Category Archives: Creativity

When Compliments Aren’t Compliments

We’ve all been there as artists and creative people. Someone notices you have talent and thinks they’re complimenting you with something like…

“Wow you’re really talented, you should work for [whatever company]” or  “You should work in [name of profession where you’d wind up working for another company].”

 

You thank them on the surface for the half compliment but know deep down know they still don’t get it—or you. You want them to see your talent and creativity as an end in itself and valuable in it’s own right not simply a tool to be used by someone else.

 

They still don’t get that being an artist/creative person for many including you is about personal freedom to do what you want, do it your own way and on your own time—and get the maximum benefits from owning your own intellectual property to generate income now and in the future via royalties and/or licensing fee income.

 

The problem is most people including those giving “compliments” to you just want any kind of job they can stand and don’t absolutely loathe to get needed income so they’re not focused on being independent and self–sufficient. Art and creativity is not their lifestyle and overriding driving force.

 

The act of creation is air and energy to those of us who know the joys of creation.

 

 

Getting to do what you like to do for a living is a step up for most people. It’s a foreign concept from most people’s family environment since most of us observe people around us working to make money because we have to and the need is brutally immediate. But it’s not looking at life long term. Think about it, if you’re going to spend 4-5 decades doing something, why not choose something you really enjoy doing?

 

And why retire when you’re really living your ideal authentic self and life’s work? Think John Williams is going to retire and stop writing music? Think Oprah’s going to retire and crack open Coronas with Stedman on a tropical island she could buy for the rest of their lives? These people don’t need another dollar. They still “work” because they’re living their authentic selves, and IT’S NOT WORK—it’s fun, it’s play, it’s deeply meaningful and fulfilling.

 

So what is your authentic life’s work? We can define it as “What you would still do even if you weren’t paid to do it.” I know musicians that would still practice and perform, actors who would still act, writers who would still write and dancers who would still dance—paid or not. And day jobs are an interruption to what we’d rather do with our time and lives.

 

But some may ask (let’s call them the Consensus Chorus), “So why not just work for someone else and get paid for your creativity that way?” Fair question. Well, here’s the legal reason why that’s NOT the best way to gain the benefits of your talents and creative efforts over a lifetime…

 

Slavery 2.0

Laws favor the company over the individual employee. So WHEN YOU WORK FOR SOMEONE ELSE, YOUR CREATIONS ARE NOT YOUR OWN ANYMORE. THEY ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF THE COMPANY YOU WORK FOR.

 

In other words, everything you create working for a company becomes property of the company, not you the originator of the art, invention or idea. So working for Big Successful Company ain’t really no compliment now is it? You just continue to get paid hourly or get a salary and won’t make any royalties even if what you thought up goes on to make millions of dollars for the company. And you may not even get a big corner office and promotion out of it either. But the CEO, top management and shareholders will all get dividends and higher pay thanks to your ideas. Sound like the deal of the century?

 

No one would expect Tom Brady to work for $40,000 a year. He makes millions for the New England Patriots. Yet, the All Stars of the Creative Sector, (writers, animators, etc.) working for large TV, film & entertainment companies get paid slave wages compared to the company’s owners, upper management and top stockholders while making them millions of dollars from their work and ideas.

 

The copyrights aren’t yours, the patents aren’t yours, they’re the company’s. You become a non–entity in some Twilight Zone of creativity and inventions without what SHOULD be your legal rights and benefits as the creator/inventor.

 

Intellectual Property 101

Sucks eh?
I can hear Isaac Hayes in the “Theme from Shaft” say “”Damn right!!” from beyond the grave.

 

Say for example you create a new character for an animated movie that Disney will release. You and the other writer–animators came up with all these characters kids will absolutely love. There’s going to be ticket sales, soundtrack sales, DVD sales, and a global merchandising juggernaut up the wazoo: backpacks, sippy cups, stuffed animals, T-shirts, figurines, pillows, pajamas, blankets & bedspreads, gummi multivitamins, toys, toothbrushes, you name it.

 

The wake up call: You’re likely not going to see a penny above your normal pay from any of those sales because since you’re an employee, your ideas are owned by the company now and you’re in no position to negotiate from Cubicleland. You might get a small year end bonus for your hard work though which is more of an insult that what you and your ideas are really worth.

 

You may not even get bragging rights that you’re the creator of Marvelous Margay and Fantastic Ferret. If there’s a clause in your employment contract stating so about non–disclosure, you can’t even make your fame at conventions singing autographs and doing interviews on talk radio/TV shows or in print unless the company books it for you. Nope that’s for upper management to be drooled over as business wizards in newspapers, trade magazines and on esteemed panel discussions where everyone worships their “genius” over yours. The Stan Lee’s of tomorrow are anonymous.

 

And such animated characters really do go around the world. I’ve seen SpongeBob and Hello Kitty in several different countries that don’t speak English.




 

A Better Strategy that Compliments YOU

Better to work on such ideas OUTSIDE of your day job so you can sell the idea to a studio and make some real money—possible even the one you work for. More than that, you can earn your freedom to lead the life that’s more you as a creative person instead of punching a time clock for someone else. Most companies will only pay you enough to keep you showing up for work the next day.

 

It’s not fair to artists, inventors, innovators and creative people being used as “Financial Camels” to further carry and support top heavy management salaries and shareholders.

 

 

Most management type people aren’t the creative types the company is riding on the backs of but they’re making craploads more money than you. Why should they get paid more money than you? Do they really work a couple hundred thousand to a couple million dollars harder than you? Are their brains really a couple hundred thousand to a couple million dollars better than yours?

 

There is no real justification for the lopsidedness of pay scales. It’s a symptom of a sick society that doesn’t honor and award creativity and instead oppresses and corrals it so others benefit more than the originators. It’s like cattle being milked and sold for money, the privileges of wealth and freedom the cattle will never see.

 

Why is the pay scale so mediocre for most creative people who work for other companies? That’s how it’s been and will continue to be. I’m not betting Congress will grow a set to stand up against big corporate lobbyist money. Since laws will not change in your favor as long as you’re working for someone else,  work in a manner where Copyright/Intellectual Property (IP) laws work in your favor. For that, you have to make it on your own outside of putting your best efforts and ideas for someone else. You could be chewing saffron truffle quinoa Matsutake mushroom salad instead of hay.

 

Don’t set the bar too low for yourself just because of other people’s fears of making a living and lower standards for living a life more authentically you. That’s no compliment to yourself or your talents. And for that, you need freedom from 9 to 5 to do it. Your ideas and creations are your most valuable asset so don’t be so willing to give them away for pennies when they’re worth much more.

 

Look at The Blair Witch Project. I thought the movie was poorly made with a sparse script and plot. They only spent around $60K, which is low budget even for low budget independent films. Who’s laughing now though? To date, that first film has raked in over $250 million dollars worldwide. Not bad for only 8 days of filming.

 

Would you spend $60k for your freedom like that? They did and now they can do whatever they want for the rest of their lives. Good for them. Like the tattoo on John Wick’s back “FORTIS FORTUNA ADIUVAT” (Fortune Favors the Bold), working in Cubiceland isn’t being bold—it’s just playing it safe, and playing it safe only keeps you safe for so long. And our friend Mr. Wick being an A–list well paid designer tailored suit wearing hitman isn’t living his authentic self and life either. Even he wants to be free from working for someone else.

 

You can lose at playing it safe just as easily—perhaps even more easily since there’s more people in that boat versus the person who invents their own boat and becomes their own Captain.

 

 




Who’s George Lucas?

That’s right. See what we mean? You’d be asking that too if George started his career working for Disney. No one would know him by first name. At this point, there’s probably extraterrestrial civilizations that know who he is too.

 

Instead of working in a rookie pen for pennies on his imagination, he became a billionaire from his own creations and ideas and sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney decades later for a lot more than they would have paid him in wages/salary as an employee.

 

Who’s Bill Gates?

Bill too. If he tried to get the backing for his ideas on a new operating system with his superiors at IBM he may have gotten a grand old promotion and expanded his heirloom sweater collection with a slight bump in pay. But he wouldn’t have founded his own company, Microsoft, which IBM now buys products from. You can’t buy a megaphone like that to get your superiors to notice you when you’re working for someone else.

 

The best thing to do with success like George, Bill’s or Oprah’s is to nurture other artists/inventors/creative people with no strings attached financial support so they too can give their gifts to the planet. Venture capitalists are too attached to return on investment (ROI) within a timeline more aggressive than standard bank business loans. They often step on flowers they initially attempt and intend to water. I’ve seen companies go under once Venture Capitalists get involved. So it’s recommend to stay away from such money marionettes for your art, inventions or ideas, because guess who’s going to be the puppet in this relationship?

 

Real Compliments

I’ve gotten real compliments and they’re gold. They last and age like fine wine, increasing in both richness and potency. So when people see you and your art as valuable in itself, that’s a real compliment. When they don’t tell you you should to work for this company or that, that’s a real compliment. When they’re interested in your next project and tell people about you, that’s a real compliment. When they want to help you however they can to help your grow and promote your endeavors, that’s a real compliment. When they’re a legitimate fan of what you do, that’s a real compliment. When they’re happy to know you, that’s a real compliment.

 

Artists of the world need real compliments, not career advice from armchair HR directors.

 

 

Anything less is feeding you and your creative heart & soul to the sharks of the marionette marketplace. They’re forever swimming around Cubicleland, following the scent of money and new ideas from naive creative people to exploit for their own gain over yours.

And who wants to swim with sharks? You could be sipping an organic margarita with Oprah and Stedman on a financial island of your own creation.

 

© Composer Yoga

Resources for Artists/Inventors

US Copyright Office Website

https://www.copyright.gov/

 

Registration Fees—these are less expensive if done electronically online versus mailing your work(s) in:

https://www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html

 

There’s various kinds of copyright forms: Form TX, Form VA, Form PA, Form SE, and Form SR. The form instructions describe the purpose of each in more detail but here’s a brief explanation of what each is for:

 

Form PA (Performing Arts):

Screenplays, plays, musicals, dance,choreography, comedy, motion pictures, audiovisual works

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formpa.pdf

 

Form TX (Text):

Books, poetry, etc.

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formtx.pdf

 

Form VA (Visual Arts):

Photography, prints, sculptures, models, paintings, etc.

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formva.pdf

 

Form SR (Sound Recording):

Music, audio masters for CDs/albums, music spoken or other sounds by themselves not part of a larger audiovisual work

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formsr.pdf

 

Form SE (Serial):

Periodicals & serials, newspapers, etc.

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formse.pdf

 

 

 

Patents are done through the US Patent and Trademark Office. This is a more expensive and time consuming process. There are different kinds of patents as well.

https://www.uspto.gov/

 

Application Fee Info:

https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/fees-and-payment/uspto-fee-schedule

https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/fees-and-payment/uspto-fee-schedule#Trademark%20Fees

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The Master Cleanse For Greater Health & Creativity

Writer’s block? Plateau in your musical/artistic creativity and technical skills? Foggy upstairs when it comes to memory and coming up with new ideas?

 

Take a look at your diet and lifestyle. If you’re eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) of fast food, microwave meals and processed food filled with preservatives, pesticides and chemicals it’s definitely time for a cleanse.

 

Even if you eat relatively healthy, a cleanse is still a fantastic idea. Your body, mind and organs need a vacation so give them a Spring break.

 

With poor diet and health, your body and mind won’t work at optimal levels. People take better care of their cars and trucks than they do their own bodies. Fasting is that oil change, tune up and transmission flush for our carbon based cars we drive around in on the planet. Most people get new cars every 5 to 10 years. You get one body per lifetime here. You need to take better care of it.

 

The Master Cleanse can improve your health and open the floodgates of creativity and artistic productivity. We artists are athletes too. Just because we down throw, hit or chase balls around doesn’t mean we don’t give our bodies a workout and need that primary instrument in tip top condition and performance to play any other instrument.

 

I’ve written complete songs on fasts as well as poetry and music. Actually, writing this on a Master Cleanse now, several days in and towards the end. See, I don’t sound like Rocky Balboa either having been 11 days without food now.

 

What follows is my firsthand experience and advice I’ve given others from doing fasting and cleanses for over 15 years.

 

Fasting and Meditation for Expanded Consciousness

Fasting and cleanses are far better and vastly safer than “mind expanding drugs” route. Fasting and meditation are the original mind expanding drugs with only positive side effects. Ever see Jesus at a Grateful Dead concert? Well maybe you have, but do you see the point I’m making? Moses didn’t drop acid on Mt. Sinai either. Buddha wasn’t smoking fattys for 49 days under a Bodhi tree. They all were meditating and fasting.

 

Using drugs to “expand creativity” is a losing game and playing roulette with not only your creativity but possibly your life.

 

Fasting is also far better than sleep deprivation which some others employ. I’ve been on the road with bands and know what sleep deprivation can do in just a few days. No wonder why bands can’t get along and break up. Lack of sleep on the road will do it even without drug use.

 

Enter The Master Cleanse

I first read Stanley Burroughs’ classic The Master Cleanse years ago and have done it 2-4 times a year ever since for over a decade now. The Master Cleanse is known as a “Juice Fast” because you are only consuming liquids and no solid food. It is also commonly referred to as “The Lemonade Diet.”

 

It goes without say that I am young, healthy, mentally sharp and lucid compared to many people in my age group—which is the result of several things I do to maintain my long term health. The common cop out defeatist people who don’t want to take charge of their health say is “It’s just good genetics.” Truth is, my family has just as much good health examples as bad ones, just like yours.

 

A Tale Of Two Burroughs

One Burroughs named William S. wrote beatnik novels in drug induced stupors. Another Burroughs named Stanley, lived a 180 degree lifestyle from the beat generation writer famous for writing Naked Lunch. A fun fact about that book (which makes absolutely no sense) is that Steely Dan got their name from it. Yes folks, Steely Dan is really a top of the line Japanese strap on dildo, just like Duran Duran is named after a character in the cult sci-fi Jane Fonda movie Barbarella, Dr. Durand Durand.

 

It has been said that 80% of your health is diet, the other is regular exercise. So it’s habit and environment that play the biggest role in our health, not some Wizard Of Oz “Man Behind The Curtain” genetics you cannot control. Your health is your responsibility—not your Doctor’s or the medical establishment, not your partner’s, spouse, or children’s.

 

And back to genetics, one of my relatives from Europe lived to be 97 and only ever went to see a doctor at the very end of her life for anything. What did she do every morning? Squeeze lemon into a glass of warm water and drink it. Lemon stimulates the lymph system and cleans it out. She could still walk at 97, still lived in her OWN house, and her mind was nowhere near senility. She knew about drinking fresh squeezed lemon as a folk medicine remedy that goes back far longer than The Master Cleanse was created and further elaborated on by Stanley Burroughs. Burroughs may have even based his ideas on these same folk remedies he heard about publishing his modified juice fast in the 1940’s, then later in 1976 as The Master Cleanser.

 

Benefits of the Master Cleanse and Fasting

Cleans on multiple levels: body, mind and emotions
Expands creativity
Alters consciousness to deeper brainwave states
Mastery of the body, thoughts and emotions
The most primal drive next to breathing is eating—when you can master that, the rest becomes easier
Fasting allows the body to heal and rejuvenate itself
Organs get a rest to repair and regenerate

 

When you are constantly eating, your body has to digest and produce digestive enzymes (even if you are eating mostly raw or all raw in your diet). When you stop eating solid food, the body produces enzymes that drive biological processes. In other words, your hair will still grow normally. I shave just as frequently 10 or more days without solid food as I do when eating normally.

 

Fasting purifies you not just on the physical level but on the emotional mental and spiritual levels as well. you may experience waves of emotion days after the fast in broken and you have started to resume eating solid food again. This is “emotional trash and toxins” that the body is ridding itself of.

 

When you remove the gunk from your car it works better. Same deal with fasting and cleanses.

 

Think of regular meditation and fasting as the weightlifting of the Spirit. The muscles you are building are higher consciousness and with that comes peace, calm, intuitive intelligence and greater creativity and abilities.

 

There were things I could not do for years as a musician like long extended trills and rapid arpeggios over 2 or more octaves. After a few years of fasting and meditating, it was somehow easy for me now—and i could do it without practicing for hours and hours. Fasting and meditation removed a lot of junk in me which prevented my physical body’s muscles and neurons from doing it easily. So doing The Master Cleanse will allow you to learn quicker and better too.

 

Meditation and fasting are the key pillars of longevity and anti aging. The average  daily meditator is biologically 12 years younger than their calendar age counterparts. Someone who fasts regularly on top of that is biologically even more years or decades younger.

 

From my experience of fasting regularly for over 15 years, it’s clear how you gain greater mastery over your body, it’s hormones, drives, and greater mastery over emotions and thoughts. Along with meditation, it slows down your mind and widens it to the point where there is a beautiful peace and silence. And with that frame of mind, you are more open to inspiration, creativity, whole brain thinking, integration, learning and seeing the bigger picture.

 

As we evolve energetically, we will need less solid food. Its funny to me now how people think 100% of the energy they need to survive comes from solid food. Really it’s only around a third. Air, water, sunlight and other energies sustain the body in concert. When you meditate and fast over a period of years or decades, it seems to gear the body to work better and more on higher refined energies in the universe than “slow to convert to energy” solid food.

 

Look at plants—they pretty much live on sunlight and water. And some plants and trees live thousands of years. Case in point, this tree is over 3,500 years old but doesn’t look a day over 30:

 


This was taken at Lake Panasoffkee, FL. It kind of looks like Gollum Country and I was expecting to see fairies flying around here.

 

What Happens on a Fast?

The main thing is the body will eliminate tissues and cells that are not healthy. It will eliminate stored toxins in the skin since it now has the opportunity to do so. When you are eating food all the time, your body cannot go into it’s deep clean cycle like a bear hibernating. Fasting is the button for the deep clean cycle. I once smelled antibiotics in my urine after 7 days of fasting when I hadn’t taken any for several years.

 

Your tongue will turn white—this is a film of toxins being brought into circulation to be eliminated. During the first 3-4 days of the fast, the switchover in your body happens between digestive mode to cleansing mode.
It is recommended to get a tongue cleaner to remove the white film on your tongue daily.

 

Since accumulated toxins are being vacuumed out of your body, you may experience “healing crisis” effects of this increased load into your system. Symptoms of being weak, tired, light headed, dizzy, headaches or nausea are common. Remember, if you don’t eject all these toxins periodically, they WILL create health problems for you later on and cost a lot more of your money.

 

To avoid headaches, drink plenty of water since most of the toxins are exiting the body in liquid form. And because the fast brings more of them into circulation, it is paramount to drink plenty of water. You may get sick and feel off during the fast because of this cleansing process. Drinking a quart of water in the morning before you start drinking The Master Cleanse and a quart a half hour after you’re done for the day is a good ratio I’ve found works well. Try end drinking The Master Cleanse around 6 or 7pm and drink the quart of water before 8pm so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night and pee like a firehose.

 

You’ll wander outside of beta consciousness while you are awake. Fasting slows everything down and you’ll be cranking some nice cool alpha theta or even delta waves during the day. These brain states aren’t just for daydreams and sleeping. They’re interesting and fun to be in while you’re awake. Seasoned meditators are in alpha, theta or delta states all the time.

 

When you’re in the middle of the fast, you may get spacy. Fasting puts you in a state where the normal “noise” of your body subsides leaving you with more energy. Your mind may wander and become really silent at a level it has never been before. The distance form the distracting noises of the body and the processes of digestion allow your consciousness to migrate into deeper brainwave states. You may be pleasantly surprised at the ideas and creativity that just pop into your head. The deeper level of tranquility is worth the price of admission alone.

 

Your bowel movements will generally stop after the first 3-5 days. The Master Cleanse recommends doing a saltwater enema every morning of the cleanse. This is less scary than it sounds. Simply get a 1 quart glass bottle of spring or purified water and put 2 teaspoons of sea salt (Himalayan or Celtic) into the bottle until it dilutes. It is not uncommon to have a bowel movement 7 or more days into the Master Cleanse either.

 

Burroughs says to drink this saltwater solution first thing in the morning and with good reason. This acts as a brush through your intestines and helps flush toxins out as well as aiding bowel movements since eating solid food is what causes food to move through our intestines (Peristalsis) in the first place. If you are doing the saltwater enema, plan on not leaving your house for 2-3 hours those mornings which you do it as you will need to be near a bathroom once or twice on those days. It’s best to do this when you are on vacation or do not have to be at work early in the morning. Another option is to do the saltwater enema over a weekend (of 2 or 3 days) and not continue it for the remainder of the Master Cleanse because of your work/life schedule. The saltwater solution will make bowel movements very liquid so it is understandable that this is probably not the ideal thing to do when you have to be at work unless you get up very early to drink it. Don’t be an extremist and risk turning your life into a Saturday Night Live skit.

 

There are also laxative teas like Traditional Medicinals Smooth Move that you can take on the cleanse if the saltwater enema seems a bit much. You can do a combination of saltwater for a few days and teas. Or skip the saltwater altogether. I find a nice walk or a few minutes jumping and twisting on a rebounder (mini trampoline) takes care of bowel movements without making your week into bathroom 911.

 

I’ve done the saltwater enema the entire fast, for the first 3-4 days only, or just had teas depending on what was best for my schedule. Some cleanses I didn’t do it at all. Others, I did saltwater for a few days in the beginning and a few days towards the end. Remember just drinking the lemon/maple/cayenne mixture is going to have the majority of health benefits so don’t feel you’re failing for not doing it to the letter all the time. Be flexible with yourself, your life and your schedule. These days most of the time I skip the saltwater part of The Master Cleanse.

 

Remember: Every step towards improving your health counts. You don’t need to be a radical purist about any fast or cleanse.

 

Recommended Books On Fasting & Cleanses

The Master Cleanser by Stanley Burroughs

The Complete Master Cleanse: A Step-by-Step Guide to Maximizing the Benefits of The Lemonade Diet
by Tom Woloshyn, a student of Stanley Burroughs

The Miracle Of Fasting by Paul Bragg

Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering Disease
Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Mucusless Diet Healing System (MDHS)
Prof. Arnold Ehret

Rational Fasting
Prof. Arnold Ehret

 

Paul Bragg’s classic book has a lot of good advice on eating a healthy diet and the benefits of fasting. I am not however an advocate of doing long water only fasts or long water fasts with distilled water as he practiced and recommended. For myself, I stick to water only fasts no longer than 1-3 days now. Also, don’t be turned off by the religious quotes and Biblical references if you are not of the same faith. Fasting itself is non-denominational and does not belong to any one particular religion or faith. It is a tool for greater health and higher consciousness that has been used for thousands of years before organized religion.

 

Prof. Ehret was a proponent of Natural Hygiene, which states that if you keep your body clean on the inside, it will not provoke a healing crisis (meaning getting sick) to rid itself of accumulated toxins. Fasting and cleanses are paramount to Natural Hygiene as is eating a clean natural Organic food diet so you do not accumulate toxins from pesticides, GMOs, chemicals and preservatives never seen in human history before WWII.

 

The companies which made war munitions needed a new way to sell their products after the war ended and the chemical agriculture “revolution” began at the price of everyone’s health and the planet’s. It’s important to note that Prof. Ehret wrote this book before GMOs pesticides, herbicides, synthetic chemical fertilizers, etc., even existed. He saw that just basic eating could get people sick and unhealthy in the early 1900’s. Fasting, cleanses and Natural Hygiene are even more important today for long term health.

 

Benefits of Short Term and Long Term Calorie Reduction

Fasting and cleanses are a form of calorie reduction aimed at healing and rejuvenating. They are NOT diets even though some people use them as such. When you are not on a fast, you eat normally and consume plenty of healthy fats live coconut, olive, hemp oils and monounsaturated fats like nuts and seeds (almonds and macadamia nuts are superb).

 

Reducing calories slows your metabolic rate and reduces the formation of free radicals and oxidative damage to the body which damage cells and DNA. This leads to one of the theories of aging, the Free Radical Theory which is pretty much says our bodies are rusting from the inside out.

 

And looking old could very well be all the accumulated toxins stored away from out bloodstream in our skin that have never had an opportunity to “get out of Dodge” with a cleanse or fast because we’re too busy eating like horses—so hungry you could eat a horse, or hungry like the wolf like our friends Duran Duran.

 

The less you eat, the cleaner you are. Eating and digestion produces metabolic waste and over time it accumulates inside your body unless you cleanse and/or fast. Reducing calories also lowers blood sugar and insulin levels. The 40 day guideline in several ancient texts means a person with an average body type can go 40 days without solid food before the body starts cannibalizing health tissue for food (like your muscle). It goes without say that pregnancy is not the time cleanse or fast. You need to eat for two people then.

 

Dismantle Your Unexamined Belief Systems…

When you’re clean on the inside, you won’t age at the same rate on the outside
When you’re clean on the inside, your mental and physical capacities won’t deteriorate like your “age group”
The “Over the hill” mentality is throwing in the towel without even entering the ring so knock that douchebag off your shoulder!

 

What are the Ingredients of The Master Cleanse?

Fresh squeezed lemons, Grade B Maple Syrup and Cayenne pepper (powdered spice), all preferably Organic.

For The Master Cleanse, I use 1 quart (32 oz) glass bottles. Santa Cruz, Lakewood or R.W. Knudsen juice bottles are great to reuse for this. DO NOT use plastic since acidic foods like lemon can leach plastic into the drink and all plastic is a hormone disruptor. I also measure out the maple syrup and fresh squeezed lemon juice separately in a glass measuring cup (1 cup/8oz, Anchor Hocking or Pyrex brands), which have a handle and fit nicely under my Waring citrus juicers spout.

 

From the instructions in the original book of The Master Cleanse, I scaled the measurements up for a 1 quart glass bottle:

3 oz lemon juice
3 oz Organic Grade B maple syrup/coconut nectar or blend
1/4-1/2 tsp of Organic cayenne pepper 30,000 Heat Units (HU) which is the kind found in most Whole Foods and natural food stores (in bulk section usually by the Frontier herb company)
All in 1 quart (32oz or a bit less) spring or purified water

 

The Suja company also makes a raw Master Cleanse drink if you are lazy on your first cleanse, but it appears not the same concentration as the original recipe when I’ve compared it to making the Master Cleanse fresh with a juicer. Their other juice blends are excellent raw combinations of vegetables and fruits that you can do short juice fasts of a few days with.

 

As far as maple syrup, Grade B is darker and thicker and supposedly has more nutrient value. In any case, don’t let it trip you up if you can only get Grade A maple syrup. And by all means do not use Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth’s as they are not 100% maple syrup—worse it’s corn syrup with maple syrup flavor and GMO corn syrup at that. Also don’t use lemonade bought in a store. It’s diluted in water and pasteurized already negating the health benefits of fresh squeezed lemons.

 

I’ve used the recommended Organic Grade B maple syrup. I’ve also tried dark agave syrup as well, even mixtures of the two. When coconut nectar came out, I tried that since it is raw and has more nutrition than either maple syrup and agave syrup. Coconut nectar also has a lower glycemic index than agave or maple syrup. All these can be found in natural foods stores, Whole Foods, and even most chain grocery stores natural foods sections.

 

For juicing lemons, I have a Waring Pro Citrus Juicer model PCJ201. It’s quick, easy to use and portable. I also have a higher end juicer, the Green Star GS-3000. The Waring Juicer costs a few hundred dollars less.

 

Most Cayenne Pepper will be 30-35,000 Heat Units (HU). You can get 90,000 heat units, but unless you grew up eating jalapenos or want to live dangerously at your colon’s expense, stick with the usual grade. I tried 90K HU Cayenne once on this fast. Once. It was a bit too hot and I’m used to hot jalapenos on pizza and in gluten free pancakes.

 

Cayenne is really good to have with meals even outside of doing The Master Cleanse. It aids digestion and open blood vessels. It’s even something that when eaten regularly may prevent a heart attack. I sprinkle cayenne in any nut butter. Ginger is another herb to eat for digestion and Curry (which contains Turmeric) is a staple of Indian cuisine which has numerous health benefits (anti–inflammatory) that you should incorporate into your diet as frequently as possible.

 

You can make the Master Cleanse mixer ahead of time and put it into several bottles. Just include the fresh lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper without adding the water yet and put it in the refrigerator or freezer. Add the water ONLY when you are going to start drinking it since water will start to break down the formulation before you want it to.

 

When can I do The Master Cleanse?

Spring and Fall are excellent times to do cleanses and fasts. The 5,000 year old science of Ayurveda agrees. The when will depend on your schedule and the climate where you live. Fasting in early Spring and Fall allows you to enjoy all the seasonal summer fruits and veggies in most locations.

 

I’ve done The Master Cleanse in different states, seasons and climates. In climates with a REAL Winter with snow and below freezing temperatures, I fasted Spring through Fall. I did fast several times during the Winters but it can stress the body since cold temperatures without eating solid food makes it feel 5 degrees colder or more colder than it already is.

 

When I lived in the tropics, it was comfortable to do all year round. Actually it was better to do in the Summers there since fasting lowers your body temperature since you are not burning any solid fuel in food. And besides, fruits and veggies are always in season there.

 

I’ve fasted hiking the Grand Canyon (AZ) and Joshua Tree National Park (CA) which lowered my body temperature in relation to the desert climates. You still need to drink PLENTY of water in those places but fasting from solid food slows you from dehydrating.

 

I try to clear my schedule when I plan my fasts/cleanses and tell friends that I won’t be available to have lunch but can still visit and take road trips. Often when I travel long distance by car or plane, I’ll fast for the day and just drink liquids. I don’t think our bodies work well at over 30,000 feet so I try to only eat on the ground.

 

How Long Should I do the Master Cleanse?

Aim for a duration of 10 days or more if you’ve done it for a few years already. If it’s your first one, 7-10 days may be better to get yourself used to it.

 

Drink 1-3 quarts of the lemon/maple/cayenne mixture daily as needed. You’ll need more in the first 3-4 days as your body has not yet switched over from digestive mode to cleansing mode. The middle part of the fast you may find you consume less. As the fast is nearing its end, you may notice you are drinking more. The hunger feelings are usually at the beginning and endings of fasts.

 

I have comfortably done The Master Cleanse for over 2 weeks, my longest being 23 days which I cut short because it was during Winter. Bad timing on my part.

 

Years prior, I did a longer water fast on a vacation lasting 8 days without having anything else but water. I did this however, after building up to it becoming comfortable going 2-4 days with only water. Some years later, I discovered The Master Cleanse. Comparing the two, the water only fast didn’t cleanse as deeply as The Master Cleanse and I had low energy during it. I slept for a few hours each afternoon and meditated. I did have a very altered state of consciousness towards the end where I heard poetic lyrical verse just coming to me instantly almost faster that I could write. One of my Yoga teachers did 47 days on a fast but I wouldn’t put him in the “normal human” category to begin with. He’s in his 70’s now and has been meditating for more years than I’ve been breathing.

 

Can I Have Anything Else on The Master Cleanse?

Skip the pizza of course but the answer is yes. Teas are recommend especially Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Detox tea formulas. Burroughs wrote the book before coconut water and kombucha became all the rage in health foodie circles. On occasion I’ve had these on The Master Cleanse, but wait 30 minutes to an hour before and after drinking The Master Cleanse—you want this to be your main source of calories for the cleansing effect it will have on your entire body.

 

Can I Work and Exercise on The Master Cleanse?

Yes. Walking and rebounding (jumping on a mini trampoline) as well as Yoga/stretching are great during fasts. Don’t hit the weight racks at the gym or go running. Low impact exercise only. Don’t worry about losing progress at the gym either. You’ll gain it back, and with better muscular structure. I’ve even actually gone up on the weight racks after 10 days of not weightlifting after The Master Cleanse. I know this makes no sense, but cleanses and fasts work on multiple levels. More than that, this has happened multiple times so it’s not a fluke—it’s the synergistic benefits of regular fasting.

 

It bears mentioning to avoid sexual activity during fasts and cleanses. The reduction in calories will naturally decrease your libido so your body can conserve energy and get on with the business of removing accumulated stored toxins. Don’t counteract this normal safeguard inhibition as sex requires a lot of energy from the body like digestion.

 

During fasts and cleanses, I do basic Yoga stretches, take walks during the day, meditate for several hours a day. Also, read books, practice music, do art and listen to inspirational music (instrumental/ambient music is great) and try to avoid the negativity on TV and newspapers.

 

On The Master Cleanse I could do physical labor though try to avoid it if you can. Once I even helped my parents move to a new house 14 days into a Master Cleanse—and we’re talking lifting couches and chairs.

 

How Often Should I do The Master Cleanse?

This will depend on how much you normally eat and how clean you are. If you’re eating 3 or more times a day, a good guideline is to do The Master Cleanse 2-4 times a year. This number may decrease as you become cleaner on the inside and do not require it as frequently. Also be flexible with the number of days per fast. Try to do 10, but if one only lasts 7 days, that’s still plenty of cleansing. You can go longer than 10 days on some of your other fasts.

 

If you eat 1 or 2 times a day, 1-2 times a year does the job splendidly. Spring and Fall are ideal times for this since you’re preparing for Winter (to prevent sickness) and cleaning yourself after Winter when most people are more sedentary and tend to overeat.

 

These are the ratios I’ve experienced work well for me when I’ve eaten at the frequencies mentioned. Yours may vary. Also you can cut down the number of times you do this every year if you are doing other fasts or cleanses. For example I do the Ayurvedic Kitchari Cleanse twice a year (4 days) and The Apple Juice fast twice a year (3 days).  The Kitchari Cleanse is a 4 day mono food diet that’s great for cleansing & fasting rookies. These will be discussed in other articles.

 

Changing Your Diet

Fasting and cleanses such as The Master Cleanse not only remove accumulated toxins but actually change your tastes and craving in food—towards more natural, healthier, less salted, less sugar laden food. Yes boring ‘ol real food made by God/Nature actually becomes really desirable and tasty over food made in factories. That in itself is a Miracle of Fasting to borrow Paul Bragg’s book title.

 

I’m not here to preach you should completely become a vegetarian, vegan, paleo or raw. You’ll find your diet will change over the course of your life even after you eat cleaner and healthier. It’s always an ongoing journey. I’ve done all these diets and take what I like from each.

 

I have Organic free range eggs as my meat—“Meat on the other side of life” as I like to call it. I get Organic Grass Fed Pastured when I can find them. They are the highest quality and more expensive than just cage free. I only have eggs when I sense my body craving them which happens to be in Winters and after fasts which is my body telling me to replenish it’s fat reserves.

 

As far as dairy, I’ve switched to coconut ice cream and vegan cheese. Heidi Ho veggie and cashew cheese (without soy) are what I put on homemade pizza these days.

 

But to cut down on mucus, and you still want dairy, switch to goat or sheep milk products like I have now and then. The protein molecule in these animal’s milk is much smaller and more similar to human breast milk protein than cow’s milk protein which is large and more difficult to digest. Goat and sheep milk products are also slightly alkaline and not as mucus producing as cows dairy which for singers is crucial. Opera tenor Luciano Parvarotti once said he avoids dairy. Contemporary singers often have to avoid cigarettes and other substance abuse first before concerning themselves with more “Prima Donna” sounding healthier dietary items that reduce mucus.

 

Another great thing to add to your diet to clean plaque from arteries (as well as a myriad of other health benefits) is drinking a tablespoon of raw Organic apple cider vinegar at meals.

 

What if it’s My First Master Cleanse?

No problem. You can build up to it. Try 5-7 days if 10 seems too much at first. I had been fasting a day a week (one 24-36 hour period) like Paul Bragg recommended in the Miracle Of Fasting for quite some time before I did my first Master Cleanse. My weekly fast day was usually on a day off so I could relax. On weekends sometimes I would fast 2 or 3 days straight. This made The Master Cleanse easier for me and I still did my regular 1 day a week fast all year round. It wasn’t until just a year ago that I began eating only once or twice a day (as that’s all I seemed to need recently), which is known as Intermittent Fasting as Dr. Joseph Mercola recommends in several articles on his website www.mercola.com

 

Dr. Mercola’s site has a lot of articles on fasting and the medical benefits of it. He himself is a practitioner of Intermittent Fasting as well (1 meal a day). The standard advice is it is best to consult your Physician before fasting and/or cleanses. If you have low blood sugar or Diabetes, fasting probably isn’t the best thing to attempt.

 

If your Doctor actually knows about cleanses and fasts, great. The problem many people will run into with consulting their physician is that few will have one who has any direct knowledge and experience with doing these themselves and may spread fears about them. People have been fasting for thousands of years. Bears have been fasting (during hibernation) for even longer than that. Nature built this mechanism into animals. You may have to see another health practitioner such as a Naturopath (as is Dr. Mercola) or an Ayurvedic physician or specialist.The good news is most Doctors from India and China know about Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine respectively as part of their cultural heritage and won’t treat you like you’ve been deluded by a quack and just bought a case of snake oil. How many pharmaceutical drugs does the rest of the animal kingdom need? Who’s really living against nature?

 

Breaking Your Master Cleanse Juice Fast

The thing you’ll notice after doing The Master Cleanse regularly is that you’ll consume more of it during the first 3-4 days until your body “switches over” from digestion mode to cleansing mode. When this happens, you’ll notice you don’t need as much of the drink during the middle part of the fast. This is The “Eye Of The Fast” similar to how a hurricane is rough in the beginning and end but peaceful in the middle. There’s a deep calm and peace accompanied with an altered expanded state of consciousness and slower deeper brainwaves like alpha and theta.

 

The hamster wheel of “normal” fight or flight beta consciousness people wind up in due to the crazy pace of modern society is stressful, ultra thin, and not conducive to greater creativity or long term health. Just look at all the problems people have with high blood pressure. My blood pressure is generally the same when I am not eating solid food for 10 or more days as it is when I’m eating normally. That’s a result of long term meditation and fasting.

 

Fasting cleans the physical body on the deepest levels. Meditation cleans the thoughts and emotions.

 

Towards the tail end of the fast, your body will cue you in that it’s nearing the time to slowly and gently resume eating soon. You’ll notice you’ll start drinking more of The Master Cleanse again like in the beginning of it. Your mind will start thinking of food again and the white film (toxins brought into circulation by the fast) on your tongue will get lighter or be gone. Needless to say, it’s best to avoid going to grocery stores near the end of your fast unless you want to overspend like senior citizens in New England before a “Big Storm” forecast on TV.

 

The most important thing about breaking a fast is starting to integrate easy to digest foods FIRST. And not large quantities of them either. It will be several days before you build up to your normal portion sizes of anything. Think of yourself as a baby learning to eat again.

 

You are restarting your digestive system after it has been on vacation. So it’s Monday back at work when your stomach just got back from Aruba.

 

Start with high water content fruit to break The Master Cleanse. I’ve broken fasts with the recommended 2 days of orange juice as The Master Cleanse recommends. I’ve broken it with tomato sauce like Paul Bragg recommends (a tomato is a high water content fruit).

Good Choices To Break The Master Cleanse (High Water Content Fruit):
Grapefruit
Orange
Pineapple
Melons
Watermelon (take the seeds out)
Tomato Sauce/Tomatoes/Salsa (acidic and cleansing for digestive system post fast)

 

I generally prefer to have fresh oranges, grapefruits, tomato sauce/salsa, and pineapple for the first 2 days of eating again. And SMALL portions. DO NOT OVEREAT. Your hunger will return and tell you when to eat more but not for a few days. So this means a meal in those first few days is a half an orange, half a grapefruit, a cup (8oz) of tomato sauce or pineapple.

 

Coming off a fast may be a bit rough so don’t stress out your stomach the first few days after it’s vacation because you won’t digest larger quantities of food at this stage properly or worse, you could get sick. This is the mistake of many shipwreck survivors when they are rescued days or weeks later without having any food. Their bodies were in a fasting state and due to their hunger and fear, they overeat and get sick when food is available again.

 

Proper hydration is paramount. Drink plenty of water after your fast to flush remaining toxins out of your body. Have 22oz to a quart (32oz) of water first thing in morning upon waking. This keeps billions of cells hydrated and your bowels running smoothly. Our bodies are 70% or more water and it is slow suicide to not drink water alone all by itself like the rest of the animal kingdom. Don’t let yourself get dehydrated. When you are thirsty, your body is already in the dehydration zone. Sip water throughout the day and up until 20 minutes before a meal. Start drinking water 40-45 minutes after each meal. Hydration in this manner negates needing to drink water or liquids during meals which dilutes stomach acids and leads to less than optimal incomplete digestion.

 

Remember it takes 3-4 days for your body to switchover from digestion to cleansing mode to start a fast and it takes as much or longer to switch back to digestive mode completely.  Have 1 tablespoon of Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in a bit (1-2oz) of water with meals (other than fruit) and at any other time post fast. This will further cleanse and aid in your digestion.

 

One of the main principles of Food Combining is having fruit ALONE because it digests the quickest of any food. Eat fruit alone and wait 30 minutes before having anything else and at least 2 hours afterwards. Doing so helps prevent digestive issues where the fruit sugars when combined with other kinds of food have to wait to be digested and putrefy in your digestive tract. Eww! This is just what harmful bacteria love as a food source, and since around 70% of your immune system is actually in your gut, they’re attacking at your front door.

 

Stick to meal portions of a half cup (4oz) to 1 cup (8oz) the first 3-4 days resuming solid food

Eat Slow and Savor your food—be mindful of the tastes you missed noticing before

 

Pineapple is great to break a fast because of its digestive enzymes. I’ve broken The Master Cleanse with 2-4 days of just a cup of pineapple several times a day.

 

Kombucha and Kevita beverages are excellent to replenish probiotics and further detoxify post fast. Drink these alone or 20-30 minutes before a meal that is not fruit to help with digestion. Probiotics and Apple Cider Vinegar will help buffer post fast symptoms of feeling under the weather.

 

Apples are good after the second day of resuming eating since the Malic acid in them is very cleansing for the entire digestive tract. This is why the Apple Juice Fast of 2-3 days is very effective for improving digestion and keeping your digestive tract functioning optimally throughout your life. And one small or medium sized apple is a meal at this point.

 

After the first few days of fruit and/or juice, break in simple high water content vegetables next. Onions and cucumbers are great. Carrots are high water content too and one medium size carrot is a meal here. Carrots are also cleansing to the digestive tract. Broccoli, cauliflower, sauerkraut and vegetable soup (without grains or beans) are excellent as well. Sauerkraut replenishes needed probiotics post fast. I also recommend Amazing Grass Raw Reserve powder (original or berry flavored) for it’s density and medley of nutrition in addition to healthy digestive bacteria.

 

Keep refraining from eating the same amount you are used to eating—this will take some discipline and experience. Continue to have have small portions the first several days post fast so your digestion can come back online. It’s still yawning at this point. Remember, it has been on vacation and is simple like a baby’s the first week of resuming eating.

 

In the first 3-4 days after your fast, it’s common to have a runny nose and become stuffed up with excess mucus. This is produced when you resume eating solid food, which is why the most important part of coming off a fast is easing your way back into your regular pattern of eating. Pretty much everyone experiences some degree of coughing and a scratchy throat as well (why having Raw OG Apple Cider Vinegar is helpful as a buffer post fast). You may also notice you are more emotional than usual when resuming eating again. It’s wise to break your first fast over a weekend until you can identify the specific symptoms and reactions particular to your fasts.
Another fantastic post fast buffering food is having fresh Organic garlic or garlic powder on your vegetables and first meals. Sprinkle liberally. Garlic is an incredibly potent anti-biotic and will pick up any slack and sluggishness your immune and digestive systems got bogged down in the foxhole of the fast.

 

Green peas are an excellent first plant protein as they are high water content. Then break in seeds and nuts—almonds, macadamias, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, etc.  Pumpkin seeds are wonderful as are hemp seeds or hemp protein. Raw cacao (chocolate) and shredded coconut are also terrific sources of healthy fats. Ground flax seed is amazingly cleansing post fast as well as a great source of plant based Omega 3 fatty acids. Chia seed is even better for Omega 3. And good news if you’re craving carbs: Quinoa isn’t a grain! Unlike grains, it’s actually a complete protein–a seed and member of the rhubarb family. Soak in water 6 or more hours before cooking to make it more nutritious and digestible.

 

Your body will be craving fats after a fast to replenish its reserves. A great first fat to start eating after your first 2 or more days of just eating fruit is coconut oil. The reason being, coconut oil is rapidly digested like a carbohydrate unlike other fats which require your gallbladder to secrete bile to break them down. Get Organic Extra Virgin (sometimes labeled as simply Virgin) cold pressed UNREFINED for maximum benefits. Have a tablespoon with your first vegetable meals post fast. Coconut oil is a fantastic food for long term health afterwards too since it is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti parasitic as well as protective for the brain against degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease.

 

Wait a week before you have any hard to digest things like animal protein (meat, fish, dairy) if you eat these. Also, I usually wait a week before having any grain products like bread or granola as well. After a week, most people are back to eating their normal diet and normal volume of food per meal.

 

Putting a leash on the returning tiger of your hunger for the first 4-7 days post fast and having buffering foods like Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, coconut oil, garlic/garlic powder, and onions will ensure you do not get sick as you transition back to your normal eating habits. Vitamin D3 supplementation either in liquid form or softgel will ramp up your immune system during the transition time. Kombucha, sauerkraut, or probiotic supplementation will bolster the growth healthy flora in your digestive tract.

 

Chlorella is another superfood I recommend consuming on a daily basis for it’s unrivaled nutrient breadth and density, detoxifying properties and overall long term health maintenance. All these players form an All Star team for your cakehole to get it’s groove back without having a slump. They can also keep you in the game of life much longer, and with greater physical vigor and mental acuity than if you we’re playing for the “home team” of the Standard American Diet. So batter up or batter up with deep fried death. Your choice.

 

Final Thoughts

I grew up eating Pop Tarts, Chips Ahoy!, Little Debbie, Keebler, Lucky Charms and Captain Crunch too. These days my treats are all much healthier—homemade pizza, coconut ice cream, Mary’s Gone Cookies, and the occasional Nature’s Path Toaster Pastry. Take that Pop Tarts. The best part of it was the fasting itself reset my taste buds and recalibrated my body where I naturally started craving healthier food like sauerkraut after coming off fasts and cleanses. It surprised me how I was eating things my mother wouldn’t dare put on my plate as a kid. I no longer fear brussel sprouts. It can happen to you too.

 

Fasting uses the body’s innate intelligence. Willpower alone only goes so far—if you feed your body junk food, it will crave junk food. It’s a negative cycle that perpetuates itself and sugar is addictive but legal. You can break free without deprivation or torturing yourself with willpower which just sets you up for failure and self-criticism.

 

Remember, you didn’t get stuck in a poor diet overnight so be patient with yourself as you turn that sugar laden ship around. There’s no Fairy Godmother to grant you an instant transformation nuked in a microwave for 30 seconds. As your body becomes cleaner on the inside, you won’t crave junk food and overly sweet, salty (used as a preservative in processed foods to extend shelf life) food anymore.

 

A few other tips: Stop cooking in a microwave—it alters food where the body cannot utilize the nutrients and creates excess free radicals inside your body. You are throwing money away microwaving food and decreasing the amount of nutrient value the food has. Better alternatives are using your stove or toaster oven. For healthy cooking with quickness, get a Far Infrared oven from NuWave which fits on any table or countertop.

 

Use Himalayan sea salt—it’s the purest, most nutrient dense salt in the world as it was formed in the prehistoric oceans long before humans ever polluted the land, rivers and oceans and cheered for the stock markets. This is another reason to fast and cleanse regularly—because these industries have polluted you as well. The average infant born in the world today has over 250 foreign chemicals already inside it’s body. You have to take a stand and fight for your long term heath and stay ahead of the curve. Don’t expect your Big Mac eating Congress and Senate to have the health and safety of your food on their legislative plates anytime soon.

 

Remember:

Flexibility over fanaticism. Dietary fundamentalists and fanatics are no different than religious fundamentalists and fanatics. No one diet is ever 100% accurate or complete for everybody, nor will it remain the same over a persons entire life. You will change and grow and have the right to do so.

 

Taste Food Again For The First Time

Best wishes on your Master Cleanse, rejuvenation, and long term investment in your health. Enjoy discovering all the subtle nuances and flavors of food made by Nature as you are soon descending back into the realm of regular scheduled gastronomy like I am about to once again in a few days.

 

And with that, you’ll also find an unexpected sacred reverence for food and the simple act of eating you probably have long forgotten since you believed in Santa, who probably could use a Master Cleanse as well—and a trip to Aruba to do it in.

 

Disclaimer: This article is for informational/educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning any diet or exercise program.

© Composer Yoga

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Make Making Music A New Year’s Resolution

 

People are always making New Year’s Resolutions. Most of which never stick, involve giving up something, punishing yourself to varying degrees, restricting something. How about making a New Year’s Resolution that’s fun? One that’ll make you happier, smarter, improve coordination, memory and the performance of your ENTIRE brain more than pretty much ANY other activity. What’s the catch you ask? The blood of a free range unicorn? The fender from a pink 1979 Cadillac Eldorado? A transgender outhouse from Smurf village?

 

Actually, just the price of an average instrument, new or used. Any standard portable 5 octave keyboard with full size keys, an electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drums, sax, flute, horn, trumpet etc. will do. Guitars and keyboards tend to be the most popular instruments, but whatever instrument piques your interest, go for it. Maybe you’ll become the next Flugelhorn Icon. You can even learn play a couple instruments as this interestingly brings out different sides of yourself.

 

You don’t have to buy the most expensive top of the line instruments. I used to work for a music instruction company and got to play around with all kinds of high end uber expensive instruments. Fact is, you’ll get the same benefits of playing music without having to drop 5 grand on an Eric Clapton signature model Martin, just like you don’t really need a Rolls Royce to drive to the grocery store. Unless your address is Buckingham Palace.

 

Cockroaches, Casios and Keith Richards

Even an inexpensive Casio keyboard you can buy at any department store or online will do. I still have one of the very first keyboards I learned to play on, a Casio. Over the holidays, I met up with one of my former bandmates and we were joking about about how they’re made of some kind of indestructible plastic. Seriously, I’ve had the same cheap Casio longer than I’ve owned any car. I’ve loaned it out long term to at least 4 different people over the years and it still comes back working. So folks, it’s not just gonna be cockroaches and Keith Richards—It’s actually cockroaches, Casios and Keith Richards. That black Casio has been in the trunk of my car in the winter, in the tropics, in the desert. It would work on the moon I’m sure. I’ll make a mental note to play The Police tune “Walking On The Moon” for the occasion.

 

Benefits Of Making Music

Pretty much everyone loves listening to music which by itself gives plenty of benefits. But when you actually PLAY an instrument, so much more of the brain is engaged, leading to improvements across the board in numerous areas. Here’s some of the science behind making music:

Making music leads to improved coordination, enhanced learning abilities and better overall emotional health and well being. All things that are allies in anti–aging. One of the buzzwords in brain science is Neuroplasticity. The belief not all that long ago was that the brain does not grow any new neurons after adulthood. Not only is this seen now as the pile dogma sh*t that it is, the brain can and does actually grow new neurons and neural connections later in life. Playing an instrument grows new neural connections and keeps your brain young and active. And making music is actually neuro–protective. Look at our friend Keith Richards. With the amount of drugs Keith, Mick and The Stones did back in the day (I’ve also heard unpublicized stories from a musician who toured with them), one would expect them to be dead or only capable of having “zombie conversation” at a nursing home with other other casualties of the counterculture and retired boxers. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger did enough drugs to kill a herd of elephants. But lo and behold, not only can they still wipe their butts by themselves, they’re still touring, still writing and recording and being creative. Some even making new butts to wipe in their 70’s. Imagine what can happen if you play music minus the neuron guillotining effects of drug abuse.

 

Keith Richards’ practicing and playing guitar has no doubt protected him from years of addiction, bad habits and harmful life choices. So don’t wait till you retire to learn an instrument! Start getting the benefits now and you’ll be in much better mental and emotional shape when you do retire. You may not even want to retire from what you do because you won’t know what over the hill means. As for music, I’ll never retire from that. I don’t see music as my second language. English is my second language. I loved music before I spoke my first words.




Making Music Improves Cognition, Memory And Emotional Well Being

People take all kinds of pills and supplements to give them an edge professionally and personally. Things for energy, alertness, stress relief. Western culture promotes the magic pill. What about the magic hobby? Why don’t Dr. Oz, the Surgeon General or drug companies recommend playing an instrument? The drugs and supplements they recommend and make cost more in the long run than the price of an instrument. And the benefits of making music last longer than pills. Music is an all purpose medication without the harmful side effects.

 

Sound is energy. Sound is the first sense that becomes active in utero. Sound literally grew your brain. Mom’s heartbeat is our first drum kit. Why not keep growing your brain by playing an instrument? Your brain just works so much better with regular practicing of an instrument. It’s like your memories get a team of office support staff all filing them in their own departments throughout the brain. And they communicate with each other more frequently and recall things quicker and more vividly. Music is also meditative. It’s calming and relaxing and gets you out of the left brain beta consciousness birdcage which is a factor in the increased stress in modern society. That lateralization of consciousness isn’t normal or healthy—it’s fight or flight mode as the new norm. Music is nonverbal and provides stress relief in a way that other common methods cannot. Stress is energetic which then turns to physical symptoms. Music can match that negative and stuck stress energy and diffuse it. It works like a tuning fork in reverse. If you’re angry, listen or play some angry music for a while and you’ll find it draws it out of you like a Homeopathic tincture. As in Homeopathy, like cures like, and matching music to your mood will cancel it out and you’ll balance out and find your equilibrium again. Making music makes a more resilient brain.

 

Overcoming Biases And Misconceptions

You’ll have to overcome some biases and misconceptions about making music and playing an instrument. Rewind back to when you were a kid. Every child loves singing and making music. It’s fun, a form of play and vital for learning. At some point, most kids don’t continue their learning and exploration anymore through singing and music because “I’m not a prodigy” or some other socially approved or socially reinforced cop out and sacrificial offering to the lame God of Practicality. Are there expert or prodigy walkers? Did that stop you from learning how to do that? You don’t remember how long it took you to stand up and walk, yet most people are intimidated to play an instrument because it would “take too long.” We could have used the same excuse against speaking, writing and spelling. Look at Doctors—they’re no prodigies of handwriting are they? Granted making music is not essential to daily life but it is essential for long term quality of life as you’ve seen in the above video clip.

 

Look at it another way: You’re ALREADY better than any caveman. If you had a time machine and went back to the Stone Age, you’d be a rock star. As bad as you think you are or will be, you’re still better than Fred Flintstone so don’t make excuses or write yourself off before you even start.

 

You Don’t Need Formal Lessons To Get The Benefits Of Playing Music

You learned to speak and walk pretty well without any formal lessons. You got better with practice and later went to school and improved further. Just enjoy making music, get back to that explorative phase you had when you were a kid. Cross the “taking lessons” bridge if and when it comes to that later on. Just focus on playing music for fun and it’s benefits first. You can find free lessons online and buy lesson books before you commit to a teacher. Get comfortable and familiar with the instrument before you put yourself in the situation of paying for music lessons and the level of seriousness that goes with regular lessons. Many parents, who even well–intentioned, signed their kids up for music lessons too early turned a lot of people off from the fun of playing an instrument by making it too serious with the commitment required by having a teacher. Just like you don’t need a $5,000 Martin acoustic guitar in the beginning, you don’t need Madame Juilliard Graduate as your piano teacher the week after you buy a cheap portable keyboard. Overcommitment leads to personal letdown and unrealistic expectations at the beginner’s stage leads to personal sabotage. Don’t set yourself up for failure like this in the beginning. Remember your first time driving a car? Squirrels still have nightmares…

 

You Don’t Need To Understand Notes, Chords And Theory To Get These Benefits

Just play. Make pleasing sounds, practice, have fun. Worry about the formal knowledge later. Make sounds that you like. That’s how songs by your favorite artists are written. Music is created by playing first then written down, not the other way around. There are plenty of free videos on Youtube and sites online that explain music theory. You can also buy books for reference later. For guitarists, there are sites like www.songsterr.com (that is how it’s spelled) which shows how to play hundreds of songs for free. The site uses tablature to show which string and fret to play by numbers instead of having to learn notes by name. Tablature (AKA guitar tab) has helped generations of guitarists learn how to play. The site also has a player so you can hear how the song should be played so you don’t have to learn the types of notes and their time values. It is however a good idea to get a chord diagram book for keyboard or guitar because you’ll learn to think in chords instead of individual notes which is more complicated and frustrating when first learning about music theory. And all songs are based on chords, and you can quickly learn the most frequently used chords in thousands of pop songs in an afternoon.

 

Remember, music theory was invented thousands of years after musicians made and played the first instruments. G minor 7 flat 5 doesn’t mean squat to the Aborigines, but music and playing instruments does. Paradoxically, the more “primitive” the culture, the more every member of the culture engages in music, song, and dance. Take a hint. Heal thyself, Oh sophisticated industrial society cellphone texting box dweller!




You Don’t Have To Be “Good” To Get These Benefits

Look at Punk Rock (no offense since I dig that too). You don’t need to be a virtuoso like Franz Liszt, Niccolò Paganini, Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. Even so, all these “Gods” once drooled all over mom’s shoulder just like you and me. And being “good” never stopped Punk Rock musicians from having fun writing and playing songs. They weren’t victims of self sabotage in believing they suck or the “Don’t quit your day job” beatdown. And numerous Punk Rock bands have become culturally significant playing just a handful of the most basic chords. Music is just as fun and beneficial for a 3 year old doing pick slides on guitar as it is for someone like Eddie Van Halen.

 

You Don’t Have To Do It To Become A “Musician”, Play Out Or Get In A Band

Hallelujah!! Your garage can still be used for that pink 1979 Cadillac Eldorado. Frederic Chopin didn’t play live concerts much at all in his lifetime. He really just loved sitting at home with his piano composing. He make his living teaching and though sheet music sales as CD’s weren’t around in the 1800’s. French composer Camille Saint–Saëns was also an amazing pianist but never cared to play out live, preferring like Chopin to “stay home and compose.” Saint–Saëns was a prodigy and supposedly could play Beethoven Sonatas from memory (again, music really upgrades memory function). I’ve known musicians with plenty of road battle scars of drug use yet can get onstage and play songs note for note they haven’t played in years. Again, music is neuro protective. It’s an unethical double blind study which will never be done in a lab, but I’ve seen it proven true through observation time and again. On a more positive note, one of my former bandmates is a high school dropout. He’s started and successfully run several different businesses, and is also an inventor with a few U.S. Patents under his belt. His musically developed brain has more than made up for his shorter formal schooling and standardized education and gave him intelligence potentials and abilities most other people with high school and college degrees have never achieved.

 

I’ve played in original and cover bands, have recorded in a studio band (where you write songs but don’t perform out live), and have done my own solo projects writing and composing in various genres. At the end of the day though, I still love playing music at home just all by itself. When you love playing the same 3 or 4 noted over and over again in practice, you know you’re a musician. Just focus on enjoying making new sounds and interacting with whatever instrument you chose to make music that sounds cool to you. You don’t have to label the stage of your relationship with your instrument to anyone or on social media. You’ll be a musician regardless, and your journey over the years will determine the label you give yourself. But you are still a musician even if no one ever hears you practice or play, and you aren’t obligated to begin playing an instrument for the purpose of anything else down the road except enjoying your time practicing all by yourself.

 

Making Music Is The Perfect Marriage Between The Right And Left Brain

Music is math and music is creative. You get the best of both worlds of brain enhancement in an activity a lot more fun that grammar school math tests. I never “called in sick” on my practice time. I always wanted to be there and even played when I was sick. Music is such a part of all aspects of my daily life. I listen to and practice music while I write. If more writers rocked they wouldn’t have writer’s block. I often pick up an instrument first thing in the morning, and it’s often the last thing I do before bed. I use music to meditate, I use it when I cook and eat, when I relax, read, and lie down right before I nod off for the night. I was a musician long before I became a writer but it is helpful and beneficial to become a musician at any point in your life and career. For instance, Humorist Dave Barry and Novelist Stephen King are amateur musicians who played in a band together called the Rock Bottom Remainders along with other authors like Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club), Cartoonist and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and The Byrds lead vocalist and guitarist Roger McGuinn.

 

For people who don’t see the value in the time necessary for playing an instrument, here’s an example: Albert Einstein was an amateur musician. How much of his genius is attributable to playing music? You don’t ever hear about him being a musician because he was never famous for that. He was an amateur violinist though. He realized the value of playing an instrument. And the word “amateur” in our society just tends to mean you aren’t being paid for it and making your main income from it. The term is so arbitrary. Put another way, you could suck and be a “Professional” musician and you can be an amazing player in your living room and still be considered an amateur. Either way music still benefits you regardless. And lets face it, “Amateur Night” doesn’t stop men from attending Strip Clubs.

 

I’ve been to Einstein’s house in Princeton New Jersey, but there aren’t stories floating around of the legendary Al Einstein String Quartet killing it at the First Congo. But I’d wager playing music was a huge factor in his ability of accessing radical creativity in quantum physics. The autopsy showed Einstein had increased connections between the right and left hemispheres of his brain. The guilty party I suspect is music. Playing music caused that, which in turn allowed his greater ability for whole brain thinking and a more integrated brain. Playing music is ALWAYS additive—it wires the brain for expanded creativity and intelligence. Music grows the foundations and neural architecture for genius.




Life With And Without Making Music

I know from my own life the “before and after photos” and the feasts and famines of making music and practicing regularly. Case in point, the most stressful time in my life was during college. Why? Like many college students, I was trying to do too many things at once, juggling too many balls at once and I can’t even juggle. The mistake I made was cutting down my music practice time so I could focus more on my studies in college. It make total logical sense. But be wary of Captain Practical getting Gestapo on your enjoyments in life because restricting some, especially music, is actually detrimental to your overall performance and well being as I found out.

 

I did however always do my homework and studied listening to music which maintained my buffers during stressful times but not as well as when I was actively practicing music. The difference is always blatantly noticeable. I literally feel my brain light up after a good practice session of 1 or more hours. Being a musician would get me high. I remember my music lessons every Thursday night growing up and the next day in school I would be high all day. And wow did playing music get me through the drudgery and stellar maturity of high school. Making music was so cool I checked out of the whole clique, popularity, and party scene long before I graduated. All that stuff seemed so small and petty compared to the marvels of music. I’ve long outgrown all those high school issues and concerns. I’ll never outgrow music, the swaddling cloth of sound.

 

Sometimes I’d practice for 5 or more hours straight and that would get me ridiculously high, not to mention expand my internal effulgence of happiness—the “Happy for no reason happy.” But in high school and at various jobs right after college, I had to hide this to a degree because most people around me I could tell were not all that happy. Maybe if they made music, they’d tap into that inherent well of joy that cannot be found in hamster wheel lives chasing notoriety and titles.

 

Listen to birds. They can only make a few notes with their vocal chords. And they sing those same notes all day for their entire lives. You have the advantage of being born with fingers and hands which can play WAY more notes than any bird ever dreamed of. Making music and making sound is your birthright. Don’t deprive yourself of one of the most fun and beneficial things in life. So pick up an instrument this year and show the gray matter it matters and join the Culture Clubno transgender or androgynous bathroom pass necessary.

© Composer Yoga

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Creative Practice & Songwriting: Playing In The Dark




No this isn’t about kinky blindfolded piano lessons with Christian Grey here folks. Sorry to disappoint. So leave the nipple clamps in The Red Room where they belong. They won’t cut it in the Practice Room unless you happened to have misplaced your capo.

 

Anyhow, being a formal student of any musical instrument has many advantages. You learn the notes, all kinds of theory, things like the harmonized scales, the magnificence of modes, harmony, melody, counterpoint, technique, tempo, time signatures, etc.

 

I learned all this where some self–taught people learn to play by ear and hone in better ear skills and acuity because of it. When I started playing in bands though, I saw how I was behind in this regard because I couldn’t learn songs by ear very well—everything was always written down for me in black and white in my piano lessons so I didn’t have to. I became over reliant on the printed page. Co–dependent in fact. The problem is, music is first and foremost an auditory phenomenon. Learning music only from a printed page is like closing your eyes at a ballet—you can hear the movement and music but the dominant sense dance appeals to as an audience member is your vision—the syncronization of various body movements and choreography to music. With eyes wide shut at the ballet, good luck trying to figure out Releves from foot sounds and enjoying anything other than a tap routine.

 

People I know who’ve taken flight training have told me that at some point you have to throw the book out—meaning you cannot rely on it as a crutch as you are supposed to know and have internalized it to become a competent pilot. I was far from throwing the book of sheet music out. Actually I wasn’t even on the tarmac, kind of like Snoopy still sitting atop his doghouse.

 

I picked up playing guitar later on while I was taking piano lessons as a second instrument. The interesting (and accidental) thing was, I didn’t know what every note was on the fretboard so I was playing, learning and writing by ear on guitar—by what sounded cool. And with tablature (AKA Guitar Tab), you just learn songs by strings and fret numbers not what the notes are. This is the reason more people have learned to play guitar than by taking formal lessons. With formal guitar lessons, you’d have to learn the note names and how to read music, something which most people these days don’t have the time or patience for. I’ve shown people how to play songs like Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” and The Kinks “You Really Got Me” in a few minutes with the Tablature method—beginners and people who aren’t even guitar players.

 

On the internet, people can learn just by watching “Monkey see, monkey do” style which strings and frets the player in the Youtube video demonstrates. Even learn “Shock The Monkey” without frying the brain with electrodes or that set of nipple clamps. To instruct a student formally involves learning the rudiments of music first like letters and vowels before you can spell words and make sentences. And let’s face it, there aren’t groupies for drawing pictures of Treble Clefs.




Like Duke Ellington said:
“If it sounds good, it is good.”

 

Duke’s quote can be further unwrapped and elaborated as “Don’t let knowledge and theory dictate how a song should be written or how it should go. Let the ear lead the melody.” The problem for me was I couldn’t look at the piano without knowing what every single note and chord was. My music teacher told me frequently “Learn the rules, then you can break them.” What better way to yoke and entice juvenile delinquency than with sh*t like that? So how could I break the rules naturally, like someone who didn’t have any formal music instruction?

 

I started practicing in the dark. Not only to get hand finger memory of where I was on the keyboard but to improve my ear training and pitch recognition. I realized that Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles HAD to develop their ear skills and muscle memory; that over reliance on our sight hinders developing better pitch recognition and worse, could put an unwanted straitjacket on creativity.

 


Playing In The Dark For Ear Training/Finger Memory

When I learned a new riff, I’d find the same pattern in different octaves all over the keyboard. When I learn a riff on guitar, I move it around the fretboard as well. The fingering will vary on guitar when you do this because the same note is located on different strings but on keyboard it will always be the same. You can also move the riff pattern to different keys to get practice learning what specific intervals and chords sound like. For instance, the main riff in “Smoke On The Water” is all fourths and you can play that pattern in different keys than the one it’s written in to learn what fourths sound like in different keys. The organ riff in the Styx tune “Blue Collar Man” is made up of fourths as well. Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” is made up of 5ths the formal musical interval term for what guitarists just call power chords.

 

The opening descending piano riff in the Tears For Fears song “Head Over Heels” is made up of octaves (G F# E D E C, G F# E D E C). Notice how the notes are the same and how tablature or listing just the notes by their letters cannot indicate the actual time value of each note which we perceive as the melody. It’s the same 5 notes but the syncopation is different so with tablature you have to know the song or hear it. You can’t learn a song you haven’t heard this way. That’s why the old school system of musical notation is still necessary. If it wasn’t standardized a few hundred years ago, never mind Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven”, none of us would have even heard of Beethoven or any of his music (Dum Dum Da Dumm!!! Dum Dum Da Dumm!!! which is also 5ths by the way and the opening theme of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony).

 

Also practice playing from single notes to single notes to hear what the intervals of seconds, minor thirds, major thirds, fourths, fifths, sevenths, octaves, ninths, etc sound like. Repetition will lead to recognition.

 

A part of the riff in The Knack’s “My Sharona” uses octaves then power chords. The bassline of Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose” is octaves. The Mission Impossible Theme bassline is made up of octaves. The main notes for the bass line are G Bb C, G Bb C F Gb—to play it accurately, you’d have see it tabbed out, written out with notes on a staff, or learn it by ear.

 

The opening guitar riff in Devo’s “Whip It” is an arpeggiated (broken chord/single note) E Dominant 7th chord (E G# B D) and played EE G# B D. Your welcome Christian Grey. Now go play it on your piano—we know you must love Dominant chords. The keyboard response to the guitar riff in “Whip It” is a descending D power chord of the notes D A D.

 

Over time you’ll better recognize what intervals and chords sound like. You don’t need to practice in the dark per se if you don’t live with your Mom anymore and it’s out of your comfort zone. If you prefer, just practice not looking at your instrument, pretend it’s Medusa and you’ll Turn To Stone like Electric Light Orchestra. On guitar doing this is easier since the fretboard generally faces away from you when practicing and performing. But practicing in the dark does de–emphasize the sense of sight and heightens touch and hearing which will be sharpened better if this is done.

 

Playing In The Dark For Songwriting

Sometime later, I started using this same process to come up with riffs and composition ideas in additional to ear training and sharpening tactile fluency. It was a way around the habit of intellectualizing what you are writing on the piano because I deliberately wasn’t looking at what my hands & fingers were doing. I’d just start playing freely with both hands on the keys. The aim was to have no limits, to play anything, to not be afraid of any sound I could possibly make on the piano, no matter how weird or dissonant; To dissolve any preconceptions about how music should sound. The surprising thing then happened for the first time: I played something really original sounding, unique and novel. Then I would look at what my hands & fingers just did to remember it. Just like that, I’d written a new riff, melody or part of a song or composition. It was magical because it seemed to come right out of the ether, by some random form of play, some open non–rehearsed reveling. It was creativity on the fly, creativity in the moment. This is the equivalent of soloing but to jumpstart generating usable riffs and phrases from. Doing this happens more naturally on guitar because people don’t usually look at the fretboard when doing some open jamming or noodling around. Most of the time their eyes are closed as guitarists are “Turning Japanese” with a morphic medley of facial contortions matching their musical meanderings.

 

When you think about it, music isn’t written by some dude or dudette drawing little black symbols with ink and intellect—that part comes secondary to the initial inspiration so you can remember it afterwards or show others how to play it. Playing in the dark is a way to increase the amount of creative ideas you can come up with by providing a launching platform for creativity and get you to the intersection of inspiration. It’s uncensored playing free from the parameters of theory and intellect. So remember to get your “In The Dark” practice on like Billy Squier. Although optional, you can also use a silk blindfold but do have a safe word phrase handy like “Touch Of Grey.”

© Composer Yoga




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Creative Practice & Songwriting: Internet Radio As A Metronome And Backing Band




Internet Radio For Practice

Years ago when I was a piano student, I learned a bunch of Italian words besides pizza, spaghetti and mobster movie cuss words. These were tempo instructions like vivace, andante, lento, etc—the ballpark beats per minute speed of how to play a particular piece or section(s) within a given composition.

 

Today, I still am a music student and always will be, exploring sonic safaris nowadays on my own. Music is an ever expansive journey I’ve never gotten bored with even after a few decades. Few things in life get more interesting over time but I can honestly say music is one of them. I’m one of those people who still enjoys playing the same few notes over and over in the private ritual we know as practice. There’s a meditative quality to practicing. It gets one out of the logical analytical mind into the realm of the non–verbal, creative side of the brain. The repetition can get you into alpha and theta states of consciousness like repeating various Sanskrit mantras as both are sound patterns we can entrain to. Even so, I admit old school metronomes can become so vanilla.

 

When I was a teenager, I bought that vanilla flavored metronome at a local music store. It was a battery powered stand up unit I used for piano and guitar practice sessions. Aside from it’s intended purpose of setting practice tempos, it also became a running joke between my brother and I. Either one of us would grab it like a Star Trek Tricorder slowly taking “geiger counter” readings while walking into each other’s bedroom, moving the dial to increase the clicking beats per minute, would remark “I’m getting high putziticity readings” (a word we made up). When finally within close range of the actual putz, we’d turn the metronome dial to A 440 for the sustained tone denoting the source of the readings.

 

Actually using the metronome for putz detection was more fun than the reason I bought it for in the first place. But there’s a way to spice up your practice and have it be more interactive. When I discovered internet radio, I had the light bulb moment of having my laptop on my digital grand piano or near my guitar and playing along with the songs. It was like having a band to play with because there’s more instrumentation than just a click. I was now combining two things I really enjoy together—listening to music and practicing musical instruments.

 

You can find themed stations that play genres of music like Chill Lounge that can approximate a tempo for the riff or song you’re learning. A few songs with an average length of 4 to 5 minutes allows you to practice a riff a few hundred times. Then move on to another riff you’re trying to get down. Practice several riffs during a session and cycle though different ones every 5–10 minutes to keep yourself fresh and from getting fatigued with one group of muscles. Let your arms down by your sides and let gravity allow full blood flow and prevent your hands and arms from cramping up. Gently shake out your hands and arms periodically to relax your fingers, hands & muscles. It’s good to use different muscles instead of practicing the same riff for an extended amount of time as it prevents the soreness of repetitive stress and overuse. It’s also better for learning and the kinesthetic muscle memory of the musical patterns you’re laying down for your neurons. Practice isn’t a torture chamber or punishment so be loose and have fun with it. Remember you PLAY an instrument and also play with it.




There’s an endless variety of genres, styles, tempos on internet radio to practice to. Prog stations can offer several different tempos within one song. Listen to 60’s, 70’s, 80’s stations, classic rock, punk,metal, classical, R&B, Doo–Wop, country, pop, instrumental, electronica, disco, dance, techno, hip–hop, jazz, goth, new age, radio stations from other countries, etc. Use your iPod and your own mixes and albums for a metronome as well. The only thing I don’t do is listen to all piano composition stations when I’m practicing piano because it tends to get too garbled together and there’s no drummer on the track to keep time with. So save the Chopin Nocturnes till bedtime.

 

Internet Radio For Songwriting, Riffs & Licks

I also use listening to internet radio or my own mixes/albums to come up riff ideas and songs. Creativity begets creativity. It’s good to launch into some open jamming during your practice sessions. By playing along with songs, I’ve come up with riffs and licks “pretending” I was in the mix on a particular track. It’s the next best thing to jamming with a friend or friends to bounce ideas off each other. The precise robotic clicking of a traditional metronome isn’t very inspiring—it’s about a fun as having the Borg as a backup band.

 

You’ll even surprise yourself how ideas will emerge that aren’t specific to the genre of music you’re listening to. This happens quite often. You could come up with a scorching power metal riff listening to a Kenny Chesney song. No one will know so who cares. And Kenny can’t sue you for inspiring the riff. As long as your lick or riff is substantially more different than the bass line from Queen’s “Under Pressure” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” I’d say you’re in the clear. So don’t be limited by listening to only certain styles & genres for inspiration. Put another way, you may pull that ephemeral hair metal riff out of an Air Supply ballad. And of course never underestimate the power of ABBA and getting in touch with your inner Swede.

 

Maybe someday there’ll be 3D holographic drummer metronome apps where we can swipe through a selection of a Billy Cobham, Neil Peart, Stewart Copeland, Jeff Porcaro, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Max Roach and more but for now, internet radio keeps things inspiring and fun. Practice is the unglamourous hours of woodshedding musicians engage in that often the audience fails to see. They want the abbreviated fantasy of being a “rock star” onstage without punching the time clock of practice. But don’t turn your practice time into assembly line factory work or a cubicle of conformity. Think, play and practice outside the box during your practice sessions. See it as sacred time with an old friend and teacher. Remember, if you don’t spend substantial time in necessary solitude, don’t expect to become a great player and produce great art. Great art is never made in groups. And practice doesn’t have to be boring or regimented torture—give yourself permission to have fun, be experimental, throw in a few windmills now and then.

 

So get on that Metronome radio or Mexican Radio if you’re into that Wall of Voodoo stuff.

© Composer Yoga




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Somewhere On The Road, Somewhere In My Life

(or “I Wrote Most of this Late One Night in a Parking Lot on my Laptop in Southern California”)

 

Somewhere on the road, somewhere in my life…also Somewhere In Time. How could I forget one of my favorite Metal albums of all time?

 

It’s been a few years since I went on a Jack Kerouac style hiatus from the regimentation known as daily life.

 

My GPS indicated I’d driven over 10,000 miles all around the country. It was kind of a social experiment to see what I could learn about myself, face some inherited fears, find out what I’m made of. Dropping it down to what Jimi Hendrix mentioned as “Nothing but existence” in the tune “I Don’t Live Today.” Call it a modern day Vision Quest minus the peyote and Journey soundtrack.

 

On the other side of routine and structure, life is very different having had the experience of the limbo of living that perspective. And seeing it from this perspective shows you we all have “Wasted Years” tracks on the CD grooves of our life just like the rings of a felled tree.

 

Living my version of that Iron Maiden song on the road for half a year traveling the United States, the lyric that gets me the most today is “Another city goes by in the night…”

 

When you’re in that Interstate Love Song & Interstate Love Affair groove and don’t have an address anymore, every city you pass through is home to someone else but just another spot on the map to you.

 

Over time you start to miss little things like your own bed and nice warm showers become something you’ll now feel gratitude for.

 

On this trip, I joined the Cross Country Club—twice that year year driving from the northeast to a southern coast, then did the east to west coast trip. Various songs pop into my head, old memories get triggered from seeing new sights, file cabinets from my back pages slide open integrating new multi sensory connectivity.

 

I’ve added several personal Holy places to my roster of visitations. I’m still thinking about seeing the Vermilion cliffs and Echo cliffs along the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona. I didn’t just see these places, I felt them—interacted with them more than just visually.

 

This seems a sense that gets drowned out when we live lives of desensitization which happens when we do the same thing 900 times—go to the same places, work at the same job, drive on the same roads, have the same routines, have the same conversations.

 

The neurons upstairs take extended Rip Van Winkle naps because they aren’t being stimulated when there’s no substantially different experiences on our plate in front of us.

 

I was never one to see this (what’s considered a “normal” life) as promoting growth and expansion within myself. So it’s been a life of art, particularly music, travel and meditation to keep fanning the flames of Spirit within.

 

If I lived several centuries, I would outgrow every other human experience but these. They will always be larger than me and I grow with them the more intimately I become with them. They are ladders to Divinity.

 

And while the life I lead and some of the things I do may seem crazy, it leads me to deeper Freedoms of Being—reaching the point periodically where I have no name, no address, no titles, no roles to play…

 

None of those things are even close to what I really am, not even close to the REAL me. You realize that on the road, constantly in motion.




I recall first experiencing this state as a classical piano student after practicing for 4–6 hours a day after school. I touched the “Being” state and then would come back to all the surface identifiers we latch onto and use socially—my name, social relationships, my social security number, etc.

 

In fact, they’re pretty laughable and matter little when you tap into the Zero Point of naked existence which has always been more appealing to those of my tribal orientation…Bohemians and Beat Generation reloaded types.

 

I remember walking alongside a massive male elk at the Grand Canyon. I was about 10 feet away and the look he gave me was just that—from the Being state of naked existence. One life form looking at another with no need for conceptions or layers of culturally created identities—just Life, Existence, looking at itself from the mirror of different body designs.

 

I looked into his big eye, watching him casually go about his day, watching his body maneuver in 3 dimensional space, listening to his gait. I smiled taking in the moment, realizing how much more present and sensorily engaged I was compared to the life I left behind.

 

The slower the brainwaves, the more you perceive and more deeply comprehend.

 

The fast pace of normal everyday life makes for thin consciousness. And anorexic consciousness isn’t healthy, calm, joyous or capable of deep peace. It’s a religion of stress, neuroticism and anxiety, regardless of the material or financial carrots it may promise.

 

You up the bar at the same time you drop the limbo into Being. Explore what’s deeper. You won’t have a squad of cheerleaders, you won’t have the support of the majority around you. People won’t understand. Do it still.

 

The surface doesn’t liberate nor is it a wise teacher. The common, the comfortable, won’t forge new alloys of Being. There are Freedoms beyond being physically free.

 

There are wars you will need to fight when all wars on the planet end. There’s no end to the distractions, the “to do” lists, needs, social roles, obligations, that keeps us from making dates with ourselves for greater internal revelations and transformations.

 

It takes time to arrive at what Lao Tzu referred to in the Tao Te Ching as “Doing not doing” —when the musician becomes the music, the dancer becomes the dance. The business card of the Being is but a blank white card—the unstruck chord, the Unpatterned Mind of Patañjali, the sound of one hand clapping…

 

A question to ask is, “Do you know what you need or need what you know?”

 

Two rivers. River “need what you know” is wide enough for a cruise ship, and filled with flamboyant ferry boats with ten piece dixieland bands. River “know what you need” is kayaks only—single file, solo.

 

Each new terrain on that river requires more albatrosses to be jettisoned to go further. Holding on to temporary identities, impermanent things, attachments and situations creates the friction of current. Without them, the currents against you cease.




You can reach the realization through repeated suffering yourself or a Master will tell you the same: “You don’t even know what’s good for you.” You can debate, resist, intellectualize, rationalize with the pancake stack of accumulated ego, socially constructed, culturally reinforced “yous” til Aunt Jemima rocks some dreadlocks.

 

And what will doing so ultimately prove? Learn to listen at the level of Being and you may learn something deeper about yourself and start a more important journey than the cookie cutter career cul–de–sac we all are funneled into to various degrees.

 

Reach the quiet question underneath surface living of “What grade level of Freedom are you comfortable with?”

 

Every time I embark on one of these adventures on the planet, it’s simultaneously paralleled by a corresponding inner journey which is experienced as vividly as the outer scenery. This other facet isn’t something I mention often nor is it easy to convey on the printed page.

 

You’ve heard it said “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.” It’s more than a bumper sticker and J.R.R. Tolkien quote—it’s a way of interacting with life towards self discovery.

 

If you’ve “arrived”, if you’ve defined yourself satisfactorily to forego further revisions, explorations, and the desire of shedding finer and finer layers of the onion—THAT is lost.

 

The constant flow inside the journey becomes home. The journey becomes the goal.

 

It’s the reason I embrace the life I do. I do so regardless of whether it’s understood by those around me, whether it’s right for anyone else, or what others may think I “should” do with my life—because these experiences have taught more satisfying ways to expand my consciousness and creativity than “playing it safe” ever has.

Big birdcages are still birdcages, big fishbowls are still fishbowls

Time and experiences will make the deeper questions surface and get louder

Life is about living the right questions

What grade level of Freedom are you comfortable with?

© Composer Yoga


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