Category Archives: music

How to start a daily meditation practice

daily meditation practice mary kastle music jazz folk soul pop vancouver bc canadaOne of the biggest life improvements I’ve made in the past few years has been a daily meditation practice. It’s changed my life so profoundly, I want to tell you about it in case you’re curious about meditation or have dabbled in it and want to commit but haven’t found the will or discipline to maintain it yet.

Our beginnings

It all started in the fall of 2014. Before that I’d attended a couple of 10-day Vipassana retreats and did the occasional sit on my own, but that was about it. I couldn’t seem to carve out 30 minutes a day when there were SO MANY OTHER THINGS to do. (Right??) Oh yeah, and we had a two-year old to contend with too! 😉

mary kastle music vancouver bc meditating with kids singer songwriter jazz folk pop soul

Here’s a photo Leo snapped of me meditating with the kids. Nothing like a few thousand interruptions to strengthen that focus! 😉

I have my husband (Leo) to thank. He was in the midst of changing jobs and decided he wanted to get more grounded spiritually so he could make wise decisions going forward (ever the wise person he is!). He came upon an intro course called “Passage Meditation” and once he finished it he announced he would start getting up 30 minutes earlier every morning to meditate. I laughed in his face! No way was he going to do that with all the parenting chaos we had going on at the time. Well, I sure ate my words! He did do it and not only that, but I couldn’t believe the change in him over the next couple months. He seemed so much more calm and thoughtful… All I could think was “I gotta get me some of that!”

I don’t know if I could have jumped into a daily practice so quickly if I hadn’t had someone modelling for me how to do it and all the benefits of maintaining it. [On that note, I would highly recommend finding someone you can use as a mentor or cheerleader until your own practice is established. It really helps!!]

Passage Meditation

We both still practice Passage Meditation today because quite frankly it’s very simple, highly customizable, and totally suited to modern day times. Here’s the premise – you choose some passages or texts that inspire you and you recite them in your mind. That’s it! The idea here is that although it’s great and profound to focus on your breath, our noisy busy lives make it so hard to slow down enough to actually focus on those things! If we give the mind something simple to hang on to and guide it through we’ll be able to build our focus much more successfully.

What texts to use? 

This practice has been around for eons, but was made popular by Eknath Easwaran who wrote a book called “Passage Meditation” and contains all the instructions to get started. What kinds of texts to use? He recommends sacred texts because they’ve stood the test of time (any religious tradition is fine), but if that’s not your cup of tea then anything inspiring or motivational will do. It’s important that it resonates with you! I love this because it’s like music. You can create your own little repertoire of passages to learn (I keep mine in a special journal) and it becomes your signature set.

And here’s where it starts to change your life. As you recite these passages in your mind, they gradually sink into your subconscious and as you go about your days, the words will start to come back to you (usually when you’re hitting roadblocks in your life) and become like guiding principles in your life.

There’s a lot of research now proving that meditation can change your brain, through increased focus and rewiring neural pathways to change your thought patterns. Passage meditation is a very direct and intentional way to do that because you’re literally reprogramming your brain with the passages you memorize. If there are specific issues you want to work through you can even choose passages on those themes.

But even more so, maintaining a daily practice has actually cultivated in me a much stronger connection with the Divine and my own spirit, which I realize now was deeply lacking in my life. It’s hard to even put into words how much comfort that’s brought me over the years… But that’s a subject for a whole other blog post!

In the meantime, if you’re curious about meditation and/or want to start a daily practice but feel intimidated, consider picking up Easwaran’s book (I get no kick back, I’m just a fan!).

And here are a few tips I’ve learned that make it easier to keep going once the initial momentum wears off.

1 – Use a timer! (The one on your phone will do fine) It frees up your mind to truly focus on the meditation and forget about how long it’s taking. Some days it will fly by and some days it will drag on eternally, and oddly enough it always ends up being the same duration. 🙂

2 – Be (somewhat) flexible with yourself. If you are really hustling to get out the door one morning, allow yourself to sit for 20 minutes instead of 30. Or even 15. But most days, try to do 30. You will come to love and cherish that time on the cushion. But any minutes are better than no minutes when life starts to go sideways.

3 – Be inspired. Allow the vast repertoire of spiritual traditions to inspire you in choosing your passages! I recite everything from Christian prayers to passages from the Bhagavad Gita to Rumi poems!

4 – Keep a journal. You will no doubt have a lot of insights along the way about different things that come up in your meditations. It’s great to document these so you can look back for reference and/or dig into them further. Prepare yourself for some breakthroughs around old patterns, habits, or thoughts!

5 – Easwaran recommends furthering your practice by doing some spiritual reading before you go to sleep. At first I thought this was a bit of overkill, but after trying it out I can see the value now. If you are meditating in the morning, the spiritual reading at night grounds you before drifting off to sleep. Also, reinforcing those positive messages can have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep.

I hope these little tips will help you find your way on your own spiritual path!

The inspiration behind the “King of My Heart” song and video

I hope you’ve had a chance to listen to the song online! I thought you might enjoy a little peek into the inspiration behind the song and the video.

It started off as a half-assed joke. Years ago, before we were married, my husband told me about a sweet Jamaican couple he’d known in Toronto who were fond of using the pet names “My King” and “My Queen” (in strong Jamaican accents no less).

I didn’t want to be a killjoy, but every feminist fibre of my being (of which there are many) immediately got all in a snuff. “My whaaaaat????” I yelped.  I simply could NOT imagine calling any man “my King”. Gaah, it just felt so…. WRONG. I mean, here we’ve done decades of work as women to undo the patriarchal system and this woman was willing to proverbially lay herself down before her man and bow to his honour? [Sure, he was using the same term of endearment with her, but somehow that didn’t seem so out of line. Lol. ;)]

But then a few years later I had my son and suddenly the emotional earthquake that is motherhood rocked me to the core. I was absolutely floored by the LOVE this tiny being brought into my life. And not only was it my JOB to keep him alive, but I was so incredibly willing and joyful to take on the responsibility of putting him above all else. At last, I knew what it was like to be so willingly subservient and to put everything aside to serve another. I had found the king of my heart.

And he did more than simply steal my heart. He gave me an opportunity to look beyond my small little self and get a glimpse of the big wild future. It’s like the whole cycle of life just locked into high gear in my consciousness and I could see a million future generations carrying the torch for humanity. And I truly wanted him to own his position of authority in his own life and write his destiny.

I originally conceived the video it as a collection of ‘selfies’ of a mama watching her child grow up through her phone. We hummed and hawed about using a real baby and how we would make it feel more artsy than a home video. I decided to make a mock-up to test the concept and see how it looked on screen and I happened to grab a floppy toy giraffe. When we saw it bouncing around on screen, we immediately realized that using some kind of toy would be way more symbolic and funny than a real human. So we decided to leverage my sewing skills to build a muppet and harness Leo’s puppeteering experience. Cam (from Turtlebox Productions) who did all the filming and editing immediately had great ideas about ageing the puppet over time and pulling together a whole narrative with the piece.

It was a long and fun journey to record the song and make the video, almost two years in the making! So many incredibly talented people were involved. I hope you enjoy the fruits of our labours! 🙂

Why nesting is a great tool for self-acceptance

Why nesting is a great tool for self-acceptanceSo I’m a few weeks away from having my second baby! I’m finally getting into ‘nesting’ mode and I’ve had an epiphany about how it can be a great tool for self-acceptance and coming to terms with the past. And hey, what good is an epiphany if you don’t share it, right? 🙂

I’ve realized that nesting should NOT be reserved for expecting mamas. The benefits of slowing down, cleaning random corners of the house, and sifting through old remnants of finished projects has forced me on a trip down memory lane, which can be fun at any stage of life.

And since summer is on the horizon, it seems like a perfect opportunity to finally dig into longstanding clean-out-the-closet sort of tasks and give yourself the time and space to reflect on where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. Life can get so busy that we rarely take the time to debrief after projects, let alone consciously integrate what we’ve learned into our lives. Often we’ve barely finished one thing before we’re jumping onto the next.

One thing I’ve learned in looking back is that I’ve done a lot of work over the years! One of my projects before this baby arrives has been to put up my music on Youtube. And in listening to all those old tracks, mostly from Beneath the Folds (the album I made with Steve Dawson in 2010 which is – eep! – 6 years old already!) I realized how different of a person and musician I am now, both in sound, perspective, and relationship to the world. It’s awkward and uncomfortable to go back and listen to yourself after so much time, but also sweet in that you can hear the earnestness and passion, despite the clumsiness of youth.

The other lesson is that if approached from a place of genuine curiosity and self-acceptance, looking back on your old stuff can really solidify what you loved and what you’re ready to let go of. It can help you define who you are now and where you want to take your work in the future. And that perspective is worth gold in my opinion, considering how hard it is to get any perspective on your own work and life in the first place.

So, whether or not you’re about to have a baby (haha), I would encourage you to pick a little corner of your house or your computer (god knows they are repositories of files!), and start digging through. See what you find and what you might still be willing to put out into the world. It will probably even spark new ideas for creative pursuits and/or ideas for how you can reframe old ideas with a more mature and grounded vision.

And if you need a soundtrack for your nesting adventures, check out this old track I found. A remix of my tune ‘Drop Your Cover’ that I originally released as a bonus track off Beneath the Folds. Remixed by the amazing Chris Gestrin, it’s still one of my favourite tracks on that record.

Enjoy the summer amigos! 🙂