Stop, look, and listen: Restoring Your Power Bar

by Melissa Axel

It is becoming more and more apparent to me (or perhaps, after such a long period of "busy-ness," I am simply being reminded) that we don't have to spend all our time doing or making in order to be growing or expanding. Maybe this is the incubation stage of the creative cycle (see Csikszentmihalyi's Creativity, p. 79). Maybe it's the remains of post-burnout fatigue talking. A little of column A, a little of column B?

Whatever the driving phenomena, it feels right to stop, to look and to listen, to observe nature—human and otherwise (especially otherwise), to purge peacefully and prepare gradually … with more care than deliberation, more consciousness than definitiveness. The moment—this moment—calls for patience and trust. These two often-elusive elements stand out now as the obvious selections on my own human nature's tired old menu of actions, reactions, and thoughtfully executed "choices," all recently marked "out of stock."

When we exhaust our power bars in the video game of life, it can take a re-start to fully top them up again. A few gold coins here or there only restore a fraction of energy, and just one or two hits in day-to-day combat will easily drain us back down to the danger zone. Safely tucked away in some "achievement-free" secret realm though, I find very few wounds left to lick and, thankfully, a plentiful hidden coin reserve.


I feel incredibly grateful, not just for the opportunity to catch my breath but for so many small treasures to savor …

    - the time to make simple, fresh, healthy meals for myself

    - the freedom to read for as long as I like

    - the chance to explore as much new music as I want

    - the ability to talk more with faraway family and friends

    - the space to just be.

These may seem like little luxuries, and, as with all choices, they have their opportunity cost. Still, they are important gifts not to be overlooked in favor of hustling and bustling our way through worlds that are far more of our own making than we like to admit. As much as "productive" actions (if not more so), taking the time to stop, look, and listen—to the things that call to us from inside rather than out—helps us open up to new possibilities within. And, that openness makes room for the fresh ideas, energy, creativity, and connection we crave.

Sometimes the greatest gift we can give ourselves is permission to just be. There has been time enough to do and make, and, since all cycles repeat, there will again be time to create. For now, the moment—this moment—calls for inaction.

How do you restore your power bar?


Melissa Axel

At just eight years of age, Melissa Axel was writing songs about the bittersweet journey of life, love, struggle, and inspiration—and not much has changed since. The piano-driven storyteller studied at Boston's renowned Berklee College of Music and went on to earn her master's degree in Interdisciplinary Arts on a full scholarship to Nova Southeastern University, where she created the multimedia stage production The Human Adventure. Before moving to Los Angeles, she spent six years in Denver and was twice awarded scholarships to participate in UK songwriting workshops hosted by the WOMAD Foundation (World of Music, Arts and Dance) created by Peter Gabriel. Through WOMAD, Axel has shared the stage with Gabriel collaborators Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara, N'Faly Kouyaté, and Andy White, with whom she and James Jacoby co-wrote the song "Every Place Is Home." Accompanied by Jacoby on tuba, Axel has performed everywhere from the South Florida heat to the cool of Iceland, the frenzy of New York to the peaceful Swedish seaside, the sweeping Colorado Rockies and sparkling California coast. With the support of nearly 200 backers on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, Axel raised over $7,000 in pre-orders and donations toward the independent release of her first full-length album, LOVE . HUMANITY . METAMORPHOSIS. Produced by Justin Peacock (Zero 7, Indigo Girls, Colorado Symphony), the 12-song LP represents an expansive leap forward from her pensive 5-song EP Transition. Pressed on limited edition vinyl, the record features a wealth of talent, including DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman, Mackenzie Gault of Flobots, and string arrangements by award-winning composers Matthew Nicholl and Kailin Yong. Powerful yet subtle, comforting yet complex, this music gives voice to the diverse emotional spectrum connecting us all.