Tag Archives: musician

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!

How to teach music (& how Whiplash failed us)

how to teach music whiplash failed us mary kastle musician bowen island jazz pop soul folk singer-songwriterIf you are interested in music, then you’ve probably seen the movie Whiplash by now. It’s taken me a while to process my feelings about it because it was so deeply triggering for me. I’m sure anyone who’s been through jazz school had at least a few head-nodding moments throughout it.  Continue reading

[WRITING] Interview with Andy Sheppard from Find the Others

I’ve made another foray into music journalism! I recently had the chance to interview Bowen Island musician Andy Sheppard and talk about his new project Find the Others. They just released a fantastic new album called “Empire of Time”, and we chatted about the making of it, along with how he approaches songwriting, and the partnerships that took him to Iceland. Continue reading

PHOTO ESSAY: Recording bed tracks for the day

We had such a fun day at Little Island studio recording bed tracks for my new song “King of My Heart”. And what a great crew! Winston Hauschild producing, Rob Bailey assisting, Buff Allen on drums, Matt Reid on bass, Teun Schut on guitar, and Cam Hayduk filming. Oh, and yours truly! Have a look! 🙂

Why I will never quit the music business

Mary Kastle Why I will NEVER QUIT the music businessThis past year I’ve seen a growing number of my musician friends post “I quit” letters on various social media. The letters all have a common tone – “I can’t do this anymore. The music biz is bottomless pit. I’m going to settle down, get a real job, and hopefully be happier. It’s been fun, but now it’s a drag. Thanks for your support. Sayonara!” These posts undoubtedly prompt a whole stream of comments from friends and supporters. Usually a mix of “please don’t quit”, to “yep, blame Napster”, to “don’t worry, I’ll still come hear you play at the pub”, that sort of thing.

I find it disappointing, but I can definitely relate. After my last record, I was so burned out, I had to take a long break from touring, hustling, the whole scene. It took YEARS for me to replenish, reconnect, and get inspired to get back out there. I’m still not “back out there” fully, and maybe I never will be now that I have a child. But I will do what I can.

Because while I contemplated the word “quit”, I made a conscious decision to not choose it for my own trajectory. I might choose other words, like “evolve” or “grow” or “change”, but it became crystal clear that I never wanted to make the status of my music career the result of roadblocks, whether internal (frustrations, burnout, etc.) or external (dead business model, lack of funds, family commitments, etc). Thankfully, I never lost interest in going to gigs just to listen. I never lost interest in playing just for the sake of it. And most importantly, I never lost the feeling that I had something to say through music, even though it was buried far beneath my day-to-day artist survival tactics.

I had a lot of reconciling to do. It’s hard to swallow that you’re not “there” yet – wherever that is, arenas, world tours, throngs of fans, whatever. But I realized that I didn’t want to throw away all the ground I had covered. And yes, I might need to rebuild some broken bridges along the way, but those relationships I’d forged in the business were more than just a ladder to climb for me. They are my community.

So here’s my letter to you, my dears. I’m NEVER quitting the music business. EVER. I might need to take breaks. I might need to apologize for stupid things I’ve said. I might need to promote a lot sometimes, and less others. But I will NEVER QUIT. I will never stop trying to make records, or play shows, or tour, and honestly and gracefully share the music I make with you.

Why?

Because why would I deny myself the path, the long evolving journey of trying to figure out how to move forward and get better every single day?

And why would I deny YOU the opportunity to see what music I might come up with down the road? What if it’s something we both fall in completely and madly in LOVE with?

And why would I deny us both the chance to meet, literally or figuratively, and share our love of music, and then share it collectively with all the other people who might interact with it. The potential is endless and creative in of itself.

So even if I continue to toil in complete obscurity until my dying day, I will never stop writing or playing music, or calling myself a professional working musician. Because I have paid my dues. And I continue to pay my dues. And I’m still on a journey that is teaching me how to be vulnerable and humble in the wake of a force far greater than myself.

That force, of course is MUSIC!

I’m not here to criticize. In fact, I congratulate anyone who “settles down” and gets a “day job”. God knows I did. It can be an incredibly grounding force.

But, please, think carefully before you use the word “QUIT”. Why do that to yourself? Why do that to the world? We need you to take yourself seriously. (Ok, well maybe not too seriously!)

So here’s to growing and evolving and changing through music, through the music business.

LET’S ROCK!