Saturday, November 5, 2011

The healing power of "Radio Head"

My life has always had a playlist. I get songs stuck in my head & they loop over and over and, mostly, I enjoy it. I call it "radio head". I'm one of those people who really relates to; I mean, really responds energetically to, music. Maybe that's true for everyone, I don't know, but it's true for me. And because it's true for me, I learned years ago that I had to be careful about what I listen to & when. If I'm a little down about something and I go off & listen to Joni Mitchel's Blue, I can slip into the quicksand of depression so fast it's hard to pull myself back out! So, I've learned not to indulge, not to wallow, unless I consciously want to (and sometimes I really, really want to).

I learned pretty early that music could bring me down but it took me a lot longer to realize that I could do the opposite. That I could lift my spirits (and raise my energy) by playing music that inspired me & made me happy.  That realization made house cleaning sooo much more enjoyable! If you come to my house & you hear disco coming from the bathroom, rest assured that I'm in there cleaning! Aretha Franklin or Mavis Staples can turn the drudgery of "what's for dinner?" into soul food! If you are lucky, you will hear the music coming through speakers caressing my less than "queen of soul" vocal abilities. But many times, it's just me, singing along to my "radio head". If you live with me, you learn to live with it (the alternative being that you go hungry or have to clean the bathroom yourself!)

I recently discovered another use for my "radio head" that has literally transformed me. I am studying the spiritual philosophy of the Toltecs. You may have heard of the book, The Four Agreements? That was written by a Toltec shaman, don Miguel Ruiz (I highly recommend this book! so simply put and profound!). Anyway, a big part of the work (at least for me) is getting past the mind chatter, or mind "vomit" as my teacher so delicately puts it.
Now, I don't know about you but my mind loves to spin a story! I'm a wife, a mother and a chronic worrier. My mind can conjure up a worst case scenario so fast it would make your head spin! Honestly, I should write for the Spanish Telenovellas! If my husband doesn't return my calls for a couple of hours my mind will have him dead on the side of the road.  My kid is late getting home; abducted. I'm not kidding! It's that bad! My head will have me standing over my beloved's grave or standing in front of the cameras pleading for the safe return of my child, before I even know it's happening! Can you imagine what kind of stress it must put on my body to have those stories play out in my head? And, if you didn't catch it on your own, my stories usually have me in the staring roll of victim! I'm left alone, I'm standing over the grave....
All my stories aren't so telenovella. I have your basic, run of the mill victim rants too. There are the ones that I use against myself, "I screwed it up again! How can I be so stupid?"  And the ones I use to distance myself from others, "how could he leave his dirty dishes on the table AGAIN after I've asked him countless times not to!?!" These rants are actually more insidious than the worst case scenarios because they're harder to catch, and before I know it, I'm really pissed off at myself or my kids and I'm spiraling out of control. YUCK!
So, a few months ago, during my class at the Toltec Center, our teacher was talking about techniques to quiet the mind. People often think that meditation is the only way and those same people are often quick to say, "meditation doesn't work for me" and then they give up (have to admit, I was one of those people!). "Mind vomit is a habit. You just need a new habit." She asked us to take a few minutes and try to come up with an idea; something we could do when we realized that our mind was running amok, something to stop the "mind vomit" in it's tracks.

Now, I dont really know where my idea came from; I'm not really good at coming up with ideas in the spur of the moment and, honestly, when this one hit me, I thought it was just plain silly. But we were going to go around the room and share and I was sitting to the left of the teacher and there was a good chance that I was going to have to speak first (which meant that I wouldn't be able to steal anyone else's idea).

And that's how it went down. I had to share first, so, reluctantly, I went with it. What had come to me was this; every time my mind went into overdrive, I would shut it down with a little ditty that I had learned as a kid from the Muppet Show. It doesn't have real words, just silly sounds, and it has some positive memories associated with it for me. It's the Manamana song. Do you know it?
It's these 3 monsters, and one of them starts singing "Manamana" & then the others chime in with "Do do de do" and then they go around again. But then the Mana guy goes off on a tangent of Manas until he's reeled back in by the other two. Like I said, silly! But it got some good feedback in the circle and I decided to actually give it a shot. I would try to override the mind vomit with silliness!
And you know what? It worked! I mean it worked really, really well! At first, I was only using it to override my negative self talk (that was what we had been specifically working on in class), but very quickly I learned to use it to shut down the judgmental voice that bitched internally about other people. Once I got intentional with my Manamana song, I became aware of a couple of other songs that have been in my top10 "radio head" playlist for a really long time, just waiting to be put to good use!

One of them is John Lennon's Mind Games. Great song! There's only one line from this song that's part of my radio head, "Love is the answer...and you know that, for sure". It's like a beautifully melodic mantra. I can play it over and over in my head and never tire of it. It lifts me up. It brings me peace. Sigh....The other song is "Shake Your Groove Thing" by Peaches and Herb. They hardly belong on the same playlist, I know! But I have very eclectic tastes and they both really works for me. And Shake Your Groove Thing can shake off the mind vomit (okay, that imagery is kinda gross!) and draw in some pretty powerful energy really fast! Both these songs were already programed into my radio head but now I was realizing that I could play them whenever I wanted. I could use them to override the mind vomit!
Look, I'm not saying that my mind never goes into overdrive and that I'm living a completely centered and grounded existence. I wish! I'm really new to this "living with intent" stuff and I'm working really hard at it. But hard isn't always hard and sometimes it's actually fun! Faster and easier than I'd ever imagined possible, my mind chatter has quieted. I AM more at peace inside myself, and, hey, I've actually started listening to some guided meditation and it's working for me! I CAN learn to quiet my mind!
And you know what? On the days when I can't seem to keep the mind vomit from creeping in, I now know that I have tools. And that's when I turn on my radio head (with INTENT!) & get my GROOVE on!

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