Monday, 22 May 2017

Kindness Challenge Reflection Week 2

Kindness Challenge Week 2.   Self Compassion.  

I've been thinking about compassion all week.  It's a strange word, compassion.  Even considering compassion in relation to another person, to me it brings up thoughts of religious life, of forgiveness, benediction and of suffering.  People guilty of a crime ask compassion of their accuser, leniency in carrying out the sentence.  Not to be brutal and unforgiving.   It comes from the Latin and literally means to suffer with.

In Niki's Kindness Challenge for Week 2 she asked us to look at compassion for ourselves and posted a wonderful video - it's worth checking out.  Putting ourselves first is not wrong, in fact the opposite is true.

This week I've had plenty of opportunities to practice kindness to myself and build on week 1.  And to me self compassion has to involve patience.  As well as getting rest and some sunshine.  It's been about being forgiving towards myself and accepting limitations.  It's been about realising that you'll never be perfect but there's no harm in striving to be better and it's about practicing what I preach - in my case that's about daily practice in my music and singing - when I give that up due to illness or distraction or depression or self doubt, then everything collapses and your worst fears are realised.

One of the frustrating things I find in our life here is finding uninterrupted stretches of time to focus on finishing up songs or projects - at the moment that's about focussing on the new album.  It is so hard to do at this time in our lives.  A few weeks back we had 5 recording days, broken up with one sick day, then 4 days looking after my mother taking her to appointments, then various other appointments of our own, a funeral, classes to teach, another 2 day Mum visit, a day in Dublin - and the upshot is that it has taken us a full three weeks to get back to where we were at.  It has been frustrating and keeping me awake at night.   But time passes and there's not a lot you can do about it, especially when energy is low.

As Niki suggests, I've  been trying to consider how I would speak to a friend were she in this situation and I'd be saying this:
Things happen in the right time and in the perfect order.  Relax and let things go at their own pace and at the moment that pace may be slower than you'd like, but you know what, it'll all work out ok in the end.  Everything will get done and you'll look back and wonder why you were worrying.  
So, I'd better pay attention - no choice in the matter :)

Niki  also suggested making an affirmation, or recording a tape of things that would stop the endless chatter in our heads.  I use affirmations on and off and realise that I had forgotten the practice in recent months.   So while I didn't record myself saying positive statements, I did remember to give myself some positive talk where I could.  Thanks for the reminder Niki.

How was your week?
Are you taking part in the Kindness Challenge?  It is very interesting.  There's still time to sign up and play along if you'd like.  You can sign up at the link above and also read the reflections of others taking part.

So, on to week 3.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Five on Friday - Colours changing

 I love how the colours start to change at this time of the year .... the bluebells are nearly gone and the pinks are starting to take their turn .... even the May, the hawthorn blossom, has shades of pink in it.  But still a lonely pansy is hanging on from last Autumn, showing its pretty face and keeping the link between Spring and Summer.  And I have to keep a little bit of blue...

So for my Five on Friday this week, here's some of the colour this evening.  Thank you to Tricky and Carly at F.A.S.T. for hosting this lovely blog hop - take a look over there to see some of the other Fives..

An early rhododendron ... we cut them back hard last year.

The fuchsia will be around for several months now .. love, love, love them
This mass of white at our back garden against an almost blue sky
is saying summer is not here yet ... but soon.  

The hawthorn, so delicate.... I had to put in an extra one. 

Aren't pansies so sweet - no matter the season
Selena, in pinks and purples and this striking blue ... I like having some blue to carry over.

Joining up with the folks in Spain - F.A.S.T. - for this week's Five on Friday.  
Have a lovely weekend.  

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Singing Tips: an easy and essential warm up exercise

Warming Up

Why do we bother to warm up our voices?  We don't need to warm up when we are talking... No, but we all sound a bit croaky in the mornings, especially as we get older, and it takes a while for me anyway to be talking full throttle as it were.  

Like runners getting ready to go out for a jog, it pays to do a little bit of stretching to get the muscles gently moving.  

Here's my favourite ...

Lip Trills 

It sounds comical - like blowing a raspberry -  don't try doing it if you're laughing :)   And it looks even worse, believe me.   We never get through more than 3 or 4 of them in choir warm ups.   

It has the effect of letting your vocal chords loosen, not shaping a word.   If you're a teacher, or if your voice is a bit tired, a minute or two of doing this will make your voice feel fresher again.  

So, here's a video of a Nashville vocal coach, Cari Cole, demonstrating how to do lip trills - she looks a lot prettier than I would do with the same thing - expensive camera and better lighting!! Ha!!

Let me know how you get on.

Joining in for the first time with Wednesday Around the World

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Kindness Challenge Week 2

The world is in need of more kindness at the moment.   Everywhere I look I see fear and tears ... and a lot of the time it feels like we're powerless to do anything about it, in the face of corruption, big business ruling the world, hackers, governments that seem to have little or no connection to the people and pain, war  and poverty all around.  

So when Niki at The Richness of a Simple Life invited people to take part in a 7 week kindness challenge  I thought it'd do no harm and hopefully I'd learn something.  We're moving on to Week 2 now, but it is still not too late to join in .  Here's the Theme for Week 2.  
If you fancy joining in, read on.   

Week 2 Theme | Self-Compassion

Having compassion for others entails sympathy or empathy for their discomfort and suffering. This week we’re going to work on showing ourselves compassion. For some of us that might mean not being so hard on ourselves, not holding ourselves up to standards of perfection, or easing up on the negative self-talk. Many struggle with being their own worst critic, this week we are going to strive to be warm, understanding, and encouraging with ourselves.  Read the full blog post here

If compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. -Jack Kornfield

Week one of this challenge has been very interesting - you can read reflections of people taking part in it and some wonderful tips and ideas at Niki's site.

Come and play along.  The world certainly could use more kindness. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Kindness Challenge Reflection Post Week 1

I''m joining in with Niki at for her second annual Kindness Challenge  where she has invited us to focus on Kindness for the next 7 weeks following a different prompt each week.   You can follow that link to see what others are reflecting on and maybe join in yourself if you aren't already taking the journey along with us.

It's been very interesting keeping this challenge in mind throughout the week.

Self Love is something I have tried to practice and am getting (slowly) better at, but, like self protection, I find it very easy to forget when the are others demanding attention or in difficult situations.

But I"ve had several opportunities this week to be mindful of it and it has been very useful taking part in this challenge right now.

We took the decision to cancel another tour due to both our healths not being up to par and the added stress of elderly relatives needing us. I could have pushed through - but it would have been a disaster.   We'd have come back in a heap and then have to push through finishing the album and by July things would be even worse.

So I chose kindness.   Being kind to myself.

Added to that I had a curious incident with a company that asked me to write a blog about a promotion they're doing.   5, 6 weeks ago I said ok, but then things started to get in the way and after a week or two I wrote back politely and told them I couldn't participate.   But the girl would not accept no for an answer.   I started to feel guilty that I was letting her down.   This stranger.  Who was invading my space.   Eventually after 3 weeks of trying to ignore her pushy emails I sat down the other night and put her in the picture properly without mincing my words.  Go away or else .... and there's been silence for a couple of days.   Hopefully that's got rid of her.   I'll think more carefully before saying yes next time....

Reflecting on it afterwards - whether it's my nature, or the society I've been brought up in,  I don't like to offend.  Even at a cost to myself.   You know the saying - somebody's ** to a fault?   Well that'd be me... To a fault ... So again, another opportunity to choose kindness myself.  And I slept a lot better as a result of finally writing the email that I"d been going over for weeks in my head.

Then to end the week a friend died whom we hadn't even known was ill.  We are all so shocked.   But it was an eye opener.   Last time I saw her, I was feeling really poorly and just called out 'hello' and moved on.   I wish I had stopped just a moment longer.  But we need these events to pull us up ... to say 'take care, take time and be kind' ... and by taking the time to be with others is being kind to ourselves too.

I didn't write a mantra - things were a bit out of focus, but I felt it was enough to have something to pay attention to in the background.   Thank you Niki.

How was your week?

Friday, 12 May 2017

Five on Friday 5 goings on.

It's been a while since I last joined in on a Five on Friday, so long in fact that it has now moved house from Amy at Love Made My Home to it's new home with Tricky and Carly at FAST

And as I thought I'd use the 5 as a bit of an update of what's going on around here.

1. Music/Studio 

We've a good bit of the foundation work done for the new album now.  This weekend, now that the sun's gone away, we're finishing writing two more songs and that'll be the line up complete.  I am very excited about this project - it's been wonderful working with guitarist Steve Cooney who has embellished my own playing beautifully.  Although we've had to cancel another tour, this time to the Continent - neither of us are back to fit yet - but still we can be getting on with this sort of work.
In case you'e wondering, I'm not singing in a wardrobe, but close lol.   We live in a small cottage and when we need to separate the vocals and guitar, then Tom has mikes in practically every room of the house.   We once did an album in a friends' studio and the vocal booth actually was inside the wardrobe - that's where the best natural sound in the room was.   At that time I had illusions about going in to one of those big studios you see on TV, like Abbey Road - this is closer to reality for most musicians.   I'll try and get a pic some time with the house on cabled up.

2. Knitting 

- on the needles at the minute I have two projects running as well as lots of small trial bits as well - my head's buzzing with ideas there as well as in my music.  But the main ones are a summer cardigan in a crazy multi coloured wool called Bamboozle from King Cole which I found at the Knit and Stitch show in Dublin last October ... It is such fun and really quick to knit up.   And a wonderful green wrap that I'm slowly trickling away at - in Cascade Heather - lovely wool.   

3. Reading

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.
I've had this book on my shelf for years and for some reason didn't get around to it.      OMG - wonderful - suspense without violence and fabulously written.  In fact it won The Orange Prize for Fiction in 2002.   I loved, loved, loved this book - couldn't put it down.  It would make a marvellous film I thought and then when searching for a pic on line today I spotted that it was made into a film back then, starring Julianne Moore.   The book was inspired by the Chilean hostage crisis of the mid 90s.

From Goodreads - In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. Alas, in the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.  Read more 

4. In the garden/by the sea

Nearly gone now .... But still worth a pic ... Bluebell time and the bluebell wood at Warrenpoint has been in full bloom for nearly 3 weeks - this woodland stretches for about half a mile alongside the motorway and is simply stunning.  I wrote a song called I Still Think of You for my father, passing this bluebell wood several years ago and this is the first time I've managed to actually get in and walk around it.
We have some wild bluebells at the bottom of the garden as well and between them and the birds pairing up and the rabbits bouncing around, there's been plenty to keep me amused without having to go very far from home.  Tom reckons that he needs another half dozen rabbits and then won't need to be mowing the lawn.  

5. Watching

Danny Collins - I really enjoyed this feel good film starring Al Pacino based on a true incident that happened to a wonderful English folk singer whom I've known vaguely for years - Steve Tilston.   A letter was discovered written to him by John Lennon 40 something years after it had been written.   The letter had John and Oko's home phone number on it, along with an invite to call them and discuss the argument about whether or not being famous would change your creativity.

The film of course is a Holywoodised version and is not heavy watching by any means, but we thought it was great fun and it has a wonderful soundtrack of John Lennon music.   Well worth the watch.

And just as a bonus, here's a link to Steve Tilston himself, who is still one of the stars of the folk circuit.

Thanks to the folks at FAST for hosting Five on Friday bloghop

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Kindness Challenge 2017

I'm looking forward to joining in with the annual Kindness Challenge organised by Niki at the Richness of a Simple Life blog starting on Monday and running for 7 weeks - there's still time to join in if you'd like to.

To start with Niki has asked us to set an intention.  Intention setting is something I'd like to experience more of in my life - I tend to run at life and then wonder why I feel so overwhelmed or dragging behind, so this is a lovely way to start this challenge.

I suppose my intention is to be kinder to myself, to consciously spread more kindness around me and to contribute to bringing more joy to the world.  I consider myself a kind person to start with, but there's always room for more.

The going's been tough over the past few months and as a result we've had to take some hard decisions to cancel work and change plans which I'm not happy about.   So I"m looking forward to following along to help buoy my spirits and to not add to the overwhelming onslaught of negativity everywhere we turn at the moment.