Me and My Music

This week I begin work on a new project with a local community centre (The Belvidere Centre, Wirral) called “Me and My Music.” It will be an exploration of our relationships with music and the young people will choose songs that are special to them, we will listen, play, talk and work through what music means to us. I’m so excited about it as I just know the power music has.

I thought I’d use this space to explore my own relationship with music, how it has helped me and explain a bit more about why I’m so passionate about the use of music and sound in helping others.

This will be very honest and is a look back on some darker times in my life so please only read if you feel it will help you or someone you know, I don’t want to make anyone feel worse by sharing my own challenging experiences.

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Breathing is so simple but we make it so difficult for ourselves!

As is the case for most of us, music has been a constant, consistent companion through my whole life.

I’ve always loved music but one of the first times I turned to it for therapeutic reasons was in Secondary School. During the first four years, I was teased a lot for the way I looked. Not hurt physically, but very much so verbally with what felt like intense hatred. This affected me more than I realised and I would shut myself away with headphones and books to escape. I actually listened to a lot of intense rap music as I related to the hatred and anger in the lyrics. It matched my frequency at the time, now though if I listen to the same tracks, I can appreciate the beats and rhythms but can’t relate to the tone, which tells me I’ve let go of that anger.

During this same time, I was also singing in school choirs and other little groups. Joining in music groups gave me a connection with others who were also feeling isolated but loved music. I’m really grateful to my parents and teachers at the time who encouraged my music and singing and gave me a lifeline during a difficult time. I struggled to express what I was feeling through talking, but singing always felt right. This is one of the reasons I love using music as an opening way of connecting with others, it forms a common ground that we can use as a gateway for a deeper bond.

I truly have forgiven everyone in my past who may have been cruel to me. We have no idea what happens in people’s lives. At school we think we know our classmates but we only see them for a few hours a day and don’t really know what they have to deal with at home. So I only wish good things for them and am always saddened when I see people post things like “The bullies at school are all wash-outs now and I’m doing this incredible thing blah blah blah”. Life isn’t about your position on an imaginary scale made up to boost your own ego. Have compassion and love for them instead of misusing the term”Karma”, which does not mean what you think it does.

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Our group for “Me and My Music”

I thought I was ok after school but when I moved away to Uni, I became very depressed. I absolutely loathed myself to the point I would not leave my room for days. I either ate junk food or didn’t eat at all in order to punish myself for that. Singing was one of the only constants in this as I could play music in my room and my voice sounded the same no matter how I felt I looked. Luckily, throughout all the abuse I put my body through, my voice did not suffer or give up on me.

Every time I sang or played piano, I felt better. I didn’t know why at the time but now I can see all the ways it helps. Singing helped calm my breathing. It made me more mindful of the present as it’s hard to worry about future possibilities or cringe about the past when you’re in the middle of a song. Piano practice gave me something to focus on to, to build up on and learn, thus giving me reasons to get up and out of bed.

A related practice of breathing work was also so helpful in reducing my panic attacks. One time, I was hospitalised with a suspected pulmonary embolism. Thankfully, it was not this serious, it was intense panic attacks causing shortness of breath and dizzyness. I remember at the time though wishing I had a physical illness as that seemed so much easier to deal with than a mental one. Now though, I can look back with gratitude that despite all I put my body through I remained relatively healthy and did not have any illness other than what I was experiencing mentally. Learning how to breathe properly and fully, changed my health a lot. Less colds, a clearer head and a feeling of more time developed after a few sessions. This is why I always begin our sessions with breathing work as not everyone is starting from the same inner tempo.

I did feel better but never truly ok so later in my mid-twenties, I asked to be prescribed anti-depressants. I was also self-medicating with other things and so again, pushing my body to its limits. Medication did help level out my moods but also meant I couldn’t feel extreme happiness. During this time, I cut a lot of people off and let down those who had been so supportive and I’m very sorry for this. I can’t explain it other than I just wanted to hide from the world and so I did! At the time though I was just grateful not to be feeling so low any longer so I kept on with the tablets for a time, even though I knew they were not helping me progress.

Then, everything changed and again, I have music to thank, as well as supportive people around me. I was encouraged to take up singing again and to build it up to something more than blasting out songs in my room. I was so lucky to have my wonderful partner Tim and several friends and family who supported me in this and when I got my first gig, I knew that I had to take care of myself. I needed to be physically healthy now to do well. This was the end of punishing myself, self-medicating and damaging my mind and body and I’m so thankful to music and the people around me for that. If I’m honest, I do still have days where I get down but these are more so when I feel overwhelmed by outside events in the world, rather than through introspection.

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My first proper gig!

More recently, I discovered sound healing. A beautiful, ancient practice that uses tonal frequencies to resonate with us in order to create balance, which is needed for optimum health. This practice has enhanced my breathing and meditation work so much and it does feel transformative in that I always feel so lifted after a session and for days afterwards feel better and more energised yet relaxed at the same time.

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Beautiful sound therapy!

So this is my journey with mental health and music. I can see how much it has helped me in different ways. This is why I want to use music and sound to help others and share my own experience in order to connect more truthfully and I really hope I can!

Do get in touch if you’d like to share your own experience with me, or see how I can help, always happy to listen!

 

Best Wishes,

Bexi

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Finding True Creativity

We’re a funny society aren’t we. The way we box people up, some are this way, others are like this. Some are creative, others aren’t. When the truth is we are all made up of so many different things but what unites us is that we are all supremely creative!

Of course, this may show itself in very different ways. We traditionally see creative people as the artists, musicians, poets of our world. Yes, this is beautifully creative. What we don’t see is all the other ways people are being creative every single day. Teachers creating new ways to pass information, parents creating new ways of reaching their children. Everything we do in life is creative from the obvious- making a meal- to the abstract- constructing a sentence to speak with one another. If we viewed ourselves differently we could open the flow to even more creativity. Who knows what we could access in our minds if we all saw ourselves as having the ability to make what we want out of the materials we have at hand whether that be words, wood or even our thoughts. It’s all the same when we reduce it down- it’s all a bare form that we can build with and transform into something else. True alchemy.

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Music is only one way, not the way of expressing creativity

If you say to yourself you’re not creative then that is a definite way to block any motivation you may have. Trust in your ability to make things happen.

Deep down we know we have this in us. Our language reflects it. It’s why we speak of “building relationships”, “making a home” or “forging a path in life”, all are ways to describe forms of invention. Think about it. What is creativity other than bringing something into being that was not there before. So if we think traditionally, this would mean to us a new song or a new artwork. How is a nurtured relationship any less than a song. It is also a new thing on this Earth that didn’t exist. It too takes work to bring it to life. It also needs work to thrive.

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Creating can be whatever that means to us

Begin your year with a new way of thinking. You ARE creative. You CAN make the life you want. We are all the architects of our time here. We are all the alchemists, transforming what we find into works of art. We are all the creators of our lives.

Just because you do not fit into categories we have so far reserved for creativity does not mean you are any less creative than the poets, artists and musicians. We all create every day and if we do so with love then we will add as much beauty to the world as every single song or painting in existence. I would also add that if you do follow a traditional path then that’s perfect too. I express my own creativity in many “accepted” ways as well as in many abstract forms too. I see them all as equally valid.

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Here I am bring creative…

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…Here I also am being creative, just in a different way!

That will be our contribution so let’s make it a beautiful one.

 

Best Wishes,

Bexi

xx

…And Breathe! How Breathing Can Help our Health

Part of the work I do at Mind on Music is encouraging people to enhance their well-being with different exercises they can do themselves such as singing for health techniques. Before we even start to make a sound though, one of the simplest yet most effective (and probably my favourite) is working with our breath.

Across the world in different cultures, focusing on our breath is held as highly important. In Hindu culture, and so in yoga, the breath is called Prana and the focus on it- Pranayama. A lot of the exercises I do with the groups I work with are inspired by and based on yogic traditions. I am not a trained yoga teacher and do not claim to be able to teach yoga. However, we all learn from our daily lives and because I do so much yoga, I incorporate the things I’m inspired by along the way into my self-practice and also into the activities I bring to the groups.19398978_10155394488934414_355127316_n.jpg

One of the best methods of breathing work I’ve found is simply to count our in and out breaths, aiming to increase the length of time we can breath in and then exhale for.

Start with four beats in and four out, with a little pause in between and gradually increase this as you feel ready to. This will slow the breath down, in turn slowing your heart rate and bringing you into a calmer, more peaceful feeling. This is a very old and well-known way of stilling ourselves, yet in our busy lives we forget even how to breathe properly!

This way of breathing has us concentrate so that we can also begin to breathe fully, as many of us live taking in shallow, half-breaths. To breathe deeply, expand your whole abdomen so that your diaphragm (the muscle just at the base of our lungs) contracts and pushes your stomach forward.

It can take some time to strengthen our diaphragms as it is a muscle so just like we wouldn’t expect to lift heavy weight immediately, it can be an ongoing process before we can breathe in this way. But by focusing on it for a few minutes each day, this will be a great start towards making your respiratory system stronger and more resistant to illness, so hopefully avoiding the many colds that go round!

Breathing techniques are great for those with Asthma, COPD, and other cardiovascular problems too. They can also be very helpful for those with chronic pain as the slowing of heart rate can reduce pain as well as the attention being diverted for a time too.

Give the above technique a go this evening and see how you feel. You might want to go out in nature or create a healing space in your home with your favourite, relaxing things around you such as having a bath or a natural candle. That said though, you need no special equipment, only the space that you currently occupy and you don’t even need a quiet room, though to begin with you may prefer to be alone.

I would just say that if you do have any illness, please consult your doctor if you feel the need to do so before trying anything new and if you begin to feel dizzy or out of breath whilst undertaking the work, then do take a break or stop.

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Create Your Own Healing Space!

To recap:

  • Start with an in-breath for four counts, pause then an exhalation for four beats also.
  • Build this up slowly, adding a beat at a time until you feel you’ve reached your limit. With regular attention, you’ll notice this number rise over time!
  • To breathe fully, expand your stomach as you breathe so you’re using your diaphragm. Again, in time this will be easier!
  • You can begin this practice anywhere, but either outside in nature, or in a healing space you create can be extra special.

Thank you for reading, I’ll be sharing more techniques very soon so please do pop back!

Best Wishes,

Bexi

How Music can heal us: Part One

Welcome back!

This week I’d like to start talking about our current relationship with music. As some of you know, I run a music for well-being project called ‘Forget Me Never’ which started out as a way of helping those with Dementia but has since expanded to work with people living with other chronic illnesses such as Cancer, Chronic Pain and Mental Health Issues.

I truly believe music has the power to aid healing but that in our present society, this is not recognised. So much emphasis is placed on conventional medicine and whilst I would advise each of us to follow the path that feels right, no information is given about holistic healing practises and so how can people make an informed choice if they’re only supplied with half the information?

The proven benefits of music extend to and are not limited to;

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Lessened depression
  • Improved mood
  • Improved concentration

And I’m sure there are many more benefits that haven’t been officially recorded! Many studies have been done researching the effects music can have, including a recent 2015 study here in the UK at Brunel University that showed music reduces pain and therefore the need for strong painkillers in post-operative patients (Meads et al (2015) The Lancet)

We need to reclaim our lost practises. If we look to the past, to ancient cultures and those still active today in a traditional way, we find that nearly all of them make song and dance a key part of their philosophy. Yes we have music but it has been mutated into the form we find on the radio today, it’s far less of a communal experience and even the very tuning has been altered from its natural state so that what we hear sounds more dissonant and less natural than we would have experienced a century ago.

Our traditional culture has been erased. I was in a book shop the other day and found a book entitled “The History of Western Music” and thought it might be interesting. According to this book, the history of Western Music, our history of music, started with the Romans and Greeks and then nothing apparently happened until Mozart was born. This is NOT our history! Our past is a vibrant amalgamation of traditional cultures, of dancing and multiple instruments, all of which have been suppressed by the societal norms of today.

Singing is mainly elevated to a performance state, where one person is able to enjoy the act and others must sit in silence or have stern looks cast upon them! I never ask for silence at my gigs…singing, dancing and even chatting is actively encouraged as long as the atmosphere remains upbeat and joyful.

We can get this back though. It is not so lost that it will become a forgotten tale of times gone by. There are some incredibly talented musicians and artists working to piece back together our healing practises and enable us to progress in a natural manner and thus help ourselves. We can all do our bit though by supporting local music events, joining our choirs, encouraging school children to take up instruments and play for the love of it, not for fame and fortune but for the joy of mastering a skill. Or not mastering it perhaps because being bad at something doesn’t have to stop you loving it! I’m not a fantastic painter but I really like playing with colours and creating something and that’s the point of it, not necessarily the finished product.

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Embrace this creativity inside of you, sing sing sing! Do not be ashamed of your voice or hide it as it’s an expression of you, of your beautiful soul and so it should be beamed out as bright as your smile.

I have so much to share on this subject so this was just a small introduction, can’t wait to show you what music and sound can do!

Have a beautiful, musical week all!

Best Wishes,

Bexi

xx