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                                                                                                                                     ~ Anais Nin
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Making Music and Spirit Shine

What To Do When There's TOO Much To Do

by Meredith Blis on 06/17/15

So alas is life – too much to do and it feels like too much to keep up with it all.  Your brain feels like crazytown and there’s a list a mile long.   Relax!  I got ya covered.  Here are some thoughts for culling the anxiety and helping you get the to-do’s DONE.
 

  1. Clear Out the Non-essentials!
Look at the To-Do List. Focus on what needs to happen NOW. Let go of everything that’s non-essential or doesn’t point directly to your next steps. Allow yourself to prioritize and say NO to everything else!
 
  1. Taking Care of YOU is an Essential
This means proper sleep, diet & down-time.  These are the places where it’s easy to skimp. Getting to bed late and waking up early, eating unhealthy food on the run, not drinking enough water and staying full tilt for days on end.  Reminder to self:  If you want to function at full capacity you need to give your body time to rest and your brain/organs the proper nutrients & hydration. Support your body and it will go the extra mile for you

 
  1. Ground Thyself!
What are things you do to help you feel calm, centered and balanced? Make a list! AND include these activities everyday or least once a week. My list is things like hiking, getting out in nature, going to the gym or yoga class, meditation, down time with friends (positive people please!), going to bed early.  I think for everyone, exercise (even a 10 min walk) is truly beneficial for clearing the mind and also alleviating stress.  Allow yourself the time to take care of you.

     4.  Brain-Drain

Grab a pen an write down a master list of all that needs to get done.  Getting it out of your brain and onto paper creates a clearer mind and lays a solid foundation to organize and prioritze

    5.  Watch your words
When things are nuts, I often have the habit of saying to myself and others around me, "Oh My I'm so busy - Things are so hectic" etc, etc....   When we repeat words that talk about the frenzied state, it sends a message to our subconscious mind that we are frenzied AND it confirms that mind-set within us.  You are what you speak!   Instead I remind myself that yes, although I have a lot going on....  It's all good and I'm gonna get it all done & it's gonna work out....  this piece of self-talk helps me tremendously to calm down and focus :)

One Last Thing..... 
Oftentimes, the too much to do stems from life transitions. In these moments, I like to remind myself…“The only thing that stays the same is Change.” 
I first heard this quote in a Melissa Etheridge song, but I’m sure the expression is also commonplace.  And that’s it – Change is an inevitable part of our growth.  It’s what launches us toward reaching our goals.  The hard truth is that it can feel scary.   Remembering this little phrase helps me to stay grounded and keep the faith that the universe has plan – I just need to take a step back, trust, and allow it to unfold….

Well, I’m so glad that I got a chance to drop a line before I head out on Friday.  IF I don’t drop a line while I’m away, it’s no love lost for YOU – but I’m taking some down-time ;)

Wishing you joy, love, light and a magical day!

Do It Your F***ing Self...

by Meredith Blis on 05/27/15

This weeks article is a guest post from a blog written my one of my favorite people – a dear friend who is also a super talented musician!  Welcome Ashley Norton to ‘Making Music and Spirit Shine.”  And boy does she! Check out her music  Whitherward.com.  The duo also includes another one of my favorite people, also an incredible musician and dear friend – Ed Williams.  They actually did a cover of 'Fade to Dust' on their Video Blog, “Morning Breath” last month – I was super honored.  You can check that out here - http://bit.ly/whitherblis
 
Ashley wrote this amazing, fiery blog post a few weeks ago.  I thought it was so on point, inspiring as well as great advice for indie musicians & beyond....
Hope you enjoy it!  (apologies if the expletive offends anyone ;)
Sending you Light, Inspiration and JOY
All My Love,




------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DO IT YOUR FUCKING SELF
by Ashley Norton

I've been a professional singer-songwriter for about 10 years now. What I 
mean by that is getting paid to do it. I've been in rock bands, country projects, wedding bands, chick groups and indie duos. I've toured across the country countless times, played large festivals, and the tiniest bars you never knew existed. I've performed for audiences of 2 and audiences of 3,000, and have had just as much fun at both. I've worked in Nashville and have written songs with well over 100 different artists, some with big names, some not so much, and have had just as many hits with both (zero.) I've made albums with guys you hear on the radio. I've had famous producers, managers, record deals, and I've been screwed over many times (I swear I have a point here.) I moved to Music City 5 years ago to hire a team of people to do the behind-the-scenes work I was so tired of doing my fucking self. Like many of us, I wanted to solely focus on my craft. This, is the only mistake I've ever made.

After assembling, disassembling and re-assembling my "team" about 5 times, I was ready to pack it all in. I was so frustrated by what I perceived as failures and felt completely lost. I was jaded enough to think that failure meant not hearing my songs on the radio. I was severely depressed and swimming in black holes, having just gotten back from touring with a rock band, which didn't go very well. But that's a story for another time.

This was the point at which I was approached by my dear friend and favorite co-writer, Edward Williams. He was in a similar state of mind and proposed putting together an acoustic touring duo called Whitherward. The way he worded it was, if it's not fun, we don't do it. I thought that sounded pretty good. But with my recent discouragement, my expectations were low, so I was surprised at how smoothly everything came together. It felt natural, as if I woke up and there was an EP finished and gigs booked. What I hadn't realized yet was that this was because we were doing it our fucking selves.

In the beginning, we would often say things like "We need an agent." "We need a manager." "I don't know how to book a tour." I had been so focused on building my team that I lost the zest I had before I moved to Nashville. After a few months, we were approached by two different local booking agents who wanted to work with us. But there were problems.

It's amazing how the universe sometimes gives you exactly what you need. I had been earning extra income by dog walking, and many of my clients were suddenly moving away. So I was broke, but I had a lot of extra time on my hands. One of our booking agents wasn't getting us enough shows and the other lost us a big festival gig because of an unmentionable incident that we had no part of. I didn't understand why I couldn't get my team together. Then the light bulb went off. I said "fuck it," quit bitching and started using my new found time to make some calls and e-mails. After all, who is going to work harder on my project then me?

Soon after, Ed and I had a pow-wow and came up with another rule for Whitherward: No more relying on other people. We became a completely independent 2-person operation. He does most of the recording, editing, uploading, web design, and tech stuff. I do most of the booking, newsletter writing, networking and social media, and we share these responsibilities too. Some we were already experts on (e.g. Ed has his engineering degree) and some of them we had to learn by trial and error (e.g. booking is a bitch). But we kinda just figured it out and it must be done!

Now, if anyone wants to help us, we welcome it with open arms. Turns out, we can't do everything alone, and aren't afraid to ask anymore. But we don't rely on it. We use photographers, videographers and other musicians on our projects, but again, if they fall short, we've got it covered. We often reach out to those willing to spread the good Whitherward, especially when it comes to campaigns, sponsorship, shows and social media growth. But we usually throw in some kind of free download incentive in exchange for this aid. And to those gracious enough to share their couches, beds and meals with us while we are out on the road sharing our music with you, we are more grateful for than words can express.

All that being said, one day we might just become too big for ourselves and will need to hire managers, agents and a label. At that point we will re-adjust our plan. But right now, I'm writing this on our way to Las Vegas from Salt Lake City, to perform the second of our 11 show tour, booked and promoted all in-house. Then we are going home to Denver to record our third self-produced EP, and will be touring full-time this summer. We quit our day jobs, which is both scary and invigorating. We already have 20+ dates booked in July up the entire West Coast, and that is only the beginning. I no longer see myself as a failure and finally realize how lucky I really am. I get to travel across the country performing music that I love for amazing people. This is the most enlightening thing that has ever happened to me. This is the power in taking control of your life. So quit your bitching. Do it your fucking self...whatever it is.
Ashley E. Norton

The 2 Sides of Stubborn... & a little secret about me ;)

by Meredith Blis on 05/13/15

OK! Here’s the secret. I hate to admit it…. But …. Perhaps, I’m stubborn. 

I have an friend who used to tease me about it. At the time, I just thought HE was the stubborn one – but perhaps he saw something in me that I didn’t. Friends can be good for that outside perspective :) Thanks SKY.
 
I remember a trip I took, with a different friend, to Greece many years ago.  Overall it was gorgeous and amazing, but there were some glitches along the way.  In most of those instances, the first answer we got from people was, no we can’t fix this.  In every instance, I ignored the No, kept on pushing and managed to change the situation for the better… (do you hear the word stubborn here?!?!)
 
My friend said, “You should write a book on how not to take NO for an answer”  ha!!! 
 
**My theory is that this comes from so many years in the music business – survival often depends on pushing past/ignoring the word NO

Or perhaps….. my pals are right – I’m plain old stubborn ;)
  
The word stubborn technically means  having or showing dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
 
Yikes! That’s intense. So… Why is that sometimes a positive trait?
Well, I got us a sweet suite in Athens!  AND…… If I did the general math…..
For every publisher/artist who’s passed on a song of mine there’s been one who’s picked up that same song. 
 
When we remain unshakeable as we work towards dreams and goals- it can be an important asset to be Stubborn.   Especially, if you are in an occupation where there’s fierce competition or hundreds of  different opinions coming at you about what’s ‘right’ or ‘good’. But let’s take a second to look at BOTH sides of the coin.
 
The Dark Side of Stubborn
It can ruin opportunity, friendships, and our best intentions.  We need to realize when being inflexible is shutting down opportunities or creating a lack of compassion for ourselves and others.  Take a step back and listen...
 
Are you hearing the other persons side?
We’ve all seen that stubborn dude/gal who won’t change their mind even in situations where it’s in their best interest.  This is when stubborn can be dangerous. It’s self-destructive to be so invested in being RIGHT that you fail to see the myriad of other opinions.  
 
Why bother yielding?
Assess your final goal for the situation.   Here’s what I mean…
Recently, a co-writer completely changed elements of a song we wrote and recorded a demo without really consulting me. My feelings were hurt.  This is a reminder of why It's important to remain aware when our stubborn affects other people.   
More importantly,  I had to sort through my creative stubborn vs. the bigger picture which is getting it picked up by a country artist.  I write with country people cause I need more experienced input in that genre.   Do I still prefer this version? No.  But is this rendition perhaps a better fit for the final goal?  Yes.  So in this instance, It’s important to send my stubborn on hiatus, vacation and out of the building!  I think this one is especially hard when our passion and creative voice are on the line.  It's all good now, and I think the key was communicating together- seeing all sides instead of only talking to our inner stubborn.
 
Why stubborn can sometimes be magic…..
Reframe the word "Impossible". Did you know you can break it up in to…  I’m Possible!!!   Most great things have been accomplished after someone has been told (usually multiple times!)  You Can’t Do That – That’s Impossible.  However the individual persevered, believed in their vision, ignored the naysayers and got it DONE.   Sticking to your vision, listening to your heart, following your dreams at all costs?  That’s when Stubborn can be a beautiful thing!!!
 
I think it’s important to remember that every situation is unique with lots of options. Perhaps the balance is making sure that we’ve taken the time to consider all sides. And keep in mind…
+ We don’t need other peoples permission to follow our hearts.
+ We don’t need to always to be ‘right’.
 
What do you think?
Love and Light to you!
 
 
 

Maybe, Crazy Is A Good Thing

by Meredith Blis on 04/29/15

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and you're life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much.
Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That's a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it…
Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.”



 
That’s how the movie started – I was entranced…. It was cool to learn things like Steve started with his computer vision as a teen with a friend who stayed with him throughout his career.  Also, that he had been pushed out of Apple, then it starting going under and they asked him to come back. In the interim he created Pixar! Funded by Ross Perot! He studied calligraphy to incorporate beautiful fonts.  He studied Zen, hence Apples sleek & simple designs. There’s even a scene that talks about how the first mouse was created. Also, it talks about how he revolutionized modern music with the iPod and iTunes! And there is footage of an interview he did together with Bill Gates (Microsoft). Fascinating!! Lastly, it touches upon his battle with cancer and the outpouring of love when he passed.

What else can we learn from this inspiring visionary?
Besides the fact I have newfound Love & Fascination for my iPad...
Here are some other things it brought up in me...
 
First, know your vision….  If you don’t know where you want to go there’s no way to create a path.  For some of us, this clarity is harder than it appears.  I, for one have a tendency to hop from one project to another.  Unfortunately that’s a recipe for staying stuck in the same place.  Be patient with yourself, Give yourself time to figure it out.
“Your Time is limited, So Don’t Waste it  Living Someone Else’s Life”
 
Second, when people tell you, you are crazy-  reframe it -  I’ve started to believe that’s maybe crazy is a good thing.  It means you’re on to Something!!!   
“Things don’t have to change the world to be important”
Don’t forget that small things matter! We are all unique & valuable pieces in this puzzle of life!
 
Third,  One you’ve found your passion/vision and you’re on your way to crazy town... KEEP GOING!  Listen to your heart, stay on your path.  Continue to remind yourself, “I can do this!”   Avoid the naysayers & don’t bother trying to convince them you’re right.  Instead, use your energy to create your dream.  Silence the negative voices within you by taking small steps each day towards success.  And create a team that believes in you too!
 
In Closing….
 
“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
 
*all amazing quotes, courtesy of Steve Jobs :)

Have an inspiring day my beautiful ones!
And maybe crazy isn’t a bad thing
Love and Light to you,
 
 

Overcoming Resistance and Learning to Shine Brighter!

by Meredith Blis on 04/15/15

Let me start with the story of Dyana. 

Dyana was a young girl I worked with. She came to me for piano lessons. She was a very attentive (and bright!) kid who loved music. She was sooo excited to begin piano lessons. 
 
Fast forward a month….
It was obvious to me that she was NOT practicing (at all) Hmmm... Her parents were not forcing her to take lessons and she was always genuinely excited to be there.  So I called her out and asked why she wasn’t practicing. 
 
Her big eyes looked at me and she said, “Well, people who are good don’t need to practice, right? Only people who are bad at music need to practice. If I NEED to practice then that means I’m not good at playing music.”  
A-ha! That was it!  She somehow had it in her mindset that if she needed to practice to become better, then that meant she was a hopeless musician. 
 
I looked at her with sympathetic eyes and said, “Actually you have that backwards…. The people who are good, they are the ones who DO Practice – a lot – that’s HOW they got so good!” 

I referred to a local amazing musician whom she admired and said “You know, Jon?, right?” Her face lit up, “Yeah he’s really good at both piano, guitar and singing!!”  I said, “Do you know he practices everyday…. For hours.” (He was a friend and I knew this little fact ;)  she looked at me shocked, “Really?” Yes, I said, he’s my friend too and I know this, he practices more than anyone I know!” Needless to say, she started practicing and even started becoming a YouTube addict, learning new things online between lessons!!
 
How did this story give me a whole new level of A-ha when I told it last week?
I realized that for years I thought just like she did! (I even catch myself in the present sometimes…) The older I got and more gigs I did, I realized that I started practicing less… I was playing out in the ‘real world.’  And a subconscious piece of me thought if I still need to practice, then I’m not good. Whoa! Limiting belief!
 
One of the biggest road blocks I’ve seen (and experienced!) is that artists (and non-artists) have been ingrained (not your fault!) with certain beliefs - who they are, their abilities, & who they ‘should’ be. When these thoughts serve our highest good, that’s a good thing! BUT when we hold onto mindsets that bring us down, they can erode both our potential and our creativity! The amazing thing is that we have the power to Change our Mindsets and Grow.
 
Overcoming Limiting Beliefs
Unfortunately most of us have them... As we see in the story above, Dyana thought that if she had to practice, that meant she was a bad piano player. Ironically, this thought prevented her from practicing and actually becoming better!!! And by the way, I have witnessed this same mindset in a lot of kids (and myself ;)
 
Here are some other common ones that artists tend to have: 
+  I’m not good at… (insert the thing you are most passionate about)
+  In order to be a true artist, I have to be a starving, struggling artist 
+  Either you have IT or you don’t
+  Good Performers don’t get nervous
+  I’m too old /  too young




 
 
Here’s the truth. The biggest IT factor you can have is the passion to reach your goals. The most successful thing you can have is a positive mindset that says you CAN!  I understand this isn't always easy......

Start to Make the Shift by…
Listening more closely to your thoughts.  NOTICE when you cut yourself down, tell yourself you can’t or criticize yourself.  You might be surprised to discover that these thoughts happen A Lot!  Your subconscious mind cannot distinguish between good and bad thoughts.  It just hears the thought, good or bad, and thinks it’s the truth. Motivate yourself by feeding  your mind with the thoughts that encourage creativity and success.

When the thought happens, notice it & slow down…. Don’t criticize yourself (that gives your brain a negative subconscious message). Tell yourself something like “I choose not to believe that” or “That’s not true” and replace it with a positive one...
“I am a good singer and I’m getting better and better each day”
“I can make a great income being a creative musician”
“I’m getting braver each time I go on stage”
 
Helpful Hints:
+ Wear a bracelet or a ring.  Each time you catch yourself having the negative thought switch sides of the finger or hand.  As you make the switch you can also think about your positive thought
+  Do some reading! “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” (Joseph Murphy) talks about this stuff in depth. The book was the precursor to The Secret, which is also a great read. If you’re not a book person? There is also a movie version of “The Secret”. 
 

 
 
 

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