Sunday, November 15, 2015

This Week's Music Experience: The Magic of Africa and Breakin' A Sweat

****UPDATE 11/15/15 10:07 AM EST****

I wrote this post a few days before the attacks on Paris and debated on whether to post it today, as planned. I decided to go ahead because some music experiences are dark, but life goes on.

I dedicate this week's Music Experience to all the music lovers who attended the Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan in Paris last Friday evening, November 13, 2015. 

May your hearts find peace.


Music is not just an interest of mine; in the words of The Doors, music is my special friend. I have many special friends to hang out with, too. Take a look at my Spotify playlists.

Music and the artists who create it often lead me down rabbit holes reading articles, watching videos, and chatting about what I found with friends. These music experiences are more than listening to tunes; they're consciousness raising.

I realized that a lot of my music experiences might actually be interesting to other peaceful warriors. So here's this week's Music Experience, as experienced by this truth seeker:

Do you believe in magic? Ever had a dream about a loved one that's passed on? Ever have a strange experience that leaves you wondering what the hell kind of magic is this Universe made of, anyway?

I do. I have. And oh hell yeah.

It's why I write fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal.

Okay, so this actually happened last year but I just had to tell the story. I was listening to Skrillex live at Complex House 2014 in the background while I wrote. The music was thumping and then I hear the strains of Africa by Toto. "Ya all know Toto, right? Come on," Skrillex says.

My head snapped up, my fingers froze on the keyboard, and my heart about leapt out of my chest. I rewound the video and watched that last bit with the hair on the back of my neck standing on end.

I know this needs some explaining...

When I was a three, my folks divorced.  For various reasons I didn't see a lot of my dad. Eventually, when I was 11 years old, he started picking me up for weekend visits on a regular basis, but tragically he died only one year later. Life-altering stuff. But one day during that all-too-brief year, we were hanging out while he was building a breakfast bar and Toto by Africa came on the radio.

He stopped what he was doing to turn it up. With animated gestures, he told me this sound--the electronic sound created with a GS1 / GS2 (1980), 1st FM synth of Yamaha and a Yamaha CS-80 --was going to be big one day. "This is the music of the future and it'll revolutionize how we experience music."

Keep in mind that those stage pianos were brand spanking new in 1980 AND that Africa was a HUGE hit in 1982 AND still becomes a favorite of the new generations.

Fast forward to Skrillex playing Toto's Africa at the end of his set. I know he was doing that at his shows for a brief period. Don't know if he's doing it anymore, but holy hell! You can understand why I started watching every Skrillex video I could find, him being the Electronic Dance Music genius. He literally develops most of his music on a laptop with headphones. Amazing.

When I came across the making of Breakin' A Sweat, which is coincidentally the song that introduced me to Skrillex, a.k.a. Sonny Moore, in the first place, I wept with joy.

You know that sample of Jim Morrison talking that Skrillex uses in Breakin' A Sweat? Yeah, I bet my dad heard that quote at some point, too. I have no doubt.

*big deep breath*

 Anyway, I was already an avid Skrillex fan, but this experience took it to another level. I mean, we're all connected, right? One big web of life and who abounds.

My dad and Jim Morrison are gone, but the music lives on and so do I.  And this was a really special music experience for me, too, Sonny Moore. Full circle indeed.

Thanks to Skrillex, the Doors, Jim Morrison, and the members of Toto.  Because of you my heart is full and my faith in magic reaffirmed every time I hear these songs. Enjoy the vids! :-)

Peace out.

The first three videos are restricted for sharing so I'm linking instead of embedding. Sorry for the inconvenience.

All rights reserved to respective owners. See copyright notices in respective vids.

Africa by Toto

Regeneration Music Project: Skrillex and the Doors - Making of 'Breakin' a Sweat' 

Breakin a Sweat Official Music Video 

 What kind of music experiences have you had? Would you like to share? If so please consider submitting your music experience here for possible publication on my blog OR if you just can't wait, share in the comments below.

You will retain all rights if your story is accepted. Not all submissions will be published, but I'll try to post as many as I can.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

This Week's Music Experience: What's that Spell?

Music is not just an interest of mine, it's my drug of choice. I have playlists galore for just about everything I do: road trips, writing fight scenes, and taking a shower. Hell, I even have one for driving in the city when you spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for the light to change.

And I don't just listen to the music, either, I often end up bounding down some rabbit hole reading articles, watching videos, and chatting about what I found with friends. It turns into an experience as I absorb something new, grasp some nuance, feel something, or very frequently become inspired and create something of my own in response.

I realized that a lot of my music experiences might actually be interesting to other music worshippers. So here's this week's Music Experience, as experienced by me:

So, as usual, I was looking for songs that resonated with a short story I was writing and wouldn't you know it? Dillon Francis popped up in my EDM feed with What's that Spell? (ft T.J.R.) I'm loving what this guy is producing, and it didn't hurt a bit when Get Low ended up on the Fast and Furious 7 soundtrack. Anything Vin Diesel related...

But then I was sitting on the deck with the Hubs forcing him to listen to my latest music find on youtube, What's that Spell? and the Hubs was like, "Oh yeah. Country Joe and the Fish." Uh. What? No. That's Dillon Francis. See? *points to album art*

Here I must point out that the Hubs is 14 years older than me.

He was like, "Oh come on. You know what I'm talking about." So he pulled up the Youtube video of Country Joe and the Fish at the 1969 Woodstock. And Oooooooooooh yeeeeeeaahhhhhh! NOW I remember. Well, I remember hearing it before. I'm not old enough to have gone to Woodstock, but my parents are and I grew up breast-fed on the Beatles, while every Saturday night the Golden Oldies played as we drove wherever.

So in case you're wondering what the HELL Dillon Francis and Country Joe and the Fish have in common, here are the two videos.'re welcome. :-)

All rights reserved to the respective owners. See copyright notices in respective vids.

 What kind of music experiences have you had? Would you like to share? If so please consider submitting your music experience here for possible publication on my blog OR if you just can't wait, share in the comments below.

You will retain all rights if your story is accepted. Not all submissions will be published, but I'll try to post as many as I can.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Double-down on the Vagus Nerve and Win the Anti-Anxiety Lottery

Who here suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression? What do you know about the
vagus nerve? I was reminded the other night at a presentation about Trauma Informed Communities, that most people have no clue what the vagus nerve is or what it's role is in our body.

The vagus nerve is basically the parasympathetic nervous system I'm always talking about in yoga class. If you Google it, anatomy charts will point to a nerve at the base of your skull, but it "wanders" from down both sides of your neck to the front of the body, and wraps around and under the stomach from both the front and the back.

I practice yoga to stay sane; if you know me personally you have heard or read those words from me. And this is why: yoga can stimulate the vagus nerve; that's where the calm, floaty feeling comes from. The parasympathetic nervous system is your "brake"; it calms you down and brings you into the restful state required to digest food, procreate, and relax.

That peaceful, centered feeling at the end when you roll up your mat was brought to you by your yoga practice stimulating the vagus nerve. A little bit of yoga every day is a great maintenance program for those suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

It can be an emergency med for an anxiety attack, as well, but yoga works much better if you also have a maintenance schedule.

You do NOT have to bend yourself into a Gumby yogi to reap the benefits. Not at all.

You do NOT have to take an hour-long class with people who breathe through their eyeballs and "feel" their liver.

All you have to do is breathe and try a few simple, relaxing yoga poses to counter all that daily stress that builds up on top of your life experiences that have programmed you for anxiety, panic, and depression.

You can't change the past, but you can learn to manage your anxiety, panic disorder, and/or depression in the present. But you have to put your money down on the yoga table in two ways:

1. Practice for a few minutes each day to train your body to default to the parasympathetic nervous system. Practicing yoga teaches your body how to get back to a state of rest more quickly.

2. Use what you learn in yoga practice (breathing techniques, poses, visualization) to calm yourself when you feel the earliest signs of an anxiety, panic, or depressive episode coming on.

People have told me "Oh, I tried yoga but it didn't help." And I know they went to a class or bought a DVD and maybe practiced a handful of times. That doesn't really help, no. You will get immediate benefits, but you won't tap into the wealth of health yoga has to offer that way.

The real way to strike it rich is to do the daily work. There are no short cuts on this, my friends. There are no quick fixes. Well, I did read that an experimental vagus nerve stimulator is being tested. If having an implant sounds cool. Which it kind of does, I must admit.

But in the meantime, give this feel good yoga practice a try. Its simple. Almost anyone can do it.

And if that's too hard, do some diaphragmatic breathing. Here's a good tutorial on how to breath using the diaphragm. She's a little didactic, but it's the best explanation/demonstration of how to make sure you're activating the diaphragm.

Because if you're doing it wrong, you can actually be restricting the vagus nerve. i.e. Are you tightening your neck and lifting your shoulders when you take a deep breath? Guess what? That pinches the vagus nerve, which is the opposite of what we want to do.

I wrestle with my anxiety and depression tendencies every day, but my yoga practice has increased my odds of winning and staying on top. So give it a go and let us know how it's working. If it doesn't seem to be doing any good, please post a comment and I'd be extremely happy to help.

Love and light to each and every one of you!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Winter Wonderland of Books: Christmas Giveaway


Congratulations to all the winners!
See list of winners below.

Over 50 Authors
giving away dozens of free books,
Christmas presents,
a $200 PayPal Grand Prize!

Make sure to fill out all entries to increase your chances of winning!

I'm giving away an ebook copy of the Little Flame Box Set, Vol. 1-5 to 3 lucky winners.

Enter the Giveaway Now!