Zen and The Art of Songwriting as Meditation by Sarasota’s Twinkle Yochim
Hello all, during this time of stress, I see many out there are starting to feel incredibly anxious, unsure, fearful, frustrated and a host of many other emotions.
On the other hand, there are those who are feeling elated, excited, unsure of the future for themselves and the world, hopeful, etc. My point is that we are complex creatures and we have an ocean of thoughts and feelings rushing through our minds and hearts at times. I thought, what do I do when I feel like this? I write songs. I sit and find those feelings in my body, I try to understand exactly what, when and where they are, and then I write music, lyrics or both. This tool has gotten me through my life, saved my life even, and I wanted to share it with you. News flash: you don’t have to be a songwriter or musician to read this article.
To me singing and songwriting is a meditation of sorts. My mother, Karen, had tried so hard to get me to meditate when I was younger, she raised me as a Hindu, even took me to T.M. Transcendental Meditation, and I became an official member and learned my mantra and was trying, really? No. It seemed impossible for me to sit for any number of moments unless I was watching Star Trek. My mom on the other hand can go right into it! Anyway, here I am decades later feeling totally connected to my world and others and myself, and I believe that calmness, that feeling as if you are surfing in the world comes from songwriting and music.
A few examples: #1) Happy State. I am reminded of this today because my friends, Laura and Sande, shared it recently. Happy State came about in 1990 when I and my first husband Brian, were in the middle of a pre-divorce state. Anyone who has been there will understand that this was a tumultuous time, filled with sadness and stress. Overcome by these feelings, I sat down at my producer at the time Patrick Leonard’s Yamaha concert grand (probably the most beautiful piano I’ve ever experienced). Crying, I started to play and what came out was a simple, sweet chord progression in C that gave me comfort as if someone else was telling me it was going to be alright. The lyrics just came out of my mouth, and I was amazed how my feelings changed while I played. We recorded the song for the first album, but it didn’t make the cut, so when Rock Soul Radio decided to record it on our first album together, I was elated. That song helped me through a very difficult time, and still lives today. Magic.
Example #2) My Hate is Real. Rock Soul Radio were rehearsing at Telstar studio in Sarasota (designed by John Storyk, who did Electric Lady studios for Jimi Hendrix) when, during this rehearsal, Tony was making me so angry that I literally felt a Rock of Angst in my belly. So, I used my tools and wondered, what is this rock, where is it? How do I get rid of this feeling? The answer came immediately in a Lenny groove and right there at rehearsal the song was finished literally in five minutes. I felt so much better, and it is a favourite of mine and others from that first Rock Soul Radio album. I could go on and on about the benefits of creating during times of anxiety, but I will just give one more example
#3) Poor Ole Red. My father Buddy was bigger than life and I, during and after his death, just couldn’t cope. After trying to drink the pain away, which didn’t work of course, and becoming sober, I needed to do something with this grief. Again, I picked up an instrument. This one was an untouched-till-now Mandolin that my mother Karen gave me. Having no idea how to play this, I looked it up on YouTube, and there a lovely young man taught me how to play four chords. Done. I started strumming, and the vintage sound created a new inspiration. I started to sing/cry. All of a sudden, a story appears about a Civil War soldier, who is wounded and on a cane. He comes back with a sense of confidence that he lacked before the war and is able to court his childhood love. It’s a sweet song, and a happy one. It left me with a feeling of accomplishment and melancholy and as if I had somehow been connected to Dad. He used to call everyone ‘Red’. A gift for him. (I am happy to report that our producer Bobby wants to put in on our new album, even though it is on the first Rock Soul Radio record.)
All in all, there are many, many examples, and all different, because we are complex creatures. But look, if you have tools and an outlet, you can deal with just about anything. And once the mind is calm again, the problem solving can begin. I believe that thoroughly. And there is science to back it up, it’s not just hippie talk. I see that science and Eastern philosophy have so much in common.
Right now, we are in what we call an ‘unprecedented time’, but actually, humans have been dealing with and/or creating stressful situations since we began. What the gurus have always tried to teach us is that chaos around you doesn’t have to mean chaos within you. Meditation of any kind reconnects one to the good stuff, the calmness, the ether, the intellect, the universe, whatever you want to call it, it’s good. Some people climb mountains, I adventure into the soul. So, here’s a couple of simple steps to help you guys deal.
Now remember, this is actually entertaining, because you just never know what could happen. You’re creating something from nothing, something that has never existed before. Harry Potter was an idea in someone’s imagination, and now look, we are all engaged in that world, it has become real to us. The same is true for all creative works. And you never know who you could be helping. Others may feel as you do, but have no outlet and it takes over.
Turn on a recorder of some kind.
Step one. Step outside of yourself and look objectively at your stress. What is it? What’s it about? Talk to yourself and ask some questions.
Step two. Step inside yourself as if you are on a tour of your body like in ‘Fantastic Voyage’ and find where that stress is manifesting. Does your heart hurt? Is your stomach tight? Did your shoulders clench up? Stuff like this is invaluable.
Step Three. Focus on that area and breathe. Now relax the area. All the while, letting any and all external thoughts run from one ear out the other like little children. Pay them no mind.
Step Four. Start humming or singing. Don’t think about it, just start and see where it takes you.
Step Five. Write down your observations, express it and then ask what you can learn from this, what can you share that would help you and others?
That’s it. Easy, fun, helpful. You don’t have to ever share, but if you think about it from that standpoint you will glean insights that may have eluded you otherwise. Introspect Yourself. (Another song)
Thank you all for listening (click on the song title to listen) and reading, and I wish you Love to you and yours. Love, Twinkle
From Wikipeida on Zen.
According to Charles Luk, in the earliest traditions of Chán, there was no fixed method or formula for teaching meditation, and all instructions were simply heuristic methods, to point to the true nature of the mind, also known as Buddha-nature. According to Luk, this method is referred to as the “Mind Dharma”, and exemplified in the story (in the Flower Sermon) of Śākyamuni Buddha holding up a flower silently, and Mahākāśyapa smiling as he understood. A traditional formula of this is, “Chán points directly to the human mind, to enable people to see their true nature and become buddhas.”
Enso (formally spelled ensō) is a sacred symbol in Zen Buddhism meaning circle, or sometimes, circle of togetherness. … The enso is a manifestation of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of our innermost self. It symbolizes strength, elegance, and one-mindedness.
Photos from Twinkle, Twinkle’s FB page and Enso.Online FB