Soothe the Savage Beast

On August 20, 2016, millions of Canadians witnessed Gord Downie—Canada’s very own Shakespeare—give what may be his last concert performance following a diagnosis of glioblastoma, an aggressive and terminal form of brain cancer. For three decades he has fronted “Canada’s Band,” the Tragically Hip. With tears in our eyes and music in our hearts, we sang along to At the Hundredth Meridian, and its lyrics hit hard:

If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me
If they bury me some place I don’t want to be
You’ll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously
Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees

But mostly, we celebrated. We celebrated the power of the band’s words, music, and artistry. We celebrated their part in the soundtracks of our lives. As did Downie. He could have retired to live what remains of his life privately. He could have been spending time with his closest friends and family. But instead, he chose to focus his energy on creating and performing.

Why?

Mostly, I think, because he is an artist. He is compelled to do it. He knows, like any artist knows from the top of their paint brush to the tip of their tap shoe, that art has the power to soothe: “I go for it; I sing, I dance, I listen to this great band, I do what the music urges.

Studies have shown that engagement in the arts can have a positive impact on health and wellness, including a decrease in symptoms of depression, a reduction in stress, an increase in positivity, and, in some cases, an improvement in immune system functionality. Mere engagement in the arts as a casual observer can have an impact, but to really feel the benefits get your hands dirty and get creative*.

In other words, folks: get your art on.

artArt makes us feel good. I think children instinctively know its power and potential. They colour, dance with abandon, sing songs about kittens and stop signs, and build magical kingdoms out of dust and dreams. We encourage them to express themselves through art and are angry when music and art programs are cut in school.

When we get older, the instinct to create wanes. Creativity becomes a ‘sometimes’ endeavour, an indulgence, if we create at all. We come up with excuses like, ‘I can’t sing. I’m too old to dance. I didn’t get good grades in art class. I’ve always wanted to paint, but it’s too late now. I have no time.

My challenge to you: silence that inner critic and get out and create!

It doesn’t need to be pretty. You don’t need to be Emily Carr, Shane Koyczan, or Gord Downie. You just need to do.

I write. I colour with my kid using my own colouring books. A friend journals and creates little worlds in terrariums. Another—a veterinary assistant—creates animal portraits in pointillism. Yet another sings in a choir. One friend forms tiny objects from wood when he is camping. Another, in his late thirties, got his hands on a number of electronic music pedals and boards, and dived right in, having never owned gear like that before.

There are so many opportunities to get creative in New Westminster. If you want some instruction to get you going, try a Paint and Sip night at 100 Braid St. Studios, an adult hip hop class at Dance Matrix, guitar lessons at Neil Douglas Guitar on 12th, adult musical theatre classes at The Stage New Westminster, or stand-up comedy classes at Lafflines The Columbia Theatre. If you are ready to go for it, pick up an ‘adult’ colouring book at Black Bond Books, join a Royal City Literary Arts Society meetup, sign up for a community choir, or simply grab a canvas and some paint at a dollar store.

Find something new, return to something old, and just do it. You’ll be amazed at how much better you will feel. Gord knows this:

Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish
When the little sensation gets in your way?
No ambition whisperin’ over your shoulder
Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish, eh?

~ Fireworks

 

 

 

Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254–263

Monthly Theme: Wellness

Does anyone else feel like a switch has been flipped and we are firmly in autumn mode almost suddenly? I sure do. Leaves are turning colours and falling, my furnace got a dusting and a new filter before being woken up, and I’m wearing socks for the first time in months. I went hunting for a favourite pair of gloves the other day, and had a moment out with a friend last night where I yearned for the jacket I’d ignored as I walked out the door. Yup, it’s definitely not summer anymore.

beeAt our house, we’re back at the school-kid grind. I’m always amazed at the ease of which the school seems to fall into routine, like a bee hive where all members have a job to do to ensure success. Teachers to shepherd young minds, admin and staff to set a tone and keep the building running as well as it can, and students to fill their minds up with everything they’re learning – academic and social. Some kids transition pretty seamlessly into school, some need a bit of support to feel they’re in the right place. But, here, as we enter October, it seems to be a fairly well-oiled machine and needs are being met as best they can.

I’m bracing for the onslaught of colds and maybe even *shudder* lice that inevitably comes with a swell of school kids with their heads together and *knock wood* so far we haven’t succumbed to either. We’re still trying to grasp the last of the summer and spend time putting the garden to bed before the first frosts hit. Tomorrow, we’re heading to the New West Apple Press Fest to really make autumn feel welcome.

If I can make one request, readers? Please keep the storm drains in your neighbourhoods as clear as possible. When the rains hit (and it’s a given, here on the wet coast), clear storm drains make the streets less flooded and more safe.

This month, our theme on Tenth is Wellness. Our print issue is out at distributors starting today, featuring a beautiful cover illustration by my co-publisher, Johanna Bartels. Articles from the print magazine will be out on the website soon and we’ll be sharing and promoting them throughout the month.

We want to share stories this month that show off how well our community is and what parts need improvement. I’m hoping some of you will feel compelled to write about traffic, transportation, transit, housing, health, taxes, city services, community organizations… you name it.  Come to us with your ideas, and let’s share it on Tenth. Talking to one another in the community is one way to keep it well and a community mindful of wellness is a place I like living in.

 

Redefining the Norm

movementMention to anyone older than you, regardless the age, about how stiff you feel and they will undoubtedly say, “Wait till you’re my age.” My father has used this adage my whole life.

It has become the norm to accept decreased mobility as we age. True, our muscles and joints lose elasticity through the years, but it seems to be happening earlier in life with each generation. Society’s increased sedentary lifestyles are mostly to blame. As we spend more time sitting we get better at sitting, which leads to being less mobile at anything else.

An average day for many Canadians looks like this: wake up, perhaps sit and eat breakfast, if breakfast is eaten at all, jump in the car to drive to work and then sit for the better part of 8-10 hours. Back into the car for the commute home, sit, eat some more. After dinner, sit, and binge on Netflix.

Our bodies and minds develop together in order to solve movement-related problems and always have. “How do I catch that antelope to eat? I run after it with a poky thing.” Our bodies are designed to move in as many patterns as possible, and to repeat them often enough that we become more efficient at those patterns.

If we don’t move in different ways, we can become stiff as we begin to lose the sliding surfaces between the layers of connective tissue. This lack of fluidity of movement can make you more likely to get injured when life decides to throw a wrench at you when you least expect it. These wrenches can take the form of sudden slips and falls, trying a new sport, or even throwing a leg over your first motorcycle as you’re realizing a life long dream to get a class 6 license.

We all should move more, and that movement needs to be of a high enough quality to keep us from wearing down. What does “high quality” movement mean? Historically, the fitness industry has been driven by people wanting to look better rather than wanting to move well. This can lead to building on top of dysfunction by pushing through poor form, choosing weights that are too heavy, or taking thousands of steps with faulty mechanics in your first half marathon at 50. The truth is that just moving the way a human should happens to create good results. Focusing on working hard to look good without also concentrating on movement quality and diversity can result in injury or a lack of desired results.

Fortunately the industry is catching up, and movement-based approaches to training are increasing. We, as coaches seek out dysfunction, work to resolve it, and then build that into better movement quality. Hopefully everyone will start to move, move better, and move more.

For some tips, check out Strongside Conditioning Gym’s YouTube channel, where they post some quick tips and techniques. Strongside Conditioning Gym is located on Front Street in New West, and you can find them on Twitter and Facebook as well. 

 

Mindfulness and the Connection to Yoga

If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer. ~Dag Hammarskjold

If you practise yoga in New West, you might be tempted to make resolutions based on ‘mindfulness’. Or maybe you’re curious about yoga and have heard lots about it. Not a surprise given the media push this year:

Smile? Be present? Say thank you? What kind of a resolution is stretch? What happened to bigger, faster, stronger, richer? Two hundred years of New Year’s resolutions and it’s come to this?

I’d be tempted to chalk this list up to yoga-driven anomaly—two of them were shared in social media by my New Westminster yoga students—but that first article hails from the Huffington Post, and we all know that once something hits the Huff, it’s as good as gone mainstream, right?

What, pray tell, is up?

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