Conscious Life

A Blog on Personal Development for Awaken(ed/ing) Souls – by Tim Stanek

Category: Creativity

On the Road with GTBB…How’d I Get Here?

Hey! Yoooooooo what just happened….what is happening in my life?

In the month of May alone, I’ve signed hundreds of autographs, washed myself in both the waters of Lake Huron Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, and now we’re driving from Silver City New Mexico through the night to Las Vegas to hit a soundcheck at noon tomorrow. How did I get here?

It’s been a blur since I decided to come on board with The Ghost Town Blues Band, but it’s the best kind of blur – a busy, creative, hustle-now kind of blur. A traveling band – a mythical group of heyoka riding into your town to shake your blues away – it seems like a thing out of a dream. But this is exactly what we do! I get to shake people out of their tired routine by providing my best musical performance with a group of cool musicians.

Again, how did I get here?

To make a long story short, it’s come down to three things for me:

1) Be Patient

I ran into Matt Isbell, the lead singer and guitar player of Ghost Town Blues Band when I was at the post office, of all places. We had played together maybe once or twice before (A common experience in Memphis TN, as most everybody plays with everybody), but it had been a while since that day. He was shipping something for his Cigar Box Guitar business, and I was trying to arrange a PO box so I can get my Retirement Home gigs checks mailed to a business address. This was my third visit to the post office that day, and I was just hearing (from the same people) that I needed yet another sheet of paper. I’m usually very patient, but at this point I was absolutely appalled by their egregious incompetence (if it wasn’t downright dissidence for common decency!)

I was at the point where any normal human being would have been totally justified in yelling at these post office workers, I decided it wasn’t worth it and said something curteus, and stepped away.

I played with them after a while – I liked the group and they liked me too.

But it was only later that I found out that my display of patience at the post office was a top reason why I was called upon to play keys with this group. (Another reason is that my criminal record is spotless and Canada requires spotless records for entry, and for some reason it’s rare to find a keys player in Memphis whose record is as such. Ha – what does that say about keys players, i wonder?)

2) Taking an inventory of all my opportunities

My homie Jack Simon swears by magic boards. What are magic boards? It’s showerboard from Homedepot, cut or uncut. Add 2 or 3 dry erase markers, and a rich imagination. Viola!

I use magic boards to keep track of my ideas, and one night when I was feeling overwhelmed (by the pressure i often put on myself), I wrote out all of my opportunities.

This is recommended – often times we can take for granted the opportunities that life presents us. It is up to us, though, to tune out perception to see the opportunities available to us. Ask yourself:

How can i contribute? How can i better serve with my gifts? What service can i perform that brings me the most happiness?

and lastly… What opportunities are available to me right now?

I’ve learned that sometimes life doesn’t let you wait…sometimes life rewards the go-getters and the red-veined adventurers who live for risk and glory.

I wish I was this type of person. i really wish i was! But I’m not. I’m cautious, and I approach inter-personal relationships very gingerly.

But sometimes life will wait for you to decide what you want and who you are, and equip you with the confidence to take advantage of your best opportunities.

And how will you know what your opportunities are if you don’t write them down? Just do it – once you have 5 you’ll probably remember even more.

I wrote down 5 or 6 income opportunities on my magic board that cold day in April. I was working 10-14 hour days at the Juice Bar and on my own hustles…I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it was hard. I was hoping to start a Facebook Ads agency – I was so hooked on the implicit promises of wealth from expert internet marketers that Matt Isbell’s invitation to jam was the last thing on my mind. But i still wrote it out.

Over the next several days I would look up at these opportunities casually, thinking little of them.

But I was over at Jack’s again, and Preston (of Ghost Town Blues Band) called Jack to chat about something. I asked to speak with Preston, and the rest is history: we secured a time when i could sit it in on a gig in Memphis. Interestingly enough, this was the same place where i played a gig with them about 7 years ago!

3) Consistent playing and practice

Musicians! Just do it. I know I’m a terrible example…I’m super (perhaps overly) consistent for some time periods, while others I have to check out and NOT play and practice consistently. I’ve been in bands for more than half of my life, and it’s always been this way. Be consistent, but be flexible. The bottom lines are this: You have to practice and play to get better, and you need to balance that consistent playing and practice with period of rest. Why? Because this isn’t a goddamn cog-in-the-machine, mindless, worker-bee occupation. You are a human being that the music and the audience benefits when you take time to be and grow your soul. This isn’t a “hustle now and relax later” kind of job. This is life. Playing music is the kind of thing that retired millionaires spend all their time trying to learn, only to (sometimes) learn that it’s not as easy as it looks.  You have to be good, so practice!

My consistent playing and practice has made me a good musician. Maybe not great, but good. How to get to the next level? Woah, i’m not getting ahead of myself here…My good friend who is a martial artist and dances and performs with the Memphis Ballet Ensemble says this: Learn the form. Master the form. Forget the form.

Right now with The Ghost Town Blues Band I am learning the form. It’s humbling, but I know that it’ll be worth it.

Opportunities. The more you learn to look for them, the more you’ll receive. Or perhaps the very act of looking for them is what creates them! Either way, you won’t know unless you do it. Make a list of your opportunities, and be grateful. This is clutch! Do it, my friends – you won’t regret it.

Until next time,

Tim

P.S. I’m on the tourbus on the way to Las Vegas right now. Haha – cool.

Resistance, Planning, and the Happiness Advantage

I’ve talked about my experience working in my new job at a juice bar before – it’s importance in my creative evolution cannot be understated. When I started this job I was beginning to open up to a new identity as a gender-fluid person. I was a bit apprehensive about starting my job initially because I held a fear of being ridiculed of shamed for who I was.

But the universe has a funny way of working out: The crew that I work with includes members of the LGBTQ community of all colors and shapes! Not only did I find myself in a place where my left of-center sexuality was accepted, it’s encouraged.

The peeps that I work with are really awesome too. As far as wage labor jobs go, this one is probably the best one I can imagine. I’m surrounded by health oriented, progressive thinking people; the managers are cool; and I get to enjoy the juice and smoothies! Also, the owner and managers have brought me coffee on separate occasions. Win.

The practical side of this is that I have the stability to let my life re-arrange while still supporting myself financially.

Resistance
I am running into some resistance though. YES. Resistance is fodder for my evolution engine. If you can look at resistance as a favorable growth opportunity instead of a pointless annoyance you may find that your life starts to take an interesting form. By totally loving and accepting said resistance we can further embrace the part of ourselves that feel in opposition of our circumstances, seemingly paradoxically moving through it quicker.

In my particular case, the resistance is that after I work for 7+ hours, I get tired! I need to rest. Thus, it is often difficult to blog or write music or work on my fiction.

So in continuing with the juice gig I need to figure out: what is an easy, quick, and reliable way to renew my creative energy after working for 7+ hours?

I need a reliable method, which must include some iteration based adjustment (naturally – let your experience with the process tell you what works and what doesn’t. “Efficacy is the measure of truth”). Yoga classes, unfortunately, are out. I’m usually getting off between 12pm and 1pm, in which case most of the convenient studios have already started their classes.

Here’s my solution: I can create my own yoga routine that is predictable, and reliable for resting and re-charging my energy. It can include deep breathing, stretching, meditation, visualization, and future mapping. Also important, is planning out what I need to do in terms of realizing my creative visions. This means taking a close look my creative goals, and setting priorities.

Here is a list of my current creative goals, each one evolving from general specific:

MUSIC
– Learn music production (vague) –> create Future Bass music, using the easiest, quickest, most intuitive DAW (specific)
[this specificity helps because I can zero in on the more actionable sub-steps]
– test out new DAWs [List resources:]
– Memphis Slim House
– Crosstown Arts Studio
– University of Memphis Music Production Studio
– Music producers in my network
ACTION STEPS: Visit each studio, find out which one is best to invest time/energy into
Reach out to music producers in network and ask for help

As of 10 seconds ago, these goals are now neatly placed on my 3.5×5 inch notecard labeled “monday creative goals,action steps”, sitting snugly on my desk.

IGBY

I need to spend some quality time with this creative work. I jotted down the bulk of it, but it’s an incorrigible cliff hanger; incomplete. It needs more work, more time, more attention. So, I can make time for IGBY on an off day this week. IGBY deserves a whole day, or at least multiple focused and devoted hours.

So, now that I’ve outlined my creative priorities, let’s get back to my routine.

In order to calm the mind, exercise the body. This means YOGA!!! My yoga routine, based off of 12 years of experience and my most recent 21 day yoga challenge, will look like this:

– alternate nostril breathing
– vinyasa
– Arm balances, core, variation
– core
– Savasana
– Meditation
– visualization
– Happiness Advantage exercise

I feel confident that I can effectively relax and renew after 7+ hours of juice bar in this way. In adjusting from weekend hours to juice bar hours, I also may require a nap. I’m ok with this. I will let my body act as a guide for further priming my creative energy.

So this is a little example of using self-exploration and journaling to plan my week, and work out kinks – challenges – in my current incarnation.

How can Yoga help creativity?
If you practice daily (yeah), it becomes a habit. Imagine, a habit that calms your body, focuses your mind, helps you process emotions, and connects you with your spiritual essence. That’s what yoga is for me. Thusly, true divine inspiration can flow through much easier.

If it works out in your schedule, I highly recommend getting unlimited yoga at a local studio like Elements, Midtown, or Delta Groove. The benefit of surrounding yourself with knowledgeable teachers is immense. Just remember to check in with yourself (and your levels) often so you can better gauge and appreciate your progress – it really helps with motivation!

The Happiness Advantage
Not my words or idea – full credit to Shawn Achor (video found on www.forwardcounseling.com). Essentially, the idea is to do each of these things everyday:
– exercise, and meditate (which is, like, yoga)
– write down 3 things per day that you are grateful for
– journal about one positive experience you’ve had in the past 24 hours
– random/conscious acts of kindness: send one positive or praising email or text to someone in your social support network.

After you do all these things, your happiness levels should be over 9,000!

Try it out. Like the 21 day yoga challenge, see how it changes you.
One positive experience that I’ve had in the past 24 hours:
After Acro Yoga class yesterday, I was hanging out with some of the crew, doing handstands, peacocks, and all sorts of fun variations thereof. I was feeling pretty self-conscious because I was coming to terms with the reality that now that I’m having more cool sexual experiences, I am still feeling amiss in terms of getting my emotional needs met.

I’ve struggled with confusing sex with emotional intimacy before, and because I wasn’t ready for the lesson at the time, I would retreat into isolation and try to medicate or stuff my emotions unhealthily. Now, as the man I am today, to be able to identify the nature of my quandary with such alacrity is very encouraging. I came into this understanding mainly because of this cool, positive experience:
As I was feeling this self-conscious, unidentifiable experience, I wandered over to the Levitt Shell. The music was a bit underwhelming, so after about 10 minutes I got up to leave. On my way out, I ran into my friend Adam. His struggles in early childhood make mine look like sunshine and daisies. We saw each other, greeted, hugged, and he asked me how I was doing. I shrugged and opened up and told him that I was feeling a lot of emotion. This willingness to be vulnerable with someone I trust started a whole whirl of beautiful happenings: I was able to sit against a wall and chat about my feelings, my emotions, my situation, and to receive experience based knowledge and validation from someone whose strength and lessons are tremendous and inspiring.

What happened next, i did not expect. I saw one dude hovering outside the circle of our conversation for a few minutes, but ignored him at first because I was in deep conversation with Adam. When Adam eventually got up to talk with some friends, I stayed down and this dude came over and sat down next to me. It turns his name is Chandler, and he knew me from Avenue Coffee, a nice little shop in the Normal Station neighborhood. Chandler asked me how I was, and offered space for me to open up to him!

Because I didn’t really know him that well, I was apprehensive at first. But then I told him about my current challenges in dating, sex, and emotional intimacy. He listened, and reflected. What is really interesting to me is that his presence was very helpful, regardless of the information that he presented. In fact, he didn’t really present me with any new information. He was totally heart-centered, an open vessel, simply there to be of service to a fellow human. What an angel!

He reached over and gave me a christian side-hug, and told me he would pray for me. Because of my frustrations with the christian environment in which I was raised I have always fundamentally rejected it as a spiritual system (if you are violently forced to eat broccoli, you may indeed develop an aversion to broccoli!). He told me he would pray for me, and I thanked him, and he walked off. I sat there for a minute, processing, and taking some deep breaths.

Somehow, my emotional turmoil was calmed. I truly believe that if I hadn’t reached out and talked and made myself open to the beautiful people around me, it would have taken much longer for me to process and understand my emotions.

Thanks everyone, for being awesome. Your love is truly felt.

© Tim Stanek 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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