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Lions Roar : November 2019
EDITORIAL HAVE YOU HEARD of the “iso principle?” It’s a technique used by music therapists in which music is matched with the mood of a client, then gradually altered to cultivate the desired emo- tional state. So, you don’t meet someone in an agitated state and play them a lullaby. Instead, you validate whatever state they are in by matching it with an appropriate song, and then, once they feel seen and heard, gently invite them into another state with something slightly slower. When I heard about this principle, I immediately connected it to the teachings of Pema Chödrön. In an excerpt from her latest book, Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable, which is featured in this issue, Pema writes, “We can’t just hear a piece of inspiring advice and immediately go from wanting to slug the person to being able to turn the other cheek. We have to work with where we are and allow a gradual transfor- mation to happen.” This goes against the preaching of our self-help-soaked cul- ture, which tells us that something must be wrong if we feel anxious, sad, angry, jealous, or just plain old cranky. Appar- ently, we’ve got to “dance like no one is watching,” “live, laugh, love,” or go get a lemon-lime bath bomb—anything but be the grumpy curmudgeon we actually feel like. Pema teaches that in order to work with where we are, we first have to accept where we are. When our editor-in-chief Melvin McLeod asked Pema to highlight a common theme in her teach- ings (in an interview also featured in this issue), she answered, “I think it’s about being able to stay with difficult and unpleasant experiences, all those things we habitually push away. If we can be open to the entirety of the human experience—the pleasant and unpleasant—then our experience of life is complete, and from that comes a deep sense of well-being and happiness.” Pema teaches us ways to stay with—even welcome—feelings we don’t like, all with a dash of humor and “no big deal.” She tells a wry anecdote about getting persnickety over the cleanli- ness of a shared kitchen, and how she came to let go and change her storyline. She even started to enjoy the kitchen in its state. “You see, the problem with avoiding the negative parts is that you also are closing yourself off from the joyful parts, so the whole thing is unsatisfying,” she writes. I once worked on a TV show about the evolution of heavy metal music. I didn’t know much about that genre, and asked what purpose it served in the culture. One explanation I got was that in the 1980s, American factories were going out of business, parents were out of work, and teenagers were feeling angst and hopelessness. So they took to the abandoned facto- ries, recreated those industrial sounds musically, turned up the instruments, turned down the mics, and screamed out their frustration loud enough to match the music. Pema too talks about expressing our feelings in creative ways. She writes, “When we’re able to hold the rawness of vulner- ability in our hearts, we can use that energy to create poetry, writing, dance, music, song. We can make of it something that touches and communicates with other people. Artists have done this from the beginning of time.” So the next time someone tells you to “dance like no one’s watching” right after you’ve stubbed your toe, bring to mind Pema’s message of staying with your emotions, even if they’re difficult. And if you’re going to dance to anything, make sure it’s the music that matches your mood—be it heavy metal or a lullaby. — L INDSAY KYTE, ASSOCIATE EDITOR You Don’t Have to Be in a Good Mood PHILIPPEMAURICE LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2019 13