In this week’s blog post, I’m actually going to share an article I wrote for work…that dreaded, corporate 9-5 that allows me to put food on the table, keep a roof over my head, and most importantly guitars in the studio! 🙂 I think the article is timely as we continually see people being downright ugly to each other in social media and in public. I would love to see this change for the better…so here we go:

A Candle’s Flame and the Power of Support
Written by Daron Mack
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While browsing the Internet the other day, I saw a meme that caught my attention. It read:

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

As we all know, the Internet can be a vicious place nowadays, but this particular post made me pause and consider what I’d just read. I closed my eyes and visualized the scenario of lighting a thousand candles with the flame of just one, and it made sense. The flame of the first candle would continue to burn even after ‘giving’ part of itself to another candle. I wondered if this analogy was something that someone made up, or perhaps it had roots in an established philosophy.

I started keying in pieces of the quote, hoping to find the origins of this beautiful concept. Before long, I landed on a site with a curiously funny name (fakebuddhaquotes.com) and began reading. The quote comes from a Japanese book on Buddhism called “The Teaching of Buddha”, and was actually derived from a much longer, yet equally lovely passage, which reads:

“An act to make another happy inspires the other to make still another happy, and so happiness is aroused and abounds. Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. Those who seek Enlightenment must be careful of each of their steps. No matter how high one’s aspiration may be, it must be attained step by step. The steps of the path to Enlightenment must be taken in our everyday life.”

I began thinking of ways that I could incorporate this concept into my daily life, and I found that it was surprisingly easy. Every time I had the opportunity to offer support or encouragement to a family member, friend, co-worker, acquaintance, etc., I took a moment to offer praise or recognition for whatever this person had done or was sharing with me. If someone just needed to vent, I willingly offered my attention, let them get something off their chest, and offered encouragement with regard to their current situation. And guess what…it didn’t hurt one bit. As a matter of fact, I found that I felt better about life in general and my place in it. My light hadn’t dimmed at all.

In today’s highly charged and polarizing atmosphere, it’s easy to get caught up in the wave of emotion that has become a part of our culture. If we step outside of this environment and see each other for what we are, human beings, it’s easy to find moments where a little bit of our own light could help light a candle that is struggling to shine.

Over the last few years, I found myself paying more and more attention to the news and to current events. I was in the know on pretty much everything that was going on in the world from politics, to wars, to he said, she said, etc. I had either heard the story or knew the ins and outs of what went on behind the scenes. I felt that it was important to know what was going on around me, and it gave me a sense of pride to be able to have conversations with nearly anyone, because I was paying so much attention to the news of the day. And it was good…until it wasn’t.

I found that I was getting angry very easily. I was becoming sad. And as I grew more and more despondent, I started to kind of pull away. There is a folksy, indie band that I like called Lowen and Navarro, and they have a lovely song called “The Opposite Of Everything” and this is where I was. I’d gotten caught up in the bullshit of the world and it was having a detrimental effect on me. I didn’t get caught up in silly arguments on social media, but I did have disagreements with family members and over what…a difference of opinion? Ridiculous.

So I stopped. I stopped watching. I stopped reading. I stopped listening. At first, it was kinda hard. I felt disconnected somehow. I had thoughts that I was missing out on valuable information. Turns out I was missing out…I was missing out on the vitriol, the pathetic grasping at straws, and ludicrous leaps in logic in order to prove a point or attempt to “win” an argument. Clarity of thought was gone. Critical thinking was non-existent.

I think my light is slowly but surely returning. I didn’t realize how dim it had become, but I’m glad that I realized it before I’d lost sight of who I was. This isn’t an ostrich with his head buried in the sand kind of thing…it’s self-preservation, and I’m ok with that.

So my goal of releasing my EP this spring has come and gone. And ya know what…I’m ok with it. I kinda had that permission tucked in the back of my head just in case life got in the way…and it did. From sickness, to stress, to slight burnout, to attention being drawn to other musical ideas, life had quite the hand to play in this EP poker game.

I think the lesson here is that it’s ok to allow yourself some grace. Not reaching my goal really only had effect one person…me. If the stakes had been higher, like maybe someone was counting on me, or perhaps my livelihood was on the line, then I would have undoubtedly achieved what I set out to. This was not the case, so I gave myself a break. So spring becomes summer.

By the end of this summer is the new goal, and for this one…I’ll need to be more accountable. I’ve already missed the first goal and we don’t want this to become a pattern, so back to the grind it is. All that’s left is singing (well, then the post production, mixing and mastering) and I’m ready to get to work. No more slacking off, cuz I don’t want this little guy yelling at me…he’s got a bit of a temper!!!

At a routine doctor visit last Tuesday, I casually mentioned that I had a sore throat. Two swabs, a nice, guttural gag sound, and 5 minutes later I’m diagnosed with strep throat…YAY! Ever tried to sing with strep…it doesn’t really work. Another thing came up during my visit…my blood pressure was elevated to a range that I’m just not used to. Sure, being sick and the prescription antibiotics weren’t going to help said blood pressure, but the next couple of days proved to be a little concerning.

Work, that thing that pays for all the goodies that allow me to make music has been really stressful lately. Crazy deadlines and tons of stuff to get done. I even worked a 10 hour shift with a fever after my diagnosis. That’s was a REALLY stupid thing to do and I think it exacerbated every, especially the blood pressure thing. At one point, it got so high that my spousal unit, Kels, suggested that we go to the ER. I didn’t want to be hasty so we put some calming essential oils in the diffuser and started working on getting those numbers down. They eventually returned to and elevated, but not emergent state.

So what’s the take away here? Chill the eff out!!! Slow down!!! The 9-5 grind just isn’t worth getting sick over. I oftentimes forget this, cuz you know…I’m 10 for tall and bulletproof!!! *whispers…no I’m not* So music update this week, just a reminder that there are more important things in life than the 9-5, and I need to just slow the hell down!

Let’s talk about deadlines…the self-imposed kind. I set a deadline (aka goal) to release an EP of original music this spring. Well…it is spring. And I’m not ready to release it yet. I’ve been grinding away in the studio, mixing songs as I go, and I’m in a good place. That is until I think of everything else that has to be done in order to meet my deadline.

Sure, I could go easy on myself but I think holding myself accountable is a better play. For me, whenever I have something I want to accomplish, I’m the first person to yell at me and tell me to get back to work. Self-discipline is an invaluable commodity that we all have at our disposal. We just have to be strong enough to face ourselves when lack of motivation sets in. And it does set in. “I’m tired, I don’t wanna work on music today!” Ok, that’s fine…take a break, take a nap, do whatever. But understand that you’d better work extra hard when you’re done. Being accountable to yourself builds strength and resolve…good character qualities.

Tomorrow will be a busy day in the studio. After all, today is May 12th…the first day of summer is June 21st. That means I have just a little over a month to get this thing done…no pressure, right? Yeah…right! 😳

I’ve been working really hard on my current project…the 4 (maybe 5) song EP that will be released in just a few weeks now. And it feels good. It feels good creating. It feels good writing and recording parts. It feels good putting all these musical pieces and ideas together to make these simple songs, written on acoustic guitar, come to life. It’s hard work, but it’s good work.

I’m not really sure what triggered it, but I got really sad today. I was thinking about all the creative people out there, the musicians, the writers, and the artists who don’t get the opportunity to share their creations with the world. Or maybe they do, but they don’t get to realize how valuable and precious their expression is. Often times, art is taken without a moment’s pause or thought as to what kind of effort went into making something out of nothing. Only the few get the opportunity to make a living producing beautiful things for others to consume.

Right now, I am both grateful and melancholy. Grateful because I am able to make my music…my contribution to the beauty that is art. Melancholy because of those who aren’t able to bring forth the spark of their imagination for the rest of us to see. Tonight, my thoughts are with those who long to share a piece of their soul…to add to the infinite splendor that is creation.

As a Creative, I am my own worst critic (most of us are)…and I’m really hard on myself. So much, that sometimes it’s completely counterproductive to what it is I’m trying to create. Some days are better than others, but when I’m having a particularly ‘hard on myself’ day, my confidence simply tanks. It’s a horrible feeling.

Today was one of those days, and I was telling myself that I’m not a very good singer. Try practicing your parts or recording with that mindset. How can you deliver your best performance when you’re telling yourself that you shouldn’t be even trying?

I think I stumbled on something today, and I tried it out while I was practicing some vocal harmonies. I simply told myself to DGAF! For those that may not know what this lovely acronym stands for, it’s Dont Give A F*ck. I adopted this mindset during my practice today and lo and behold, I started hitting runs and harmonies almost effortlessly. By taking that approach, it basically told my doubting brain to shut the hell up and I just sang from the heart. It was great!

So…the lesson for today…DGAF when you’re being creative. Allow the mojo to flow through you and keep your head out of the way. Just do what you do, stay focused in the moment, and trust that what you’re doing IS good enough, because after all…you DGAF!

Today was not Studio Saturday as I like to refer to my weekend studio time…obviously. Rather, today was whirlwind, round trip, nine hour car drive to pay respect to a sweet little old lady who decided it was time to move on from this plane of existence. Though I only met her a few times, it was a humbling experience to see and hear the ways in which this tiny person made big impacts in people’s lives. Rest easy Alice (aka Grandmother)…rest easy.