Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The Year Of Wholehearted Living

So unbelieveably, here we are on the last day of 2011. I can't believe how this year has flown, January was only yesterday, right? Apparently not. 2011 has been... interesting, challenging, and many other things - as a certain dear friend would say - 'whack'. There's been many a moment when I just wanted to scream, "Can't this year be over already?!" But challenging as times have been at several points, I didn't run, I didn't numb, I didn't collapse in a heap; somehow this year has been one of finding a calm within the storm, and allowing the good, the bad, and the inbetween to take their course, without fear, and with faith that "It will all find its way in time." 'Let go' has been my mantra, allowing life and all within it to flow, believing that what is meant to be present will return.

And you know what? It did. It always does, and it's having those experiences and coming through the other side of day that has allowed me to embrace such situations trusting the universe will carry me to where I'm meant to be - eventually. This is the wholehearted living that Brene Brown speaks of, and the personal philosophy I've adopted in the last few years. This year was the year of not just talking, but walking, breathing, and living it. That means the good, the bad, the joyous, the scary, the unexpected, the challenging - all of it. And as the year got older, I've found gratitude for the challenges, because they showed me that I wasn't just talking - I was walking this wholehearted, vulnerable, all-embracing, life path - fearlessly. And, not alone. Allowing other people in on the times I was feeling overwhelmed or struggling was a challenge in itself for me - a new one - but my gratitude for the people who've been on my side this year is unending. You know who you are, but you may not know just how much of an impact you've had on my life this year - thank you. All of you.

The last week or so, as I've reflected on the year and the people who've come into my life, and those who've moved on; as changes have continued to light my life, I've realised that 2011 has actually been one of the best years of my existence. It may have been a rough ride, but I'm so grateful for where it's taken me, and so excited for the road ahead, into 2012 and beyond.
So as the sun sets on this year, and a new one dawns, wishing you all a wonderful New Years, and look forward to sharing 2012 with love, light, sunshine, and peace.

"I'm glad you're on my side, still."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quotation: Faith Is A Place Of Mystery

"When a cupboard is full to overflowing and the doors are opened up, that which is within comes tumbling out and nothing can stop it. When floodgates are opened, the water rushes forth with tremendous power and force, carrying all before it. So with the spiritual power within you; once it has been recognised and released, nothing can stop the flow. It pours forth, sweeping aside all negativity and disharmony, bringing with it peace, love, harmony and understanding. It is love that will overcome the world; it is love which will unite all humanity. Therefore the sooner you release that tremendous power of love within you and allow it to flow freely, the sooner will you behold world peace and harmony and the oneness of all humanity. When you have love in your heart, you draw the very best out of everyone, for love sees only the best and therefore draws forth the best. Be not afraid; open up, hold nothing back, and let it all flow freely."
- Eileen Caddy -

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” 
- Brene Brown - 

“I’ve been racing my boat lately. It’s really small—fourteen feet. I’m trying to learn the skill of taking waves and weaving in and out of the water. I just love being out on the water and having all of these massive boats pass by and get me all wet. I did something a couple of days ago that was totally humbling. I went out into the big ocean in my tiny little boat because it was very calm. And it was such a good feeling. I’m a bit cynical about religious deities right now, but sometimes you go out to the ocean and it’s really simple, “Ocean... big.” In a sense, your faith gets restored because if a storm kicks up, then a storm kicks up. It’s not personal. With religions, I was taught if you do x, y, and z and you confess and you pray and you ask to be absolved and you do all these things, then God will respond. And that’s a lie. There’s no guarantee that God will do anything. I’m really learning it’s a free will planet and certain things are going to happen to certain people. No matter how loving you are or giving you are, you might face loss-tragically. And there’s no “get out of loss free” card, just because you go to church.” 
- Tori Amos -

Friday, December 2, 2011

Quotation: No Pre-requisites, Just As Is.

"A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts. And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are far-reaching."
- Sivananda -

“There’s the inner world which is a reflection of the outer world, and when you think of all the billions of worlds that are going on out there - we are connected with that, we’re not encouraged to think of our connection as why we are on this planet. Is our life just functional; is that all that is? Getting up, going to work, having kids, to just populate the planet? I mean there have to be reasons we do things...”
- Tori Amos -

"Men and women who carry a deep sense of love and belonging, believe that they're worthy of love and belonging. The trick is no pre-requisites. Just as is, right now, worthy of long belonging. Not when I make partner, not when I lose 20 pounds, not if I get pregnant, not when my husband comes back, not if my daughter gets into Yale, not if I make the fortune 500. No pre-requisites. Just as is, right now, worthy of love and belonging. And the last thing is a resilient spirit. That is an absolute outcome of being able to live in your story. We get to re-write the endings of our stories if we're willing to walk into them and open them. It's a powerful thing."
- Brene Brown -

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Imaginspiration: Only If For A Night

So, I normally fill this space with artwork & images by other artists, and try to avoid being too self-indulgent... But, 2 weeks ago I saw one of THE most amazing live shows ever, and it truly was a hugely inspiring moment for me. I've already written about it, but I wanted to share the night and setlist in colour and pictures...


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Only If For A Night: Florence + the Machine

There’s something magical about live music. I’ve always known this; I think the first concert I went to would have been a Homebake festival when I was 12 and I’ve been chasing that same high ever since.

Though it must be said, truly great live music creates an unrepeatable atmosphere unique to that experience – and that energy, that sense of being alive and connected and a part of something being created, THAT is what leads me and many to follow the artists I love far and wide, over and over and over again.

When I first saw Florence + the Machine live in 2010, that was the only word I could find to describe the performance of front woman Florence Welch -  ENERGY – she just had this indescribable, yet deeply resonant energy that seemed to take me over entirely. I’d been a fan since first hearing her back in 2008, but as is often the case with most of my favourite artists, seeing her live took it to another level and I made a mental note then and there that whenever she returned, I’d be there to see her. Last Tuesday night, that time came. I somehow managed to get tickets to the Mastercard Priceless Music gig at the tiny Seymour Centre… The show Sold Out almost instantly, how I managed to get tickets I still don’t know, but I’m ever so grateful I did as it was one of the nights of my life, and personally the best concert I’ve ever seen.
From the opening notes of Only If For A Night, I had tingles head to toe. The soft dream like loop as the band walked on perfectly set the stage for Florence to appear in a stunning gold vintage gown. By the time she kicked into the first chorus, the dreamy air was electrified and pulsed with energy. An energy which completely took over every part of my being when she began What The Water Gave Me. From the first time I ever heard it I felt a deep, soul-level connection to this song, and hearing it live for the first time only affirmed that powerful resonance. I was still mesmerized as she moved into Heartlines – a seamless connection both personally, and the running water theme. As she moves across the stage, it really is like watching a mermaid out of water at times. There’s a grace, and flow, and spontaneity - yet it’s perfectly in rhythm with the music

The the intensity in the room increased tenfold from the very second she started Seven Devils,. I looked at Dae next to me in disbelief – we were both hoping like crazy to hear it, but didn’t really expect we’d witness the live debut of this hypnotic track at just the 2nd show since Ceremonials release! But we did, and it was magical, spine tingling, and beyond anything I’d imagined. There’s a feeling that comes from the combination of vocals & instrumentation that seems to connect you with the other side of the ether. It’s both haunting and deeply calming at once. Almost like a sonic ceremony, making peace with darkness – inner & outer. And so she flowed with ease into Cosmic Love. In which the solo vocals made every hair on my body stand on end all over again. Note perfect, her voice alone filled the entire room.

If everything that had come before had filled the room - Lover To Lover expanded it. And what made it even more impressive is that it was entirely acoustic. It’s probably the most soulful and dare I say most joyous, song I’ve seen Florence perform. The rhythm in her vocals, and movement with them evidenced that this came from the depths of her being and shook us ALL out! And following that, few songs could have been a better choice than Between Two Lungs, a literal, and metaphorical breather, it was lighter, & softer, & simply beautiful.

With that intake of fresh air, the whole crowd jumped to its feet for the first time with the familiar opening of Dog Days. Whilst it would be easy to think that some fans may tire of Florence’s most played & popular song, to see, hear – to be a part of – Dog Days live, proves what a smash of a song it really is. There’s just this positive energy, and a real freedom that comes with clapping & singing along with a crowd of complete strangers; friends in melody, rhythm, and spirit.  And in the case of the next song, Shake It Out – friends in mask. Whilst the audience was still on their feet, buzzing from declaring the Dog Days to be over, Flo in her softly spoken, polite British accent requested we all put on the masks that had been awaiting us when we arrived at our seats. Then Florence herself donned a gold sequined mask and launched into the Ceremonials lead single. Whilst it may not be as catchy as the Lungs smash that came before it, it certainly carries something of the same celebratory, breaking-off-the-shackles, feeling, and it was also represented in a visual sense, with Flo removing her mask and dancing about joyously by the end of the song.  

The tinkling intro of Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) had the crowd on their feet once more, and for me, it was one of the highlights of the night. Always good live, the 2011 arrangement of Rabbit Heart is a little softer in places and I think in many ways it’s only better for it. The song all but comes to a standstill with Flo’s soaring vocal ‘offering’, and it when it kicks back in with the melody on keys, it brings a smile to my face every time –  truly one of the most satisfying musical moments I’ve ever experienced. Staying on a high, she followed Rabbit Heart with Spectrum - probably the song I’d been most hoping to hear live. If Dog Days & Shake It Out were celebratory, Spectrum was purely euphoric. Oddly, however, the crowd as a whole didn’t seem to feel it the way I did, and were relatively subdued – certainly more so than I’d anticipated, I’d expected Spectrum to go OFF! But it didn’t in any way stop me from feeling this rainbow soul-soaring song head to toe. Nor did it stop the crowd standing to give rapturous applause as this closed the main set – and so appreciative of everything we’d all just witnessed.

The applause continued right through the encore break, and only got louder as Isabella and the rest of the band returned to the stage, and finally, Florence. Bathed in soft blue light, the applause fell silent the moment she started Never Let Me Go. It was truly one of the most beautiful and emotional moments of the entire show. I glanced across at Isa at the beginning, and she appeared as spellbound as the whole audience. By this stage the final song wasn’t hard to guess, and just as Only If For A Night was a perfect opener, No Light, No Light proved to be a perfect closer. It carried as much intensity as Seven Devils, was as hypnotic as What The Water Gave Me, and as emotionally charged as the song that had preceded it. The note held in the middle of the song could have shattered a glass ceiling – just as she does in the video clip – and the last line, “Tell me what you want me to say”, delivered with piercing intensity cut right through air in the room, signifying it was all over, leaving us all sitting there stunned at what we had just experienced.

As always, when Florence spoke throughout the show, she was so incredibly gracious – as appreciative to be there as we were. There was a moment in the middle of the set when someone in the front row caught her attention and she came forward as he walked on stage to give her a hug. Yes, walked on stage – that’s how intimate this venue was; the front row practically WAS on stage.

On an absolute high, we left the theatre in a daze - and I think I remained in that euphoric-reflective state for most of the last week. But at some point, either during the show or reflecting upon it, I had something of an epiphany. It perhaps had been building gradually, having been immersed in Ceremonials for the last few weeks and watching or reading interviews. It had all given rise to thoughts about my own creative path. Seeing artists live is like watching their highest expression of creativity. When you see Florence take the stage, it’s evident it all comes straight from the soul, and she becomes this ethereal creature – or perhaps just a freer version of her true self. And when you see someone expressing their creativity – fully – and the happiness that comes with that both personally and collectively, it raises the question, ‘what is it that makes my own soul sing?’ Now don’t worry, I have no lofty ambitions of being the next flame-haired singer, or petite producer/keyboard player. No, I know what makes my soul sing – I’ve always known. But sometimes it’s easier to appease the passions of the mind, than it is to follow those of the heart and soul. Particularly in a creative sense – it’s easy to create solutions and to fix problems; this is what the world needs, and with it comes a degree of certainty. But my soul doesn’t just want to fix things that are broken; its need is to create from start to finish, and in the language of line, colour, and beauty. This isn’t a path of certainty; I don’t know exactly where it goes – I only know that wherever it takes me is exactly where I need to be.
"This is a gift"

“Our world always needs reminders of those things which are good, true and beautiful. The artists are always the ones that remind us.”
- Dave Kiersznowski -

P.S Proper photo post to follow soon.
P.P.S I may come back and elaborate on said creative path at a later date, but for now I need to spend time being creative - drawing, painting, tying silver chains into knotted masses - all the things I put on hold for everything else.