Do Your Work And Then, Step Back

A while ago, I spent a few months travelling across the USA and one of my favourite places was the rather laidback city of Portland, Oregon. There is a thriving food, art, music and craft beer scene and it’s also renowned for its slightly hippyness. What’s not to like?

Maybe I could sense something in the air, but it was while wandering around this wonderful city that I started thinking about the words ‘Do your work and then step back’ by Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism.

From my point of view, everything gets done and works well in Portland but there seems to be this wonderful consciousness there that whatever you are doing, your intention is to do it well even if it takes a little longer and this includes everything from working on one of the infamous (and rather fabulous) food trucks to making coffee which is practically an art form there.

Yes of course, there are the overly pretentious, hipster places as depicted in TV comedy Portlandia, but it’s even the ‘regular Joe’ coffee shops where there is a sense of pride in everyday work. Community is very important there and after only a few days you really notice it. Portland has a downtown/centre, but the heart of the city is not there, but in the thriving centre of each local neighbourhood.

One of the barmen I met there said one night: ‘The slower you chill the ice, the fewer bubbles you get and you have clear ice’
or as I interpreted it:
‘The more slowly and mindfully you live your life, the fewer obstacles there are and so, the clearer things become.’

Being in Portland reminded me of the benefits of being more conscious and mindful of things you do each day, however small they may seem. It doesn’t have to take time, just a momentary awareness and focus on what you’re doing. A kind of mindful meditation I guess.

It was lovely hanging out in Portland and I can see why people want to live there. It’s a quietly inspirational place which encourages you to do your own thing in your own way whatever that may be. Again, what’s not to like?
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Blue Swans

Rip It Up And Start Again

When digital music first came about a few years ago, I loved the idea of having access to pretty much any music I wanted and these days, whether it’s downloading or streaming, there are even more opportunities to have no physical music and own more music ‘that you can’t touch’ and I find a strange joy in having the space that not having countless CDs creates.

I don’t necessarily need the space for anything else as I just find it calming enjoying a space filled with emptiness.

And this doesn’t only apply to CDs, but to many other things including clothes I haven’t worn for a long time, books and DVDs for example. However, one of the most challenging but ultimately rewarding things I find to ‘throw away’ are song lyrics. I’ve been writing lyrics and songs since I was a child and over the years, there have been hundreds of pages of words, dreams, ideas, notes and finished lyrics which never saw the light of day because if I haven’t used them after a certain period of time, I throw them away or these days, delete them.

Little-Richard-Performs-A-007

Little Richard ripping it up…

In fact in the past, I used to take great pleasure in physically ripping up these pieces of paper as it felt that although I had invested a lot of time and creative energy in writing the words in the first place, the process of ripping them up seemed appropriately ritualistic and I felt that the new ‘space’ I was creating would enable me to be even more creative in the future. Of course, I’ll never know if at some point I ripped up the best song ever written, but I do feel that this ‘ritual’ encouraged and perhaps even forced me to be more creative over the years.

Though it can be a scary prospect if you don’t feel confident enough in your future ability to create, destroying ‘old’ ideas can be creative in itself that you are making space for even more creativity. Another truth is that I enjoy a good old purge periodically as each time, it makes me feel ‘lighter’ and gives me a sense of freedom and energy to deal with the present and whatever the future holds, creatively or otherwise.

There’s a wonderful strength in the space between the things in life which is quietly powerful.

And of course with a new year having just begun, it’s the perfect time to rip it up and start again, don’t you think?

Here’s a fantastic song by Orange Juice.

 

What Do You Really Need?

It’s Thursday, so it’s podcast day here at Away From The Noise and today I’m back home in Granada.

If you’ve been listening to or reading this blog over the past few weeks, you’ll know that I’ve recently been travelling around the centre of Spain. As a result of this experience, I have learnt a couple of things on the way and so, today’s podcast is called ‘What Do You Really Need?”.

As always, the podcast is like the best pop singles – inspirational and just a few minutes long.

Listen to Episode 5 – What Do You Really Need?

Happy listening!

Jason

One Thing At A Time

You would think that it would be easier to do one thing at a time, but how many people do you see who are doing two or perhaps more of the following everyday things at the same time?:

– chatting
– reading/looking at mobile phone/tablet
– communicating (making a phone call/sending an email/text/Whatsapp)
– listening to music
– eating/drinking
– driving/cycling/walking (crossing roads)

While they are doing some these things simultaneously, they are not focusing on any one of them with all their attention and in the case of driving, cycling and walking, there could even be quite dramatic consequences.

Everyone seems to be in a rush to get things done quickly, but what is the point if you are not doing any of them well?

People are also missing out on the very real benefits of getting the full effect of the conversation they are having with their friend if they are constantly being distracted by social media notifications. And not only that, but they are also essentially saying that the person sending the email or making the call is more important than the person in front of them who made the effort to be there. So the question here is, what could you prioritise?

Maybe everyone’s attention spans have shifted more than ever since the advent of the internet and mobile phone technology, but surely more choice is a good thing, isn’t it? Some people talk about being better at multitasking than others and that may be true and sometimes even necessary, however at times when you have a choice, what could you focus on more intently and mindfully to get more benefit from it?

Do you want to get things done well or do you just want to get more things done?

When did you last listen to music without doing anything else? Or read a book in silence? When did you last stop to look around you and really absorb your surroundings? What did you notice that you may have not seen or experienced because you were doing something else?

With all the distractions of the modern world, I accept it can be challenging as it is something which I constantly face too, however what’s stopping you trying to focus on one thing at a time? Maybe, just the once. And see how you go.

I look forward to hearing how you found it.

Happy Digital Bonfire Night

I use the app/website Pocket to keep any article, videos or links that could be of interest to read another time and it has been an incredibly useful tool. Whenever I have some ‘dead’ time, I go to Pocket and catch up on those articles I’ve been meaning to read for a while.

However going through my Pocket just now, I’ve realised that it’s essentially become my personal digital equivalent of your dad/grandad’s garage that’s so full of stuff that you can’t move. I had more than 800 links to articles that I have put there over the past few months and beyond.

So I started going through them one by one, highlighting ones I thought could be interesting to keep. Until I realised I was doing it again. Like taking the ‘might-come-in-useful-one-day’ stuff out of the garage to only put it back in there in a newer, shiny box instead.

So, I deleted them.

All 800+ articles and links.

I have clearly been able to survive not knowing they were there and so I figured that actually deleting them wouldn’t make any difference. And the truth is that the only difference is that I feel better. Like I’ve had a digital bonfire. And without any pollution either.

Header image – Bonfire by Sandra Sigfusson

Can What’s Missing Be Your Strength?

I have been a fan of Q (English music magazine) for many years and in the latest issue, I was reading an interview with a new band called Royal Blood. Now I’m not really a rock fan but every now and again a band comes through that I really like and Royal Blood are currently and pleasantly deafening me with their debut album. But why am I talking about this band and what has the header image of a vegetarian dish got to do with this post?

Well, when I used to visit Brighton in the past, I occasionally visited a restaurant called Terre A Terre, a rather good vegetarian restaurant in the city. In the Q magazine interview with Mike Kerr, the singer/bassist with Royal Blood, mentioned that he used to work as a chef in Terre A Terre and while there he was struck by how inventive they had been with the ingredients available to them, especially when they had a supposedly necessary ingredient to many i.e. meat taken out of the equation as it had forced them to be more creative with what they had.

Royal Blood

At that time, Matt was also putting together a new band and after being inspired by his experience at Terre A Terre in creating more interesting things with ‘less’, he realised that instead of having a traditional line-up, he decided that the band would just be his mate Ben playing drums and himself playing bass and singing. He may have made the right decision as last year Royal Blood sold out shows in Europe and the US, are now friends with rock stars including Muse and Jimmy Page (from Led Zeppelin) and were one of the most successful bands in the UK in 2014.

We don’t need to do what others have done. What many see as ‘something missing’ can in fact be a strength if we choose to see it that way. A restaurant doesn’t need meat to be successful and Royal Blood don’t need a traditional rock band line-up with a guitarist. So, my question to you is:

‘do you have something ‘missing’ in your life that is or could be your strength’?

Watch Royal Blood video for ‘Figure It Out’…

How To Get Away From The Noise?

After living in London for 17 years, my wife and I decided to move to Granada in the south of Spain in 2014 to get ‘away from the noise’. Most people assume that the ‘noise’ was the urban-ness of the millions of people and the traffic chaos of the big city and to some extent that’s true, however in reality, it was more about the noise of our lives in general.

We just wanted to slow things down and have more time and space to travel, breathe, think and just be. And live in the sunshine and glory of Granada and the south of Spain of course.

It sometimes feels that our lives here have changed beyond recognition and yet at times, it also feels like it hasn’t changed at all as we of course still do ‘normal’ things like the laundry and the weekly shopping. However, one of the most fundamental changes is that Mrs Away From The Noise and I have more time here for our individual selves to pursue our own interests and also for each other.

Seychelles-Island

In hindsight, I’ve always enjoyed being ‘somewhere else’ in my ongoing search to get away from the noise and have regularly mentally, emotionally and physically escaped to places of tranquility because they are beautiful places to be, however I also learnt a long time ago that escaping or changing your geography is not the solution to whatever may trouble you. The usual insecurities and problems tend to follow you. They won’t change unless you do. Wherever and whoever you are, this is an ongoing battle.

Getting ‘away from the noise’ has meant that I now have time to do things I enjoy including songwriting, travelling, teaching English, exploring new interests such as minimalism and writing two blogs Cortado Ingles and this one.

As for the origin of the blog name, I’ve been writing songs for a number of years and a common theme has been wanting to be ‘somewhere else’ and the name ‘Away From The Noise’ has also been around for some time as a potential song title. So when I was looking for a name for this blog, it not only seemed to fit from a sound and meaning perspective, but it also felt like a part of me as it had been with me for a while. Since starting the blog in October 2014, I also find myself learning a lot, both as a part of writing, editing and publishing and also from other bloggers in the community.

In fact, the more I write on the blog, the more I learn about the benefits of being present and living in the moment as opposed to being or wanting to be elsewhere.

So, there you go, that’s the origin of the blog name and why I enjoy writing this blog.

I hope you find it gets you away from the noise too…

This post was written in response to the WordPress Daily Prompt as part of Blogging101 challenge.