Archive for the 'Games, Exercises & Resources' Category

Release in Action

Posted by on Jul 13 2015 | Games, Exercises & Resources, Songtaneous

Last January I picked RELEASE as my word for the year. Usually, my word for the year or “keyword” works in the background; I go about my business and my word goes about its business and we meet again to review at the end of the year.

This year’s word has proven to be a bit more … noisy. It seems to require attention and action.

(Perhaps because it is a verb?)

When my neighbors moved earlier this summer, I was reminded that it has been over a decade since my last move. When you move often (I used to do it annually), you review what you own in the context of “Is it worth lugging this to my new place?” And, you actually go through all your possessions when you pack them.

When you stay in one place for a while, stuff accumulates. As the trucks full of my neighbors’ boxes came and went, it occurred to me that I hadn’t assessed (or greatly reduced the number of) my possessions in a while.

Then one of my students mentioned a book on tidying during one of her lessons.

When I stumbled across a YouTube video by the author of the same book a couple of weeks later, I could see that my keyword was trying to get my attention.

To date, RELEASE has been mostly a change in mindset. I have been practicing letting go of things I cannot control, being less particular when it really doesn’t matter and releasing opportunities that I don’t really want.

Still, I always knew I was going to need to release some actual stuff. (It is part of the reason I picked the word in the first place.) I have experienced before what happens when you let go of things you don’t really want or need to make space for the things that you do.

Back to the book.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo outlines a method for organizing and de-cluttering your home.

Now I struggled a bit with the book’s title – I think of tidying as a small and oft-repeated task, but the author repeatedly explains that her tidying process only need be done once. (Once I resolved to think of the process as de-cluttering, everything was fine. *smile*)

My first de-cluttering project followed Kondo’s recommendation. Sort by category (not location), starting with your clothes.

I admit to feeling some trepidation about taking the first step – gather all the clothes from everywhere in your house in one place. Once they’re all in one place, then you can sort them.

It took me about an hour to sweep and mop my dining room floor and empty my closets onto it. Despite Kondo’s repeated exhortation to work quickly, I suspected this process would take me a while so I wanted to make sure the floor on which my clothes were lying was clean.


I was right; it took me a whole weekend. Over the course of two days, I handled each item and, as Kondo directs, asked “Does this spark joy?”

Well, it wasn’t long before I began to feel silly asking this question and that it made it hard to get a read on the item’s “answer.” So I added two more questions: “Does this still make me happy?” and “Is it time for this item to leave?”

For many items, I knew the answer the instant I picked up the item. Others spoke less clearly.

Soon I had three piles: keep, discard and … question mark.

Kondo’s book says nothing about a question mark pile, but I have been practicing being less particular about things that don’t really matter so I let myself make one. (Besides, I am pretty sure the question mark pile was a result of my extra questions.)

I pick up a sweater. I ask myself, does this sweater spark joy? Yes! Does it still make me happy? Absolutely. Is it time for it to leave? Yes … ? I pick up the next item. Sparks joy? No. Still makes me happy? Not really. Time to leave? Nope.

(And the question mark pile is born.)

As I mentioned, this sorting took time.

More important, it took a lot of energy.

The reason it took so long is that I could only sort for about an hour before my clothes stopped “speaking” to me. I began to see another of Kondo’s points; the stuff we own/keep has energy.

(Her first point is made when you see all of your clothes in one pile on the floor. Knowing or suspecting you have a lot of something is one thing. Seeing it all piled in one place is another. *rueful smile* My immediate reaction was “I don’t need all these clothes.”)

After I sorted the entire pile of my clothes, I set the question mark pile aside and returned the items in the keep pile to my closets.

Within the week, I dropped off items in the discard pile to a donation center. I know from past experience that getting donations out of the house can be a stopping point for me. As I loaded them into the car, I wished them happy new homes and thought, “Release.”

finished closet (left), clothes pile (top right), sorting (bottom right)

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My 2015 Keyword

Posted by on Jan 05 2015 | Games, Exercises & Resources, Songtaneous

Wow, 2014 was a whirlwind of a year filled with big shows, new workshops and many, many gigs.

My keyword for last year was PRESENT and I think I did.

I premiered my first large-scale improvised composition, Between: A Journey Through the Middle (which was later broadcast on KFAI). I began performing regularly with two groups (BLU-7 and the Give Get Sistet) and I launched a workshop series and collaborated with, instructed and performed with new and returning singers.

My keyword for last year was PRESENT and I think I was. *smile*

The fact that the whole year is a bit of a blur (the way a good improv often is) suggests I was really in the moment for a lot of the year.

As I began to think about my word for 2015 (it usually occurs to me to start ruminating around Thanskgiving), I once again thought about what I would like the year ahead to hold, what word could work for the whole year and also what word might push me a little bit.

In other words, what did I want to be/do in 2015?

Immediately, I realized that I want to share more of the music I create with more people, i.e. finally complete and share some of the footage and recordings I’ve been gathering over the past few years.

I also realized that I wanted the year ahead to hold … less.

Not less music or singers or gigs (never less music!), but less physical stuff.

This might be cabin fever (or spring cleaning sneaking up early), but as I said in this post four (!) years ago, I feel the need to make space. (Keep an eye out for the Songtaneous garage sale. I’m only half kidding.) And maybe less other stuff, too. I want to be more mindful in choosing what projects and responsibilities I take on.

With all that in mind, my keyword for 2015 is RELEASE.

release v.

to free from anything that restrains, fastens, etc.; to give up in favor of another; to give over possession or control of

release n.
the releasing of something for publication, performance, use, exhibition, or sale; the state of being freed

I’m not sure what RELEASE will look like as the year progresses, but at the moment, it has me moving through my apartment and selecting things that will move to a new home. And when the part of me that wants to hang onto something comes up, I gently prompt it to release. I remind myself that hanging on to stuff that I might – but don’t actually – use likely stops up energy in some way. It also helps me to think that someone is out there wanting and hoping for the exact thing that I am letting go.

Besides, if can I let go of the things I sort of want, perhaps I can make room for the things I really want.

My friends and family are jumping on the keyword bandwagon, too. (Feel free to borrow a word you like.)

explore, allow, willing, thrift, start, finish, rejuvinate, birth, flourish, savor, simplify, balance, create, dare, abundance, discover, nourish, nurture, wellness, health, perform, discipline, shimmer, wealth, empower, embody, authentic, rebound, be, imperfect, share, focus, present

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My Keyword for 2013

Posted by on Jan 06 2013 | Games, Exercises & Resources, Songtaneous

This will be the fifth time I choose a keyword for the year. As I have said before, for me the process of finding my keyword is the important part. Spending time reviewing the year behind and thinking and daydreaming about what I would like to accomplish in the year ahead have become significant steps in my planning.

I’m particularly interested in how the word points me a direction which often turns out to be somewhat different from what I thought I was planning. (This has stopped surprising me. After all, it happens all the time when I sing spontaneously.)

Here’s what I mean.

Last year, I chose the word CREATE. As is common for me at the end of 2011, I was feeling the need to get off my keister and “plan” for the new year. I picked CREATE with visions of performance and recording projects dancing in my head.

And I did create things in 2012, just not so many performances or recordings.

I thought my focus would be performing, but it ended up being teaching. I created workshops and lesson packages and began work on another blog (more on that soon).

All of that creating was important. Developing these new teaching “products” allowed me to put new systems in place in my “business” and, more important (and more fun!), to meet and teach new singers.

Still, I remember having to give myself permission to move in the teaching direction a number of times over the year. “This isn’t what you’re supposed to be creating!” my inner critic scolded. But, any time I tried to move in another direction, I felt like I was forcing things and it just wasn’t working. (Note: this doesn’t work when you improvise either. *smile*)

See, one of the things I discovered during my time working in publishing is that, for me, some things have a time and season.

I might struggle and struggle to gain traction on a project and then one day — poof! — it just isn’t a struggle anymore.

The task doesn’t get easier or go away, but, suddenly, I can see a way to accomplish it. More important, I have the energy to accomplish it.

Perhaps my subconscious has fiddled with it long enough to find a solution or a plan of attack. Maybe other priorities have shifted, maybe I just got a good night’s sleep, but somehow this project that had been impossible is now … well … possible.

So when developing and scheduling lessons and workshops seemed easy and figuring out the performing/recording stuff didn’t, I took a cue from my past life and did what was easy.

(Hey, there’s a reason water follows the path of least resistance. And lest you think doing what’s easy is lazy or cheating, remember that over time water can wear away rock.)

Right. Back to this year’s keyword.

So like I said, it usually takes me a while to find my keyword. I ponder and rifle through words, try them on and discard them. It’s a process. I think abstractly (or big picture) about what I did in the previous year and what I feel like I need to attempt next and then I start to gather words that seem connected to that idea. After a while, one of the words will resonate. I feel that “click.”

This year was different. About the middle of last month, I began thinking about thinking about my keyword. (*smile*) After all, it was December and I typically reveal my keyword in January so I knew I should set aside some time to “work” on it, but I hadn’t yet.

During a holiday visit, my family asked me about this whole keyword “tradition” of mine. Did the word change over the year or did I change my interpretation of the word based on the year. (Both. *smile*)

My dad asked me if you had to wait for the right word to come to you or did it happen instantly. I explained that for me it usually took a while, but I thought if you had a strong, visceral and immediate reaction to a word, well, then that was probably your word. (And, just like that, my dad found his word. Show-off. *grin*)

Then my brother-in-law joked that his word for the 2013 should be “finish.” I blithely chuckled that finish did not need to be my word.

“I’m a very good finish- er.” I said. “Ha ha, my keyword for 2013 needs to be … ”

Uh oh.

As a friend of mine says — when I know, I know.

My keyword for 2013 is START.

“Start – to set moving, going, or acting; to set in operation; to establish or found; or to begin work on”

I know START is my word because I had a strong, visceral and immediate reaction, more like being hit over the head than a click (plus it made my stomach hurt). Those of you who know me know my … er … challenges with starting.

I struggle, I stutter, I spin, I stagnate. (And, yes, I survive.)

Part of me is (more than) a little terrified that START is my keyword. But as my mom says “you should do something that scares the hell out of you every five years or so.”

So in honor of year five … time to START.

Looking for your own keyword? Here are some ideas:

share, focus, explore, allow, release, start, finish, relax, birth, flourish, savor, simplify, balance, dare, prosperity, plant, discover, nurture, wellness, creativity, discipline, perform, shimmer, power, authenticity, beam, be, imperfect …

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