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Posts Tagged ‘strum break’

Aloha, gang!  Reposting a favorite (and very timely!) blog entry today.

Happy Aloha Monday!


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Auē!  How has time passed so quickly these last few days?

Wasn’t it only yesterday that we were beginning the 12 Days of Christmas??

It seems like everything is due at once.  Like the pot on the stove has come to a full boil.

And with that–my blood pressure (and my anxiety level!) soars!

Know what that means?

It’s time for a strum break.

Ok… maybe SEVERAL strum breaks.

Ok… maybe several strum breaks EVERY HOUR!

And I need to remember to take deep breaths.

I don’t know about you, but when I get all stressed-to-’da-max, my breath becomes shallow.  And that’s just plain dumb.  I mean, what good is that doing?  It adds to the anxiety!

Oh!  And I need to remember to say, “Aloha” a lot.


I had to run to the grocery store this morning. Standing in line at the checkout counter–a few people away from it being “my turn” to check out–it seemed like everything was moving in SLOW MOTION.  And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you: I NEEDED IT TO MOVE AT LIGHTING SPEED.

Instead of freaking out (which very easily could have happened!) I looked at the people around me and silently said to each of  ’em, “Aloha.” 

Something happens to me–physiologically–when I say it.  It almost always brings a smile to my lips.

Did it help?

Well, I can tell that it sure helped me through a panic-situation.

And maybe that helped everyone around me, too… Even if it was only because I wasn’t freaking out.

Strumming, remembering to take deep breaths and saying, “Aloha.”–that’s how I’m gonna get through these next few days.

How are YOU surviving the holidays??


Does this scenario sound familiar to you:

I set out this morning ready to tackle a huge TO DO list.

I mean, I really wanted to make some progress today!  I wrote (what felt like a zillion!) tasks on a sheet of paper.  And then I even put little boxes beside the items on the list so that I could enjoy checking them off.  (I used to to that when I was still working my “corporate gig.”  It helped when we were overwhelmed–allowed us to see that we were making progress even when we felt like we were drowning.)

I poured myself a big ol’ mug of steaming coffee and settled in for a great day of work.

And then I hit a wall.  See, I wanted to make a recording of a new song I’m working on–just a rough demo.  But a full-on traffic jam formed on my street (which NEVER happens!)–complete with blaring horns and car alarms singing in dissonant harmony.   And then sounds of construction/jackhammers/heavy equipment started.  Oh well… wait until later….

And then I hit another wall.  Putting the ‘ukulele and the digital recorder aside, I went down to the basement to put in some laundry.  But when I got to the laundry room, I saw that all of the machines were in use.  Oh well… wait until later…

And yet another wall.  I headed back up to the apartment to do some admnistrative-esque work.  I started to write emails to folks, but I realized I didn’t have all of the necessary information to write the text.  I needed to email other people and then wait to get that information before proceeding with my original email. Oh well… wait until later…

It seemed like everything I was doing was destined to either collapse in front of me or be put on the “need to wait until later” list.  And that wasn’t what I’d hoped the day was going to be like.

But then I got a hold of myself.  I mean,

It wasn’t like the world was conspiring against me.

(Even though it totally felt that way at the moment!)

I just needed to find the “right” task/job for RIGHT NOW.

So I picked up my ever-faithful ‘ukulele and strummed a few chords. (You guys know how much I value a good strum break!)  And that lead to a few more chords.  And that reminded me that Pops had asked me to learn a song before I head to Molokai later this month so that we could work on it together.  Feeling inspired, I dug around and found the song and sat down and plunked my way through it.  And, again.  And, again.  (I’ll need to work on this song a lot before I head to Molokai!)

It was the PERFECT job for the moment.

It blocked out the sounds of traffic jam and the construction.

And it calmed me down.

Right on.

TO DO lists are cool.  But I need to remember that I may need to juggle the items around a bit.

It’ll all get done.


Happy Monday, gang.


Tug ‘O War

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Today I found myself caught in a tug ‘o war.

On one side: I was stuck in the future: So many projects happening all at once. I was thinking that maybe I’ve put too many irons in the fire at one time. How am I going to get ‘em all done? How can I do ‘em all well? Filled with anxiety.

And then, of course, I also found that I’d been dreaming about the potential success that these projects bring. The accolades that could be/might be there.

On the other side: I was trapped in the past. I could see so many missed opportunities. I could see things I should have done differently. I was playing the “If only I’d…” game.

And then, of course, I also found myself basking in the sweet memories of things that have gone well. Things that went according to plan. Or even better than I’d anticipated.

The problem with all of this? I wasn’t moving! I was stuck! 

It’s like BOTH sides of the rope had an equal pull.  Both sides were locked.  And so was I.

After what felt like HOURS of sitting and fretting and daydreaming, I realized what was happening. So I had to stop. And breathe.

And I took a strum break. The sound of those four simple strings always helps to bring me back to the present moment and helps me to focus! (And to be totally honest, sometimes I find myself calming down just by looking at an ‘ukulele. Simply knowing it’s there brings a smile to my face.)

I had to remind myself that the only reality is the present moment.  

Yes… I have a lot of things on my plate. But fretting about them or dreaming about their potential outcomes doesn’t help me to move forward. Instead, I’m stuck.

And likewise, worrying about things I’ve done wrong in the past or basking in the glow of past accomplishments doesn’t move me forward, either.

So I’ve set a timer to remind me to take conscious breath every hour.

And I’m keeping an ‘ukulele within arm’s reach.

And I’m making (tiny!) movements forward. One at a time today. But movement–any movement!– is good.

Movement is not stagnation.  And I’m grateful for that.

Right on.

*What do YOU do when you find yourself in a tug ‘o war between the past and the future?  How do YOU return to the present moment?


Two weeks ago, I wrote about how I’d been noticing my posture and breathing when I was playing the ‘ukulele.

(Please click HERE to read that post.)

And I recognized that my posture and my breathing could use some attention.  In short, I wasn’t happy with what I saw.

I woke up this morning with a bit of a stiff neck.

I sat down at the computer and worked for a while.  And instead of subsiding, the headache only got worse.  It felt like it was developing into one of those blinding, migraine-esque headaches that leave me sick and laying in the dark on the bathroom floor.  I couldn’t afford to take the day off.  I needed to press on and work.

So I paused for a moment and observed how I was sitting.

My head and neck were tilted toward my right shoulder.  And my left shoulder was moving closer and closer toward my left ear.  (Note:  This is the position I often find myself in when I’m strumming the ‘ukulele–with the left shoulder raised and the head tilted to the side.)

Um… hello?  Maybe this was ADDING to the headache that I was experiencing!  What a wake up call!

Instead of forcefully correcting my posture, I did something new.

I just said to myself, “I need to give my head, neck and shoulders more space.”  Somehow, that translated to a shift in my body.  Instead of JAMMING my shoulder down, it was like it “let go” of the tension necessary to hold it up by my ear.  Instead of FORCING my head back to a more neutral, centralized position in the middle of body/ribcage, it more or less corrected itself.

It was like my body instinctively knew how to fix the problem–and how to do it without adding to the stress.

And almost instantly, I noticed some of the pain in my head had subsided.  Cool!

I would love to tell you that I’ve maintained this newly adjusted posture ever since that moment.  Ha!  Only a few minutes later, I paused, again, and checked in.  And I had resumed that twisted, contorted posture all over, again.

So, I began–again!–and repeated what I’d said before.

And–once again!–my body responded and shifted to a more neutral position.


I realized that I’m going to need to be persistently gentle in my observations.  And persistently gentle about releasing of tension in my head, neck and shoulder.  Like a child who needs to be reminded.   That’s the key–like a child who needs to be reminded.

Instead of beating myself up and adding to the stress, I’m simply beginning, again.

Starting new.  Observing.  Reminding.  Shifting.

Each time.  Every time.

In my last post, I used the words sad, shocked, horrified, and hopeful.

Now the words I’d add are curious, persistent and gentle..

Observing my posture with curiosity.  What IS my body’s position?  Why do I keep going back to a posture that adds to the stress?

And I’m curious to see what happens with persistant and gentle reminders instead of forceful and demanding gestures.

I’m reframing how I look at things.  Even the language that I use with myself.

And it’s helping.  Slowly.

Awareness.  Curiosity.  Gentle persistence.

Right on.

How about you?  Have you taken notice of your posture and breathing?  What have your experiences been like?  Drop me a line!  I’d love to hear from you.


It’s been a long afternoon of work.  Sitting in silence at my desk, concentrating on getting the job done.  But it’s time for a much needed strum break!   The sound of those four simple strings can take away so much of the stress that’s been building up all day.

I reach over for my ʻukulele (Yes… I like to keep one within arm’s reach!) and get ready to strum.  I hold the ʻukulele against my body.

And then I stop.

I notice my body’s position.  My shoulders are crooked.  The left shoulder is pressed up toward my ear and then juts away from my body at a strange angle.  My feet are not planted evenly on the ground. The right knee is raised, the ankle is rolled toward the floor and the right foot balances on the side of the ball and the big toe.  My hips are crooked.  My neck is tight.

I notice the quality of my breath.  Instead of being steady and even, I see that it comes in short bursts.  Gasps.  My ribs are concave, compressing my lungs and diaphragm.  I couldn’t take a deep, well-supported breath if I tried.

I’m a mess.

But this isn’t unusual.  In fact, this is the position that I can be found in quite often when I’m playing.  How sad is that?

And you know the saddest part?  I’ve only recently realized this.

A strange (and wonderful!) series of events and coincidences over the past two weeks have given me the opportunity to step back and view my body and breath–two things I rarely think about.  Ok… maybe I haven’t thought about either of them in a long, long time.

Except for the times that my body has “failed me” by being in pain or having something SO WRONG that it prevented me from doing what I wanted to to do.

So when I remember, I stop.  I notice.

And I’m shocked.  And horrified.

These are my “habits” and my body has grown used to them.  Was I aware of body placement in the early days, when I was just beginning to strum and sing?  Maybe… But it’s been so long that I’ve grown lazy and complacent  and my playing/singing has surely suffered from it.

And I’m hopeful.

Because now that I’m aware of them, I can do something about it.  I can make changes.  I can take a moment to relax and breathe deeply for a few conscious breaths.  I can remind myself to “let go” in the shoulders.  To plant my feet on the ground. To open my chest with ease.

I wasn’t aware of my “unsupportive habits” before.  And so I continued to reinforce them–allowing them to grow stronger every day.  Every time I picked up the ʻukulele to strum.  Every time I opened my mouth to sing.

It has taken a long time to build those habits that don’t support a healthy body or sound.

It will probably take a long time to get used to building new, more supportive habits.

It will probably take a long time to build the habit of simply stopping and noticing the quality of the body and the quality of the breath before I begin to play.

But that’s ok.  I’m in this for the long run.

It’s a process.

One step at a time.

Awareness is a good first step.

Right on.

Are YOU aware of your the quality of your body and your breath throughout the day? Drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you!


The Crooner with the Twitching Eye

Monday, November 14, 2011

I woke up this morning with a twitching eye.

It was kind of fun–for maybe the first 30 seconds.  It was like looking at a video that was made using a shaky camera.

And then it stopped being fun.  Auē!

Pops is always reminding me: Nānā i ke kumu.  Look to the source.


I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep last night, but the dreams I remember having were far from restful.

I was having “waiter dreams”–dreams of working as a waiter, again. That’s usually a sign that I’m under a lot of stress.  (The dreams always take place in a restaurant where I worked when I first moved to NYC.  It was one of the most stressful times in my life.  I loved waiting on the customers, but the restaurant, itself, was a toxic environment for me.  It’s very telling that I return to that place and have stress-filled dreams when my waking life has become stressful, don’t you think?)

And I’ve had insomnia a lot lately.

Nights where I’m physically exhausted–but I can’t calm down and relax mentally.  I will lie in bed and wrestle with ideas (some fun and some, well, not-so-fun), tossing and turning, before I finally just head back to the couch and “zone out” until the sun comes up.

The twitching eye is physical manifestation of what’s happening: I’m just plain ol’ stressed out.

And that’s ok.  Stress happens. That’s part of life.  (Yes, even an Accidental Hawaiian Crooner can become stressed out!  Ha!)

I know the stress-filled period will pass.  That’s a guarantee.

In the meantime, I just need to to find a way to deal with this period as consciously as I can.  And I need to be conscious about my physical/emotional health so that I can deal with the stresses as they happen.

That means I’ll be taking lots of strum breaks.  And I’ll be listening to (& singing!) songs that make me happy.  And taking time–real time–to rest.  Recover.  Recharge.

Right on.

How do YOU deal with periods of stress?