Break Out West, Kelowna Music Festival

It was like being in a big city last night. The hookers were in a group outside of the Streaming Cafe complaining that the Johns were being driven away as they drove up. So many people moving from the Cafe to Cush on to Habitat or Doc Willoughby’s just cut into their business.
Thanks to all of the organizers for how wonderfully smoothly the evening went. The very fact that a person could just flash a wrist band in walk in or out at will really encouraged exposure to various groups.
My favs for the evening were Behind Sapphire, Adaline and Aidan Knight. The Behind Sapphire group has the fun and playfulness of groups like Cake and Franz Ferdinand. Instruments such as a kid’s toy xylophone, a voice enhancer such as a vase and the “chicks” on stage wearing nasa suits just made it joyous. I went to you tube and looked at every video they had loaded up after the show.

I also though Adaline was kicking. Her voice is wonderful and her band supported her strong presence. She will be playing at Gotcha’s on Saturday night. I will be there.
The only criticism I have is rather minor. The venu names are written on a strip at the top of each evening’s schedule. But in the dim light of clubs it is impossible to read. Many people were having difficulty with making out the names.
One group was hard for me to hear because a band member had his “member” so predominant. He was wearing very tight, glossy pants with no underwear. I couldn’t hear the music because I kept thinking, “What is he thinking?” Kelowna is not New York. Most of us came to hear music. It was distracting.
Karma was a miracle worker. I have organized and participated in the organization of festivals for years and this one gets an A+. The flow of people from place to place; the mingling of young people, middle aged people into one big music fan audience; the ease of access to hearing new to us groups; the presence of police cars through out the downtown core made the evening one of excitement, discovery and pleasure. Finally, it made Kelowna a happening place. Yeah to that.

So why are we like Baboons exactly?

Turning on the Television after reading Gabor Mate’s book In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, I was surprised to see a Nation Geographics study of Stress and its Toll. Wow. You know you are doing what is meant to be done when these synchronicities show up in your life.

The Whitehall study of stress demonstrated that people under stress deposit fat on the abdomen. If the person is removed from stress or learns stress lowering techniques the fat moves away from the belly area and is distributed differently. The difficulty in contemporary society is that stress reduction is not valued. Work is.

Another study which the documentary referenced was the Winter of Hunger in the Holland. In 1944 people were starving and at war. Winter came with its harshness to create a tripled layered challenge. LH Lumly and other research scientists, wereimpressed by the meticulous records kept in Holland and accessed those records for her project. What they discovered is that the 2400 people studied and exposed to stress in fetal life have today as 60 year olds more health problems and a shorter predicted life span than those who were born immediately before or after the Winter of Hunger. Even as babies, their bodies evidenced health and stress difficulties. Cardiovascular disease, changed nervous systems, depression, psychiatric disorders, bio-polar disorder and anger issues were all more likely to be present in this cohort.
A further study of mothers of disabled children lead by Elizabeth Blackburn demonstrated that chronic stress ages a body. The continually stressful environment had the rough equivalent of for every year of tension the biological impact was to shorten life span by roughly six years.
The mechanism for this is in the chromosone caps which are called telemeres.
These telemere caps allow for repair and restoration and when they are eroded, the body can no longer reclaim damaged areas.
The women with disabled children were aging rapidly and the telemeres were shortening. The researcher was curious as to the possibility of reversal of the process. When she placed these women in a support group and the resultant social connectedness and sharing of black humour occurred, the telemeres began to repair. The “reserves that sustain us” was the terminology that describes the telemere function.
Another way that the researchers discovered that telemere function can be protected and reversed is through the development of a compassionate practice. Seeing another’s point of view, volunteering, seeing helping behaviors actually allow an individual to maintain his or her own health so they can mend the cellular damage.
The study began with Robert Sapolsky’s work on stress in a group of baboons that he studies for over three decades. He is considered the leading expert on the effect of stress in the neurological system. When he began the study, he discovered that the alpha males in the tribe had low stress indicators. The boss could attack female monkey, injure beta males and set the rules. Beta monkey and female’s stress levels were high with cardiovascular indicators and other damage. Robert was shocked and distressed when a local tourist camp garbage dump attracted the baboons and the alpha males all died from poisoning.
He believed that his study was compromised or ended. However, he was surprised to see that the beta males now set the tone for the social rules in the society. Prized were grooming activities, social networking, protection of the females and young. The mores changed. New young males that would naturally move into the tribe for purity of breeding purposes took a few months to go from the standard of aggressive interaction to the model of cooperation and caring. Surprisingly, the stress indicators in the entire group went down and all individuals were healthier.
The presence of alpha hierarchy, in corporate structure, in familial structure creates stress in all but the “boss” strata. The only way out of the denigration physically and neurologically that an individual can find is to establish an arena that he or she is the alpha individual. Robert suggested perhaps becoming the office coordinator of the volleyball team. The issue of a sense of control in the occupational hierarchy is, essentially a health and survival issue. To give people more justice in treatment, more rewards for their work will allow people to flourish.
The two magic bullets according to these researchers are social affiliation and compassionate practice. These two choices allow an individual to maintain a feeling of control, to lower stress, to protect or rebuild telemeres and live a life of creative energy.
We can learn much from Robert Sapolsky’s studies on a tribe of baboons. They are, after all, in our genetic family.

Gabor Mate’s Realm of the Hungry Ghosts

Dr. Gabor Maté

R.D.Laing said we fear three things: death, other people and our own minds. People who have ADD live in low grade depression, are irritable and cynical. What this person misses out on is compassionate curiosity because his or her ability to empathize becomes eroded.

The steps out of addiction/alcohol and compulsive behavior are:

1. Admit you are powerless. (Yes it also AA’s door out of the trap of addiction) An addict/alcoholic feels wooden or alienated. He or she sees his or herself as deprived. To be able to take responsibility and say, “I create the sense of deprivation in my life,” is a major step. The addictive behavior is infantile and a way of self soothing. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz who is a therapist for OCB stated, “What we are looking for is what we are looking with.” The person has undergo a brain remodel with intention/attention. He or she has to see that the trauma of not being fully loved or protected has set up a pattern of thinking which leads into addiction in order to distract from the primal pain being carried in the neurological system.

In order to modify the internal system it is necessary to live in a better environment, clean orderly surroundings, nutrition, sleep, exercise. The person can select to either be automatic (I always buy a new blouse when I am depressed and then I feel better) or aware ( I am experiencing pain and anxiety right now.)

People who have neurological damage tend to have an over-reaction to stress or perceived stress. The choice is between implicit memory, or a habit of distraction and acting out or impartially observing. An impartial observer says, “Oh look. I feel like buying a blouse. I must be frightened or sad.” (Keep in mind that buying something in and of itself is not a problem. A person buying something who is already in fragile economic condition is now into self-destructive behavior.)

Nietzsche called Buddha, “The profound physiologist,” whose teachings were a kind of mental hygiene. Two automatic responses are: I want a drink or I don’t want to take care of myself. Each of these is automatic attachment. The impartial observer sees either of these automatic responses as thoughts, mere thoughts not necessities.

Dr. Schwartz wrote in his book Brainlock that the way out of patterned responses is to re-label them for what they are. A person has a ritual he or she is using to reduce fear, to distract from anxiety. This person needs to be able to step back and say, “I am having an obsessive thought.” He also points out that each and every time a person gives into an obsessive ritual, he or she strengthens the habit.

2. is to be able to step back and say, “This is my brain giving me false messages.” People who are easily addicted have a neurological problem that creates a gnawing sense of hunger. The dopamine-endorphin receptors are damaged. Dr. Mate recommends that the client treat it like a momentary ringing in the ears. It will go away. He says that a person can say to himself, “Hello old brain circuits.”

3. refocus. It is not about how you feel: it is about what you do. Try to put off acting out for 15 minutes or 20 minutes to retrain your mind. (This is working for me in my shopping addiction. I have sat in the car waiting for the urge to pass… and it does.) Try another activity. Feel like eating, go for a walk, put on music and dance.

4. re-value. Remind yourself why you aren’t engaging in self destructive behaviour. ( I don’t need a blouse. My visa interest rate is so high I could get something else with that interest money… etc.) The addictive brain assigns a FALSE high value to the behaviour. The term is called salience attribution and it means the addicted brain is replacing love, an intimate relationship, success, feelings of vitality with the object of addictive desire. The frontal cortex is wired in an addicted brain to making you believe that the rewards of the acting out behaviour are more important, more rewarding than the goals stated in the previous sentence. Honesty is one of the first aspects of personality to erode. ( I have told myself that I am not really shopping. It is only a blouse.)

The alcoholic/addict has to be able to answer the question,”What has the action cost me in my life?” Mate says that he treats people who have lost all intimate relationships, lost time, lost energy, lost health, lead them into cheating/lying/hurting people they love, created shame in their identity, betrayed their own core values, taken them away from their life goals.

5. re-create. The recovering client is asked to list his or her core values, his or her goals for life, qualities in his or her personality that he or she wants to hold on to, people or love he or she wishes to keep in his or her life.

Mate goes on to state that an alcoholic/addict is in an infantile state because the self-obsession was a damaged child’s way of surviving. “An addict is an infant.” In order to avoid the shame of acting out, the addict becomes angry and blames others for his or her situation.

(If my visa card didn’t have such high interest I wouldn’t be in so much debt. Ha. again.) The addict/alcoholic acts out when he or she is stressed and has only two emotional responses. One is to isolate him or herself if order to carry out deepening the addiction. The second is to blame/become angry at others who are trying to “control” the addict by stopping him or her from acting out. Any attempt to separate the individual from the addiction will trigger hostility. Any attempt to shame the individual will trigger rage.

Real attachment relationships are based on truth. Therefore an alcoholic/addict is not “in” a real relationship. Alcohol and drugs, according to Mate have a spirit which is an attempt to fill the place of hollow emptiness at the core of an alcoholic/addict.

So the steps for climbing out of the self-destructive cycle as laid out by the best selling book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts are the five listed above. I find it interesting that the doorway into self discover is to admit one is NOT in control. Many of Gabor Mate’s methods are part of meditative practice and detachment practice. (Observe self without blame as if the self were a small child or a family pet.)

Denver the rest of the story

As I was walking down the street, brilliant morning sun began to burn the sidewalks warmer. Soon the day would be up to 90 degrees and cloudless. The sun can be touched overhead because of the elevation. Just reach up.

A man was walking along the sidewalk next to me with a serious camera. I asked him if he was on assignment and he said he was. He had been sent to take a picture of a car, a full sized vehicle crashing through the wall of an insurance company’s upper story office. The advertising brochure he was commissioned to create would feature this dramatic image. We enjoyed talking with one another and stopped to have a coffee. While we were sitting, he told me his story. He had been an advertising executive and was downsized. Afloat and in the “void” as I am now, he decided it was time to become more creative. He had been part of the company that handled the Dove real beauty campaign and had years of training for shoots, setting up graphic images and he was now putting that training to use more directly.

He had been selected to photograph the City of Chicago’s bid for the Olympics and the images that he shared with me on his phone were stunningly beautiful. Of course, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and I began to critique them. “This one is strong because of the sense of delicacy. This one had an airbrushed gray light effect. This one is a bit busy and could be cropped.” What surprised me was he really began to take interest in my reading of the images. He pulled out a calendar that was entirely for the purpose of selling a multi-million dollar house.

Only I would say, “These photos aren’t good.” I couldn’t believe I had said it. But that is me. Honest and open. “What is wrong with them?” he asked.

Well the cover photo with the reflection in the water is downright disturbing. The reader sees the reflection as more predominate than the actual house and it is confusing. We flipped the picture back and forth and agreed that it was true. As for the rest of the pictures, they weren’t about anything. Just flat pictures of a mansion with expensive furniture, no warmth. I waited with a kind of catch in my throat. He said, “I didn’t take them. They are asking me to reshoot the house.” Whew!!

He said he had shot the house in the morning with the light coming in through the windows touching surfaces. “Great,” I responded. ” It creates a sense of intimacy. I could be sitting in that chair with the light from the window on me or standing in the kitchen with the sun slanting in. It makes the place more of an environment and less of a showcase.”

It was really exhilarating talking with him. His photographs in the Chicago Cubs Cookbook were really indicative of his ability to bring out the character in the various players.

I invite you onto Bob’s site to see how precise, clear and effective photography can be. The day held so many unexpected discoveries.

Taking the day as it comes, being in the moment, looking around with unhurried eyes leads to adventure without adrenaline. There comes to be a sense of self without self. The tourist or “viewer’s” narrative softens and the place itself seems to enter. It is very different than I have ever traveled before because it was quieter, more gentle and much more open. What was my intention each day? It was not to get through a list of things to see or do. It was to be very still and walk through a city scape, or next to a body of water and be very open to the energies of the place. The colors, the people such as the beautiful Muslim girl who smiled at me on the train and then got up to give me her seat without a word, the baby grabbing on to my scarf and waving her hands at me, the conversations with so many people who told me their stories, their adventures that day or in the last few years, were all an unexpected gift.


Riding the light rail the first time was exhilarating. I got out of my sister-in-law’s car at 7:30 am at the Lincoln station. Still panting from having taken my pills and feeling elongated and translucent from the thin altitude, I walked past the fantastic public art display on the side of the parkade and started interpreting the local lingo on the side of the automatic ticket dispenser.
Who needs brain gym when one is traveling? Just the “game” of trying to find out the arcane code for operating cash machines, water dispensers, toilet flushing devices, ticket dispensing machines is enough to keep one alert. Since my skill set in this area is minimal, it always leaves me feeling like a winner when I score. In high school the counselor called me in to inform me that the technical/spacial component on my test showed in the bottom 5% but that was only, he informed me, because the test couldn’t show anything lower. “I believe you would have had a minus score if the test worked that way,” he smiled into me. Great. Any neurosis that the parents weren’t able to install, the counselor could later construct into my neurological system.
So I was standing feeling about ten feet tall, transparent, panting when the train showed up. I got on it. Didn’t know where it was going but it seemed to be pointed in the right direction.
Frequently, I will just commit to a choice and then ask a living, breathing person exactly how stupid my decision was. In this case I was definitely going in the right direction to a point. However, the train I really wanted was headed to the 16th Street Mall so I had to hop off and wait.
I think the thing about travel that is so fascinating is what one learns about ones self. To learn the lay of the land and not feel lost, it takes me three days in a new city. Once I know how to get lost on public transit and then correct, I have confidence. The anxiety that I will end up in some cosmic dead-end and never be able to return to myself, orphaned for eternity from the only family I have left is assuaged once I peer at a little folded map and see… Oh that is where I went wrong.
When the train got to the University square it was full of students. I had a delightful talk with a young woman who lives in the Midwest in a small town and has come to Denver to begin her path to a Ph.D in restorative art. Her goal is to work in Italy reclaiming some of the ancient works damaged over time. Her main issue was that the love of her life is in California and they see one another only occasionally.
Because she is dedicated to her own growth, she stays and walks her path. Her friends flame the fires of anxiety by telling her he won’t remain true, she can’t continue a long distance relationship. It worries her but she continues.
I admired how fully and clearly she has formulated her future. Envious as I sat there with only a tenth of my youthful dreams accomplished and alone again after the failure of my third relationship. My programming to choose people who are alcoholics and have various emotional issues has unerringly lead me to sacrifice my own goals in order to be loved.
It was almost as if the universe had put her next to me to show me what was possible, what I had missed. I told her of how deeply I respected her choices and wished her luck and healthy love.
That day when I got off of the train I felt like a conquistador. I had conquered this new land, ridden the iron horse to my destination and was now afoot to see what the natives were up to. Power. First the coffee.
Many of the squares were open and had chairs and beautiful art installations with planters plentifully placed. Men in long sleeve shirts, with vertical stripes, expensive belts and incredibly expensive shoes sat in groups in the slanting light. The sun was beginning to touch the ground through the forest of tall buildings. There was a sense of anticipation, of calm before the rampage. When people dismounted from the light rail, they hit the ground running, cell phones open, everyone talking but not to one another. They were talking to unseen people setting up meetings, checking last minute plans, verifying information. The workforce is uniformed. Standing on one corner, a black and white servant (waiter or counter guy) was strangling himself into a tie and removing his nose ring. I laughed and said, “Now you are invisible.” He crossed the street, stopped turned around then said, “Oh I get it. Yeah. Good.” And off he went.
The Mall is outdoors and extends for over 15 blocks. Along the Mall is a new installation called the Piano installation. Scattered randomly, old upright pianos are painted distinctively and placed out in the open to encourage music in the city.
As I was walking along, I saw a 20 year old playing the Red piano with his dark faced friend sitting next to him. I stopped and took a video. He turned to his friend and said, “Already.” I found out that he has had many videos of him uploaded to you tube but never was one taken so early in the morning.
He informed me that he was a street person. “The mall is my home and when the pianos appeared I thought I should learn to play.” It gave him direction. From sleeping and eating being the main focus in his life, the goal has changed. In three months he has taught himself to play and is composing now. “I decided I want to be a musician.”
I had a few sarcastic thoughts like dancing shadows cross my mind since every musician I know in our town is having relationship or addiction problems… but never mind.
The guy is already on the street, is probably already at his bottom with substances and has no one. Where can he go but up? It was really inspiring to have met two young people in the first hour on my travels who were determined to better their situations.
Because my computer crashed, I am working on a loaner and have to return to this journey to feed images in at a later date.
I will take you with me through the rest of the day on my next blog. It was really interesting so tag along.