4th Anniversary of SoulFusion Jam At Woot – Creating Community Music

jam apr 13This April marks the fourth anniversary of the SoulFusion Jam at Woot Smoked Meat restaurant in Vaudreuil.

Four years ago, my husband john and I went to Woot which had just opened up in front of our farm.  We met the owner Dave and we all liked each other instantly. Over the course of the conversation we had the idea that they should begin live music at the restaurant.  We live in a particularly artsy neighbourhood, which has traditionally supported the arts very well. We hoped to create a community through music at the restaurant.

David went right away out that week and applied to obtain a music license for the restaurant, and we began.  We weren’t sure of a schedule yet or how it would work but we firmly determined that we wanted to create a regular event that would encourage community music to bring all ages together. Right away this was a unique approach since most jams in Montreal were held in bars that prohibited young players under 18.

10926277_10152980357091163_1873570725317709760_oWe tried it all. Weekly, bi weekly, and finally after a few years we agreed that settling on a once a month date and creating a tradition that casual musicians could practice towards worked best.

At first many of the local area musicians who participate in jams at other venues didn’t attend. I don’t think they really took the little place very seriously with a seating capacity of only 75, if that even, Woot’s wasnt exactly a show bar.

But then word started to get out, and both professional and casual musicians began to show up regularly.  Music lovers and supporters, so crucially important to the live music scene – began to attend regularly with their entire families’ to watch the band, or the random folk that would show up with a guitar or bass and plug-in with SoulFusion. The winter months were made less harsh by the anticipation of our musical night together. Some weeks or months into it we had a full house  – spilling out to the parking lot. Craziness. The good people who live beside the bar never complained, but rather attended, swaying happily to the sound for he music in the parking lot.10679539_10152980357526163_7634000306814407658_o

Not every week or jam was busy like this.  Other times, it would be intimate, and even with 30 people in the house, it always felt good and full of energy.

Over time, we got to know the jammers, both young and old. We encouraged people to dust off their old guitars, or come out of hiding from 20 years of playing in their basements.  People who had given up on music, began putting together bands and working during the month to come and play a few tunes for the encouraging supportive crowd. Then came the young people, which is the part that really encouraged us all to keep the jam going.

These kids were ROCKING.  We began encouraging a mentorship program, so that ids that were learning technical music – could learn with us how to “be musicians” – there is no school for this. only practical work with another musician.

I remember an 8 year student of our drummer dave Devine,  blowing us away with a complicated Led Zeppelin tune.  And another boy, only 13 with mild autism who is a brilliant timely drummer, shedding his fears and dawning a mile wide smile on the kit.  I keep all these memories in my mind and still they can have such an effect on me.

But even in the context of such an amazing line of work that i have found myself in, sometimes life outside of work can be very difficult.  In 2012 we received the news that my mother had lung cancer.  Thus began the most difficult chapter of my life so far, and I am fully convinced that without the jam and without the obligation we felt to the amazing people who came every month to support us, to encourage us and the kids and adults who were coming out and finding this new focus bringing them so much joy and levity to their lives – there is no way i would be still playing music today.

paulette and otisNot only was my mother’s cancer difficult physical – lack of sleep, fear and hospital visits, focus on fear and all the scary horrible things that happen when someone you know is dying.  She was my best friend, and the one person i could talk to about absolutely anything.  The loss of her muted the music in me.

But over the months, even if I didn’t have the heart to book or play many gigs at other places, we had an obligation to the people we had come to love very much at the Jam, and so, the band HAD TO continue, and we HAD TO rehearse and we HAD TO keep trying…it was juts like that.  Over two years, this is how my music functioned.

She died on a friday, at 8:15 at night.  My world was shook and taken out from under my feet. But life goes on – and I had a gig the following night; the jam.

I have never cancelled a gig. I have never not attended nor not shown up.  But, I could not imagine what I was going to do for the jam. Luckily, the music world is small, and there is a great love and empathy that musicians have for one another.  I have such respect for these people who go around putting their hearts out on a stage every night for a pittance; it is a passionate affair musicians have with the sounds we make.  Someone in the band called a friend, The awesome jeff Starzinsky, one of the few folks who could do what we did at our unique jam.  He came without hesitation, and mastered the evening like a real pro and friend. I later discovered that he held vigil for my mother and I. All the people who came,  even ones that had never come to the jam before and didn’t know me from a hole in the wall were deeply touched by the love that was expressed and have continued to reconnect with us every month since. It feels like a family.jeff starz

What kind of job gives you that kind of love AND support?

The acoustic portion of the jam is where I pour my inside heart out. And honestly, it took me a LONG time to be brave enough to play acoustic without the band.  but again encouraged by my mother to be self expressive and true to myself, I did it with David, and my band’s encouragement. Now, every jam is has a full hour dedicated to acoustic only music. It is the only jam in Montreal that does this – and it encourages some very special player to join us.

Here is one of my favourites:

Mia is a young girl  who came in to the first time to jam with her acoustic guitar followed by a train of her parents and supportive friends.  She was barely 13 at the time and she seemed shaken and scared, like many young performers.   We didn’t have what she needed – namely a capo and  I think I was having a rough night, because I was pretty hard on her.  I told her;

“Shit happens. You just have to handle it!”  Her wide-eyed fear stared back at me, as I tried to manage to crowd and the players, I felt a little out of control in the chaos.  Happily, someone found a capo – and Mia played a stunningly beautiful version of ‘Landslide”, which took everyone’s hearts away.  Then she had a total melt down and threw herself into the back her of her parent’s van and cried. Oh boy – do i ever remember feeling like that a few times in my life.

I went and sat with her, apologized for being rough on her and told her it was ok to be scared – it just wasnt ok letting being scared stop you from doing anything you loved.  She obviously loved music – I encouraged her to continue.

That was 2 1/2 years ago.

Last jam at Woot, Mia came, as she often does and has over the years, increasing her talent, practicing between shows and even asking for our band to learn some pretty complicated tunes for her to sing.  I absolutely LOVE seeing kids working between the jams always increasing their game.jam apr 13

Then the coolest thing in the world happened.

She came in with her guitar and a friend. They had obviously spent time learning and combining their voices and the effect was awesome.  The crowd went wild and the girls sat down to thunderous applause. \

Then as usual SoulFusion did a few tunes and began one of our standard favourites “Long train Running” by the Doobie Brothers.

I was singing alone  and Mia signalled me from her table asking if she could come up to sing with me.  This surprised and delighted me because she was being so brave and i really flashed back to how scared she was and how far she had come.

She came on the mic just as I started the chorus

“Without looove – where would we be now”!!

She had practiced our song, and learned the complicated back vocals. Her harmonies blended with mine like water and the tears came to my eyes flowing like the sound.

This was the most incredible thing.

Yes my friends…

WITHOUT LOVE…where would we be now.?

We have helped a kid play music. Life does NOT get any better than this.

Please join us tomorrow night for the awesome JAM at Woot – Hosted with pleasure and love – By SoulFusion.

Peace

Jo

A FOCUS ON PERSONAL POWER

THIRD CHAKRA – MANIPURA

 Manipura = “Resplendant gem”

Colour : Yellow

Scent : Ylang Ylang, Rose

Gemstones : Yellow gemstones for this Chakra are Amber, Citrine, Yellow Calcite, Fluorite, Golden Beryl, Golden Yellow Topaz, Cat’s Eye, Yellow Celestite, Yellow Jade, Golden Tiger Eye, Lemon Chrysoprase, Yellow Danburite, Iron Pyrite, Yellow Garnet, Yellow Jasper, Yellow Kunzite, Yellow Muscovite, Yellow Sapphire, Yellow Tourmaline and Yellow Rhodonite

RETREAT BASICS FOR MANIPURA

yellow-horse-modern-cave-painting-carol-suzanne-niebuhr

At this retreat we will be discussing the Third Chakra or Manipura which is Sanskrit meaning “resplendent gem”.  It is our center of human personal power and the last of the earth bound Chakras.

The horses will work with us to demonstrate how expressions of personal power can be interpreted by and through the subtler bodies of energy which we refer to as chakras. Horses are the first to sense in which way you carry your belief about your personal power. They read everything about you, in one brilliant instinctive shot.

Based on their experience with humans and their experiences with the kind of energy you bring with you, horses will size you up in one second flat. As prey animals this is their primary survival mechanism – evaluating quickly and efficiently who is friend or foe.  And like all prey animals who rely on quick flight instinct to survive, horses seem sometimes a little paranoid but it is the quickest and the most instinctive of course, that will survive.  So another lesson we learn from horses is to be very conscious of our intentions and body language when we enter into any communication, be it with a horse or human. From within, your sense of power is exuded by the way you present yourself both physically an energetically to the horse and sub-consciously to humans. Horses are more immediately aware of you because they are present in this moment, not caught up in past or future thinking.  Because horses already speak an ancient and subtle language with every part of their bodies, they integrate this understand of body, intention an energy into their evaluation.

This doesn’t necessarily mean a horse will automatically be nervous with you if you are nervous with it. Horses give you indications WAY before they act in an aggressive manner, and even this they only do when they feel cornered or unable to flee if necessary. I call it Standard Equine Claustrophobia.

lily and jo in arena

I often see people when entering the round pen who are not accustomed to being around horses with their shoulders slumped forward, like a subconscious wish to protect their center from what can be a daunting experience given the sheer size and for most people, their behavior which can seem very alien at first.  However, what the horse is most adept at sensing is the intention you bring with you into your interaction.

Many people ask me if horses will react aggressively if they bring fear with them. Horses are not predators – they are prey. Therefore, if you bring fear, they sense it as a type of insecurity, and they may find they want to move away from you, unsure whether you are the source of the insecurity or not. It is not the normal behaviour of a horse to lash out to protect itself, except in very rare and specific instances, such as stallion territorial behaviour.

before_the_storm___horse_by_cowgirl_gone_psycho-d327yx3Ears pinned flat on the head are a good indication that your horse is insecure and doesn’t want you close. Never try and give a horse affection when it is in this state.

In horse terms of behaviour, a horse with an unbalanced third chakra is constantly displaying insecurity. It is hyper reactive and overly aware of its environment. It fears that it is powerless; and so is constantly seeking to avoid or evade something. This would be a very difficult horse to ride or train.  A good horse for riding is one that has a balanced sense of its partnership with humans.  Horses that are well balanced in the third chakra carry themselves well and are not in constant need of aids from the rider, as they tend to be more in the flow of the interaction between the two, and are less absorbed by paranoid vigilant watch which comes from a fearful sense of powerless over the environment.

Humans are the same way, and horses are a very effective way of, excuse the irony – putting the cart before the horse. Sometimes, we can become more conscious of our behaviour before actually changing our mind about how we feel about something. In other words, we can ACT AS IF we have personal power, to help us discover where our true power lies.

In working on our third chakra, horses encourage us to have to EXUDE this outwardly before we may completely feel it inwardly.

ROUND PEN EXERCISE:295363_314657991997467_1447120710_n

In this exercise, we enter the round pen with a horse, mindful of the sensations in our bodies.  Identifying any tension, we release it to our breath, before our interaction.  Then, we release the loving energy in the center of our being, to the horse.  At this moment, we are not allowing our fears or insecurities to make a choice for us. This is very powerful and empowering all at once.  We ask our body to exude a balanced sense of personal power, perhaps sometimes before we actually feel that authentically within ourselves.

In this way, we create a new experience for our brains.  A new neural pathway, where we have taken over possession of our conscious intention and maintained a different reaction to a fear response.  This is a very healthy thing for everyone to do.

You can take this new way of understanding an old feeling out with you into your non-retreat world in so many ways!

Your boss calls you into her office, and you feel a terrible foreboding.  Maybe she didn’t like that last report? Maybe you are the next in the lineup of layoffs?  Who knows?  But often we are quick to assume a negative outcome at such times.

Instead, you can find where the feeling of anxiety exists in your body – in your solar plexus third chakra. Place your dominant hand on your third chakra and breathe in through that space, remembering to place your body in the same way that you had it with the horse you first met.  Your shoulders proud and back. Your head high. And smile. It releases happy endorphins in your brain. Recalling your experience will help to trigger the same positive response feeling as when you were here at the retreat in connection to the horses. Every one of our experiences is recorded in our bodies. It is up to us to access that and use it to help us negotiate the waters of our lives more effectively and joyfully.

The flow and health of the third chakra chakra can directly impact your ability to put good ideas and plans into action.  If this Chakra is healthy and spinning freely, you are making creative decisions and feel as though your choices move you forward.  You take good care of yourself in body mind and spirit.  You are enthusiastic about your life and proactive about the positive choices you make on your own behalf.  You demonstrate a good balanced sense of self.

The Manipura Chakra lies in the triangular niche at the base of your rib cage – the solar plexus or zyphoid process, in fancy medical circles.

You can visualize it as a yellow spinning orb of energy, rotating often they say in a clockwise direction. The speed or fluidity of the spinning is our concern here. If it is not flowing as it should, this is when we encounter problems such as feeling powerless in our lives or relationships, powerless over our choices and circumstances. We forget that everything is a choice, when this energetic center is not spinning as it should.

There are things you can do to increase the flow and vibrancy of each chakra.

~ Wear the colour represented by the chakra – any kind of yellow will do.

~ eat foods that support the nutritional requirements nee4ded to optimize this chakra:

Granola and Grains: pastas, breads, cereal, rice’s, flax seed, sunflower seeds, etc.
Dairy: milk, cheeses, yogurt
Spices: ginger, mints (peppermint, spearmint, etc.), Melissa, chamomile, turmeric, cumin, fennel

~ surround yourself with scents such as Ylang Ylang and Rose

Here are some quick questions to ask yourself regarding your third chakra:

1 – STRONGLY DISAGREE 2 – DISAGREE 3 – NEUTRAL 4- AGREE 5- ABSOLUTELY

  • Are you easily irritated – do you have an explosive temper?
  • Have you found that you have an Inability to prosper, no matter how hard you try?
  • Do you tend to prosper at the expense of others?
  • Can you say NO?
  • Have you ever made yourself feel better by putting another person down?
  • Do you have difficulty in taking responsibility for your actions and the consequences?
  • Do you alternate between feeling immensely powerful, only to feel like a victim the next moment?
  • Do you feel you lack willpower?
  • Have you ever suffered from ulcers or diabetes (sugar imbalances)?
  • Do you ask yourself why am I here (in this life)?
  • Do you like yourself?
  • Are you nervous in social groups?
  • Do you think people believe negative things about you?
  • Finish this sentence: “when I grow up I want to….”
  • Are you self-motivated?
  • Do you achieve most of your goals?
  • Do you have a strong drive to live and do you feel that you have a right to exist?
  • Are you connected to your emotional self and do you understand that feeling and expressing your emotions are your right?
  • Did your family of origin make you feel capable of doing anything?
  • Does your belief system include knowing that a higher power exists and do you use your personal power to openly discuss your beliefs
  • Do you always communicate your inner truths and are you open and honest with others regardless of the situation?
  • Are you afraid if you act confidently that others will think you are “full of ego”?
  • Do you know what you want?
  • Have you ever suffered with anxiety?
  • Meditate on the Mandala below as you focus on these questions and see what answers come to you.
  • Answer the questions using the numbered scale
  • Choose 2 questions to speak about in more depth.
  • Share with (your) group. (can be done in circle or individuals groups.

It’s all about personal power – which begins with caring for yourself. How well you take care of you, is very relevant in this chakra.  Your ability to shine forth is directly impacted by how much energy and intention you have invested into developing yourself from the.

Power is defined as “the ability to influence people”. (wiki).

By maximizing the flow of energy in this central portion of your body, you release the possibility of blockage and are able to enter the higher realms of subtle understanding and wisdom brought to us by the study of chakras and the lessons of the horse.

Half-Way Around The World – And Back.

415What would you do if someone offered for you to move half way across the world?

First let me remind you that HALF way is the FARTHEST you can possibly be on the planet from your people.  Here are some earth facts you may have forgotten since grade 8 was a long time ago…

*The earth is 40,075 miles in circumference (that means ALL the way around once) which is, for the old school thinkers like me is equivalent to 24,859.82 miles.

*It rotates at 1670 kilometers/hour ( 1037 miles/hr), which is faster than drivers on the Quebec highways on a Friday afternoon. Just sayin.

*The Earth orbits, on average, 93 million miles (149,600,000 km) from the Sun (this distance is defined as one Astronomical earthUnit (AU)), taking one year to complete an orbit. The Earth revolves around the Sun at a speed of about 18.5 miles/sec (30 km/sec). So the earth rotates at 108,000 km per HOUR around the sun. Holy cow. I’ll never complain about my husband’s driving again.ofI learned more about the whole planet during my stay in Australia more than just australia itself.  I learned that here in the north we have grown the toughest people on the planet.  I am convinced…canadians are the bomb! We handle +40 all the way to -40 in a 12 month period with defference and a smile on our faces  – most of the time.  We handle floods, dry spells, and where I live, a long long period of freezing cold which has several side effects on our emotional health. 

I notice the difference in “general attitude” between people who live in a place where weather is only an issue on occasion – like when a cyclone or hurricane rips through the land – and Canadians who inevitably and necessarily have weather on the daily roster of conversation. 402

In Australia you don’t hear  “Oh cricky , I wish this awful sun would let up. geez”.

No no. A common conversation with a local Aussie looks more like-

“G’Day Mate!” says a smiling, happy, tanned face.

And if you say something positive like

“Hey I have a yummy coffee”
or

“Hey, I just won the lottery!” the reply is the same positive happy thing…

“Good on ya!”. 11020996_10155272909365230_1582732400230903737_n

yeah…

good on me-

sun

ocean

happy clouds

rainforest

mountains

little adorable wild ponies

THOSE would all be “good on me”. yeah.

In Canada however, you will frequently hear “when the hell is this snow gonna stop?”

“Can it GET any colder?” and

“I am depressed”. imagesWIKV4DU8

Yeah…of COURSE you’re depressed. You havent seen the frikking sun in eight months! This is NOT normal. Humans are not meant to live like this!  You only have contact with outside when you dash to and from your car because you know any more time outside will cause the blood in your feet to freeze…that is what we call frost bite. I havent worn in a dress in 6 months because my legs would fall off and my favourite piece of clothing is the matching long underwear my husband bought me for christmas because he was afraid I would freeze to death while working outside with the horses when he is away at work. Can;’t have a frozen wife now can we?

TREEThis year we have experienced the coldest winter in history. Great.   I suspect that this movement in our meteorological lives is not going to get any better and I think “global warming” is the greatest misnomer of all time.

It takes about 23 hours to fly half way across the world, usually on multiple flights.  One flight lasts 15 hours where we are seated, and watching movie after movie until they all blend in like one big drone of sound and colour on a small screen in front of your face designed to keep you intellectually sedated and in some form of control.  These flights are epic and for those of you who have experienced it – you know the drill.  Your ass feels like it has somehow become fused to your spine, and when you stand up you look remarkably like the 86-year-old lady down the aisle, bent and sore.  I feel particularly bad for senior travellers as sitting for this long can cause deadly blood clots.

Then they feed you – all the time. I know on “normal flights” everyone complains because airlines have run out of money (maybe they should stop giving free flights to their employees and feed people. But on the long flights, booze and food are the way to keep you high, happy and quiet.  alcohol by the way has a 3x stronger effect at 40,000 feet in the air. That was the good part. Two glasses of wine and I was having a wonderful time. Cheap date – only costs 2000.00 for that experience.

When we got back from Australia, after a gruelling 37 hour journey, frazzled, tanned and molting like snakes we arrived late in Montreal and my daughter came to get us at the airport.  I have to go outside to flag her down so she knows where to stop the car. All I have is my little sweater and a shawl I travel with.  I step out the doors and BAM! My nostrils stick together, the wind makes my eyes water and I think to myself – Why do we live in a place where our face hurts??

I stand outside having a first unnecessary cigarette after all those hours with four Japanese student age tourists just arrived from Japan heading to Fredericton new Brunswick.  Their teeth are chattering and they are smiling – I think they think this is cool – they are in the “great white north”. Oy.  

The one who can speak english the most proficiently asks me if it’s always this cold in winter.  I said

“Yes – It’s horrible. Japan is better – take me with you. “

He laughs cause he thinks I’m joking.  I don’t exactly feel like a positive example of an ambassador for my country.

The world loves Canadians.

When you travel, and they ask if you are American (yes I know we are all “American” in north America), it is not in your best interest to avoid correction.  Canadians are seen as the “swiss” of the north american continent. Somehow we have garnered a golden reputation DUE TO our political apathy.  We don’t, like our cousins in the united states, go around trying to fix world conflict in nations other than our own – probably because we’re not really even sure what’s happening in our own country half the time. Whatever the reason, I have found it MUCH more preferable to wear a little Canadian pin on my shirt – out in the world ” we all look-alike”. 

If we would have a “comparison” for you to understand Australia I would say Australia is very much like Canada and Britain is very much like the United States. In fact I have redubbed my Brit friends the Americans of Europe.  Conquerors of nations and delegators of cultural precedence. Canadians and Australians are too busy being laid back to undertake the great international efforts in industrialization and material expansion that our brothers and sisters in these other nations have done. 

Even though the weather, the people and everything about Australia is perfect – the idea of being half a world away from those I love, my children, family, friends, animals is incredibly strange.

But I love the world. The planet. I love visiting it, i love talking to people and learning how they think, I love eating new food and imbuing myself into whatever culture I find myself. i come home richer and more open-minded each and every time,

Probably one of the greatest problems that faces our culture here in Quebec is the LACK of travelling that has been done by the native french Canadian speakers.  theer is an abject level of racism here that doesn not exist in other places because of this lack of worldly education.  It is only getting worse since the government here has “rewritten” the history books and children don’t even get “national” history, only provincial.  It’s a terrible thing to watch an entire culture screw itself.

But I have to say, I have been involved and in the middle of all the problems here for so many years, i am not concerned about leaving this place.  I believe it no longer holds a future for my kids and so if I have to be away from them so they come and settle in a new place, I will do it.  Theer is nothing left here. Just cold and stupid.

It’s funny how the Universe comes to your call when it is loud enough:

The day after we arrive home and have some sort of sleep, my husband gets a call form work – maybe they want to open an office in Australia and if they do, they want us to go down and create the pathway for it.

So, I am faced with the (wonderful) dilemma of moving half way across the planet. Another kind of life within this one…how fun.

Tell me…what would you do?461