How To Be A Better Parent

So I have a brand new vlog! My first vlog ever. It is called LeeSun, Truth Teller.

I began last Thursday, and so far have posted

1 How To Tell If Art Is Good
2 The Truth About Being Good Looking
3 How To Be A Better Parent

This vlogging business is a steep learning curve. At first I was horrified to see myself on video. But here I am, 3 days in, and I am actually starting to get used to it! Anyway, here is my post from today. And here is to exploring truth in this lovely way, and seeing what there is to discover!

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Clarity Comes From Doing and Non-Doing

 

[You can listen to the audio recording of this post if you prefer. Just click on the big PLAY button on above!]

Marie Forleo says something like, “Clarity comes from doing, not thinking.” And I really like this idea because it is so easy to get stuck and you cannot get unstuck unless you actually do something. So this idea that you don’t need to have clarity in order to do stuff, you can just go ahead and try things and find clarity, is a really interesting idea to me.

But like all of these things, where you have a concept that rings true in certain situations and can be really really helpful when you realise them at a specific moment when you need that particular concept, it’s also NOT USEFUL or relevant in lots of contexts. And those would be the times when you actually need to do the OPPOSITE of act, when you actually need to NOT act in order to find clarity.

So I guess what I’m saying is, sometimes clarity comes from doing not thinking, and sometimes clarity comes from non-doing and also not thinking.

 

Clarit does not come from thinking

Whichever way you go at it, I agree that clarity does not come from thinking. Because thinking is about control and if you’re trying to control something you’ve got an agenda there and you’re biased. You can’t be open in the way that you need if you want clarity.

So why am I talking about this right now? Well, I’ve been having a pretty rough time lately.  And it’s not due to anything going particularly wrong in any area of my life. Like, my ebay business is going fine, and I’m writing songs, and I’m generating new material, I’m creating stuff which is what I get my joy from. And so that’s all good.

But I’ve been struggling with the amount of chaos in my life. And what that looks like is a really messy house. Now this is not a new thing. I’ve struggled with mess around me for as long as I can remember. And it’s something that I feel like I’m gradually getting better at.

I believe that ANY skill can be learned and I believe that I can learn to be tidy. However, I’ve got to find a way to do it that is congruent with who I am. So I can try to be super-focussed and really disciplined and I can say, This is something I really need to do today. That is it. I am going to draw a line in the sand and this mess is going no further.” I can do that but that is probably not going to be very effective for me.

So I guess the ongoing struggle for me is finding a way to bring order out of this chaos.

When I woke up this morning, I knew that there was a lot of chaos awaiting me downstairs. The chaos level isn’t always the same. It varies. Sometimes I do tame one little section of the room. Sometimes I actually tame an entire level of the house. That’s not super often! But generally if I’m going to have a party, or a load of people over, or if I have some really strong social motivation to do that, I will suddenly find myself amazingly capable of tidying up at an incredibly fast speed.

So sometimes my house is very tidy (ish). But when that’s not the case there’s a sort of natural deterioration into chaos that happens kind of gradually, or sometimes remarkably quickly, where I can create an incredible amount of mess in a very very short space of time. Which kind of reminds me of what very young children naturally do. They just create mess as they go along. And in a way I guess I’m quite child-like in that respect and I just haven’t learned those skills yet that would get my place tidy and maintain it at that level. But anyway, it’s really boring to talk about ways in which I’m stuck. It’s a lot more exciting to talk about ways that I can become unstuck!

So I woke up this morning and I just knew that the first thing I needed to do today to get back on track was to do a meditation. Mindfulness meditation is something that I feel quite passionate about. It’s something that I started last year and when I began doing it I had some incredible profound experiences. So even though that doesn’t happen for me every time I meditate, knowing that meditation can lead to that kind of growth keeps me passionate about it.

So this morning when I woke up, I knew that I had to do a meditation. But for some reason, instead of coming downstairs and meditating, I just stayed in bed. And I picked up my phone and started playing Sudoku on it. And I kind of rationalised this. I thought, “Oh well this is a good way to warm up my brain.” Which … I don’t know. Maybe it is.  But really, I was just procrastinating. So I played a couple of games of Sudoku.

And after that, I thought, “Well, I really should go meditate.” But that was a deadly thought for me because I am not motivated by thinking that I should go do something. I should never have paused to think that thought. I should’ve just come downstairs and done the meditation. Either that, or if I was going to stop and actually think about something, I should’ve just imagined myself doing it. That kind of visioning exercise is motivating for me.

So anyway, I chose to do the thing that was going to make me procrastinate more and that is, I thought to myself, “I should go downstairs and meditate.” Instead of doing that, I started playing a Snake game on my mobile phone which was not a brain warm-up in any way. It’s just a game where you move a snake around collecting little balls and the aim is to collect as many as you can without running into yourself (because the snake gets longer and longer as you go along). So it’s a fairly banal sort of game. I did that for … I don’t know … I think I played 3 games … maybe. And I’m pretty good at it. So that took … probably awhile. I don’t even know how long. Maybe 20 minutes. And then I looked at the time and it was 9:30. So at that point, just seeing the time on my phone made me get out of bed and come downstairs and do the meditation.

In order to tame the chaos

It’s been a long time since I have meditated. And this has been hugely unhelpful to me. This is actually directly linked to the amount of chaos in my life because in order to tame the chaos, I need to start by being still and doing nothing and finding clarity.

I know from experience that if I meditate every single day, first thing in the morning, whether that’s 10 minutes or 20 minutes or 40 minutes, it has an incredible impact on my day, on my week, on my month, on everything. I know this.

But the problem is that since I know that, I’m very tempted to think, “I should meditate.” And like I said, that is the worst thing that I could possibly think. So I need to find an approach to meditation that doesn’t involve my thinking that that is something that I should do.

One thing that I’ve learned is that if I want to implement something into my daily routine in a consistent sort of way, well first of all, the first thing I’ve learned is that that’s almost impossible for me. However, I know that I’ve got to MAKE IT POSSIBLE if I’m going to be the person that I want to be, and if I want to achieve the things that I want to achieve, if I’m want to do the things that I want to do.

So knowing that it’s important for me to be meditating every day, I need to find a way to really enjoy the meditation and also to love doing the meditation. And I need to use my imagination to conjure up these associations which are going to compel me to meditate.

And at the end of the day, for me, if I look at anything that is really good for me, that I really need to be doing, those things always turn out to be an expression of love for myself, a way that I can love myself. For me, those things go hand in hand. What’s good for me can always be viewed as an expression of love for myself. And that’s what motivates me. That’s what I need to tap into.

So anyway, I eventually came downstairs and did the meditation.  I haven’t meditated since the 4th of June. I know this because on my calendar, I circle the dates when I do a meditation and exercise. So this means that it’s been 2 weeks since I have done any exercise or meditating. Before that, it was probably another 2 weeks. So my mind is in really bad shape at the moment. I was using a guided meditation by John Kabat-Zinn called “sitting meditation” which is a 40 minute sitting meditation. And my mind kept going all over the place. And that’s okay. It’s just a reflection that I haven’t been training my mind.

So my mind was going all over the place, and I kept doing what you do when you do mindfulness meditation, which is, you bring your mind back, again and again, gently you escort your mind back to the breath, to the sensations in the body, to the present moment, to simply allowing yourself to be, to this active non-doing where you’re not striving to get anywhere or achieve anything. And every time you do that, you make a note of where your mind has gone to and you give yourself a little bit of love: you just acknowledge that your mind has gone to that place and you gently bring your mind without judging, without criticising, just accepting that your mind is doing these things. And you just keep bringing it back again and again and again, like you might teach a child.

So I was doing this and quite a ways into the meditation, I started feeling more still. And as that happened, and as I started dwelling and being more in the moment, and being still, my mind started looking like a vast blank canvas where a couple of colours were swirling around. And an image came out of this.

It was like a painting. It was a wood. It was quite Avatar-like. You could see no houses, no buildings. You could see it from a distance. And it was zoomed out so you saw this huge tree and at the foot of the tree there were what looked like little stone steps, a really wide set of stone steps. And there was a tiny figure on the stairs. And that figure was me. And I could just see the back of me. It was almost like seeing a tiny stick figure, it was so far in the distance. And I could see I was standing quite straight, and I was walking up the steps. I was not too far from the top of the steps. And I looked very calm and very deliberate. And this huge massive tree was in the middle of a big forest. And from near the top of the tree, which was at an immense height, probably about a hundred times as tall as I was, you could see filtering through the branches, this glorious warm golden light … filtering down.

That reminds me of one of my newest songs which I just uploaded last night onto leesunmusic.com (you can go there and get a free download of it)! And it also made me think of who I am and where I am in my journey. It was such a beautiful and powerful image. And it rang true.

If I just sit

It felt as though it was a picture that my heart had painted.

And as this image came to me, I realised that I can only hear myself in this way, that I can only know my heart in this way if I take the time to be still and really listen, really pay attention to myself without asking anything of myself, without trying to do anything, without trying to get anywhere or be anything. If I just sit in complete acceptance of who I am, then I can see and hear these things which help me to know who I am, and know the desires of my own heart.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this morning.

I actually wanted to write a blog about how to tame the chaos. Because it’s something that I’m in the middle of, and I feel that for anyone who can relate to really struggling with this particular process of taming a chaos that seems to naturally result out of just being yourself, … if you can relate to that, then maybe, I thought, it might be helpful for you if I share what I’m doing about that and what my experience is with that.

But I’m going to leave that for another day because I think this is a good place to start: just the idea that clarity comes from doing not thinking, as Marie Forleo says, but also, clarity comes from non-doing not thinking, as I say!

I hope that’s helpful for you!

Please leave a comment below, or say hello, or let me know what you think!

I would really love that 🙂 Thanks!

xx

Why Nobody Can Tell You What’s Right (For You)

Blue Glass Heart PendantLast night, I went to OpenMind at The Grove. Afterwards, I was chatting with a couple of song writers about song writing, and one of them (Dariush Kanani) said something about how the best songs happen when you don’t try to make the song be a certain way, but just allow it to unfold and take shape naturally. Actually, he probably didn’t say that at all, but it doesn’t matter what he said. What matters is what I took from what he said, and that’s what I took from it: the idea that when you try to impose your will and expectations on the world around you or even your own creative process, you can end up closing a lot of doors to some very wonderful places.

At the time, I said, “That’s true! Not just of song writing, but life!”

And that has got me thinking about these little truths we realise about the creative process, or other specific processes (like business practice, entrepreneurship, relationships, teaching, learning, time management, or ANYTHING – you name it!) … It seems to me that any solid truth about any process can be traced back to a principle that can be usefully applied to pretty much any other area in life. And that’s what makes truth so powerful.

For example, take JFK’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This exhortation has resonated with people through the decades, since JFK made it famous. And the principle behind it can be shaped into any number of other similar phrases such as, “Don’t think of what you can get. Think of what you can give.” Or, “Don’t try to sell. Try to serve.” Or, “Seek not to be understood, but to understand.” And so on and so on.

So I’ve been thinking about what all these principles have in common. And to me, at the root of all good principles is love. But that’s not a very helpful idea because the concept of love has been bastardised, warped, manipulated, and loaded with all sorts of crap by the media and ads that aim to hijack the idea for profit. So forget about love and let’s get more practical, more specific.

And to get more specific, I’m going to get more vague.

For me, at the root of all principles that resonate most profoundly, is growth. Stretching.  Getting bigger not smaller. Being open and vulnerable instead of shielding and protecting myself. And for me, this is about checking my heart, to see if I’m grasping things closer to me, or whether I’m opening my hands, stretching them out in offering to others.

Like when I play live, what’s that about? Is that about, “Here I am, this is what I’ve written” in a “me vs others” sort of way? Or is it, “There you are! I’m so pleased you’re here. And I’m happy to freely share what I’ve got” in a “here we all are together” sort of way? If my heart is in the first place, I feel smaller, defiant and defensive. If my heart is in the second place, I feel bigger. I feel free. I’ve been performing music since I was a child. And I could (and probably will some day) write an awful lot about what I’ve learned. But all the lessons I’ve learned about performing are lessons I’ve learned about life in general.

People try to boil down right and wrong into lists of rules, laws and guidelines, but at the end of the day, no list of rules can cover every possible response your heart might have to any given circumstance. And your heart, with ego and fear stripped away, is the best guide for what’s right for you. Only you can find that. With courage. And often with the help of others!

So anyway, there are my thoughts on life, love, and truth right now …

Please leave a comment below … would love to hear what you think or what your experience has been … 🙂

Love,

LeeSun
xx

How To Succeed As An Artist

DSCF4001

I’ve felt like an outsider all my life since I first began interacting socially with people outside of my family. My earliest memory of a social interaction is from when I was 4. My sister and brother and I were playing on the sidewalk with two sisters who lived down the street. The elder sister and my sister were dominating the convo which consisted mainly of the other girl (who was about 7, like my sister) sneering at various things about me and my brother (kids can be so mean sometimes), and my sister hotly countering the jibes with pithy comebacks such as, “So…?!!!” and “No he/she’s not!” During that conversation, I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was freakishly small for my age, and that I looked much younger than I was (which is insulting when you’re 4).

And then my years at school began. It was the late 1970s, Canada. My grasp of English was limited. To be fair, that was true of the other 4 year olds too, though they were native English speakers. So I quickly caught up. But not before I started realising that everything about my experience (my culture, my family) was different from the common experience of my peers. My family was different. My parents were different. All the class activities which took for granted Canadian culture, tradition, and customs were foreign to me.

And then the moving began. My parents moved frequently, at least once a year, sometimes more. It was terrifying, but I soon got used to it: being the newest kid in the class, having no friends, feeling unsafe.

Things changed rather dramatically when I got to University as a 17 year old. I was a math student. We were ALL outsiders. It was like discovering my home planet. The only problem was that I didn’t particularly want to be a mathematician.  So after a couple of years of desperately trying to make myself be like everyone else, I gave up and changed paths to classical piano. Classical music students were just as geeky as math students, but again, I was a square peg trying to fit myself into a round hole. I was an appallingly bad classical piano student.

In fact, I was a terrible student, full stop. Academia did not suit me at all. I didn’t like doing my own work (though I was happy to help others with theirs). I didn’t like sitting in lectures. I was disorganised. My life was chaotic. But I had a glorious time doing whatever I wanted while always feeling like I was avoiding what I should be doing. And it was while I was procrastinating that I starting song writing. That was a long time ago. Autumn 1995. Nearly 20 years on, and I’ve realised what Jessica Hische has put so neatly: “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”

When I was procrastinating I helped others, encouraged others (especially those who were disheartened). I wrote songs. I sang them. I shared them with anyone who would listen. And this has been the work I’ve been passionate about (and longing to do professionally) ever since I started doing it in my “spare time” as a student.

As an artist, a question that I get asked time and again is, “What makes you different? What’s different about what you do?” And this is an important question.

It’s hardly surprising that I find it so satisfying to perform my music and be an artist, since it’s a field where being different is not only allowed, but celebrated. We are all unique, we each have a unique set of experiences, unique DNA, evident in the uniqueness of our fingerprints. So at the heart of the question about what it is that makes my music different, is the question, what makes ME different? WHO AM I?

That’s a good question.

And a fucking impossible question.

Who am I? I’m discovering who I am all the time, with every passing moment, with every new bit of life experience. I express that in my music. I long to have more time and resources for it. But I celebrate the time and resources I DO have for it now. And in the midst of all this discovering, I encounter rejection again and again and again.

In April, I applied for Samsung’s “Launching People” competition, hoping to be chosen from hundreds of artists, to be mentored by Paloma Faith. I didn’t win the competition. At the end of April, I applied for a PRS For Music Foundation recording grant to record my second album (which is written and ready to go!!) and I didn’t make it to round 2 of the application process. Every time I attempt a “jump” for my music and I fall, after the initial disappointment, I celebrate. Because this is my story.

I am GLAD that my story isn’t: 

So I just wrote these songs and they were so awesome and someone in a position of great influence and power heard my songs and was like, “You are so awesome, let’s put you on a shortcut to stardom and everything you ever wanted.”  And then I became super successful! I’m so lucky! This never happens to anyone … just me!

I’m glad that’s not my story because that story SUCKS. That story is NOT REAL. That story is NOT THE WAY IT HAPPENS, despite the weird fantasy-illusion-belief that most people seem to have about the music industry, or any creative industry. This idea that you have to be lucky to make it, otherwise your career as an artist is pretty much doomed from the outset is a huge load of BS. This story is entirely disempowering to artists, placing the power of making their career possible in the hands of a small group of wealthy people and corporations. This is the fiction that is endorsed by those in power and then bought and propagated by those who are afraid of the work they’d have to do if they took responsibility for their own success. So it’s easy to see why so many artists buy into this fiction … because most artists would prefer not to do any work aside from their own creative work.

It’s tempting to want someone to step in and make things happen, especially when it feels like my own efforts have been ineffective for a long time. But giving in to that temptation, adopting that position means to give up all my power. And I am not willing to do that. I am not willing to place the power of making things happen in my life and career in the hands of others. Even if I were to get a recording grant, that wouldn’t be the funders making my record happen. It would be ME doing what I do, being who I am, inspiring funders to want to be a part of what I do.  Let’s set the record straight. Let’s get the REAL picture of who’s got the power here.

It’s the funders, the distributors, the labels, the publishers that need US the creatives, not the other way around. WE ARE THE REASON why they do the things they do. But THEY are are NOT the reason why WE CREATE.

So every time I feel knocked back, every time I put in a load of work, take a risk, and find that the result/response is not the outcome/boost I’d hoped for but simply the news that I’ve got to work harder, work longer, I CELEBRATE. My story is REAL.  And I want to share my story and for people to be inspired, encouraged, heartened, to know that the effort, the disappointments, all the passion and heart that they invest freely and generously into their art and work without any guarantee of being paid or being heard, this is all part of the journey.

YES, I want my music to be heard by as many people as possible. I want to have great impact. I want my songs to be so touching, so resonant, so relevant, so insightful, that one day, everywhere I go, I’ll hear other people singing my songs (and hopefully not because I’ve gone crazy). And I will explore every opportunity that comes my way that might help make that happen. But I am not looking for “luck” to get me where I want to go. That’s not to say that luck won’t happen. I’m saying that I’m not depending on luck.

I am going where I want to go, right now, every day. I’m going to keep writing my songs in as awesome and true a way as possible, and step by step, I will get to where I want to go. I feel confident of this.

So when I am rejected by Samsung or Paloma Faith, or the PRS for Music Foundation, I celebrate my journey and my story. I laugh thinking about how one day, when my songs are being sung by different people, and they’re a ubiquitous part of the music landscape, I’ll be able to say, “When I was looking to record this album in the way that I envisioned, and I looked for partners in that, I was turned down again and again. But I kept going and I found a way to do what I want to do.”

Now THAT is a story worth celebrating. One that will give people hope, and also be an accurate portrayal of reality, instead of the fantasies/lies that are perpetuated about creative professions and about success in general!

Rant over.

So you want to know how to succeed as an artist? Take heart. Your dreams are your destiny, if you just continue taking the steps each day towards them. One step at a time. There is a shortcut to success.  And it’s what my little boy might call a “longcut”. That shortcut is simply going where you want to go, step by step, like the proverbial tortoise. Begin by dreaming.

If you want to help make my second album happen, I’m raising the funds to record it right now. So if you want to help, you can do so at:

http://LeeSunMusic.com

via the “Buy Now” buttons …… and you’ll receive my album (either as a digital download or a CD depending on which you select) as well as my deepest gratitude 🙂

Or you can buy something from my eBay shop at:

http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Little-Music-Tree

If you do, please drop me a line at LEESUN [at] LEESUNMUSIC [dot] COM and I’ll send you an exclusive preview of my newest song, “Know, No Matter What (We All Matter)”!

 

Acts of Kindness, Launching People, Paloma Faith, and Living Large


So … a couple of weeks ago, I found out about a competition being run by Samsung called “Launching People”. I thought, “Do I want to be launched?” My answer was a resounding, “YES!” The only catch was, the deadline was a day away. So I cleared my day’s schedule, and buckled down to the serious business of putting together a video all about me, in the hopes that Paloma Faith would choose me (to mentor and LAUNCH) out of the hundreds of entries.

I didn’t think twice. I just knew I had to do this. I skipped group therapy (which I’ve been going to for nearly 2 years, and which is a big deal for me!) and I also skipped my weekly counselling post-grad lecture and skills session at Leeds Met (also a big deal for me!). I spent my precious time mainly finding video editing software and figuring out how to use it via Youtube tutorials. Then I cut up bits of a video that my amazing, beautiful, talented friends Aurora and Lucy did for me awhile ago, and cut up bits of my songs from my album Prime, recorded a voiceover and voila! The above 2 minute video was born.

It was one of those moments / events / days that felt so strongly guided by the hand of destiny, I felt so certain that OF COURSE I’d be chosen for this, it really was a shock when I wasn’t contacted the following week to be invited to participate in the Launching People mentorship thingy. “How strange,” I thought. “So what was that all about?!” I have no idea. But now I’ve got this video which gives a pretty clear statement about my creative ethos and what I’m about.

I’m still scratching my head (not literally). Well, as my little boy might say, at least I made a Youtube video! 🙂

Conclusion: Kindness and self-belief. You need both. Or perhaps another way to look at it is, love others and love yourself, and everything else shall follow …

I hope you enjoy it!