5. Peace Through Music

“Playing For Change” will uplift your heart and soul and mind, and remind you that there’s still hope for this messed-up world we have made for ourselves.

I’ve just discovered a CD called “Playing For Change – Peace Through Music” and a documentary film about the making of it was also on Public Broadcasting TV. Some scruffy-looking guys spent four years to go all over the world, recording tracks of music, and then find more people in other continents who then would lay down more tracks, playing and singing along with the others before them. Actually “jamming” with people they had never met who were thousands of miles, several oceans, and many different cultures away. Almost all of them were non-professionals, street musicians, and native villagers. Then they put it all together. The music is downright incredible.

The world needs change. It’s not so easy to be joyful when your TV screen is crammed with ugly realities all clamoring for your attention. Everywhere in the world today, people and events are pretty messed up. Kids are killing each other, terrorists are blowing themselves to bloody pieces and lots of innocent people along with them. And wars too, not just far away, but at your dinner table on the six o’clock news. And you have to keep the remote right at your side because even the commercials are filled with shocking violence – murders, mutilations, explosions and crashes.

And every time a commercial comes on, the volume on your TV goes up three times louder; just one more thing to assault your senses. Then there’s that insane idiot who cuts you off dangerously in traffic, apparently just for the hell of it.

I find myself watching more stuff on the education channels, and the BBC News instead of the local broadcasts. I just can’t bear the child rapes and gang murders right in my face when I come home from work, dog-tired. I really do need some peace.

If you ever wonder why so many kids totally LIVE with those i-pod things in their ears, here’s why: they’re trying to escape to a better place than the world we’ve made for them. They’re not all listening to rap-violence and obscenity. You might be surprised what they’re listening to. Some of them are listening to classic Rock, Delta blues, jazz, Cajun, country, soul, and even classical music.

Escape used to be a dirty word in psychology, but in this world we’ve made, it just might be a survival technique- because constantly, consciously, focusing on bad stuff tends to attract more of that into your life and experiences like a magnet, while also keeping your mind and body in a chronic high-stressed condition. We all know that this is physically destructive to our bodies and damaging to all relationships.

There is another option – selective focus. We own our own minds. We don’t have to let our own thoughts hold us hostage. We can consciously choose what we hold in our thoughts, at any time. When something ugly or emotionally destructive comes into your mind, and it makes you feel that uncomfortable knot in the pit of your stomach, you can mentally step back, observe it rationally, and decide whether that worrying, fearing, brooding, obsessing, resenting, or raging, is actually going to benefit you in any way. If it’s not, then throw it away.

Refuse to hold onto it. Refuse to allow it to eat at you from the inside. You don’t deserve that. You deserve to be happy. Why let that idiot who cut you off have any more than 30 seconds of your life? You don’t owe him that. You owe yourself a little extra love. Same with all aggravations – minimize your involvement with things you don’t want, whenever possible, because frankly, you deserve better.

Not always easy, but it gets easier with practice. It’s simple, but it works, and it’s incredibly powerful. When you find yourself caught up in a mood or thought pattern that is hurting you or making you not happy or not at peace, dwelling on it is not really helping you, or anyone else. Shift-focus to a new thought that’s better. That’s it. You can stop the gut-wrenching resentment, the crippling fear, or the helpless rage, or the undeserved hurt or shame. That has no positive value for you – Shut it off, and kick it out.

Deliberately choose to replace it with something that feels better – Anything -Pick a thought. Think of something that usually makes you feel good, or makes you laugh, or focus on some good thing in the past or in the future. Think about your loyal, cheerful dog, and what a good soul he is. Or your adorable but persnickety cat, who likes to walk on your computer keys. You baby’s first tooth, or a scene in a movie that made you unexpectedly snort with laughter. Anything that works. Change the subject. Change the thought and set yourself free from it.

When the ugliness pushes back in again, push it out again. Refuse to be held hostage by your own thoughts, about anyone or anything. It’s just a thought. You always have that choice, and that power. You can change the direction. Everyone can. There is a Self inside of you that is larger and stronger than thought, stronger than emotion, and stronger than outside events.

There are some basic universal laws that are always at work whether we believe them or not, whether we even know about them or not, and they work the same way for everybody. You’ve probably heard of some of them, expressed in different ways, like “What goes around, comes around” and “As a man thinketh, so is he.” These are not just good advertising jingles, these are the real deal.

Whatever you hold in focused thought, you are giving power to in your life. That’s a fact. Whatever you hold repeatedly in thought, you attract that type of energy into your own life and experiences. That’s a fact. If you don’t want violence in your life, and you want to decrease the violence and hatred in the world, then DON’T give your time, energy, or thoughts to violent things. Violent images, crime TV shows, video games, reckless and violent car commercials. Turn them off as soon as they appear. (You get the idea.) It’s simple, effective, and life-changing.

It can be tough though, to just “turn it off” and leave yourself sitting there in silence. It’s better to replace something negative with something positive; replace bad feelings with good feelings. That works much better. So start collecting some wonderful, beautiful, or good feeling things for yourself, to replace the ugly things with. Replace bad habits with some habits that make you feel good. Like music, art, sports (participation is especially good – you don’t have to be good at it.) Any joyful things.

Seriously, you could start with this. Have a few DVD movies that are fun, (maybe some comedy classics like Peter Sellers “A Shot In The Dark” or Robin Williams “La Cage a Folle”) and definitely some joyful, feelgood, inspiring, and/or foot-stomping music.

“Playing For Change” is truly an amazing and powerfully uplifting achievement, easy to share and bound to soften your heart. My best friend gave me the the CD for Christmas and I played it all day. I am still playing it. It lifts my spirits, and in some places, it moves me to tears. This is good stuff. When you buy the CD you get the the Video DVD too. Watch it, and invite some friends over to watch it. You’ll feel good for days. Then play the music and feel good again, anytime you need a lift of spirits.

There’s a website of course: PlayingForChange.com I don’t know these guys, but I have known people like them, who loved music as much as life itself. I don’t get any kickback for recommending their CD. They use the money from sales to build schools and set up clean water systems for villages in places I’ll never see. Their slogan is “Peace Through Music.” I can’t think of a better way to start a new year.

Peace to you and all the people you love. I wish peace to all who want it, and even to those who don’t. Remember that you can choose joy, and you can choose peace, and every time you do, even in the smallest things, you are bringing more power to peace in the world. You literally are; that’s a fact. I hope you will choose it.

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