conversation beforehand, nothing particularly personal. craig knows me a little; he didn’t know haedy. but then he sat down on the piano and he captured – i don’t know what. even the word essence doesn’t get to the heart of it. he captured who haedy was, who i was, he captured our relationship, our story, where we were at the moment, where we had been, where we might go. we lay there, held hands, listened, and cried. we were transported yet we were intensely there. haedy, who has stage four cancer and is in constant pain, was released from her aches for a while. i had intense memories of lying under my grandparents’ piano. craig, letting his hands go where they would, played music that nurtured us and understood and held us.

craig recorded the music and we were able to purchase the CD afterwards. it is my favourite CD right now. would you like to listen to some of it? go here to craig’s blog and let yourself be transported …