Monthly Archives: July 2011

Change

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Have you ever found yourself stuck on a particular thought that just won’t go away?  It could be a positive thought, a negative thought, or even a neutral thought…but it stays there, much like a song stuck in your head.  Negative thoughts, especially, seem to stick around in a really annoying way.  If a person isn’t adept at just “letting it go” (which is harder than it sounds), these thoughts become even more frustrating.  They begin as a random thought that brushes against the mind…and then many times quickly take over the entire thought process.  For awhile we wallow in these thoughts.  We think “well, if I marinate in it for awhile, it’ll just go away.”  Wrong.  At this point, they become annoyingly present at all times.  The wallowing actually made it worse.  So what is it that we do to get rid of these thoughts?  We have to consciously decide to push them away–negative thoughts have a way of snowballing into something larger than we ever thought possible, and there is no room for that in our lives.

Louise L. Hay says, “It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed.”  There is so much truth in that statement, however unattainable it may seem at the beginning.  Different things work for different people.  Meditation has always worked for me, where it doesn’t work for others.  Affirmations work for other people and don’t seem to work as well for me.  Some people run, bike, swim, or dance (all forms of moving meditation); some people write, paint, play an instrument, or sculpt (all forms of creative meditation).  Whatever you do that works for you, keep doing that.

Recently I have gotten back into the habit of daily meditation along with a physical practice (either swimming or yoga).  It has come to my attention that instead of waiting for something to happen and then going back to meditation, I should be meditating and practicing all the time in order to buffer those situations in the first place.  I guess it’s similar to taking care of your car.  If you have the oil changed regularly, put gas in it, and keep everything tuned up, you won’t be going into the shop every month because the engine has fallen out and the tires keep exploding.  Of course, there are always the fluke accidents…but they shouldn’t be a regular thing.

Open Heart, Open Life

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The sun bathes everything on the planet–not all at once, but at some part of every 24-hour period (barring dark periods during certain seasons).  It seems as though the sun disappears every day; however, it is the Earth turning away from the sun…not the sun moving away from the Earth.  Just like the Earth turning away from the sun, we tend to do this in our relationships. 

Why is it that this happens?  Because we tend to enter into relationships with closed hearts.  For some reason, whether it’s past jading or low self-esteem, we completely block ourselves to new possibilities.  Ani Pema Chödrön said “The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with.”  So what is it within this statement that rings so true?  Really…it’s everything.

We must enter any relationship with anyone, including that with God, with an open heart, in order to experience the fullness of our spirit within that relationship.  Entering with a closed heart only blocks the possibilities of what may come out of that relationship.  I submit that it is equally as important to enter into a relationship with ourselves in this same manner.  This, I would imagine, will be harder than any relationship with any outside person. 

 

Me?  I am deciding to enter into my life with an open heart.

Il nostro Ambiente

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After living in the desert for a year, I have come to gain a new appreciation for the environment.  In the midwest, environmental responsibility is almost strictly limited to recycling (though admittedly, a very small percentage of people either take the bus, ride their bike, or walk to work).  The desert version of environmental responsibility is vastly different, partially because of the region and partially because of the people.

I’m sure it comes as no shock to all of you that in the desert (even the high desert) we have quite the shortage of water.  I’ve never lived somewhere that I actually looked forward to the rain; however, New Mexico is a whole different playing field.  In the midwest, it seemed as though it rained two or three times a month, and when it did rain, it would pour for a week.  The rain was so intense that we would sit inside for hours, just hoping that it would stop so we could go outside.  Many times it would be raining so hard that we couldn’t see even a foot in front of the car, making it impossible to drive.  It used to be somewhat of a joke that as soon as it started raining, we would see more people pulled over on the side of the highway than actually driving on it.  Here, that isn’t the case.

We are currently in what is supposed to be our monsoon season (my favorite time of the year here).  It rains pretty much every day for about 20 minutes and then goes right back to being sunny.  This year, however, that hasn’t happened yet.  Sure, it has rained a few times in the past two months, but nowhere near as much as it’s supposed to.  This lack of rain leads to extended periods of incredibly high fire warnings (for those of you playing the home game, most of our part of the state has, at some point, been on fire in the last two months…and most of that area is still closed).

So here in New Mexico, it is amazing to see how the people treat the earth on which they live.  The entire theme around which everything is based has to do with the natural state of the desert.  All of the architecture reflects this, the art reflects this, and even the music reflects this (keep your ears open in November for the premier of one Desert Faith Mass which promises to be amazing…or, I promise it’ll be amazing…I should know, because I’ve heard most of it).  In a discussion with a friend the other day, we both noted that in many places in the country, people landscape with plants nonindigenous to their region.  The more things you can fit in your yard, the better–especially if the plants are “out-of-towners.”  In New Mexico, for example, there isn’t a lot of grass.  If you have a yard full of grass, people actually look at you like you are insane (which honestly, if you have grass, you ARE insane).  We both said the same thing: “Do you know how much water you’re wasting by trying to keep that grass alive?”

So when is it that we decide that taking care of the environment is more important than bending it to our whim?  When do we stop treating the earth like our personal molding clay and start treating it with respect?  It is our job to take care of the environment, not destroy it.  It is our job to live amongst it, not radically alter it in order to make it something that “works better” with our lifestyles.

We’ve been singing this song at church for the last month or so, and I feel like it’s pretty appropriate to put right here.  Maybe it’ll make you think–maybe it won’t.  At any rate, at least it might make you vaguely more aware of the larger picture, even at a subconscious level.

Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care;

Gift of great wonder, ours to surrender, trust for the children tomorrow will bear.

Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses, and air that is sweet;

Health in God’s Garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete.

The Risk to Be Touched

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I’m reading something called The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  It’s a “daybook”–that is, it’s one of those books where you read one entry every day for a year.  I seem to think that once I come full circle with this book, I’ll probably read it again and again.  Yesterday’s entry was titled “The Risk to Be Touched,” and it was quite poignant.

Nepo writes that the simplest reason that we want to be touched is that touch heals us.  He goes on to say that what hinders this is our fear to let others into our personal space.  We fear being hurt by a multitude of reasons; however, these are all reasons that even though they may be rooted in past experiences, are only perpetuated by the power of our own minds.  In effect, we are our own worst enemy.  Our minds hold power over us that is impossible to understand, at best.

So where is it that we draw the line between fear and acceptance?  When is it that we push the mind chatter to the back and exist in the silence and peace at our core?  Of course, if I had the definitive answer to those questions, I would be the author of a best-selling book.  Eventually, we need to take that chance with other people, accept them at face value, and take the hand they offer.  Though we can be incredibly self-reliant animals, eventually we need the support of others.

Nepo closes the entry with the following paragraph:

“Sometimes we would do better to admit the heart works best in mime.  For beneath the worries and fears of being hurt or rejected or taken advantage of, beneath the avalanche of excuses and explanations, there waits a deep and simple pulse that we need from each other in order to be whole.”

And really, when one person becomes whole, doesn’t that inspire others to do the same, thus coming closer to the ultimate goal of supporting not just those around us, but everyone on the planet?

Clown Cars and Music Theory

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After I wrote my first blog about our new church (“Amalgamate”) I received a few “concerned” emails.  These emails expressed what boils down to a fear for my eternal soul.  Apparently the church that we’re attending is “too accepting,” and according to these people, that is a problem.  How funny that a church where they actually act the way Jesus did is the “wrong type” of church.  Go figure.  That being said, I was reminded by a friend of a bumper sticker that says “God Loves Everyone–No Exceptions.”  I found that somewhat humorous in light of the current situation.  I was told that we shouldn’t pick a church because we agree with their “opinions” (I put that in quotes because that it what the email said).  Well…at least to me, agreeing with the message seems to be an important criterion.  Maybe I’m crazy, but I wouldn’t pick a church where I don’t agree with anything they say–that would just be stupid.

Fast forward to my most recent blog about the theory papers that I wrote.  A seemingly non-religious subject: music theory.  I have been informed that I am wrong…through more emails.  What I gathered from the majority of these emails is that college was a time for me to get all of that pesky independence out of my system and meet a husband.  Apparently I was supposed to be spending thousands of dollars on tuition in order to get an M.R.S. degree.  I thought these people had met me before, but I’m guessing they never paid any attention to my actual personality.  According to most of them, this music theory business is just the inevitable next step of Satan trying to get his hooks in me (their words, not mine).  The first step was us going to this church that is “so focused on accepting everyone and all that diversity nonsense.”  Still not grasping the connection between the two subjects at all, but whatever.  Many of them told me that now that I’m 30, it’s time for me to settle down with this “school nonsense,” be a “good housewife,” and focus on having lots of babies.  Wow.  Who knew that it was supposed to happen like that?  We won’t even go into the “focus on having babies” part, as I might have a little [precedented] explosion…you know, like the kind you have when inadvertently provoked in the middle of some random store amongst unknowing people…yeah, that kind.

Needless to say, I deleted quite a few people from my Facebook friends list in the past couple days.  I’m sorry if they think that the church we love is evil, just because they don’t preach all the fire and brimstone nonsense and they actually accept everyone.  I’m sorry if they think that I should become a “good housewife” and settle in to spend the rest of my child-bearing years cranking them out like a clown car.  But more than anything, I’m sorry that they don’t grasp the actual concept of the religion they claim to practice.  Social justice, environmentalism, equal rights, activism, helping those in need…I’m pretty sure these are foreign concepts to most of these people…and I’m willing to put money on the fact that they won’t ever want to learn about them.

Just a random observation from the world of feminist, educated, logical, socially conscious Lauren.

Discombobulation

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Apparently I haven’t written a blog in almost a month.  “Why is that?” you ask.  Just after I wrote the last blog, I began doing my analyses and research for two theory papers.  These papers were to serve as my portfolio in my application packet to the MMus program at UNM.  Keep in mind that I haven’t actually analyzed any music in almost eight years, so this task proved to be somewhat of a stretch for me.  Difficult?  Not really.  But let’s just say that my brain spent a fair amount of time sweating during this mental workout.  I think it is also fair to say that when presented with a handful of augmented sixth chords in the Beethoven piece, I spent more time banging my head against the wall than actually figuring out the function of the chords.

Let me begin by saying that I’ve never written papers like these before (and was told by a friend that these type of papers aren’t normally written in undergraduate programs, so there was no reason for me to have experience writing them), so the whole concept of a theory paper was somewhat foreign to me.  The Beethoven paper was straightforward as far as information goes.  I chose the first movement of the Op. 10 No. 3.  So…write some background on sonata form, write some background on the piece, examine any noteworthy sections based on analysis, write a conclusion.  Done.  The Marrolli piece, however, was a different animal all unto itself.

At first glance, the Marrolli piece looks simple–and strictly speaking of the notes, it is.  That being said, it starts with a spoken section (that after a few measures has voices in different time signatures) where voice parts are pitted against each other.  After a handful of bars, a drone enters that stabilizes a simple melody in the upper voices.  This is the end of the normality of the piece.  In comes people singing the melody whenever they want at basically whatever speed they want.  That section was the easiest to analyze, as the whole section is one giant D-minor chord.  Here comes the fun part: the last section of the piece has eight chords.  No, not eight chords over and over…just eight chords. People sing one word throughout the entire section, and similar to previously, sing it at whatever tempo they want.  The whole section creates this support system for the mezzo solo that is floating above.  Okay, so there is the whole run-down in a tiny, tiny nutshell.  This is the analysis that proved to be the most difficult for me because the majority of the analysis was over the programmatic aspect of the piece.  It is really simple to listen to a story, hear a piece that is telling that story, and then say, “oh yeah, I totally hear all of that.”  It’s a whole other thing to sit down and make a bunch of inferences about what you think is going on.  But…the papers are written, so that’s all that matters!

 

Hopefully I wrote something similar to what the selection committee is expecting.  Who knows, maybe it’s exactly what they want…or maybe it’s nothing like what they’re expecting.  In a perfect world, they will look at it and say, “we MUST have her in our program!”  (especially because I wrote a paper about a lesser-known composer, right?)  Because of this whole starting-a-PhD-that-I-found-out-that-I-hate-and-now-trying-to-switch-programs-to-music-theory thing, I’ve been quite discombobulated (and I use that word in homage to a recent conversation).  Does that mean that I have ignored my blog writing?  No, but it does mean that I have gone through writing two papers and covering the material in three semesters worth of music history as well as four semesters worth of music theory in the last three weeks.  My brain is fried, yet I can’t get enough.  The more I read, the more I want to know.  Most people in my life know that this is just a part of who I am.

 

 

Now it’s just all about playing the “waiting” game.