Mind over matter

It seems to me that since the shelter in place mandate began, my days have been remarkably full. I have work things that need to be done – productions slated for next season to start working on, score review work to complete, collaborative virtual projects in which to take part. And my non-work hours have been filled with my personal social media projects, blogging, running outdoors (a lot), taking socially distanced walks with friends, holding a ladies’ happy hour.

I’m good at creating busy-ness because my mind is happier when occupied with new projects and pondering interesting concepts and gazing at beautiful things. In the past I’ve thought that this striving for mental activity was a weakness, a flaw, something that kept me from taking a breath and becoming comfortable in stillness. And while I’ve learned that moments of stillness are essential for me (as they are for all of us) I’ve realized that for me, having a fully engaged and active mind is how I feel most present and in the flow.

So I’ve been very mindful about finding things that keep me engrossed that are a bit less passive than Netflix binges or being caught in the endless news vortex. A few things I’ve found really interesting:

A creative personality test – I know, online quizzes are generally useless, but this one was really attractive from a design standpoint, and because I’m really considering how to best be creative during the next however-many-weeks (months?) I wanted a little help with gaining insight into my process . My creative type was “visionary”, by the way, and some of the conclusions rather accurately described my tendencies to be lax in daily follow-through.

If you feel like falling down a YouTube rabbit hole that might actually be useful if civilization as we know it ceases to exist, check out Primitive Technology. I’m not quite sure why this fascinates me so much, but I’m comforted by the thought that we can find ways to create extraordinary things with no model tools, or materials, or technology. Simpler times.

Coursera, my friends. Sign up (it’s free!) and browse away. So many free courses on every topic imaginable. I’m taking MoMA’s “Modern Art and Ideas” course and “Music as Biology”.

I’m kind of a National Parks junky (I do really love the outdoors), and since we can’t really visit any right now, Hidden Wonders of National Parks scratches that itch. Like a good National Geographic show but more interactive.

And finally, myNoise, which provides background sound/music options organized by use, everything from “I suffer from tinnitus” to “I want to explore hacking the brain” to “I’m desperately trying to put my baby to sleep”. So many options and controls to play with, and it has made me more aware of the effect of specific sounds on my own mind.

I find ocean sounds very grounding

So my question for you: what activities have discovered that are not mere distraction, but which are both engaging and transportive?

My task: my upstairs neighbors have been unable to leave their apartment for weeks to do anything besides get the mail. They miss the outdoors. So I’ve started to take videos when I’m out walking or running through the beautiful green spaces of San Francisco, and I’m sending them my first batch via email today (done!)

3 thoughts on “Mind over matter

  1. A. says:

    I should try taking a class on Coursera again. It’s been awhile since I was on there and I could use the distraction. As of right now I haven’t found anything that helps me to not think about the things happening in the world right now. I tried reading earlier tonight, which usually helps me to take my mind off of stressful things, but tonight I swear I read the same sentence four or five times before I gave up. Maybe learning something would help me.


  2. Wayne Zelenak says:

    It’s been a few challenging days at home full of quiet contemplation, reflection, gratitude, simplicity, and love. In these days of uncertainty, some choose to be glued to the tv with statistics tracking the pandemic victims in our country leading to a feeble attempt to understand “reality.” For me, I choose to search for inspiring words to expand my mind to understand “awareness” and share them with you.

    In this interesting article entitled The Four Stages of Spiritual Growth,” it sheds light on the events that impact our daily life and our response or ‘awareness” to these events. Being profound in concept, I hope you will enjoy this narrative to awaken you to additional options in understanding our emotions in every situation. As always in sharing, your comments are appreciated.



  3. “What activities have discovered that are not mere distraction, but which are both engaging and transportive?”
    I like a Fb site called Ashem Al-Ghaili. This guy made a lot of vulgarized videos on different topics (astronomy, medical, music,…). TED lectures are also very instructive and ludic at the same time.
    We have an intranet at work with medical videos who give tips for health professionals. I even found a video that help me to be more positive when putting gound (fancy lab coat), gloves, gogle over my glasses before seeing a covid19. Being in an astronomy group in Fb also help me to understand our places in that gigantic universe. As above, so below. Seeing pictures on Fb on Art, wonders of nature, trees, sunrises, sunsets and Norther lights,… helps me to see the beauty of our world.
    To finish I like when I can use a new technology that either ease the pain or increase the quality of life of my patients. For instance this one might indeed help some musicians in your industry, Maestra. I have a diabetic patient who is a famous professional acoustic guitar player. His fingers’ tips became sensitive over the years. I installed a new system for him which works just fine. Abbott company has a new system known as Free Style. No more pricks at the end of your fingers. You put a round censors on the arms that stays on for 2 weeks. You then switch to the other arm and so on every 2 weeks. You only have to pass the glucometer (a machine about 3 in. x 4 in.) over your sleeve near the sensor. The blood sugar level appears in real time on the screen. The machine records everything and even makes a graphic. You carry the machine with you when you see your Dr, travel,… I showed him some of your Danish orchestra videos. He watched them all after. He wanted me to tell you that he discovered a talented conductor, talented musicians and singers. He wanted to tell you that one of is best buddy who now lives in Woodstock (Ontario) was the former keyboardist of Janis Joplin.


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