Category Archives: spirit

How to live your dreams

How to live your dreams mary kastle meditation mindset presence new year goals intentionsHappy new year! Do you feel the burst of creative energy in the air to start the year with a bang? Whether in setting new goals or intentions, or getting re-focused on a project, it’s exciting to think you can make a quantum leap in your life by applying yourself with renewed gusto. But once the excitement of the dreaming and planning is done, the energy can fizzle quickly, right?

Because that’s when following your dream gets hard.

Showing up to do the work starts to feel like a gargantuan effort and your brain will make a thousand excuses why it can wait one more day. There’s always a task to put off – sending that email, making that phone call, getting down to the creative work, or doing the promotion. It’s that thing you avoid because subconsciously you know it could be the catalyst to a lot of change – and that can be scary as hell!

But as long as your dream is not done, the dream stays out there, something for you to chase.

It turns out following your dream is easy. Living your dream is the hard part!

As I’ve deepened my meditation and mindset practices over the past few years, I’m coming to understand that my goal is not just to follow my dreams and keep imagining them year after year. It’s to LIVE my dreams every single day and be present in their states.

What does that mean exactly?

Picture this: what if the only thing that actually “separated” you from your dream was a flimsy little shell you affectionately referred to as your body?

Imagine yourself “following” your dreams. That statement implies that they exist out there somewhere in the stratosphere outside of your body and every day you go around chasing something to bring it closer to you – more money, connections, time, freedom, whatever it is.

And now imagine that your body is transparent, like a permeable cell, and that the energy outside of you and the energy inside of you is the same, it flows in and out through the dense matter that makes up your body. So now your dream is both outside of you and inside of you. What if those two energies are actually the same?

When that feeling becomes strong you will begin to live your dream every single day. All you need to do is tap into this sensation that the world outside of you and the world inside of you are the same and you’re there living your dream right now. It might not be physically manifesting outside of you (yet), but the same feeling that you believed existed only outside is now present inside of you anytime you wish to feel it. Actually it was there all the time, all you had to do was acknowledge it.

So, how do you live your dream exactly?

Well, sit down, close your eyes.

Take some deep breaths.

Feel your body.

And think about your biggest desire.

Whether it’s making a new record.

Writing a bunch of songs.

Doing something creative.

Spending time with your family.

Getting your business together.

Going for a run.

Eating healthier.

Traveling the world.

I could go on, the list is endless…

Think about it and think about it already being in you. Already existing inside of you. There’s nothing to chase. There’s nothing to follow. Meditate on that feeling until you can feel it in every cell in your body and it feels totally comfortable and real. No resistance.

Rumi said it best: “What you seek is seeking you.”

He was right. It’s already in you.

Once you find that state, something amazing happens. You can RELAX.

You can relax into your dream and just let it emerge from you. No more chasing.

What an amazing feeling this is. It’s freedom, pure and simple.

I can’t prove my little example (about the body being a permeable cell) with science (although a real scientist may have already?). It’s only something I’ve experienced in my own practice and that is all the proof I need.

Maybe this is a very different perspective on goal setting and dreaming for you. But it is powerful and worth exploring and might give you a new sense of freedom and peace of mind.

Here is to your creative and spiritual exploration in 2017!

xo

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!

Feeling empty? Maybe you’re suffering from “monetization exhaustion”.

Mary Kastle singer songwriter musician vancouver bowen island bc canada piano voice jazz folk soul popA few years ago, I hit a big wall in my music career. Looking back, I think it was “monetization exhaustion”. Don’t get me wrong, I aim to make a great living from my music as much as the next gal. But I found that brazenly pursuing the creative path, in an industry that itself was falling apart, drained every last drop of passion out of my “passion”.

The trouble is we’re so inundated with messages that we need to capitalize on our every creative impulse, that it can be hard to separate our calling from the noise. I know I’m not the only artist who feels this way. “If I hear the word ‘monetize’ one more time…” was a comment I read recently on a blog post promoting Blink 182’s new online platform designed to help musicians cash in on the multitude of profit streams from their careers. It struck me because once again artists are being told by the media that the path to greatness is through making big bucks. Mind you, Blink 182 is cashing in on selling the “dream” to other artists, but what if having a successful music career means more than simply playing arenas and selling t-shirts? How do we incorporate these spiritual aspirations into our balance sheets?

The answer is (in my opinion) – you choose to. At this point it’s an individual process that we will all go through at some point. If you’re lucky enough to have a great teacher to guide you through it, then great! And maybe in a future utopia music education will include developing a personal rubric of values around creativity so every time you’re faced with adversity in your career you can refer back to this foundation for clarity. These are things I’ve had to learn the hard way…

[bctt tweet=”If I hear the word ‘monetize’ one more time… How would you finish that sentence?”]

I think as artists we need to bring this topic to the fore and help each other work it out. Otherwise we get pushed by society to adopt a value system that is out of alignment with our core purpose as musicians. Our integrity is challenged if we follow the money, yet we’re criticized for being bad at business if we renounce it. Looking back, I’ve been the artist so knee-deep in self-promotion I was practically spelling out my Paypal link on stage. It was ugly and it came from a place of complete desperation.

I remember being on tour in Montreal many years ago, passing the hat after the show, and an audience member looked me squarely in the eye and saying “why SHOULD I give you this dollar?”. He was literally holding one effing dollar! This was after I had poured out my soul in song for two hours. Talk about feeling vulnerable and demeaned to the core. Not to mention how truly perplexed I was, knowing I needed to drum up enough for gas to get to the next show. I had neither the business nor spiritual acumen to advocate for my needs in the moment. After all, sacrificing everything for the road is the path to success, right? Not. There are many roads to Eden. Thankfully I realized that finding a better life balance has actually extended my creative life. It’s not exactly rock ’n roll, but it feels kinda sexy in its own subtle way..

On the flip side, I laughed my head off when I saw Rufus Wainwright in concert recently (whom I LOVE – watch my tribute to him here) and in between songs he brought up the topic of his “new app”. At first I was confused. I thought he was telling us about an app he had just downloaded, but then I realized he was talking about HIS app – ie. the Rufus Wainwright app! It is awkward and fascinating to watch artists work the sales pitch on stage. We all have to figure out our own path with it and Rufus was a first class role model – classy, a bit crass, and completely loveable!

The irony is if we constantly raise up “monetizing” to the highest priority, we devalue our artistry by making it all about money. Music’s power is so far beyond anything a dollar could ever represent. By constantly reducing it to these terms we pull down our inner artist from where it wants to live. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for a financial exchange and standing firm on our worth when negotiating gigs. All it means is that we have a more comprehensive value system to know where exactly those bottom lines are.

[bctt tweet=”If we constantly raise up “monetizing”, we devalue our artistry by making it all about money.”]

I’m lucky to be back in a state where I feel jazzed about what the music business has to offer, whatever that looks like. And, “if I hear the word monetize one more time…”, I know now that there is a place for it that is separate from the spiritual value of my music. It’s an exchange for the music I create, but I won’t beat myself up for creating other income streams or diminish my skills and track record as a professional musician. I will hold my music in alignment with my spiritual values as well as my business ones. And that to me is priceless. 🙂

Now it’s your turn. If I hear the word monetize one more time… (tell me in the comments below!)

I’m making new music this year

I'm making new music this year

I’m making new music this year and stoked to be back in the game with this website!

In fact, it’s funny that I haven’t given this website much love, because the truth is it’s ALWAYS on my mind. Music is without a doubt the closest thing to my heart. And despite my ebb and flow of energy towards it, it’s the one thing I always aspire to embrace more and improve at.

These days, I’ve been keeping a pretty low profile, only playing a few gigs around Bowen. Surprisingly, I’ve been ok with that, as I realized that my last record left me incredibly burned out of the music business. It’s been a long and slow recovery.

That said, it’s been five years since my last record and I’m ready to get moving again. I’m grateful that the Gods of Music Grants have shined upon me in a very small way, and I’m about to go into the studio to record ONE of my new songs. I’m stoked to have the chance. This time with music, I don’t want it to be a struggle to “make it”. I just want to actually make it – music, that is – and not worry so much about whether big-time success is waiting around the corner.

I’ve also come to realize that I have a lot to say about music, the “biz”, creativity, spirituality, and all that jazz. And it’s about time for me to put those thoughts out in a coherent form so maybe we can all learn from it. Maybe you’ll read something that inspires you back to your own creative muse, like writing has for me.

So, until next time, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more posts about all of the above! 🙂