Originally published on Yoganonymous (2015) by Dr. Jamie Marich
When I came of age in the early nineties, making mix tapes was a huge thing for me. Like many peers of my era, recording songs off of the radio was a way to procure music, especially when my mother wouldn’t permit me to buy the whole CD if I was just going to listen to one song! Additionally, hitting “Play + Rec” while some of the CDs I owned played a favorite tune helped me to craft a collection that was uniquely mine! Without even realizing it, I began to engage in a practice I now call playlist therapy. The modern technologies of outlets like iTunes, Spotify, and countless other platforms make it even easier for me to craft a playlist that is personal. Not only that, these platforms allow me to capture moments and celebrate experiences. Playlists can also create a musical life raft for riding out difficult emotional seasons of my life. It is my pleasure to share with you in this article some of the ways I’ve put playlist therapy to work for me, and in the comments section I’d like to hear some of your experiences with using playlists as well!
I got my first iPod back in 2005. Like many newbies to digital music, I was instantly amazed and pleasantly surprised by how easy it could be to make playlists. It was at that time that the notion of playlist themes became real for me. In my mix tape era, the intention of making the mix was to capture pieces of music that I liked. Anyone who might find those tapes hanging around today would like have a time capsule-style glimpse into where I was at in my life circa 1991 (i.e., a young adolescent struggling for a sense of identify and acceptance). When I met the digital technology, I began making lists along all types of themes such as, “My best spiritual tunes,” “Instant calm,” and “My cheap happy high.” Yes, I still have several playlists on my device that collect 10-12 songs that are sure to lift my mood, at least somewhat, whenever I hear them. And I’m not ashamed to admit that Hanson’s MMMBop is one of them (please don’t judge me). The happy lists are also populated with a healthy dose of bands like Vengaboys and ABBA. Going to this happy list is still one of my best go-to coping strategies when I feel the weight of stress or some heavy emotional work in which I may be engaging on aspects of my life. There have been times when, on a difficult drive to or from work, cuing up this playlist offered me a chance for healthy containment.
As I’ve learned in my own work and professionally assisting others, sometimes we need a container for keeping our challenging emotions managed, and other times it’s the best course of action to really be with a challenging emotional experience. To feel the feelings fully, to ride out the wave without shame. During these times when that healing work calls me, playlist therapy is also there to assist. I’ve also made playlists along themes like “dancing out my anger,” “crying through my grief,” and yes, even “my awesome breakup mix.” I’ve made several breakup playlists after getting out of difficult relationships and I inevitably find that in letting the list evolve, the list typically starts as anger and angst, and then transitions me to a place of empowerment and claiming my life back. In making such playlists, you can choose to simply listen to them as vehicles for helping you feel the feelings. Alternately, you can dance, practice asanas, or otherwise move to them in a way that’s organic to you. Remember that if this process gets too challenging or overwhelming at any time, go back to one of your container playlists like “happy” or “calming,” Maybe even consider seeking support and sharing your playlists with others in your circle who can support you in this process of mindful listening.
As a facilitator of conscious dance who trains others to facilitate, I work a great deal with making playlists and teaching others to do the same. When we craft dance experiences for the community, it’s generally vital to work with an intentional theme. That theme can be something as simple as “introducing the concept of mindfulness in movement,” to something multi-faceted like “the interplay between darkness and light.” Often, it makes the most sense to craft a class using a season, like “Spring,” one of the chakras, or even a decade of music to facilitate an experience for those attending your class. What I am getting at here is that your options for making playlists along themes and integrating them into your personal wellness practices are limitless. Maybe you are already accessing the power of the playlist in your life—can you think of some other ways that you can take your use of the playlist a step further?
Here are some themes along which I’ve made playlists. I’ve used many of these for my own personal dance meditation practice, yet I’ve also found value in sitting in mindful reflection as I listened, often journaling after the experience:
Where would you like your next playlist to take you? Set an intention, let that intention guide your selections, and just notice what happens!
I return to the womb
Every time I curl up
And let the colors swirl around
In this posture my being
Cultivates a new growth,
A new energy
So that I may awaken
As a blossom, a flame
Ready to heal the world.
"Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either."
-Governor Kate Brown (The first openly bisexual governor in U.S. History)
A deep fissure dwells
In my body and soul
Despite all of
the yoga classes
I am still searching...
I know I am beautiful
I embrace my worthiness
I've healed a cadre of
In my therapeutic quest
The longing for wholeness remains
A blessed fusion
I will only find through
I accept the invitation...
My dance needs two feet
And an open heart
A path for hope exists to
As authenticity embodied in this life.
Speak the truth
Even when your voice shakes
I've seen the meme
I've noticed the posters
And I've wretched inside.
So much easier said than done.
Taking a breath
I share my variation...
Breathe into the center of my being
Breathe and find my truth
On the exhale, allow doubt to release
Let fear begin to soften
Exhale the lessons learned that
My truth doesn't matter.
Be gentle if some of these blocks remain.
Trust my journey and
Allow these tendrils that silence me
To fuel my intention
The doubt, the fear, the negativity
Let my body know the innate
Specialness of my truth
How she needs to be shared
She wouldn't frighten me if she didn't.
Ride the waves of doubt
Play in the rain of fear and
Navigate the brutal rocks of negativity
Breathing all the while
Breathing like a lion and
I will roar like a tiger
Speaking my truth to the ages
Dancing with the consequences
"Brave Girl" mixed media: acrylic on canvas with photographs featuring Sister Henrietta Ritter, HM one of my kindergarten teachers and first movement facilitators on my left wing, representing the lineage of bold female teachers who came before me. This picture was taken in the 1920's when she played in a professional basketball league, recently gifted to me by another member of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary (Thanks Sister Joanne). On my right wing is Alicia Hann, one of my Dancing Mindfulness training students and emerging leader in our movement. She represents the boldness of female students I have the privilege of teaching. I am in the center, lifted up by the wings of integration given to me by my students and my teachers, flying me towards my greater purpose of helping other brave girls heal. Thanks to my cousin Danielle Realty for recently giving me an ornament with this phrase "Brave Girl" embossed upon it; the concept has given me a great deal to ponder!
Beloved St. Hildegard, sacred doctor of spiritual knowing
A woman, a leader who spoke truth to corruption and power
Long before power was ready
A sage, a mystic, a healer who guided us towards
Nourishing the greening power in our lives
A creator, a vessel of the expressive and
Cultivator of the sacred, verdant fruits of
Watering our true natures with faith.
We find ourselves in a bit of a bind
Here in 2017, and we beg for your leadership as
Women are under attack in a new way
By the systems of power long seeking to silence us.
New leaders take the helm, put there by
Campaigns of fear and systems who feed from
The vulnerable and the weak
The green thread that binds humanity is severed.
We call upon you to teach us how to heal
The green thread.
Show us the way to water,
Help us to cultivate the soil.
Remind us how to nourish our lives with
The elements that service our souls and
The earth entire...
Grant us the patience as we realize that
Sometimes healing is slow---
Indeed, the richest healing usually is!
Help us to savor, to find the greening
Miracles in each day
To recognize that each morsel of healing
Will help us to repair, to replenish the earth.
Poem and painting by Jamie Marich
The American experiment has long intrigued me--
Although as I return after another sojourn abroad
I can't help but conclude that the experiment failed.
Although I've never swallowed the rhetoric that
America is the greatest country on earth
I now feel great shame for what we have become.
I own my part, take responsibility for my role in it
As I travel home I notice that the skies are still beautiful
And in this beauty I can draw hope.
Drawing hope from the beauty of the skies--
The same skies blanketing places far more magical
I can perpetually visit this veil of wonder.
To nourish myself with strength--
Strength from her healing majesty
Gifting me breath for the journey ahead.
Works of art in gestation
Are often called
Works in progress
The slogans and inspirational
Cliches call for
Progress not perfection
We judge students and employees
With the metric of a
What if we were to change
Every use of the work "progress"
With the word "process"?
What if works of art in
Gestation are called
Works in process?
What if we encouraged
People to focus on
Process not perfection?
What if our metrics of
Evaluation took on the tone of
What if we were to live our lives in process?
All life could transform
Into a journey of art making,
Fueled by the expressive spirit
We could refrain from
Judging ourselves so harshly
And instead savor the unknown
From the unknown and yes,
Even from our mistakes
We can discover a new way of being
From what we once labeled failures
We may unearth a new solution,
A new way to solve a problem
By creating in the moment and
Not forcing the big picture
May we encounter the essence of meaning.
Photograph by David Reiter
Follow the heart when
The heart calls
Even in circumstances--
Especially in circumstances
Where it seems challenging
To answer the call.
Follow the heart where
The heart leads
Even in situations--
Especially in situations
Where it seems easier
To play it safe.
Follow the heart as
The heart guides
Even in seasons--
Especially in seasons
As awakenings may startle,
Jolting you too far.
Follow the heart always
The heart's wisdom is pure
In every season, situation
Like the lonely north star,
The heart will lead you home--
Home to the truth of your being.
THE THIN VEIL
Where every step, every motion, every stillness is surrounded by magic, by mystery
Where all of the senses--including some you didn't even realize you have are engaged, enraptured
Where all four elements are constantly intertwining, interweaving, allowing for a deepening in spiritual practice, spiritual joy
Where the air seems cleaner than one has ever breathed air, as the Divine inspired, intended
Where food tastes fresh, nourishing abundant with energy, with life-giving force
Where the colors are vivid beyond the powers of imagination, of daydreaming, and the combinations send chills through the body, warming the heart
Being on the thin veil prompts the great brainstorm of how you will return here again--or even better--
How you can live your life fully and vigorously, each day, each moment as
as a thin veil experience?
ODE TO A HOT SPRING
Liberates the spirit from depletion.
Releases sensuality from her prison.
Carves away harshness no longer in service.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity