notes from the bench

what i pine to see
is more neo-soul
and
fewer neo-nazis
more humanists with
arms flung open wide
embracing those in need of shelter
like my ancestral brethren
i want to see them settled in…
“your own back yard”

what i yearn to see:
a future in which
family planning
is not
a moral issue
a future
where cities
are not
swallowed by the sea

is it too much to ask to salvage
what we still have left of this?
coffin-dodgers miss the point,
you won’t be here to witness it.

visitors

these demons been lurking
uncertainty’s nourishment
all of my nights
all of my days lately
trapped in a cage
my mental was rattled
slips from my fingers
like sand when i grasp it

they ain’t here to stay though
they come and they go
couldn’t hold heavy hands
i relinquished control
couldn’t hold heavy hands
fingers twisted and cold
there’s a face i can’t place
and a voice i don’t know

good grief

no matter the muster,
to resist
the breeze
that moves the leaves
continues to blow,

no matter the bluster,
the willow
holds branches
waving to greet you,
and welcome you home

no matter the yearning,
or love
you surrender,
to summer’s night sky,
stars keep their distance

upon charcoal slate
and cosmic canvas,
a comic display
twinkles and glints,

elysium’s winking,
she already knows that
the show must go on —
with nowhere to go,

and no hurry to find
a faucet to bottle
nature’s home remedy
to soothe a bruised soul.

Instant Sound Therapy — Marconi Union’s ‘Weightless’

It appears to be a form of universal intuition that sound can deeply affect our physiological and emotional states. We see this in the meditative trance state induced by the chants of Buddhist monks. One could claim that far removed from spiritual practice, we can hear that one tune dropped in the club which instantly fills up the dance-floor and forces you to jack your body — although I would say the presence or lack of spirituality here is up for debate. The takeaway is that music is a universal language understood by all. Consider the tired mother singing her baby a lullaby or the high pitched whistle inserted by John Lennon to irritate dogs at the end of ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ – this effect of sound even extends from young to old and even beyond humans as a species. In my own experience I’ve always found a particular piece of music to find solace in while navigating the choppier waters of this life.

One group decided to take this idea to it’s logical extreme – and so it is my pleasure to introduce Marconi Union – a three-piece electronic outfit from Manchester, England. They decided to create music that could confirm our intuition and vindicate the knowledge already attained by experts in the field of sound healing. This desire manifested itself in the group’s 2011 track ‘Weightless’, created in collaboration with the British Academy of Sound Therapy.

 

weightless o

Listen to Weightless here. 🙂

When you first listen to ‘Weightless’, you may become conscious of an instant change in your mental and physiological state. This is no coincidence but a premeditated scientifically studied sum of causes. ‘Weightless’ is the result of a set of carefully composed rhythmic structures, non-repeating melody and field recordings engineered to create a lush, sprawling 8-minute musical voyage.

This thoughtful composition has been shown to slow the listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure and even lower our levels of cortisol (commonly referred to as the ‘stress hormone’). Leading expert Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, the institution which carried out the research, came to the conclusion that listening to ‘Weightless’ could reduce anxiety by up to 65%, in addition to a 35% reduction in the test subjects’ standard physiological resting rates.

When we hear chart hits, being able to predict the next note of a track is the rule rather than the exception. This creates engaging hooks that lodge in our brains and keep you up at night as ‘Baby Shark’ plays on repeat, having infiltrated your very psyche. A quick tip for those suffering from an endlessly looping track in their end is to listen to the song right through to the end… and voila, the glitch in your brain can be fixed: your life is no longer buffering.

You see: our brains are essentially lazy. Our mind is constantly looking for shortcuts and will eventually drift off when we can no longer predict what is coming next in a musical piece. Like the rain following the plough, our bodies react in accordance. Rhythms compel us to act: sometimes the physical urge will give way to the mental and vice-versa, but it stems from our mind’s interpretation of sound. Psychedelic pioneers Funkadelic hit the nail on the head all the way back in 1970 when they urged listeners to “Free your mind and your ass will follow”. So when study participants were listening to tracks such as Weightless, they were instructed to complete puzzles which would increase stress levels. The participants were connected to sensors to allow for measurement of stress indicators, and were played different compositions. ‘Weightless’ emerged as the clear winner — a testament to the power of sound and its mysterious ability to change our state of consciousness.

If you enjoyed this piece, I would recommend listening to Kelly Lee Owen’s eponymous debut LP. Kelly Lee Owen’s relaxed electronica draws from her own time spent working in a lung cancer ward — and her subsequent realisation of the healing power of music. If you do listen to ‘Weightless’, I would love to hear your thoughts! Read more about KLO here, and don’t forget support the artists! 😉

indigo

 

darling do you realise,
the mist that swirls inside your eyes?
in the evening time, stretched wide to house the moon,
you grin and check my vital signs,
then trace the course of my palm-lines,
etched paths twist and turn, converge, and all return to you,


was it the tracing of your finger?
at certain times you seem to linger,
longer in my mind's eye than the credit you've been due,
was it the moss upon my stone?
the present you so clearly own,
the dye that had been cast is past"
a fresh pair of dice to roll.




our time upon this earth is short,
our future is an afterthought,
i'm stuck with pins; it must be your voodoo,
and your black magic gypsy hex,
tickling the nape of my neck,
honored hairs all arise, standing to salute,


your holy gaze and aureole,
never caught you in this light before,
you’re fixing up, I know you’re bound to shoot,
but for now we’ll just recline,
on this sofa outside space and time,
and bask serene in low-lights beaming down the avenue.


arrival

too much to digest: time’s up for mastication,

noob meet rubix cube; more mental masturbation,

mark it with an ‘x’ like some kind of destination,

saw god reflected in the mirror at the train station,

 

baggage;

slipped discs, backs out: big risk,

stay in;  go fish;

could’ve split the last dish,

 

feeling bait like the fly on the hook,

reeling? still shook — belly empty tonight,

front to back muscles still all twisted and tight,

sealing up my creased brain — leaked ingrates;

cockroaches scurry when exposed under lights,

most favour curried knows it’s lacking in spice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

witnesses

swanning down soft focus lantern-lit streets —

full of sleep — under night’s blanket thrown,

god’s finger raised to his lips in a hushing pose,

staggering silence sat upon its golden throne,

 

ambled aimlessly around now for one too many summers,

yet still; never lingered quite long enough to simmer,

fawned in the shimmering headlights of the oncoming,

overawed in the presence of life’s ongoing glimmer,

 

in this moment:

the ancient holy dance of playful particle vibration resonates… recalling –

in this moment:

the dust which we will all return to; flickers in reflection at the eyes of recognition,

synchronicity is speaking… insistently and softly.

you don’t have to answer — dear witness: only listen.

 

 

originally posted on honest.cash

Tips for maintaining positive mental health

The importance of mental health is often underestimated and is often not even acknowledged. A decline in mental health can lead to depression, insomnia, paranoia, psychosis, and agoraphobia to name just a few conditions. It is of course, also intrinsically linked to our physical health. This is one element of our lives in which prevention is infinitely better than a cure. I’d like to share some tips I’ve come across for maintaining a healthy mental state in the hope that you may glean some practical information.

1. Aim for small positive changes.

Everyone is familiar with the feeling of being stuck in a rut. Maybe you feel helpless or just resistant to change. It is not futile… far from it. All it takes is one small positive change in your life to break the cycle of hopelessness. The idea is to continually improve yourself at your own pace and set realistic goals. These achievements will build confidence in your capability to make further positive changes. Remember, you must walk before you can soar.

2. Establish a routine.

When it comes to maintaining good mental health, many people find that establishing a routine is key. This is particularly useful if you find yourself with too much free time on your hands. Personally, I am a firm believer in rising early and beginning your day on a positive note. Place your alarm clock/phone across the room and don’t press that snooze button — if you need more time in bed, try to sleep earlier. Listen to your body when it sends a message. Get out of the house as early as possible and you’ll find it easier to build momentum.

3. Surround yourself with supportive people.

Whether it is your friends or family, it is crucial to spend as much time in the company of people with a positive outlook on life. It is better to have 10 friends who truly care about your well-being than 100 fair-weather friends. The flip-side of this is that you should try to avoid associating with people who drain your emotional energy.

4. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. 

This is something that can be built towards to create a lasting lifestyle change. It is advised to eat as much unprocessed food as possible. Try to avoid refined sugars and excessive caffeine intake. A healthy body will always make a healthy mind more attainable. It only takes a small amount of exercise to release those endorphins which will make you feel like you can take on the world.

5. Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes.

The simple truth is that we all make mistakes. It is important to learn from our mistakes without dwelling on them. The true masters in any field have failed countless times — it is your reaction to failure and rejection which is crucial. Everybody must start somewhere, and to fail is to try. Keep at it. Pursue your passions without fear of failure —  you should embrace failure and analyse what went wrong so as to be better prepared for your next attempt.

6. Avoid social media as much as possible.

We have all experienced the boredom of scrolling up and down a news feed on Facebook, Instagram, etc. What we are seeing is the highlight reel of other peoples’ lives. What we are seeing is unattainable beauty standards. Remember what Confucius said — “Comparison is the thief of joy”.

7. Maintain an appropriate work/life balance.

This goes without saying — working non-stop will end in burnout and negative effects on your mental and physical health. Like all things in life, we must find a balance which allows us to feel fulfilled in our work and social lives. As the British philosopher Alan Watts said, “Life is not a journey”. I would advise everyone to watch the following video on this topic here.

8. Know your family history.

If there is a history of mental illness in your family, you should be aware of this and act accordingly. There is nothing wrong with letting off steam with a few beers, but know that what comes up must come down. This particularly applies to those readers in their mid-20s; this is when mental illness is most likely to manifest itself. Practice moderation and harm reduction, if you do decide to indulge.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Whether you are asking a friend, family member or attending therapy, there is no shame whatsoever in needing help. Everybody needs help at some stage in life. The very act of speaking about your problems aloud is therapeutic. Getting the perspective of other people will help you evaluate your own issues and inspire you to tackle them.

10. Express yourself.

You don’t have to paint like Van Gogh or play guitar like Jimi Hendrix — any expression of your inner turmoil can bring you to a cathartic state which can help you deal with tough issues in your life. Many great artists have struggled with depression and helped themselves and others through the channeling of this energy into art.

11. Practice mindfulness.

Andy Puddicombe’s Headspace app includes a free trial which can introduce you to mindfulness meditation. It is not a complicated technique but it can work wonders for our mental health — particularly in relation to accepting that which we cannot change. Meditation is a fantastic way to become less reactive to the negative elements of life as it helps replace rashness with cool-tempered consideration. 

12. Practice gratitude.

Challenge yourself to write down 3 things which you’re grateful for every morning. This could be as simple as having full control of your body, having a job, being in a position of relative financial comfort, having food in the cupboard, a supportive family member and so on. You will be amazed at what you’ve got. Be thankful for it. This is why many of the poorest countries in the world often show up as the happiest overall — they are pleased with their lot. Meanwhile, those who succumb to greed may have what seems to be an amazing lifestyle, but they are left constantly wanting more. 

So, if you made it this far I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. We are not merely our negative thought cycles. We can empower ourselves to live happier, healthier lives with a positive approach. Emotions are to be expressed and dealt with. We must build each other up. To all my brothers and sisters who are hurting — I love you, and I’m not the only one. You have the strength to overcome the obstacles in your path. Stay steadfast; stay strong. 

originally published on honest.cash