Tag Archives: singer-songwriter

How are you coping with world chaos?

So the world is going to hell in a hand-basket it seems.

How are you coping with the current flavour of world chaos?

how to cope with world chaos mary kastle bowen island jazz pop folk soul singer-songwriterNot to make light of it of course. It’s dismal out there and the news seems to keep getting worse, doesn’t it?

But more than ever, I feel we need to be diligent. We are sensitive creative beings and just because there’s a lot of noise right now, it shouldn’t be permission for us to lose our bearings as individuals. Especially when we have information about “shock events” deliberately created to throw us off. It’s up to us to stay grounded and build up our emotional resilience, right?

It’s almost too easy to feel depressed, angry, or totally numb from helplessness. Bell now has a mental health campaign (#bellletstalk) encouraging people to talk openly about mental illness. But let’s face it, who isn’t depressed on some level? Beyond protesting and being well-informed, there’s little any of us can physically do to change the course of events. So we sit with all this info and spin ourselves into anxious circles. We check social media more than we should, and wonder not when shit is going to hit the fan, but when is shit going to hit OUR fan. I think a raised stress level in these precarious times is actually a sign of good mental health! Your gut is telling you something is very wrong and that is 100% true.   

So while pondering how to fix it is a noble thought, a better question might be “how am I going to cope with all this chaos?”

Because I don’t think shutting down is an option, and I hope you don’t think it’s one either. And thinking about the next glass of wine, obsessing over the playoffs, or zoning out on Netflix, are just other versions of that, aren’t they? Like it or not, the world needs us to rise up to the challenge of letting our lights shine. Joni said it best, “We are stardust, we are golden.”

Creating a plan or strategy for coping

You probably know by now that my strategy for coping involves a few things – meditation, journaling, making music, writing blogs (and soon-to-be books!), using mantras and affirmations, and consciously attempting to deal with my own demons so I don’t feel so threatened by everyone else’s.

To some that might feel like a lot of work. What a commitment! And yes it is, but I’m lucky that I know my demons so well at this point that there is more joy from the process than emotional turmoil. It’s very similar to exercise, way harder when you’re out of shape.

Others might be ready to dive into their own exploration but wonder just how much they need to do. They might say, “Well, I went on one retreat last spring.” Or “I did some acupuncture back in 2008.”

Well, in my experience, dabbling in self-help and alternative therapy is a step on the path to self-knowledge, but if you really want that combo to work for you, you need to dive in and test, test, test. You need to try a lot of things and work at it every day in some capacity before things really start to click. Then with a lot of pieces working together, eventually magic will start to happen. You will KNOW when it really starts to work for you because everything in your life will feel very different and not so difficult.

We are connected, like it or not

People complain about how social media and the internet is ruining us. But in my experience after meditating every day for 2.5 years and constantly facing fears and unpacking my baggage, I feel the complete opposite. I feel so connected to everyone and the life force itself that I don’t even need to open my mouth that much! (Though I do anyways…lol.) I feel you out there going through your stuff and that it’s hard and that we are very similar in so many ways. I hear how much people are suffering and how much we need to cultivate inner strength and resilience to confidently OWN our voices and paths in life. So many of us are afraid to show our true colours, but maybe it’s because we don’t have the tools to shape our colours in ways that will intrigue people rather than scare them away. Maybe it’s actually a skill gap.

Some will inevitably argue that it’s #whiteprivilege or #canadianprivilege that we have the opportunity to meditate and journal and face inner demons while millions are dealing with external ones that are very real and scary. I could use that as an excuse to bury my head in the sand. But what I really want to do is use that privilege and put it to good use.

So, think about it – how are you coping with world chaos?

Do you have a plan or a strategy so world chaos doesn’t blindside you and leave you helpless, anxious, frightened, and dreadful of the future? What can you do in your life to carve out a bit of space to remember that we’re not only wired for connection – we ARE connected, like it or not. How will you stay vulnerable and express yourself to your political leaders, neighbours, partner, kids, in a way that is non-violent? Will you create? Meditate? Connect with others? Volunteer? Protest? Whatever you choose it takes PRACTICE. Take a minute to think about it and write it down.

Your mental health matters. Your experience on Earth matters. And there has never been a more important time to make your spirit a priority. If it feels scary, that’s ok, because it IS scary, but it’s a fear that is totally worth facing. Just remember, the deeper the wound, the bigger the growth. 

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! 🙂

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!)

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! 🙂