Find 15 Minutes, Even When You Have No Time

I gave a client of mine a VERY tough challenge in our first call. It made her twinge and squirm “just enough” that I knew it would start her out in the direction she was seeking.

I offer it to you as well… are you ready? This is for the DOERS in the group. For those whose schedules are jam-packed because… PRODUCTIVITY! And being productive means being in action, doing some-thing. This is for those who have NO TIME.

Here it is:

At some point in the day, stop, sit down with a cup of tea (or wine if you wish) and … do nothing for 15 minutes. No book, no magazine, no cereal box, no food, no music, no podcast. Nothing. Cat/dog/ in the lap— OK.

Put a timer on for 15 minutes and simply observe:

Your thoughts

Your squirming

Your feelings of needing to do SOMETHING

Your feelings of feeling like you’re being unproductive and therefore… (fill in the blanks)

Your impulses to stand up and DO SOMETHING

Your breathing

Your relief that you DON’T have to do anything.

Your discovery that you actually like this. Or really hate it…

Don’t write any of this down… just sit.


Repeat this for 12 days. In a row.

Yes, I heard you freak out just a little! That’s OK. I did, too!

For awhile, and perhaps a long while, this will make you feel very uncomfortable. And weird. This is good.

Stay with it. No matter what. Cringe and squirm and stand up and down and walk around in a circle. Grunt or yell. Notice how much noise you’re making in this quiet 15 minutes of nothing. Brain noise, emotional noise, physical noise.

AFTER the 15 minute Do Nothing session, you can journal or write some notes. Or get up and do something productive…

My clients complain they have no time. They want more time freedom. There isn’t enough time.

There is. We all have 24 hours— just like Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Mother Theresa, Michelle Obama, Helen Keller, Einstein.

This IS time. We simply make weird and wonderful choices in how to make use of the time given us. Some lead us forward; other uses are distractions and derailers.

One of my teachers said,

“There is no time at all and all the time in the world.”

And this is what I believe: that daily quiet time gives us the opportunity to listen deeply, hear our inner voice; quiet time allows us to openly view our lives, honestly and clearly. Spending quiet time, alone, gives your mind an opportunity to re-boot, to re-set, to find itself a new order.

Here are 5 ways to put 15 minutes of quiet time into your day.

  1. End your work day 15 minutes early. If you need to set a reminder for this, do so. Have the tea ready to pour. Put everything down and turn everything off. Shut the door if you need to. Put a sign up if necessary. Here’s a sample sign:

I’m taking 15 minutes of silence to end my day.

If you are on fire, call 911. If the building is on fire, call 911 and pull the alarm if it’s not ringing already. I’ll hear it.

Other than that… if the police have come to the door and look really serious, please interrupt me.

Ditto Justin or Sophie Trudeau, Blake Shelton, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen, Rick Mercer, anyone from Dragon’s Den or any of my family (although they’ll completely understand.)

  1. Schedule it. Literally put it in your calendar like you do your meetings, lessons, kids’ soccer and date nights. It can be anytime of the day. Treat that space with respect. It is sacred time.
  2. Get in to work early. When I was teaching, I would get to school earlier than everyone. If the weather was crappy, I’d go down to the gym where there were few distractions, and do qi gong. During the season when I didn’t bike to work, I’d get off the bus one stop early, which happened to be at a park, and do qi gong there. When I rode… I’d stop as well.
  3. Get out of your office during lunch. Too many of us sit at our desks, eating and working. Not only is this bad for digestion, it’s bad for productivity, it’s messy and your energy tanks.
  4. Cut out TV, social media scrolling, internet surfing. We all know it’s a huge time black hole. Turn your screens off by 9. Use a timer for ‘free time internet time.’ I practiced piano for an hour a day. It was a limited time. Apply that principle to your screen time-wasters. 15 minutes. BAM! Easy Peasy.
  5. Let a little housework, laundry, cooking or yard work go. Just 15 minutes of it. Get someone else in the house to do it. If you are alone, get someone in to help. Nothing will blow up.


What Will Happen?

No one will die or be injured. You will arrive at the end of 15 minutes fully intact. Also more relaxed, feeling less stressed. And you will be more creatively and productive around the RIGHT things.

Over time, with this practice, your breathing will begin to slow down. The cray cray of the concrete mind will calm down. And a miracle will happen. Time and space will appear. Out of thin air. You will create time for yourself.

More importantly, your inner voice will start to speak—quietly and slowly at first, because you’ve probably spent a pile of hours listening to outside influences and voices and shoulds and what ifs and why don’t you’s and here’s another to-do list and shutting this poor inner voice down.

Over time, another voice will be heard. The one that wants to feel a certain way at the end of the day—or the week— or your life. The Voice of Wisdom (and we all have it) that truly knows who are are becoming. The Voice that Knows what is needed next. For YOUR next steps on YOUR journey.

And THAT is the voice that you must TRUST will come forward. That is the voice that we all want to hear. That inner, truer, subtler voice, which may come through really loudly (as in “FINALLY! You’ve got enough space to HEAR me! THANK YOU!).

The Challenge?

The challenge will be to know which is the inner voice and which is the outer. It’s tough, I can tell you. It’s hard to really distinguish between what you think or wish were the inner voice and what truly is. In fact, we may not ever hear entirely the ‘true’ inner voice. It may take us into the next lifetime or the one after that. But we can all become more attuned to a truer inner voice.

That, my friends, will take time.

For now, go back to the beginning.

Make a commitment to sitting still, in silence, for 15 minutes. Breathe and follow the breath. Experience the sensation of your body on the chair. Dream, friends, dream! And Listen.

And let me know what happened! Or didn’t.



Better to Start Than to Be Perfect


This website is a clear example of simply starting and not waiting for perfection. Clearly VERY imperfect and incomplete. And if you were to click on most of the tabs there would be nothing, or something out of date, or something completely irrelevant to life as I know it. And yet… I’m writing.

Being incurably curious about everything and seeing the connections and patterns that run through seemingly disparate ideas and concepts, it’s nearly impossible for me to tease apart the connections to find The One Thing that I’m to do.

This leaves me in a constant state of multi-directionality (seeing the possibility of going in every direction, it being the right direction and the right connection), which can lead to either paralysis and seeking chocolate or scurrying about my office from one corner to the other with no particular like a mouse one of my cats may be chasing (and never catching).

Even this post has perambulated. Fewer than 200 words and I’ve written and deleted several hundred.

The point is to START.

When all options are equal, (and equally interesting) it’s more important to choose than to choose the right one. Sharon Little

Waiting for everything to be right and planned and strategized and written out and listed and scheduled and evaluated and sorted and decided upon and perfect and vetted and focus grouped and surveyed and properly packaged does not work for me. And probably not for you, either.

There is a place for all of that.

I’ve done the Act on the Impulse and Start Without Any Clue What I’m Doing or Where I’m Going as well. There is a place fo that as well.

I had this on my wall for ages. I’m not sure its presence on my wall helped me DO anything, but it may well have.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation.

There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!”  W.H. Murray

SO… don’t wait for circumstances to be perfect. You’ll be dead before that happens. Trust that once you move, you can change direction. And just to be clear. There WILL be mistakes, bloopers, false starts and slightly embarrassing results. They’re inevitable. Instead of running from them, embrace them, look for them… but START.

Now, go… start on ANYTHING. Even for 5 minutes.

Doing It Cause I Said I Would

NASA Sees Hurricane Sandy as the "Bride o...

Pre-Frankenstorm, which isn’t going to hit us directly and which is a better word than Frankenweenie, I think. Sunday night. Rain. Cat on forearm, anchoring me, connecting with me, purring.

This, Day 13 of my 30-day post a day challenge, is an exercise in persistence, commitment, discipline, imagination and learning. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.

At this point, I don’t care about links, about comments, about new likes or follows. I don’t check. And if you’ve liked the  a post,  or follow the blog, thank you and I’ll check in on your blog at some point. But right now, this is for me. I need to do this. And I need to write something of . At least for me… and maybe for others. If it’s of value to you, let me know. If not, that’s OK, too.

What IS this?

I decided to post something every day for 30 days, starting on October 12, the new Moon of Libra, come hell or high water, the latter of which is much more likely and indeed, were I living in Wawa, Ontario, or in the path of Hurricane Sandy, would be even more probable. I could ostensibly beg high water if I wanted to quit. The hell part, well, that could have been in BC had the earthquake been stronger and/or further south.

This is meant to establish a rhythm, a steadiness from which I can expand. It’s manageable and doable. If I set the bar higher, it would be difficult to succeed. Small wins, small steps towards a more productively creative, a more predictably creative, a more prolifically creative life. Writing is part of that.

I seek to live an imaginative, creative life (and I blog off and on about it here) and I’m trying to get my soul-infused act together, which means, for me, to create rhythm in my life and to be consistent about things. Oh, and to not get so distracted by… well, pretty much anything. The problem is I’m interested in everything and have some capacity to manage many things. And so I do. Or, I did… more than I do now.

But , I still try to put too many things in a day. Even today. Once I finish this, I have a meditation to do, which I should have done earlier today, but didn’t, and there was more, but I’m committed to doing it…and so…

I do  this, and mark my steps along the path with stickers as I wrote earlier. No one would yell at me if I stopped. I could stop. No roof would fall, the world wouldn’t end and I could start something new.

But I won’t and… I won’t. Somewhere in me, and it’s been going on for a time this year, there is a deep-seated drive to do more, other, better, different, beyond, what is possible and potential not just probable. I have a clear vision of where this will lead, but am not sure yet of everything that will carry me there. I do know that I have to do this. Now.

Tomorrow is the Full Moon of Scorpio. Following this cycle and rhythm is part of the need that I’m meeting— using the energies of the time to move myself forward.

My astrologer friends have spoken about the following in connection with this full moon, in no particular order. I add them here just as fodder for thought.

  • Scorpio brings the hidden into the light
  • it’s the sign of death… not necessarily physical, but, yes, that, too.
  • the esoteric keynote is Warrior am I and from the battle I emerge triumphant
  • the US presidential elections always occur during Scorpio (wonder what it would look like in, say, Taurus or Leo… or any other time!)
  • this is a time to truly choose the spiritual, soular, higher self path and battle the forces that would keep us more engaged with personality distractions and lower drives.(quelle joie!)

Bottom line: can I/we live from our higher principles, no matter what… come hell or high water?

I’ve chosen a particular head of the Hydra to deal with during this Full Moon time. You can read a bit about it here. And, like this challenge, and the other daily practices I’ve committed to, I am going to battle this one to … its death.

Frankenstorm… referring to what could happen when the storm that just passed us and Hurricane Sandy get together for a meetup— a pretty good name for the Full Moon of Scorpio time,   I think.

Three Things I Learned Today About Consciousness and Creativity

1. On July 7 of this year,  a group of neuroscientists declared that all nonhuman animals, “including all mammals and birds and many other creatures, including octopuses,” are conscious. There is a signed document to this effect (The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Non-Human Animals).

Science is catching up to the Ageless Wisdom teachings, which suggest that there is a kind of consciousness in all things—including a rudimentary consciousness in plants and minerals. I think the next thing will be to recognize that there is a difference between the brain, where everyone’s looking for consciousness, and the mind.

2. One theory of creative genius, originally proposed by psychologist Donald Sutherland and made more comprehensive by psychologist, Dean Keith Simonton, suggests that creative thought comes through a process of “blind variation and selective retention (BVSR).”

Basically it means that creative people go blindly through a lot of trial and error, trying man things to determine the idea’s usefulness. They have to generate a pile of different ideas. This, Simonton calls superfluity. Lots of ideas. Ones that ultimately won’t work.

Creative people also backtrack; this is retracing steps.

Often the two happen at the same time. Creativity isn’t linear. Neither is it circular. It’s more zigzagular. Probably not something that can be described on a piece of paper in a diagram.

3. Talent is important in cultivating genius (and extreme creativity). However, there are several other things that may be even more important:

  • pursuing an activity for its own sake—the feeling of autonomy
  • finding the activity important or of interest
  • feeling competent in your skills (which gives you confidence)

The Struggle

We’ve moved into Scorpio this evening.

Trial, Test, Triumph.

Stay committed. Stick to it. Struggle through Transformation.

Expose the fear, shed the fear, get to the heart of it. Let Neptune transform it.

Dig in. Face the limitations, the obstacles, the tests… I’m gonna get it done.

“Warrior am I and from the battle I emerge triumphant.”

If you don’t have a spiritual struggle, get one… what is the spiritual struggle.

With Saturn now in Scorpio, it’s now time to grow up, overcome the emotional chaos. Commit to the transformation.

What behaviours need releasing? Still, again. More? Are there more? What transformations are possible this month?

My ‘secret’ project begins tomorrow morning. Let’s do it. I’m keeping it secret to keep it sacred. Day by day. Moment by moment. Step by step.

It’s gonna be a fight.

To a triumphant finish.

Rite of Spring…in October?

When the Rite of Spring (Stravinsky) premiered in 1913, a riot ensued at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. If you haven’t heard it, you should. If you haven’t seen the ballet, you should. I should.


La façade du théâtre des Champs Elysées

La façade du théâtre des Champs Elysées (Photo credit: dalbera)


Live is better, but Disney’s Fantasia (the 1940 version) gives you a taste. (Would love to see a contemporary animation of it!) Just as a side note, check out the Rite of Spring 100 celebrations here.


In any case, it’s an aggressive, lurching, severe, brash, exciting piece of music. Oh, to have been in that first audience!


I heard it on the radio on Saturday as I drove north along Highway 76, heading home. (I’m listening to it now!) The wind was forcing its way across the fields, bending trees over, the leaves clenching, gripping  the branches. Roiling, stormy clouds bowled across the heavens, tumbling through open blue spaces, dragging a storm with them, pushing, shoving everything ahead of them.


The match was perfect.


What’s Old is New Again—I Can’t Believe I Think I’m in the Same Place—But I’m Not!

I began this blog about 2 years ago. Almost to the date! I had just returned from a spectacular weekend with Music for People grads, the first time in 10 years. Inspiration, sadness, joy and a desire to give myself a quick kick in the butt. Which I did.

Is it something about October?


Routines, Limits and Creativity-Breaking the Rules

I broke all my rules this morning. (Rebel)

And I did it to fuel my creative self. (Good girl)

I slept in until after 8 (nearly three hours late), I didn’t do Morning Pages, Meditate, Mantra and heart coherence, Qi Gong or read right off the bat as I usually do. I had a quick bowl of Chex  rather than the hearty grains and chia and hemp and kefir concoction, and contemplated changing the homemade cocoa (recipe below) to a cup of Murchie’s CBC blend tea, but that was as I was pouring the drink. I left the house with my morning routine in tatters and went to a business showcase in the next town.

It’s Saturday. I remember it being housecleaning day as a child. It was watch cartoons and eat whole wheat Shredded Wheat rather than eggs and toast. (yup, on Saturdays, all hell broke loose at breakfast!) Saturday should be about something more relaxed than the rest of the week, but, seeing as I’m trying to corral my distractions, stay focused and keep the end in mind, I’ve been disciplining myself quite rigourously. And I need to stop some of that.  You CAN go overboard.

Routine? Discipline? Limits? and Creativity? They go together?

Creatives claim that limits and structure and discipline limit their capacity for creativity. They say that they need total freedom to contact whatever it is we contact that fuels the creative fire. Creatives claim that setting a schedule is impossible and, worse, useless.

This is hogwash of the highest order. Or disorder.

The reality is that the most successfully, consistently, productively creatives have a routine, some kind of regimen.

My morning routine and other “systematic” actions give me intense freedom within set limits.

When I follow the routine I’ve set, when I sit down and follow a task list, when I plan out my time, I eliminate a lot of possibilities, usually the ones that are distracting and take my eyes way off the goal. It sets the ground so that the niggly little things run under the radar, and the more important things have their time and space in my head and life.

But sometimes, you have to break the routines. They can become too restrictive. It’s not good when I get up and feel completely BOUND by the limits I’ve set myself. Eventually, the rhythm of work can move from a dance groove to a dried mud rut.

Today, I broke the routine. Intentionally. That’s the critical piece.

When we set out, with good intentions, to develop a good habit, or untrain ourselves from a bad one, we often go about it mindlessly. We don’t mean to miss, but we do, just because we forgot. We follow the same path every day and it becomes not only subconscious, but unconscious and unthinking.

I guess what I’m trying to build into my practice is the quality of conscious choice, of mindfulness, of clear awareness of how and where I move, think, speak and act.

The challenge was, though, could I still complete the things that I’ve set out as daily actions (meditation, mantra, morning pages, reading, movement—qi, walking, stretching—a blog post) but in a different order, at a different time, in a different place, even? Would I forget something? Because usually, once I’ve ‘done’ the morning, I’m off to the next thing.

Our brains seek novelty. New colours, textures, shapes and sounds, new places, new people, new experiences—these all stimulate our brains in a good way. I regularly go into new shops and just look around. I spy on the new colours, the shapes… and then walk out. (yup, I do! ) It wakes me up and sets up new neural connections. I’m good with that.

In the interest of novelty and poking at my brain,  I took my mala with me and did the mantra as I was driving. I asked questions or engaged every vendor (connect with new people and friends, ask people’s names, create new connections). I walked along the old railway line for the first time, then discovered the snowmobile trail that runs parallel. (new colours, sounds, smells). Went into the town’s grocery store (almost never go there).

Drove home. Shortened morning pages, a shortened reading time. Yes, not ideal, not what is most helpful, but today, it was enough.

And now… day 6 of the 30 day post a day challenge… done at a different time of day. Done and done.

Here’s that cocoa recipe… it’s pretty easy.

Mix cocoa powder ( I use Camino brand) with 1/2 tsp each of raw cane sugar and cinnamon. For variety, add 1/4 tsp ginger.

Pour in hot milk or milk substitute, just a little to start, to make a paste of the powders. Then stir well. Sit down with a good book or a lap cat and look out the window. Don’t do whatever was on your to-do list. Just for the next 15 minutes.



Week Three- and I’m still at it


Piano (Photo credit: esc861)


Things don’t typically go as planned— my three-time a week at 9 AM practising plan among them.


However, I’ve stuck to the hour a day commitment for three weeks now, relaxing a bit about my schedule, just making sure it gets done —in the morning. Showing up is the main thing. Once I walk up the stairs, the next hour of playing is given.


Every day has started with drums. Drum sticks on a practice pad. This helps calm my brain, empty it of wandering thoughts and clearing it for focus. It also helps my drumming! Whatever I’ve been pondering up to that point in the morning goes into park, on to the back burner, off to the side, percolating, while I focus on right left right left, in some combination. I remember to breathe, to relax, to have fun doing it.


The piano requires a different approach. It’s an instrument I know, one upon which I’ve practised for years, and so know how the practising is ‘supposed’ to go. As I go through scales and arpeggios, broken chords and Hanon, I’m also breaking some old patterns. I don’t have to spend the whole time on one scale. Today, I did 4 or 5 scales, 4 octaves, 2 octave splits, in thirds and tenths, then plowed through arpeggios using the cycle of fifths.


This is not revolutionary stuff. However, releasing the old requirement to stick to one scale day after day, has been important. The flow is better now and I’m listening for fluffy notes—those times when my fingers aren’t quite precise enough to hit the key squarely.


One note at a time—full and complete and precise and heard.


I’ve opened up the Grade 9 book. Didn’t spend much time on it when I was 13, so there are lots of pieces I haven’t played at all. It’s and easy sell. The pieces are easy enough that I can learn them in a few days and interesting enough to provide a challenge—speed, expression, mood, colour.


Bach‘s Prelude in C- is my current best friend. It’s such a training and requires a precision I’m looking for in pieces right now. It trains me, leads me, teaches me. I listen. I’m beating my old practice patterns out of myself and Bach insists better than most. For once, I’m really learning a piece, bar by bar, listening, looking, watching my fingers, paying attention to the line, the interweavings. It’s going deeper. I’m going deeper, insisting on precision and right notes and right fingerings— not just letting everything slide under.


I have to breathe more, practising this way. I have to relax my shoulders, sit squarely on the bench, start again, go slower and enjoy it. The going slower. How many times did I hear “Slow Down!” when I was a kid. I say the same things now with my students. It really does work.


I have no expectations or aspirations — yet. Right now it is enough that I play, and practise and repeat and slow down. It is enough that I do this for three hours a week— and find myself able to do it without difficulty. It is enough that I play up and down the keyboard, using all the things I know. I DO want to get better. Not just on the piano.


My hour ran out today without improvising and without playing unusual scales or learning something jazz. I have to watch that I don’t make practising the classical stuff an excuse for not improvising and chopping away at something new.


The Hour Went By Quickly

I began today on a djembe. Even hands. Left, right, left, right, one, one, one, one. Both hands even. Breathe. Listen. Relax. Listen again. Go deeper. E-ven, e-ven, e-ven, e-ven. One, one, one, one.

It’s all One. Rhythms in 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 12… they’re all collections of one. With different emphases. Rhythms in 4, 5, 6, 7, 11… just altered combinations of 2 and 3. Played around with different emPhases on DifFerent plaCes! Got some sticks out and a practice pad and went at Even Hands again. Not so even! Ha! It’ll get there.

When I was a kid, I hated Hanon. Wasn’t crazy about practising in general, but the scales and exercises drove me nuts. I hated the limits. I wanted to play the pieces– a different kind of limit. Today I started again with Hanon and went through all major keys. Slowly, evenly— another childhood challenge. Today the limits were comforting and relaxing. They let my fingers find their place, allowed me to breathe, allowed my brain to process and re-integrate, re-learn the power of limits.

I’m working on Moment Musical (Opus 94. No. 4), by Schubert. I chose it because the right hand pattern is one upon which I can improvise easily. Rather than sight-reading it and learning it by my quick learn method, I’m going at it in sections, singing as I play, getting the singing pitches right, feeling the spaces between my fingers, the places where my fingers need to stretch, or change order. Feeling the place where my  fingers need to think and listen and feel. I haven’t even looked at the third and fourth pages yet.

But I’ve played the sections, noticed the differences, played right hand alone, right and left hands playing the right hand… it’s been fun! Huh.

I want to work on melody creation. Creating a good melody, a theme that I can remember—at least for the duration of an improv—one I can come back to. That’s how I ended the hour today… finding a melody I like and playing around with it.

Kinda like life.

I already feel happier.