Brave

self-expressionThe legend of Pandora’s Box, deeply rooted in Greek mythology, carries with it severely detrimental and far-reaching consequences for those who dare to open it. Me? I had a different experience altogether when I cracked open that ill-fated cauldron. Was it detrimental? No. Was it far-reaching? I can only hope. Time will tell.

My weekday hours lapse in front of a computer monitor, eyes blurring through pages of computer code. Sometimes the only saving grace for my sanity is the melodic tunes that fill the air. Enter Pandora. I like surprises. I never listen to an album front to back. I always shuffle. I like not knowing what’s coming next. It turns out that preference holds true for more than just my musical offerings.

As I meticulously matchup parentheses in my code, the magic of Pandora is streaming through my headphones. Relinquished as a backdrop for my primary activity, it is typically little more than white noise to break up the monotony in the silence of my cave. Until. The music once reserved for the background is suddenly promoted to the foreground. There is no longer any focus on sans serif characters in the form of a computer program. Now, it is only the chords, percussion, and lyrics combining to reach my core with more expediency than it reaches my ears. And ever since that moment in time, Sara Bareilles’ Brave has been my anthem. Most songs catch me with their tune first. The lyrical appreciation usually comes later. This song was no exception. However, usually taking days or weeks, the lyrics captured me within seconds.

Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out, honestly I wanna see you be brave. ~Sara Bareilles

I am a free spirit when my thoughts spill onto the page. I muster more courage to publish what is on my mind when I can avow it through the safety of a blog post, shielded from immediate critique, either positive or negative. For me, neither one is handled with the necessary grace. There is a sense of refuge when I am able to remain concealed behind my words.

Run across me on the street and my propensity to usher true feelings into the open is much more unlikely. This song and these words, however, have shifted the fulcrum ever so slightly. I have been given a subtle vote of encouragement to be me. I know that these little nudges ideally come from your family, your friends, those people that are closest to you in your daily life. But, it doesn’t always happen that way. And you know what, that’s alright. You take inspiration in any form it comes, from any place it originates. More often than not, it comes around full circle.

A few weekends ago, while I was off getting lost in the forest, my wife sunk two wooden 4x4s into the ground. Serving as the anchor points for our hammock that had been sitting in the garage for close to a year, she had picked up my slack and created a serene and tranquil resting spot a few short steps from the back porch. Framed by two tiki torches on either end and surrounded by the colorful blooms of our cape honeysuckle bushes, our own private oasis had been established in the comfort of our own backyard.

On a cool Florida evening with a slight chill in the air, the setting could not have been more sublime. With my wife and I seated comfortably in our Adirondack chairs, our son is gently swaying back and forth in the rope hammock. The two tiki torches flicker with life. Its flames illuminate the cape honeysuckle as the setting sun provides the magic of twilight, a transition from sunset to moonlight. Unbeknownst to me, another transition was about to transpire.

Momentarily disrupting the ambience, my son and I vacate in different directions. He heads off to his bedroom, me to mine. We return to our previous venue, musical instruments in hand. He with his Native American flute, me with my acoustic guitar. We easily slip back into the aura of bliss supplied by two female influences, Mother Nature and the handiwork of my beautiful and artistic wife.

The moment of truth arrives. Or so I thought. It just so happens that what I was really encountering was the moment of inertia. As I began to strum the chords to Brave on my guitar, the words followed from my very own vocal chords. First with slight apprehension, but soon with the freedom and conviction that the lyrics portray. We each have our own unique obstacles to surmount. This was one of mine. This was the first time that I had freely strummed my guitar and sang a tune in front of my family. Big deal, right? Well, for me it was a big deal. Probably bigger than it should have been, but I’m not too sheepish to share that it was a big step for me to take.

What followed was special, almost surreal. After my unique rendition of Brave, my son followed suit by performing a song of his own creation on the flute. Back and forth, we exchanged the spotlight in our own private concert. Native American song on flute, then my version of Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. Another mesmerizing combination of flute tones courtesy of my son, followed by The Rainbow Connection on my guitar. Kermit the Frog probably performs it better on the banjo. But, in this private oasis, our connection is much stronger. Our evening’s final performance is an extended interpretation on my son’s flute which is shared by him with the same confidence I was lacking at the beginning of the evening. As his notes roll from one to the next with ease, my fingers tap on the guitar body while my wife’s do the same on the side of her chair. Providing a complimentary drum beat, the rhythm keeps our family in sync. In so many different ways.

find-yourself-artSelf expression is just that, expression of yourself. There is no right or wrong. Actually, there is a wrong. Choosing to not reveal your authentic self, that is wrong. And unfortunate. Whether you are singing a song, playing an instrument, painting on a canvas, giving a speech, writing a book, or jumping into any other creative endeavor, the most important choice is to do it in your own unique way. Express yourself.

Self-acceptance precedes effective self-expression. I leapt over a personal hurdle on this magical evening that will not soon be forgotten. But, the element that will forever be preserved in my memory is watching a young boy open up and share what is inside with courage and bravery. If that is the only thing that I help to inspire in my lifetime, it will also be one of the most meaningful to me. With a synergistic effort from husband, wife, and son, we composed our own music. Maybe out of tune to the rest of the world, but wonderfully so within our own circle.

 

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Massage your mood with music

power of musicMusic gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. ~Plato

Music is all around us. It’s in our home and at our workplace. It’s in our car. It’s in our pocket. Sometimes, it gets stuck in our head whether we want it there or not. It is extremely powerful. We all have enough challenges in our everyday life. Why don’t we use the power of music to help us along our way?

A physical massage relaxes the muscles in our body. It may be to relieve stress. It may be to heal physical injury. It may simply be a way to move towards a meditative state in order to more easily focus on a quiet moment of introspection. Music can provide the same effect. Often, we harness the power of music without even realizing it.

How often do we sit down to work with music playing in the background? What prompts us to do this? Most of the time we claim it is just background noise, something to fill the silent void. I challenge that it is much more than that. Music provides an energy and rhythm to whatever we are doing. It provides a flow toward goals that we sometimes don’t even know exist yet.

At night, we may listen to calming music in order to quiet the mind and relax our mental state before falling asleep.

Music has the power to be an energizing or calming influence in our lives.

It can be the missing ingredient in a recipe for pure bliss. Sitting on our back patio on Sunday evening, my wife had just finished preparing a delicious tropical chicken salad recipe served on croissants. A gentle soothing breeze was rustling the palm trees, the setting sun was just beginning to add a purplish orange hue to the clouds in the sky, a glass of chardonnay was perched on the table in front of us, and the sound of Hawaiian island music was spilling from the speakers. She looked over at me and said “It just doesn’t get any better than this.” We were in the moment, enjoying life without any of the worries that sometimes commandeer our day. For that period of about two hours, anything was possible and everything was perfect.

Those that know me personally or follow my blog are aware that I own an acoustic guitar. Last week, while attempting to tune the guitar, my high E string snapped rather abruptly. My mood snapped in unison with it. It has been a week and I am impatiently waiting for the strings to be replaced by our local luthier. I realize that I have transitioned from “wanting” to play the guitar to “needing” to play the guitar. The instrument has become an extension of my body that is able to tap into another dimension to myself. You don’t have to be a professional. Heck, you don’t even need to be mediocre (trust me, I know) for the power of an instrument and music to grab you and transport you to places that no car, airplane, or any other form of transportation can take you.

music speaksMusic provides a connection to the soul. The lyrics of a song speak to your mind. The tune of a song speaks to your heart. The two elements meld together to speak to your soul in ways that no language can describe. It can heal, inspire, console, or provide hope. Whether we tune in to the music present in our daily lives, sing a song in the shower, or choose to play an instrument, our moods are influenced by our connection with music.

Harness its power and let it speak through you. Be sure that the song you’re playing sends the message you want to share with the world.

Wake up your creative mind

playing-guitar_1600Technology seems to rule our world. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to visit any public gathering spot and look around. I suspect that a majority of the people you observe will have their heads buried in a handheld device. Perhaps you are reading this from a tablet or smart-phone and need to lift your own head to observe the others in your shoes.

Heck, I am able to provide for my family because of the technology that exists. However, as with everything, balance is key. Too much of one thing and too little of another can often create anxiety, tension, and the propensity to sink into a proverbial rut.

It is with this observation that I start my blogging life.

I am so “left-brained” that I wonder how I don’t walk around with my head sagging to the left. Everything I seem to do focuses on the technical, logical, and analytical. It’s like there’s a big empty void on the right side of my brain yelling ‘Feed me! Feed me!’ and I have ignored its pleas until now. I am working towards balancing the equilibrium of my mind by kicking my creative side and “right-brain” into first gear (with other gears to hopefully follow).

I was reading a blog post about an American actress named Maria Bello. She was slated to become an influential human rights lawyer until she took an acting class in her junior year. Her law professor (and mentor) encouraged her to listen to her heart by stating “You serve best by doing the thing that you love most. Follow your bliss.”

Instead of trying to figure out how to monetize an activity or analyze how it may make your life different for better or worse, just live. Do more of what you love and less of what you don’t. You may be surprised at how much influence and impact you have on the people around you not to mention the influence you have on your own inner peace.

writingI’m starting this blog as a part of my “right-brained” creative self-expression. It feels therapeutic to me. I like to share my thoughts with people with the hope of providing some perspective that is useful in their own daily lives. I am picking up my guitar and playing it more because it just feels right and helps me handle the more difficult moments of the day. Simple formula, do what you love, but common sense is not always common practice. Sometimes we all need a little wake-up call to get us out of the woods and back on the path towards passionate living even if that wake-up call is from our own self.

What can you do to create more balance and positive energy in your life? Share it with us. Then, go out and do it … live your life to the fullest!