Want to kick the habit? Play Some Music (Matings Part 5)

[[…continuing what was started in I Love the Way You Say That (Matings Part 1), Sex on the Beach (Matings Part 2), Sing Me a Little Song (Matings Part 3) and Sing Me to Sleep That I Might Learn Thee Loves Me (Matings Part 4)]]

If you’ve following my last few posts you know I’ve been studying how sounds affect people. This is known as psychophysics and more directly, psycho-acoustics. It’s fascinating stuff.

For example, did you know that the parts of the brain that respond to music are involved in the response mechanisms to addictive substances and behaviors?

The evidence comes from various brain-scanning technologies (PET, fMRI, etc) and targeted drug therapies.

And it gets a little better, too. Not only abuse drugs, but it seems these neuronal circuits also are involved in our enjoyment of food and sex.

Food, sex and music.

Reminds me of Yasgur’s Farm.

Seriously, there’s a reason responses to food, sex, abuse drugs and music all occur in similar brain areas.

Imagine yourself as an amoeba in the primordial slime a few billion years ago. There were only two things you really wanted to do; eat and replicate. In fact, there wasn’t much about your primitive biology that was geared to doing anything else. Not only your primitive biology but the primitive biologies of every other living organism that was going to survive, eating and replicating were extremely important, and because they were you and your kind survived.

A few million years go by. Your multi-cellular. You might even be swimming in some ocean and getting ready to traipse across some land. There’s really only two reasons you’d want to do that. First, there might be food. Second, there might be someone cute.

Food and sex still rule.

Many million more years go by. Many, many. You’re walking around on the land now and you might still be swimming. You might be flying or gliding. In all cases, your mobility is a function of your need to eat — find food — and reproduce — find yourself a cutie. These two functions have taken on such importance to both your and your species’ survival that your brain has started to do things to get your attention when you eat or mate. It started to develop some reward circuitry and about the only time it fires is when you’re doing things that directly insure both your and your species’ survival.

Food and sex again. Only now we’re getting rewarded in new ways for our efforts.

Lots more millions of years go by. You’ve done well. There are so many of your species now that in order to reproduce you have to demonstrate that you’re better than your peers. How might you do that? Evolution comes up with a way. Originally your flopping around or flapping your wings or clapping your flippers happened by accident but it still made potential mates look your way rather than at your peers. Given eons those accidental sounds became intentional mating calls, tweets, splashes and flaps.

Then we started adding rhythms so that potential mates would be able to pick our grunts and groans out of the crowd.

Then we started howling and calling. That’s how music was born.

And the ones of us who made the best music got the most reward.

It’s those reward circuits that drugs of abuse fire. The same ones that got us standing up on our hind legs and reading these words rather than dying off millenia ago.

Knowing their origins, it’s not odd at all that food, sex, abuse drugs and music go together, is it?

So if you really want to kick the habit, learn to play some music. Food, sex and drugs are sometimes recognized as addictional vectors in our society. Not so with music. Not yet.


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Intention, Part 2 – Living with Intention


This post is a follow up to Intention.

I’ve been living with intention for four years now.

Correct that: I have been living with conscious intention for four years now.

Or correct that: I have consciously been living…

I have been consciously living…

The above are not edits, these are attempts to use language to describe what I do not yet have language for. Each sentence has a slightly different meaning, each slightly different meaning fails to reveal the whole that I mean.

Living with Intention is challenging. The challenge is both frustrating — when I allow it to be — and rewarding — when I allow it to be. Living with Intention is the razor’s edge Maugham wrote about, me thinks.

Part of living with intention means slowing myself down to the point that the universe stops moving around me. Or maybe moving so quickly that I move with the universe, hence remain fixed in it. Phrased differently, Living with Intention means recognizing that you are a verb and can only become a noun through effort.

I pay more attention to what I eat. I pay more attention to my eating. I take time to savor whatever goes in my mouth (and whatever comes out). I find that paying attention to the tastes allows me to taste more of them, to become aware of subtleties that I didn’t know were there yet obviously were, waiting for me to experience them.

As my awareness expands, my calmness grows. I find myself more restful while being readier (for anything) than I’ve ever been before (that I remember, anyway).

I discover selves I no longer need or can comfortably use. I thank them for their efforts and invite them to rest.

I’m now 61 years old, I was taught these things in my teens and early twenties and I’m just beginning to understand that it was Living with Intention that my teachers were talking about.

I practice guitar differently now than I did…even months ago. Once the recognition of intention is made, it grows and encompasses everything. At least for me. Practicing (anything) was a chore at some times, an obligation. “I have to practice x minutes/hours each day.”

For whom? That’s the question Living with Intention causes me to ask now.

I focus more on the individual movements of my fingers. The movements become natural, fluid, far faster, more elegant than they were in the past. I laugh at my mistakes (that alone takes practice). Recognizing that they’re simply mistakes comes from living with intent.

I recognize that I’ve lost my focus when things frustrate me. I remind myself, slow down. Relax. Learn what the frustration comes from. Deal with that, not with this. This is the agent that reveals. Thank it, go on, continue.

Relationships take both less and more work. I question my motives for interacting with people, both as individuals and as groups. I don’t question their motives, only my own. In questioning my own motives, in understanding my own goals, I realize and understand theirs more clearly, more cleanly, more obviously, more quickly and easily than I did before.

I question more because questioning more leads to more understanding. And questioning. my own. What is my goal with them? What is my desired outcome? Do I want to be friends? Am I capable of friendship? Is that person capable of reciprocating in a way that I’ll be satisfied with the exchange? Did they fail or did I set them up for failure by creating an expectation they couldn’t meet? What shall I do if I recognize that this relationship will never be what I want it to be? And then recognize it’s easier to end that relationship than continue being dissatisfied with the interactions.

Because I’m paying attention more, because I’m doing things consciously and that means more and more of what I do becomes non-conscious.

But part of Living with Intention involves becoming more aware of what I do non-consciously, discovering which of my behaviors are in conflict with my desires and why and what I can do to resolve those conflicts.

I exercise differently. I’m more aware of my movements, of my limits, my goals shift, my reasons for exercising become more self-directed than other-directed.

And I learn to be increasingly honest with myself. Even when self-honesty, the necessary sister of self-realization, hurts.

Learning to be a noun means learning to be a gerund because there are times when the energy around you is different from (unequal to?) your own and you must match it before you can work with it. Intentionally.

Writing this, I recognize my strengths and weaknesses. I focus my intention on what is obvious to me because the obvious is easiest to recognize, but “the obvious” means “the surface” that I haven’t integrated into myself such that it exists and is unknown, unrecognized.

It is the unknown, the unrecognized, that truly requires my focus, my intention, because the unknown and unrecognized that are parts of who I am are the most blessingful and dangerous to both myself and others, hence I must work to understand them and their purpose to both myself and others if I and others are to grow from them.


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Eliana’s GiveAway

The most recent NextStage Irregular shared the anthropologic and cultural meaning of the GiveAway ceremony, the rituals associated with it and how it is used and misused in modern commerce.

Putting that email together, I was reminded of a story from another phase of my life that very much involved The GiveAway and is a demonstration of how much personal meaning and power it can have in our lives. Before reading the rest of this post and assuming you haven’t read the above mentioned newsletter, let me share the following:

GiveAways are marked by what is exchanged, usually something which was and may still be very special and/or has meaning to you, and is something which you’re willing to move beyond. Traditionally GiveAways involve exchanging something very important, something we are hesitant to give away, yet something we know we must part with in order for something else to come to us.
This can’t be something we give away then take back. Most importantly for rewarding or gifting people in commerce settings, we must give away something that we know has value to everyone involved. Again traditionally, this meant GiveAways involved exchanges of symbolic or real power, symbolic or real value, symbolic or real information, and there’s always an exchange involved.

During a training session, a student, Eliana, carefully, almost religiously, placed a small, well worn, red-velvet pouch tied with an equally old, faded red ribbon in my palm. Once there, it felt heavier than I would have thought and I realized there was something inside. She was making this pouch, the ribbon and whatever was inside her offering in a GiveAway that only involved me.

We had been studying GiveAway ceremonies and rituals for some time but this came as a surprise to me.

Once the pouch was in my hand, Eliana stared into my eyes for a moment then returned her gaze to the pouch, ribbon and whatever was hidden within still lying in my open palm. She asked me to open the pouch for her. The pouch was only closed with that old ribbon which looked like it would split if you simply breathed on it. I was unsure of her offering although I knew I could trust her because mutual trust and honoring are part of GiveAways.

But still I was confused and she must have sensed that. “I can’t. I can’t let it escape,” she said.

That really confused me. Whatever was in the pouch wasn’t moving and didn’t seem alive.

“Do you know what it is?” she asked me.

I felt the form hidden in the pouch, touching it softly, gently and respectfully. “Some kind of horse,” I said. “With a crown, I think.”

“It’s a unicorn.”

“Ok. You can’t open it because it’ll escape and I can open it? Are you sure you want me to open it?”

She started crying before she could answer. The sobs were coming from deep, wracking her body as she released some very deep energy that she’d carried for a very long time.

“This is a very important to you. A memory of some kind and you’ve managed to put it in one place, to tie it up, to bind it so it can’t hurt you any more, to put a noose around it and keep it and you safe. I’ll accept your gift and I won’t open it until you’re sure you want whatever this represents set free.”

She looked at the pouch in my hand. “Do you know what the memory is?” she asked.

“No,” I answered and that’s when the story, the reason she was studying with me and the meaning of the pouch, came out.

Eliana had been sexually abused as a child. Every time her father sexually abused her he would go out and buy her a unicorn. Through the years she’d given away all the unicorns except this one. Her father stopped abusing her when she had her first period and this was the last unicorn he’d given her.

The symbolism of the unicorn bound in the red pouch was astounding and nothing she ever intended. It simply was.

Through all the training and work we’d done she was finally able to give-away, to release all that energy. This was a very important thing to her, a very important memory. She was ready to give it away, ready to move beyond.

And then she said, “I need you to open it. You won’t let it hurt me. I trust you not to let it hurt me.”

GiveAways are exchanges and Eliana was giving me an incredible gift. Now it was time for me to offer a return.

“Let’s open it together. I’ll hold the pouch, you untie the ribbon and let the unicorn out. The moment you feel that the unicorn is going to hurt you again, I’ll close my hand so it won’t escape.”

She nodded and again was crying, releasing all the agony that had been held by her throughout the years. Sobbing and rocking, she untied the ribbon and pulled a beautiful, tiny carousel-style unicorn out of the pouch.

“It’s beautiful,” I said. Eliana nodded.

“You released all that energy, Eliana. It no longer has power over you. You’re free. And beautiful.”

There were some stains on the unicorn and she used her tears to wash them away, then placed the unicorn back in its pouch, tied the ribbon back up and curled my fingers over it.

“Thank you,” she said.

I still have that red pouch, the unicorn back inside, and haven’t opened it since.

Eliana’s GiveAway was an incredible healing because that’s what giving it away was, a statement that the last of that pain no longer had a place in her life while recognizing it had been important to her life.

To her the red pouch, ribbon and unicorn within were a symbol of abuse and pain. There was incredible emotional power and energy there. But power is simply power. There’s no good or bad, there simply is. So what she gave me was incredible power and, in Giving it Away, she utilized that power as incredible healing by releasing herself from it’s hold.

What Eliana was actually gifting me with was trust. My gift was honoring that trust.


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