New Year, New Spleen – an Old Year Resolution

Happy New Year y’all! Aside from the typical “New Year, New Me!” exclamations I constantly see flooding my social media and other media outlets, this year I’m going to look inside for my resolution – deep inside. The spleen to be exact.

I’m far removed from my Physiology 103 days (holla at me Ryerson) but a quick little Google search tells us that it’s a key organ for fluid balance and blood filtration. Pretty important stuff seeing how blood is the transporter of oxygen, antibodies, and minerals in the body.

It’s interesting how some of the lessons we can learn from are shown to us in some of the most rudimentary examples. We’ve lived in our bodies since day 1 and when we look inward we see the spleen is a great example of how we should approach life.

It’s like our own internal yin and yang – providing balance as long as we give it the right elements to function properly, such as adequate nutrition, water, and minimal stress. But here’s the caveat: we can live without a spleen, just with a lot more difficulty.

Much like ourselves, we can constantly live in the face of adversity and disability, though it would bring a number factors along with it: imbalance, fear, dissatisfaction, etc.

Is this a thriving environment?

This year, I’m going to dig deep and live my truth and passions, making sure that I am balanced through my daily practices: writing, poetry, yoga, Muay Thai, nature, being mindful of the people I spend my time with. This will help to create a balanced environment, filtering out the barrage of negativity that may come my way.

It’s not to say that negativity won’t come my way, that would be an unreasonable and disillusioned way to think. It is to say that no matter what comes my way, I will be prepared.

I’m looking forward to this year and maintaining the balance needed to facilitate and grow beyond my current ceiling.

How are you planning to maintain balance in 2020?

short escape: a poem

Hardy Lake Provincial Park – Gravenhurst, ON

Have you ever had a moment?
A moment where you close your eyes
And all things come to fruition
When that blink becomes eternal
And everything can come true
Someone in this dream says, “Stop dreaming”
Open your eyes and make it happen

Self-Centredness: Focus on Others, Focus on Yourself

Lynde Shores Conservation Area – Whitby, ON

I find myself being more and more as a person of extremes… Sitting in one emotion at a time… Really feeling the wholeness of each pole.

I know that in my music choices, I’ve really sat with music as a whole, listening to very immersive experiences. I’ve been called out that my shit isn’t uppity and happy – true facts.

Super dark, super emotional, super experiential, super complex, super dense… synonyms of the like… super duper.

I’ve repeatedly come back to listening to Clams Casino as his beats and production takes me to the deepest depths of who I am –  reflecting on losses and successes, joy and pain. It helps me to rip myself to the finest ribbons and reconstruct internally to being a stronger more aware person.

I played the single off his latest album, Moon Trip Radio, nonstop when one of my closest aunties passed away (listen below, I suggest listening to it while finishing this article). I moved away from Ontario last November and to be away ate me alive. I constantly questioned, “Is this the right thing? I can’t even be there for my family and friends… what about when they need me the most?”

It was through this experience I became more self-aware; I couldn’t stop life from happening, for myself or others. I learnt that I must continually build and grow, even pivoting away from everything I once knew. If I stayed home, I would have been there for the family but being away, resulted in living fuller and building new relationships necessary for a stronger present/future.

I routinely cry to music – something I don’t admit to a lot. I think it’s good to release; let go and feel “alllll da feeeeeelz”. A spirit can be trampled and broken many times over but if given the chance to repair and reform into a new, truer form – true to who you are now – the pain will subside and a new path will appear from the bushes.

Follow your heart above all else; give it your 100%. No one wants to be given partial effort – no one deserves that, even yourself. If you’re showing up, SHOW UP. When you only show up for obligation and not for the love of it, innately it’s just an act; a ruse.

Authenticity is one of the most beautiful things in this world and I find, more and more, it becoming a rare thing. There’s a lot of trauma behind much of our partialness, but if we don’t have a serious introspective conversation, we are cheating ourselves and the ones we love the most. 

Find focus in centring yourself everyday; whether that be meditation, prayer, going to the gym, poetry, music, etc. Take 5 minutes or 2 hours but it’s time to make authenticity a habit.

Take a deep breath and reach into your pocket. You had the map all along.

We are Queens. – An Interview with Morley

Originally featured on Hollyhock Talks, a leadership and learning blog.

Morley photographed in New York City on October 29, 2001.

I’ve never met Morley before but when I was preparing to interview her, what I discovered was quite daunting: a multi-award winning, activist mobilising, spiritual teaching, classical dancing, singer-songwriter from the “City that Never Sleeps” – New York.

Furthermore, this Hollyhock presenter has been compared to the likes of musical royalty such Joni Mitchell and Sade. I was doing my best to not psych myself out.

When I made the call, the voice on the line was soft and melodic, but at the same time pronounced and powerful, with an accent that transported me onto the F train towards Jamaica, Queens NYC, Morley’s stomping grounds. Each word spoken was laced with passion.

Morley bends musical genres with connections to global sound and natural sound. Being raised in Jamaica, Morley knows what it means to live amongst, what at times felt like, the world. Her love of global cultures and traditions stemmed from going to a UN international elementary school and living in one of the most culturally diverse places in the United States.

The smells and sounds of food and music from the Caribbean, Philippines, India, and Greece stimulated her senses as she marched to the community’s hypnotic drum. It was amongst these differing tastes, languages and cultures, Morley had the revelation: “There is no other world… This is it… We need to humble down and fall to our knees in gratitude for each other.”

No matter where you originally came from, you are Queens.

Culture is: music, dance, food, poetry

Being from Queens meant Morley was in good musical company, with innovators such as Simon & GarfunkelA Tribe Called Quest, and The Ramones hailing from the same borough. Despite breathing the same air as these greats, it wasn’t always this way for Morley.

She wanted to dance and be of the yogic lineage but eventually felt like she could connect deeper with something more primal, more visceral and innate. “Song is the ultimate way to connect… It’s like sitting around a fire in a circle.” Sharing stories, song and tradition.

“All children sing; leave them alone long enough and they will start singing – the main reason why children stop singing is because someone told them to.” Morley explains. I delicately ask, “Did anyone ask you to stop?”

In Morley-style, she enthusiastically confirms. I was puzzled at first with her positive outlook, but it quickly became apparent that resistance was only funds placed in the right investment. She would eventually take singing lessons: she had to sing, one way or another.

[Song] creates vibration in the body and tickles the cells that are
made of water which ripple out like waves. It’s healing.

Morley began her journey through song sheepishly, singing to an audience of one – herself. Her vocal coach advised, “you must sing to the air directly in front of you!” She would master this and then challenge her voice to carry a foot away and then across the entire room. Morley explained to me that she was her own roadblock and the way to overcome it was to change perspective – “it’s 90% psychological and you have to visualize it, then your body can do it.”

Morley has since released 6 albums, named by the New York Times as the Emerging Artist of the Year, awarded Songwriter of the Year by ASCAP, toured globally under the banner of love, justice and inspiration, and has had the honour to perform for His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Ban Ki-moon. Visualization to fruition indeed.

Nature is always in collaboration.

As if she weren’t busy enough with this bevy of work, Morley will be with us for the second time in July. When I asked about the most impactful moment from last year, she found it was simply impossible to pinpoint just one. I suspect it has something to do with being surrounded by the forests and waters of Cortes Island versus the small plots of grass in Queens.

Despite the minimal green space, it was in New York City that she fell in love with the natural world:

“I was 7-8 and we moved to Parkway Village. It is a place where people who work for the UN [live]. There was a little patch of grass in the front of our apartment. I would sit there and they had dandelions… I was vibing out with those dandelions. The contrast of the green and yellow… and the sun! I would sit out there for hours.”

She admits that at that moment the transmission between her human body and the natural world began. The natural world has since become a place of wonder, where she hears sound in all things, even the colours. The vibration of the purple in the flower petals to the buzzing nodes and scales of the bees all providing inspiration for her music.

But even still, there is something about Hollyhock and Cortes Island that is different, something different then going anywhere else. Morley recounts, “[At Hollyhock], everyone comes together to better the planet and themselves.”

Open gentleness is the definite way to continue forward.

That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Being around like-minded people building towards a better tomorrow. Hollyhock is a place of wonder and freedom, where you can let your inner child roam free. A place to rest and refresh; recharge your batteries and tap into a side that you aren’t normally connected to. Join Morley, alongside Sheila Wahsquonaikezhik, in their program “Music for Collective Sound” to flourish your creative spirit through Indigenous tradition, yoga, dance, and song.

As Morley states, “we can write ourselves back into the sun and from the sun – from a big luminous space”.

Shine with us this summer.

A Piece of Peace

Finding peace is one of the many facets of humanity that is necessary but can feel allusive at times. What is peace and why is it so important? Why should I care since life is zooming past me at a 1,000,000 miles per minute? Peace is something that happens even within the wakes of life; it never stops though it may feel diluted at times.

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it.
And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
– Eleanor Roosevelt –

No one said the process would be easy but it is a process necessary to foster growth amongst your peers, your community, and, ultimately, yourself. Peace is knowing there is always something bigger than you and smaller than you; that your hands are but a tool to lift and carry.

Peace is knowing that wherever you are is perfect for where you need to go. Enjoy the moment, a minute is only 60 seconds.