The creative process is a funny thing; I’ve always been fascinated with how and when inspiration strikes. Some songs that I wrote for Breathe In took so much time, so much writing and rewriting. And yet other ones hit me immediately, and it seemed like I finished them in just ten minutes.
“I Am,” which is my favorite song on the album, was one of those songs that just hit me. I wrote it on a weeknight, in my pajamas, after eating dinner. My fiancé went for a run, and I figured I could use the alone-time to write some songs. I picked up my guitar, and within ten minutes, I had a structure and some chords. Before he came back, I had written all of the words. I was surprised - and a little confused - by quickly I wrote the song!
Although I had the music and words right away, I felt like something was missing – like it needed an actual connection to nature. I knew that I wanted to help children see their connection to the larger world, and to show them that if they treated nature with respect and thoughtfulness, the world would be a better place to live in. I wanted to incorporate nature sounds in the background but wasn’t sure what – or how – to do so. I let the idea rest for a while, and went about my daily life.
A couple months later, I was on a hike in the Catskill Mountains. I stopped in a beautiful open grassy field that was sprinkled with flowers, mosquitoes, bees and crickets. The sound of nature was so loud that it was almost jarring – and yet it was still musical and serene. I closed my eyes, and felt connected to all of the life inside the field. After taking a few deep breaths, I opened my eyes and recorded the crickets. I knew that this was the recording that I would use in the song. You can hear the crickets at a low volume throughout the whole track. Every time I listen to this song, I think of standing in that gorgeous field and feeling so connected the sounds around me.
When I recall writing the song, I realize that in a way it was always inside of me; it just needed a way to express itself. I never would have guessed that inspiration would strike on an ordinary Wednesday night when I was already in my PJ’s after a long and tiring day of work!
As teachers, we have to give our students a chance to access and express the unknown creativity and wonder inside of them. We have to give them the time to connect with the world around them and empower them to realize that they are important, they can make a difference, and that they have the power to create. It’s also important to be conscious of this as a teacher; you might want to ask yourself, “What potential is inside of me that I’m not giving myself a chance to express?”
Before I play the song, I like to model the accessing of my inner creative voice by telling my students the story of how I wrote it. I usually say something like,“I know that this song was always inside of me, waiting to come out! It was like a little voice inside my head that I couldn’t really hear until I paid close attention. Close your eyes and listen to what’s inside of your own mind and body. Listen carefully, and use your body to feel what wants to come out right now.”
This song can be used during savasana, or it can be incorporated into a class activity. You can have your children lie down on a big piece of paper. Trace the outlines of their bodies with a marker. Ask them, “What do you enjoy in nature? Animals? Plants? Beaches? Rainbows? Can you draw some of these things inside of your body?” This will help create a visual understanding of their connectedness to their surroundings.
Your morning ritual is something which shapes how you feel for the rest of the day, allowing you to show up fully for the kids you serve. Are you someone who hits the snooze button again and again, only to feel rushed and frantic getting out the door? Or Is the first thing that you do when you open your eyes in the morning to reach for your phone and scroll through your email box?
OK, some of us are just not ‘morning’ people, but by simply modifying your morning routine, you can change your relationship with this special time of day, and move into your day grounded, relaxed and with clarity. The following tips focus on how to improve how you feel from the very moment you wake and support self-care.
Tip #1: Move your alarm clock
You may want to have your alarm clock close to hand so you can constantly keep leaning over and pressing it for a few extra minutes snooze time. The reality is it doesn’t really help. Place your alarm just that bit further away so that you really have to stretch or even get up to reach it — any stretching movement stimulates the waking part of the brain.
Tip #2: Move your body
Although many of us probably don’t feel like it, a little bit of movement and exercise can really get things moving. We are not talking about a full-on several-mile run, just some activity to increase your body temperature, and get your metabolism and enzyme activity kick-started. You can try a few rounds of sun salutations, a favorite yoga video from www.yogaglo.com or simply move your body in a way that feels really great. You can look towards yoga, mindful movement, Qi Gong, Thai Chi, or other movement based disciplines for inspiration and support.
Tip #3: Grounding Breathwork
There is often a sense of anxiety ahead of a stressful day and sometimes we are far from relaxed when we get up. A good method is to try 2:1 breathing; this is easy and really effective — you gently slow the rate of exhalation so that you are exhaling twice as long as you are inhaling. For example, inhale for 4 seconds and slow your exhale down so you a breathing out for 8 seconds. Make sure that this breathing feels easy and natural and avoid holding your breath. I recommend you sustain this for 3-5 minutes with a timer, or longer if you like. You can use an app like Insight Timer which allows you to choose several different sounds or gongs and even interval bells if that supports you. Remember that it is perfectly normal for your mind to wander off during this breathing practice. Don’t worry; just direct your attention breath back to the counted breath until the timer goes off.
Tip #4: Simple 4 Step Meditation and Journaling Practice
Meet the day with clarity and a full heart. This shouldn’t take you very long, but can make a huge difference in how the day plays out.
Make a note of 3-5 of these things on a piece of paper or in your journal.
Make a note of 3-5 of these things on a piece of paper or in your journal. Make sure you can check these off the list today, so be sure they aren't unrealistic. Prioritize completing these things no matter what.. Let today be a day that moves your vision forward and makes your heart sing.
Here is to a happy and fulfilling morning! Enjoy these practices and feel free to comment below with how they are transforming your day.
Mayuri Gonzalez is a nationally recognized presenter, trainer and instructor in mindfulness and children’s yoga, leading teacher trainings and continuing education seminars at renowned retreat centers such as The Omega Institute and IONS Earthrise Center. She has more than 25 years of experience practicing yoga and mindfulness, and provides therapeutic yoga classes to children and families as well as teaching yoga and mindfulness classes in schools and community centers. In her role as director of the School Yoga Project, (a Little Flower Yoga program that brings yoga and mindfulness classes to over 2000 children a week in New York City schools), Mayuri trains and mentors teachers, counselors and school support staff. She is a contributing author to Transforming Education: Best Practices for Yoga in Schools, a white book published by the Yoga Service Council in November 2015, as well as author of the upcoming book Little Flower Chair Yoga: A Sustainable Approach (2016). As an active member of the Yoga Service Council and the International Association for Yoga Therapists, Mayuri maintains a strong community of support and a commitment to continuous learning.