Conscious Life

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

Category: Toxic Shame

Shaming vs Encouragement in Music Ed

From 2006-2008 I attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville School of Music. I was disconnected with my intuition at the time, or maybe I didn’t trust myself, or maybe I never had the support of my family to make mistakes and find out who I really was. (It was all three)

I remember riding up to UTK with my dad and my best friend and his dad. My desire to fit in and be liked and be someone who these three men approved of was strong enough to drown out my intuitive knowledge that this was the wrong choice for me. I was going to audition to the school of music, to enroll in the jazz school.
I didn’t even like the majority of jazz music. I thought it was pretentious. Thelonious Monk was cool, but I didn’t need to go to a University to dig his music. You dig?
After 2 years in Knoxville I moved back to Memphis, TN. From 2007-2011 I attended the University of Memphis Rudi Scheidt School of music, under the tutelage of Jack Cooper, and Tim Goodwin.

Shaming in Music Ed

Tim Goodwin’s approach to music education was clouded by his shame-based paradigm (maybe it’s changed now – that’d be awesome). I remember one day in small group: I had been conscripted for a jazz gig at some university event and asked some of my fellow musicians in small group to help me. The gig was supposed to be 5pm, but for whatever reason I wrote down 7pm, and we missed it. Tim came barreling into the classroom, slammed the door hard, and called us motherfvckers. He preceded to yell at us and call us names for a couple minutes. He then demanded that I go up to the head of the music school and apologize.

I get it. I made a mistake. An apology seems perfectly reasonable. But the whole situation could have been handled better.

Throughout the next three years, Tim taught jazz in a way where he would suddenly stop the music and yell at the musicians, where he would shame us for making mistakes.

This had the subtle effect of making the mistakes seem bigger than they actually were. This creates musicians who look for mistakes. Since our perception shapes reality, this creates mistakes!

It’s like cooking a delicious omelette, finding a piece of the egg shell, and harping on the eggshell for 10 minutes while eating the omelette. If you harp on the audacity of the chef to include a piece of an eggshell in your omelette, you’re focusing on the small mistake and letting it overshadow the entire eating experience. Your whole breakfast focuses on the mistake. Furthermore, if you always look for the eggshells, you will attract more eggshells into your life!

Just so, in the shame-based approach, the whole practice can focus on mistakes.

The Healthy Alternative

After steering clear of musical groups for about 3 years, I recently helped create PXLS (“pixels”), a video game music coverband.

PXLS is a group that was organized about three weeks ago. I initially got together with Jeff – the bass player, a chip off Phish’s Mike Gordan’s goober groove, cut off the suburban stoner cloth; and Jon, a big twinkle-eyed drummer with a heart of gold. Both of them had trained with Tim Goodwin at the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music.

We met Jon’s place to practice, a beautiful family-owned music school with fully functioning PA system and monitors. When I walked in the door, excepting a brief 2-3 day recording session in which we recorded Ben Church’s most recent EP and played an inpromptu “Copper Possum” reunion show one sweaty night at bar DKDC, I hadn’t worked on music with a group in…wow three years? Yes it was three years.

So here I was coming into this situation feeling rusty, feeling self-conscious, but also feeling a little giddy with the kid in me waking up to the possibility of completing my open loop of untreated validation, a sore left open from my early years in a dysfunctional family.
I had suggested 2-3 songs that we all look at for the rehearsal, just to give us some direction. Because it was the first rehearsal, I stopped several times during each song in order to feel out the different sections, process what I was feeling in different parts of the tracks, and work towards helping articulate the most important sections and ideas. Whenever I would stop, Jeff and Jon would continually ask me where they’d fvcked up. Yes, at times they would fvck up. At times, I would fvck up too. Even so, it was so early in the musical relationship that I felt like if I said anything disciplinary or condescending it would kill the musical vibe that I was trying to create.

And, for the sake of elucidation, what was this vibe? I wanted to have fun, and create really cool music. Period.

Anything else – perfectionism, guilt, shame – it all has no place in my vision.

After about 3 times of stopping and Jeff and Jon asking me what they did wrong, I cut them off.
I straight up told them I do not give a fvck if you make a “mistake”. We are all learning. I am not going to punish you or shame you like Tim Goodwin did.

It’s likely that Tim was raised in a shame-based paradigm. Because if he wasn’t, operating a musical education service from a shame-based perspective seems to lack efficacy. I will prove this efficacy now.

The efficacy of positive musical education
If you shame people for making mistakes, here’s what happens: they resent you, they feel “less than”, and a barrier is created in their absorption of information. If, instead, you encourage people to work through their msitakes, encourage their spirit, celebrate their victories – even the subtle ones – and lead them to believe in themselves, you get what I got: healthy, self-aware, confident musicians, effective and expressive musicians.
The discipline aspect does not go away though! In lessons, or in a band setting you still need to make tough decisions and draw the line. But if you encourage the dreams of your musicians, they will trust you. They will follow you, and they will SHINE.

I got a band of dudes who enjoy what they are doing, who have fun, who are inspired, and who will follow my lead. In short, you create a great band!

The Big Picture of Musical Education

Encourage the spirit. Encourage your student’s spirit first. Their spirit will shine through whatever they do, but it MUST come first. Without spirit, you may create technical brilliance in your students, but it will be missing an essential link. You must inspire. This means taking a look at why you are teaching. WHY. Is it for the money? I don’t judge you – it’s a function of capitalism to monetize services. But the depth and power of your service is determined by how deeply you’ve connected with why you are doing it. Simon Sanek speaks about this why aspect in his videos. Thanks again!
How do you learn?

It has come up for me that maybe not everyone learns like this. Maybe not everyone is as empathic and deeply feeling as I am. Maybe some people have thick skin and can take shaming and turn it into something positive. But if you’re like me, and you’re deeply feeling and feel shaming very deeply, then do yourself a favor and take yourself out of destructive situations and relationships. Recovery is possible, but the sooner you start, the better. Learn to love who you are. Love your heart. It will guide you home!

Validation, and Questioning the Poly Dating Model.

Last night I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream: I played in a video game cover band, playing some of my favorite tracks. People recorded us with their phones, and many thanked me at the end of the performance. It was clear that there was adequate success.

But something about the whole thing felt off, and I think I’ve finally put my finger on it.

It still feels like I am perpetuating some elusive childhood dream that my heart really isn’t interested in anymore. What is this elusive dream that I chased all of my teen years and young adult life? Mother fvcking validation. Looking to outside approval for the “ok”ness to be myself and enjoy expressing myself as whomever i want.
Over my many years of playing in bands – and also desperately clinging to projects with which I felt out of alignment – I realize that I may have put myself onstage to create a covert contract with people in the audience to fill that hole of lack of validation in me. I would stay in projects that I didn’t really enjoy because I was addicted to the applause and the resulting feeling of validation. As I’ve been recovering from this paradigm, which seems to have – as ineffective paradigms do when met with awareness, patience, and a willingness to work at it – dissolved from the inside out, I question my commitment to the video game music project.

Am I following my heart here? I manifested this video game music cover band pretty quickly, over the past 3 weeks or so. It was a goal of mine with the TIMO project I released in August to create a live band, and I did it!

However, I encountered a couple factors that bothered me last night.

Firstly, we were told to be there for a 6:30 soundcheck. We didn’t soundcheck until 8. While this might seem inconsequential to someone who truly loves performing, It pissed me off. Do I really love it enough to put up with shifty times? Is there a way to operate in a touring band and have people respect your time? Surely there are many professional acts that have this aspect handled, such as those with touring managers and recording contracts. That is many musicians’ dreams. I know it will be easy to achieve, but I question whether or not it is my dream.

Reflecting on this point, perhaps if I choose to invest more time into this musical venture, I must accept the reality of the shiftyness of the music business. It’s hard to see it as a lucrative business venture…it is a creative venture. The ROI (return on investment) needs to be not only monetary but also emotional. I need to find out if it is going to be emotionally worth it for me.

Since I got the job at the juice bar, my spirit has lifted. I’ve had time to release my scarcity mindset and truly chill out for the first time in a few years. This means the opportunity to detach the money aspect from any musical ventures, and focus my creative pursuits on whatever I want. I want to invest my time into writing Igby (my fiction novel).

If I choose to perpetuate my videogame project, it is a large time commitment. It’s not a matter of showing up and playing. It also requires research into videogames, hours of additional listening, hours of practicing, monetary investments in patch-loading keyboards an equipment, hours taking care of the business and marketing side, and much more. I think it’s a great idea. I think someone that truly loves it should do it.

I like it. But I don’t love it. And because love is becoming a defining factor – a guiding light – in my life’s spiritual journey, I am thinking of letting it go.

I need to decide if I will be willing and able to take care of the project in the way that it needs.

Secondly, something about being on stage makes me nervous. It’s not the musical aspect though – I feel very confident about my musical aptitude.

It has to do with an old paradigm of reaching out to sexy people I want to talk to after the show. Part of the appeal of music to me as an adolescent and a young man was that being in a good band meant a steady flow of groupies. Now, as a self-realized man, I simply don’t feel attracted to party-animal groupies. And while I like partying every once in a while, I like doing so with people I already know and trust. If I were to connect with sexy people after the show, it would be probably be purely physical, but purely physical connections don’t interest me. I am attracted to minds, to souls, to spirits that dwell in beautiful bodies. I had my time sleeping with strangers in my young twenties (when I wasn’t incapacitated by sexual anorexia – which I’ve struggled with most of my adolescent and young adult life). I know that if I have sex with someone I will want to get to know them more. It creates an attachment in me that I must respect. I don’t think it’s a fault – it’s a predictable thing. I can’t just fvck and leave, even though in the past I tried to impose that reality on myself as a right of passage.

When I’m around adventurous, gregarious, party-animal vibe type people, it takes an inordinate amount of energy for me to meet them on their level. Life is short. I used to give a fvck, but now I don’t. I am, however, experiencing the result of choosing to live outside the party-animal paradigm which means my ways of meeting people must change.

I want to make a connection with a special person who likes to spend time with the introverted, spiritual, yogic, growth-oriented creative soul, and I want this person to be a sexual partner who not only jives with this vibe, but also has the time to spend with me. This person is financially stable, happy, sexually healthy, and matches my steady pacing in cultivating growing intimacy. I want someone that doesn’t need constant stimulation to be happy spending time with me, that can chill and be introverted, but still appreciate sizzling sexual attraction and intimacy.

Right now I need to be particular with those whose bodies I connect with physically.
Speaking of compatibility, I much prefer my work to be writing, composing, and working on focused and sustained activities; and my play to be one on on intimate conversations, movies, sex and cuddling, and growth-oriented personal development. Socialization is fine, like double dates or small gatherings, but I want to be very careful with which crowds I meld. Heavy drugs and alcohol use are red flags. Gossip and blaming are red flags. Unhealthy sexual guilt and shame are red flags.

Questioning the poly-dating model
Recently I’ve been questioning whether or not poly-dating is the right choice for me. Although I did like the initial freedom of it, and it’s requirement for total honesty and transparency, I seem to have fallen off the bandwagon. I still have many questions, and it’s been hard not to get down on myself for where I am emotionally with dating in general. It’s hard not to get down on myself for feeling stunted because I was never encouraged to date and try new things and be myself as an adolescent, and for being shamed almost irrevocably for being a sexual being in the first place. It’s hard to look past my rage at being emotionally neglected. I realize that these psychological complexes still occasionally pull at my consciousness.

If I am to continue my poly-dating, I want to surround myself with people who’ve made it work for them. These people must also be free of heavy drug and alcohol use, gossip and blaming, and unhealthy sexual guilt and shame. In other words, I want to find people that have made poly-dating work for them, and I must like them and want to model their behavior not just in their dating lives, but in most or all other aspects of their lives.

The poly-dating model must include total honesty and transparency. Total honesty and transparency with others, and also total honesty and transparency with myself, and coming to terms with the fact that the more my heart shines the more ineffective paradigms will dissolve. Any paradigm that can’t stand up to the shining light of my heart is no longer of interest to me.

Coming through: a balanced approach

The light of my heart is my guiding light, but I still make decisions based on several factors. Gnosis, knowledge that passes understanding, emotions, experience, advice. I choose to take all these factors into account when making decisions, and so to reject the poly-dating model now I think would be premature.

It is, however, time to iterate. What I like about it is the openness, the freedom, the transparency, the integrity required to do it the right way. What I don’t like that I’ve encountered has been a sort of cold-foot approach that I’ve found myself perpetuating. In other words, I’ve used the knowledge that I am dating multiple people as a defense mechanism for really connecting deeply with people. If you read my first post of the 21 day yoga challenge, you know that this was one of my initial fears. So apparently I’ve manifested that fear. It’s ok though, this happens a lot in human experience. What would the preferred alternative be? It would be connecting deeply with people. I actually have done this to a certain extent though, so it don’t want to fall into the trap of black and white thinking. there’s much grey area. It’s like I have a little fear about it and I also have actually had the opportunity to connect deeply with some people…

But what I think has been missing is consistency. I want a predictable, consistent relationship. Maybe this will look like a standing, weekly date. Maybe it will look like something else. What I can offer is consistency, companionship, mirroring, and love!

I didn’t mean for this blogpost to look like a personal ad, but I do believe that publicly asking for what you want is also the quickest way to get it.

So I will continue to be myself in whatever changes I go through, embracing my feeling of now growing introversion. I will write more, which somehow calms me and soothes my soul. Hopefully by sharing my story I am inspiring someone to heal, and to live the life of their dreams.

Query: who is it that is doing the dreaming?

21 Day Yoga Challenge: Day 9 (Procrastination)

Damn. Damn it. I am procrastinating. My yoga class is in 10 minutes and I’m starting my blog post. I’ll only get about 3 minutes worth of info out right now. I’m also eating sugar and drinking coffee. I am tremulous.

Hopefully my hour of upcoming yoga will help chill me out. It’s 3:50 pm, and I slept in until 10:40am today.

Why? Because I charged myself up last night to get some music production work done after midnight, which took out until 2:00am. Then, I took an hour to cool my creative jets, deep breathing and imagining all my creative energy grounding into the earth.

>I got some good work done, but because of my scheduling choices, I missed my beloved morning yoga. Comparing yesterday (Day 6) with today (Day 7) I can say definitively that I prefer the hour of yoga to occur in the morning. Ok, I need to get to my class.

UPDATE: Now out of Yoga, feeling better. I got some biking in, but am noticing how different the dynamic of biking around is compared to driving. Because it’s nearly 100 degrees heat index here in Memphis TN, I get hella sweaty. I love being able to bike places though, so maybe I’ll try out a bikrim class, bring a change of clothes, and shower afterwards. The only thing is that Bikrim classes are either super early, or right in the middle of the day!


Let’s get a level check:

P – 7
M – 5
E – 5
S – 3

My physical levels are good – I feel adequately healthy. Mentally, a bit unfocused, and a little dazed. It seems like the changes that I feel occurring in the very core of my being are propelling a disorienting haze around my entire self. This is an example of cognitive dissonance. The most notable cognitive dissonance that I am experiencing is that which occurs at the very moment when I question the toxic shame paradigms with direct action to the contrary. Such as expressing interest in someone attractive, or expressing myself or asserting myself or being seen. Toxic shame creates an inflexible paradigm where one is ashamed of being seen, of being themselves. The more and more I choose to show up as myself the more the old, ineffective paradigm comes into question. It’s like an old, dead tooth that needs to break off the gums for the new one to come in. The two cannot exist in the same space, thus we get cognitive dissonance.

But the more you can stay in a place of cognitive dissonance, respectfully, fully embracing the paradoxical identity of existing in both states at the same time, the more we can sort of suspend time and make a choice,. We can slow down our experience like Neo in the Matrix picking bullets out of thin air. We can suspend our disbeleif in ourselves and make a more conscious choice. I choose to show up in the world as myself, as the entirety of myself, limitless, crystalized by choice.

Dealing with Cognitive Dissonance

So how am I dealing with this? Honestly. Honestly, honestly, I can’t legally say here, but I may or may not be allegedly using cannabis, and coffee. Really, I know there are other ways of dealing with it. Cannabis after midnight as creative catalyst could theoretically keep someone up until 3am, which would, in turn lead them to sleep in quite late, missing their beloved morning yoga.

Other ways of dealing with Cognitive Dissonance
You don’t. It is there, and you must accept it, if it is. I feel that it is far more productive, though, to outline the best ways not to deal with cognitive dissonance.

1) Do not deny it
2) Understand that how you feel now is temporary.
3) Trust that it will pass.
4) If you need, fall into one of your habitual self-comforting routines (it may or may not be cannabis, or coffee)

Once you get back to a place where you feel a baseline level of familiarity – comfort – equilibrium – then it’s time to start building new energy. Imagine what life will be like as the new you. Feel with your heart, and let your heart speak to you. You are amazing – a child of divinity, and you have every right to break out of your self-limiting beliefs.

I don’t want to get preachy without backing up what I preach with hard evidence, so I’ll leave it at that.

I’m not really trying to prove anything here, other than the fact that daily yoga is beneficial.

Other than that, I hope that my honesty and clarity is beneficial for you. Let me know what you think, if there is anything yo’d like to see, and tell me something interesting about yourself.




21-Day Yoga Challenge: The Rules, and My Expectations


I just completed my first day of the 21-Day Yoga Challenge. The rules are simple:

Do at least one-hour of yoga every day for 21 days straight. 

That’s it! If you fulfill this task, you’ve completed the challenge. If you’re like me and you want to go a bit further, here’s what I’m doing:

Measuring before and after, on a scale of 1-10 these four metrics:
– Physical – How good do I feel physically? How many times a week do have have a moment where I find myself feeling really good in my body for no apparent reason?
– Mental – How focused to I feel? How often do I catch my mind worrying or stressing unnecessarily?
– Emotional – How expressive am I? Is my emotional processing immediate or delayed?
– Spiritual – How connected to I feel? How often do I experience extended periods of  unconditional love and acceptance?

Yesterday my levels were:
P – 6.5
M – 3
E – 3.5
S – 7

Physically I felt out of shape, and I hadn’t done yoga or exercised in a couple of days. Mentally, I was definitely in a depression for much of the day, which led to lack of focus AND delayed emotional processing. My spiritual metric was about a 7. It feels so strange to have a spiritual metric! Perhaps spirituality isn’t meant to be measured by a metric, but let’s see what consistent measuring does for me. I hope have a 2 point increase in P and S, and a 4 point increase in M and E.

I am anticipating (and, honestly, leaning into) some additional changes. Firstly, I predict that I will be drawn more to a plant-based diet, including more fruits, vegetables, beans, oils, herbs, and teas. I predict that this change will decrease my coffee intake and clear up my skin. I also anticipate clearer, more heart-centered relationships emerging during this time, because as I become clearer and more heart-centered, I attract people on a similar vibe or frequency.

This isn’t my first rodeo…
I’ve been practicing yoga for 12 years. My approach has been such that I’ve learned from many different teachers in many different styles, all leading to a cohesive personal practice, but for the past year I’ve focused almost solely on weight-lifting, letting yoga fall by the wayside. Now it’s time for a change. I love how open and free I feel with regular yoga practice. The whole process can catalyze great change and healing, as I began to experience ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I began a daily yoga practice, and practiced 2 hours a day for 3 months straight. In that time I changed and evolved in many ways physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But the change that I appreciate the most – ten years later, mind you – is how yoga put me in direct contact with emotional challenges that I HAD to deal with. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t pleasant. But it was absolutely necessary for my soul’s growth.

I had to confront the toxic shame of my childhood that shook me to the core of my being. 

I’m still working on this by the way – It’s a work in progress! I feel very vulnerable to be sharing this with you, my readers, but I’ll take a stab at it. I wish that by doing so I can inspire others who have lived through similar circumstances to heal, grow, and integrate the lessons of toxic shame. This will likely be an ongoing exploration, not limited a single post.

I was shamed for my body, eating, sexuality, expression, and more. I remember one afternoon where my sisters dressed up in their tutus, and I decided to put on a leotard. In our play, I wanted to be a statue, so I stood on a milk crate and became a stoic beautiful statue, changing positions every few minutes, as my sisters danced around me.

My father couldn’t understand this type of non-binary gender expression. He took pictures of me that made their way into the family photo album, which was regularly pulled out to show visitors. Being seen in this way became a regular shaming ritual.

The entirety of a childhood in a hyper-religious family is enough to keep any good counselor in business. Suffice it to say, yoga helps. I wish, through regular practice, to understand myself on a deeper level, and unravel the knot – the complex of the psyche – that toxic shame has twisted around me. The real me. My true self. That which always is, and which is always becoming.

Dating as exploration

The fun part of all this is I will be dating throughout the challenge! As someone who grew up through toxic shame, one of my greatest fears is being seen before I’m ready to be seen. The fear itself sometimes freezes me into a state where I never wish to be seen. It’s static and constricting. I hope that yoga will help me become more fluid, confident, and, instead of a barricade, place on my heart a screen door that lets the breeze through.

What I’m learning about myself is that the static roles that I employed when dating in the past don’t feel right anymore. I would attract people that I could “save” because that’s how I got most of my love as a child – by being the rescuer! Now, I know this role no longer serves me, so I’m forced to go outside of my comfort zone. Maybe it will be easy, but the last date that I went on I found myself trying to play the rescuer role when it wasn’t even relevant. I hope to catch myself even sooner next time and choose a different frame, like the “Tim having a good time” frame. I like the “Tim having a good time” frame.

In dating, my pattern has usually been bouts of monogamy followed by bouts of celibacy. I will be challenging this model during this time. While the ideas of polyamory and alternative dating/relationship styles are interesting to me, I’m going to be sure that I’m not using the option to connect physically with multiple people or partners as a way to avoid letting them in emotionally. So transparency is paramount, with authentic heart connections taking precedence.

My guidelines will be as long as it’s fun, transparent, and good for Tim, it’s happening. Maybe I’ll meet some cool yogis who wants to connect (and do acro-yoga!). I’m not going to the classes to get dates, but heart-connections happen, man.

The Journey

I love how the experience of the journey itself is shapes the individual. I love how an experience that seems out of your control can shape you into the person that you wish to be. I love the choice to discover what makes my heart sing, and the choice to pursue that joy until the ends of the earth.

I have a few more thoughts, but as I am focusing on quality, conciseness, and consistency, I will reserve them for another post.

For now, be the light.


© Tim Stanek 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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