“Take It If You Want It”
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New Song for a
New Album for a
“Take It If You Want It” is the first song from our new 2022 album project. It’s a thesis statement for the project, in which I’m endeavoring to explore — in a very personal way — how to cultivate personal peace and grab hold of genuine agency in perilous and difficult times, like the one we’re living through now.
This song makes me want to get up and dance around the living room, and I’ll be counting on it to rally me in the months to come as I write and record the rest of this project. Here’s what I’m diving into this year:
The Thesis Statement
Everything’s on the edge. I feel it, every day.
In my teeth — I catch myself grinding through the days.
On my skin — pins and needles as I wonder how it’s all going to work out.
If it’s all going to work out.
The relentless, interwoven, swirling chaos we’ve made of the world — none of us needs reminding of the details. But for me, the things that can keep me up at night are some of the more slow-moving disasters: the unfurling catastrophe of climate change and the rise of authoritarianism.
Both of which are fueled by ravenous greed, wicked racism, and self-righteous bigotry; and both of which are contributing to the erosion of democracy and the diminishment of humanity.
So much beyond my control, out of my reach,
way too big for any one person to fix,
and still … I feel it on my shoulders, crawling up my neck.
Where is the relief?
Where can I find some peace?
And what on earth can I do about any of it?
A flashback …
Many years ago, I wandered into a room full of people working on something called “recovery,” because I’d heard there might be some answers there for me — a map to a place where a spiritual calm could overcome the bubbling mess of all the things in my life I’d been desperately trying to control.
The more I tried to control, the more out of control my life became. To the point where my idle thoughts meandered into the perilous territory of “maybe it would be better to not go on at all.”
This group began each of their gatherings with a recitation that goes like this:
“god, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I was not interested in god; but I was desperate for serenity and for change.
For peace of mind, and for the power to participate in my own life — instead of being whipped around by my most reflexive reactions to the people and circumstances around me. And so I stayed, and I listened.
I learned that peace was there for the taking.
And I learned that in order to take it in my hands,
I needed to make space for it.
To let go of all of that which I’d been clutching in white-knuckled fear.
To emancipate my hands
from the snarl of reins I thought would give me power over my life,
but which only ever delivered constant tension and pain.
To release my grip, and to reach for the map to my own peace of mind,
with open hands.
I let go of control, and received in its place genuine agency.
I let go of fear, and received peace of mind.
This meditation has become a stalwart guide for me in the years since. It is not something I did once way back when and then never again; it is a daily practice for me. A daily choice. A set of tools for which I am so grateful. This practice is responsible for keeping me alive, for empowering me to live my life to the fullest, and for bringing me every bit of joy and contentment I’ve experienced since those early darker days.
I sense it’s time for me to dive back into it,
in a fresh way, again, a little deeper.
With intention, courage, and rigor, to retrace the journey on that map.
… Because there is so much wrong in the world in this time, about which I sometimes have so much fear, and over which I have no control, the enormity of which often paralyzes me into inaction.
… But I do not wish to succumb to it.
In fact, I believe I can free myself to live at peace in the midst of it.
And — even more — I want to be a part of changing it for the better.
I believe that practicing peace of mind empowers me to do that.
It’s worth mentioning:
This is not a peace that lives in denial of the real struggles that I face.
This is not a peace that ignores or diminishes the troubles of others.
This is not a peace that encourages me to check out, or that absolves me of my responsibility to be part of creating a just and compassionate world.
It is a peace that allows me to face it, all of it — with courage.
It is a peace that makes me ready to accept my part in the work to change my life and change the world — with genuine agency.
It is a peace that fuels me to persevere when the struggle gets hard.
Also: this is not a peace that will show up out of thin air.
Rather: this peace of mind belongs to me, and although it requires work, I have the power within me to take hold of it.
So I’m unfolding the creases of that map that I once studied to save my life, and I’m about to go on a journey.
Over the next several months,
I’m going on an in-depth exploration of the terrain of
… and ACCEPTANCE
and how those concepts point me toward the experience of
… and SERENITY.
I’ll be looking at all of this through the lens of my own inner life,
and from the vantage point of convergence that my life makes with this particular, perilous time on planet Earth.
I’ll be asking myself tough questions,
digging deep for honest assessments
of my feelings, needs, and motivations,
sorting through what is in my power to change and what is not,
nurturing the practice of letting go of things I can’t control,
making space for serenity,
and cultivating courage to use my genuine agency
to change the things I can.
The end product of my journey (besides all the benefits to my personal lived experience, no doubt!) will be a set of songs and a series of essays that arise from my meditations and practice around each of the concepts I explore on the map. I’ll be sharing those with you here in real time, over the coming months, as I undertake this journey.
Wanna come along for the ride?
Here’s where things could get more interesting: I’d like to invite you to join me on a parallel journey of your own, if you’re game for it.
How this will work:
As I move through this process, I’ll periodically send you the set of questions and prompts that I’m working through on each step of my journey. I don’t even know exactly what they will all be yet! I have a general idea, but I intend to allow the process to inform the direction for a lot of this.
Nonetheless … wherever the path leads me, I’ll send you the guideposts I encounter along the way, so that you can take the journey for yourself at the same time.
How to use the prompts:
You can use these prompts to fuel your exploration however you want to. Maybe you’ll journal, or go on walking meditations, or channel your experience into a creative outlet. You can spend 10 minutes, or you can dedicate a longer practice to it — you’re in the driver’s seat for your own experience.
There is not a set timeline for each step of this journey, nor is there a schedule for when I’ll send out the prompts. But if I’m guessing, I’d imagine I’ll be sending something to you every couple of weeks(ish).
If you feel like sharing your discoveries along the way with someone, you can feel free to share them with me or with others; or you can keep it all to yourself. Whatever approach feels right to you, that’s what you should do.
So … if you’d like to join me:
Please send me an email here, and I’ll add you to my list of fellow travelers with whom I’ll be corresponding more closely as the next several months unfold.
If you’d rather just enjoy the songs I make and essays I write over the next several months, that’s great, too — just keep an eye out here for the new releases we’ll have for you every couple of weeks or so.
This kind of journey can be intimidating; but I’m choosing to allow my desire for serenity and agency to be my inspiration as I take this leap.
And, as always, this kind of work is very personal and solitary — it will be for me, and if you decide to make your own journey, it will be for you, too. But: knowing that we have openhearted community with us and around us will make us feel supported and loved through it.
So with that … let’s go get some peace of mind and unleash our power to make big changes.
Thank you so much for reading — I had a lot to tell you today! I’m excited about the work this year, and the adventure it’s going to take us on. I’m so grateful to have you with me. ♥️
Love and getting started — shannon