Happy Thanksgiving! Today seems like the right day to share our gratitudes. This a powerful tool for mindfulness and well being. And you deserve our thanks! So read on…
“I’m thankful for my family – immediate and extended – and friends.” – Amy
“I’m thankful for the help I’ve had in growing my mindfulness, leading me to better appreciate family, friends, music, exercise, work and community.” – Jason
“I’m grateful for the help I’ve gotten with my physical and emotional well-being.” – Amy
“I’m grateful that my family has remained safe during the pandemic thus far. I do not take it lightly that so many other families have been deeply affected by loss arising from this dangerous time.” – Jason
Singing My Gratitude
Here’s the official video for my song “Because I’m Grateful.” Play this track and let these gratitudes soak into your mind. You’ll be doing gratitudes every time you listen or remember the chorus.
I’m especially thankful for you, my audience. I love making music and listening back to what I’ve created – but I really love sharing my expression with you.
When I write songs about mental health, I seek ways of sharing a situation of crisis early in the song. Then I share a path to resolution that will unfold as the song plays out – a path my audience can map out for their own lives. Originals like “Run With My Troubles” and “Because I’m Grateful” follow this pattern where I present a difficult mental health situation at the start and propose an action (exercise, gratitude) that makes a difference.
In writing and editing the lyric I’m constantly pursuing the truth – the exact words that most precisely reflect the experience.
Finding the Words
My newest love song, “Back to Our Bliss,” represents this drive toward helpfulness and honesty in the lyric. My first draft contained the line “And we won’t be going back to the harm we’ve gone through.”
But I came to realize I’m not a fortuneteller. I can’t truly predict that all the harm is over. So, just writing a wish doesn’t make it true! I chose a more meditative replacement for the lyric: “May we learn to be more mindful of the harm we’ve gone through.” This line honors the challenges people still face At the same time, it provides a pathway for living with emotional difficulty while nourishing stronger, healthier interpersonal connections.
I’ve come to trust this process of mining my song ideas and lyrics for the truth I know – either my truth or that of someone close to me. By the time you hear a finished track or see the video of my original songs, you can be sure that I absolutely mean what I’ve written, because I’ve taken the time to ensure the lyrics reflect the truest meaning of what’s in my heart.
Watch this space for the upcoming songs “Back to Our Bliss” and “Distorted.” I’ve begun the process of making demo recordings.
What’s your process for expressing yourself? Feel free to discuss in the comments below.
“I’m not good enough. I’ll never have what I want. I’m disgusting!”
Do these dark thoughts sound familiar? The inner critic spinning out of control, gaining intensity at the sound of its own thoughts?
Self-help lecturers and therapists have offered a counterbalance in the form of affirmations like “I’m beautiful. I’m powerful. I can do it!” Among my loved ones who struggle with harsh self-criticism, there is a strong resistance to even starting a habit of affirming the opposite of what’s playing in their heads on a loop.
But it may be harder to start at a place of high self-praise when part of you is chronically tearing you down. That’s why I suggest a simple, provable truth may work best here:
“I’m human. I deserve compassion and grace.”
By simply affirming our own humanity, we can ground our objections to the critic in something we can easily believe, something we know to be true. We can then see the negative self-talk for the distorted lie that it is.
We can add physicality to recognizing our humanity, our realness, by placing a hand on our heart while we say this, either out loud or silently in our thoughts. This connection develops the part of our brain that’s capable of self-compassion. It’s like a muscle that grows gradually if exercised regularly – one that’s atrophied in people who live under siege of chronic, out-of-control self-criticism.
Once you have a bearing on your humanity, you can advance to higher affirmations, but if you have trouble starting, I see lots of value of starting with acknowledging one’s on humanity. I find it soothes me when I fear the negativity is gaining on me.
What do you do to ease your negative self-chatter? Please join the discussion in the comments below.
A rock song and video about the many benefits of cycling
My father Bob, a fellow cyclist, told me he wrote a poem about cycling and would like me to set it to music, and that he had a concept for a video.
The anthemic rock track features multiple layers of harmony vocals, guitars, and keyboards. There’s a slide guitar solo that give s a nod to George Harrison’s immediately recognizable style.
Be the first to hear the single before its release! Enter your email address below to get a secret link to this upcoming track — it’s one of my best productions!
When you sign up to receive email from me, you’ll get first looks and listens at my latest projects before they’re released – and you’ll know when my live events are happening – you’ll get convenient links to my streaming concerts right to your inbox.
Season 2 of my live streaming concerts is underway! Be a part of this interactive experience as we counter the stress of the continuing pandemic, the arrival of cold weather and the approaching holidays.
I’ll play as many of your requests as I can fit into the one-hour show. Concert is free to attend; donations are optional and gratefully welcomed!
Live Streamer Cafe is a highly interactive platform that helps artists and audiences connect over the music they love. Artists have a songbook from which audience members can select songs. There’s also a chat window with animated compliments and friendly games built into this virtual coffeehouse scene.
Video clip from Great Falls National Park by Jason Didner
Song inspired by the practice of loving kindness meditation as taught on the Ten Percent Happier app (https://tenpercent.com).
Chords and Lyrics:
F C Bb
F C Bb
F C Bb
If the best way to learn a thing
F C Bb
is to teach it
F C Bb
Then I'll try to guide you,
F C Bb
and I may reach it
I may not get to enlightenment
But I can learn to lighten up yeah
F C Bb
And if it gets me practicing,
F C Bb
I will preach it
Am Bb C
So let's place a hand on our own hearts and sing...
May I live with ease
May I be free from suffering
Gm Bb C
May I be a blessing for someone today
May I be safe
May I be peaceful deep within
Gm Bb C
May I walk with comfort along the middle way
May this be a moment of loving kindness I give to myself
F C Bb
F C Bb
If the best way to know a thing is to live it
Then I'll try to take it in and to give it
I may not get to the mountain top
But I'll start again every time I stop
And when I stumble, may I forgive it
So let's place a hand on our own hearts And sing...
May you live with ease
May you be free from suffering
May you be a blessing for someone today
May you be safe
May you be peaceful deep within
May you walk with comfort along the middle way
May this be a moment of loving kindness you can give yourself
So let's place a hand on our own hearts And sing...
May we live with ease
May we be free from suffering
May we be a blessing for someone today
May we be safe
May we be peaceful deep within
May we walk with comfort along the middle way
May this be a moment of loving kindness we can give ourselves
My daughter’s elementary school took on flooding in the basement from Tropical Storm Ida. The basement houses the schools aesthetics classes like gymnastics and dance. The gymnastics mats were ruined in the storm. I’m determined to help replace those mats so my daughter and her classmates can get back to tumbling!
Join me on Saturday night, November 13at 8PM Eastern-US from wherever you are for a virtual concert on Live Streamer Cafe. I’ll take your requests for our favorite classic rock songs by Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Otis Redding and more. I’ll also offer you my latest original songs to enjoy.
All proceeds will go to Hillside Elementary School PTA in Montclair, NJ to help replace resources lost in the flood.
So, what’s up with a musician reviewing a book on his music web site? Funny you should ask! I’ve focused my latest songs on mental health. Subsequently I began engaging on Twitter with people who have something to say on the subject. This led me to one Nita Sweeney, author of the memoir “Depression Hates a Moving Target.”
Like me, Nita’s a runner. Like me, she considers running her mental health medicine. (Full disclosure: Nita runs in addition to taking antidepressants. She finds the exercise prevents the necessity to increase dosage. In my case I took up exercise to prevent the need to start on meds).
Seeing Ourselves in the Story
My wife Amy and I downloaded “Depression Hates a Moving Target” in audiobook form and spent several hours listening together at the kitchen table.
Amy chronicles her own experiences with depression and anxiety, along with the benefits she gets from regular exercise, at her own blog site, Sound Mind and Body NJ.
Amy and I each saw ourselves in different facets of Nita’s book. For Amy it was Nita’s harrowing recollections of loss, hopelessness, distorted self-image of body, and suicidal urges from the past.
For my part it was Nita’s account of the baby steps she took into giving running a try when her friend posted an intriguing endorsement of her own new running experience on social media. I followed a similar path into the world of athletic self-care when a stew of life stressors prompted me to consider seeing a psychiatrist for some help with my beleaguered mind. You’ll find more of my exercise/running origin story at Kidney Donor Athlete here.
One Stride at a Time
Since Nita composed this memoir from her journal entries, she frequently takes the reader on her runs with her. We come along for those breathless first forays into walk-run intervals, the kind you’d find in a Couch to 5K training program. We have the best seat in the house for the epic effort of her first marathon.
On these runs, Nita discusses her canine running partner’s antics. She recounts the conversations she has with fellow runners. Nita expounds on the details of correct running form and its effect her aches and pains. The author sheds light on the mental negotiations every runner must navigate, but even more so when depression demands its say. One chapter is aptly titled, “My Mind is Trying to Kill Me.”
Runners like me will more readily take to the detailed accounts of Nita’s training runs than non-runners. However, non-runners take heart. Everything builds to a satisfying and cathartic conclusion even if you’ve never laced up and never intend to.
Nita’s true story frequently winds through fearsome obstacles. The specter of neighbors’ judgment haunts Nita’s first explorations of running. More viscerally, the sight of a high, narrow bridge along a new running route strikes fear in the heart of author and reader alike. Nita shares the experience of negotiating with those fears. She reasonably picks her battles, choosing which ones or how much to confront in a given day. Reading these passages, I’m reminded of the value of psychological flexibility to cope with mental health challenges in real time.
So, Why a Book Review on a Music Web Site?
Here’s where Nita’s story really intersects with mine: I enlisted her to appear in my upcoming music video “Run With My Troubles.” This video tells my story (combined with my wife’s) of exercise to cope with mental health difficulties. I sought the diverse images of other runners to illustrate that exercise is for everybody who can find a way to do it! I found running to be the most poetic form of exercise to represent in this video. Still, no matter how you get moving, exercise really is powerful, natural medicine for your mind!
Nita’s clip of her running with her yellow lab Scarlet is like a page out of her book, come to life! She actually runs through the same secluded ravine she describes from those tentative first walk-runs – but now with the rock-solid form and self-assured joy of an experienced marathoner.
The video is “coming soon” but you can see it now by signing up below to get my emails!
Here’s my 2-minute ad for my shows on Live Streamer Cafe. This new live music online platform brings the feel of the neighborhood coffeehouse to the whole world!
The ad features “Salt and Sand,” the video that shows me recording all the tracks for that recently released single. You’ll see me introduce myself as a person and as a musician. I’ll also share my thoughts on what makes this online live music venue so great.