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Ask Jolie Holland: Finding Your Space

Sep 12, 2017

Ask Jolie Holland: Finding Your Space

Dear Jolie, 

I’m going on a huge sailing trip next year with my man. We’ve known each other 21 years, but have only been in a proper, beautiful, committed relationship since last Christmas. I want to know how I can withdraw and feel alone to rest and recharge when we are together 24/7 on the boat. I know my pattern is for my energy to be “out there” scanning the environment for threats, preoccupied with the other person’s moods. I’ve been a people pleaser who, in middle age, has learnt the nourishing qualities of solitude. I haven’t a clue how to maintain this on the boat. I’m scared of losing myself.

Thank you, Jolie, for all the music and wisdom.

*   *   *   *   *

Dear Sailor, 

Congratulations on your exciting trip coming up! 

This is a great opportunity to develop some important skills that will aid you both on this trip and for the rest of your life. Anything that gets you “out of your head” is going to help — anything that disrupts linear thinking. No matter if you make strides with these skills now or during your trip, you will learn some amazing things about yourself on this journey. I bet you’ll discover all sorts of new tactics to maintain inner grounding aboard ship, even without preparation. 

I suggest starting any number of practices right now, so that they’re available to you when you need them. Meditation, a stretching or yoga regimen, art-making, and learning songs might all be helpful. Here are my thoughts on these different routes:

1) Sitting meditation isn’t for everyone. It can even be harmful, in some cases. But if you think it sounds like a good path for you, choose a style and find some reliable instruction. There are so many different types of meditation, some more inherently religious than others. I’d study up on different traditions and modalities, and see which ones resonate with you. 

Personally, if I were going to study meditation, I would find instruction in Chögyam Trungpa’s tradition. I love his writing, plus I know a few people who learned to teach meditation through him. He taught Pema Chödron how to teach meditation, for instance. His is a lineage that makes sense to me.

2) Having a daily physical regimen on the boat could be helpful — anything that sets aside non-negotiable time for yourself. This doesn’t have to be yoga, but it could be a series of yoga poses. 

I had some guitar-related rib injuries 10 years ago, and a chiropractor gave me a series of stretches to do every day. It took 20 minutes to do all of them, and there was something really peaceful about the process. Even after the injuries healed, I would do the series daily during periods of high stress. 

3) My friend Gill Landry says that painting is the best tool he’s ever used for fostering inner peace. You could get a nice little set of colored pencils. It might be possible to bring one of those beautifully designed, miniature watercolor sets (the ones I’ve seen are Japanese) and a small book of watercolor paper on the boat. I’m thinking about bringing something like that on tour with me. Check out my friend Mayon Hanania’s Instagram page, to see the beautiful seascapes that she paints almost every day. If you have no practice with art-making, now’s the time to find a beginner’s class, so you can see if it might work for you. 

4) I think singing, playing music (ukulele?), or even the process of memorizing lyrics or poetry could be helpful. It might be fun to learn some sea shanties! If you’re not too self-conscious, any of these activities can be potently centering. All of these can be useful tools in the overall process of allowing your inner awareness to eclipse linear thought. 

Wishing you a beautiful journey,

Jolie Holland 

Have a questioni for Jolie? Email it to [email protected]


Over the span of her career, Jolie Holland has knotted together a century of American song in jazz, blues, folk, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. A founding member of the Be Good Tanyas, Holland has released a half-dozen critically lauded albums of her own material over the last 12 years. She recently rejoined forces with Samantha Parton — her former Be Good Tanyas bandmate — for a new duo project simply called Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton. Holland currently resides in Los Angeles.

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Ask Jolie Holland: Finding Your Space
Ask Jolie Holland: Finding Your Space