Jazz Living – How to Strengthen Your Internal Structure

Improvising with Structure

“We’re all a little lost and it’s alright,” sang the singer songwriter, Nightebird, Jane Marczewski, in response to her health challenge. We can feel lost when health fails, relationships end, or long-held beliefs appear untrue. Sometimes structure serves us. Structure provides comfort and predictability during times of uncertainty and change. What happens when the external structure falls apart?

Structure Falls Apart

During my 20s, I felt lost and hit the wall multiple times. New information conflicted with old belief systems I had grown up with. How could I believe anything different? However, new information proved my long-held beliefs false.

Maybe you’ve run into similar belief challenges. The structure we rely on for support crumbles under the weight of new emerging beliefs.

In my late 20s, the cork came out of the bottle and deeply wounded parts of myself poured out. I offended co-workers with hostile behavior and defensive attitudes. My employer called me out on anger management. I faced losing my job if I didn’t learn to manage my emotions.

I dragged my soon-to-be-husband to premarital counseling. Two therapists told me bluntly I had abandonment issues and needed to focus on my own therapy first. I couldn’t see abandonment as my issue.

Then, my parent’s marriage fell apart just when my husband and I got married. The shock hit me hard. Two years of family systems therapy helped me acknowledge patterns of behavior and beliefs that didn’t serve me. I learned to identify false beliefs that held me back from personal growth.

Examples of false beliefs from a wounded child’s perspective:

  • If I show up as my authentic self I will be rejected.
  • I have to be perfect or I will be rejected.
  • I need to read people’s minds and give them what they want or I will be rejected.
  • I don’t bother asking for anything because I won’t get it anyway.

I felt emotionally abandoned by a family system that didn’t acknowledge my unique skills, abilities, and talents. I felt different from other family members. When I tried to fit into the family system, I abandoned myself. The real wound, I learned, stemmed from self-abandonment. That new information felt empowering because I could change my own patterns and belief system.

I learned to improvise around other entrenched family patterns I could not change.

Rely on your internal structure

Reassess what’s important. Focus on your core values. What’s most important to you underneath it all? Take a moment and reflect on that now. What are your non-negotiables? When the external world changes, what non-negotiable core values can you lean into to get through the challenge?

When I’ve asked my students that question, What are your non-negotiable core values? I’ve heard many variations on three themes.
1) Relationship with something greater than oneself (faith, truth, spirituality)
2) Relationships with others (family, friends, pets)
3) Relationship with our physical bodies (exercise, nutrition, meditation)

My non-negotiable values fit the same group values: Connection to Divine Love expressing uniquely through me; connection to my loved ones, and connection to my physical body through meditation and movement.

What are your non-negotiable core values around which you can pivot? When your non-negotiables are in place, you can handle what life delivers.

The Dalai Lama says on extremely busy days, he meditates twice as long. I aspire to that ability too.

Body-based awareness

Body-based awareness helps us get back in the flow when life’s uncertainty challenges us.

Mental health challenges can affect us all at different times of our lives. Body-based somatic awareness (somatic refers to body experiences) can help us navigate change and uncertainty with more grace, flow, and ease.

As an organizer for the Wellness Universe mental health awareness month event, I intentionally sought speakers to share body-based somatic practices.

1 in 5 Americans experience mental health challenges yet only half of those seek help.

That is why I, along with our speakers, created the Wellness For All event 5 Tools for Better Mental Health 2024.

Here are some of my personal takeaways from 5 Tools for Better Mental Health 2024 with the links to the individual replays to their 13-minute talk.

Resilient and Resourceful
Creating a structure with boundaries can enhance our focus and improve productivity. Learning to improvise outside the structure can give us strength and courage to navigate change when the structure changes – as it will.

When we adopt an improvisational approach to life, partly planned and partly spontaneous, we can become more resilient and resourceful. External structures may fall apart. But our internal structure—our core values and personal resilience—guide us to pivot and improvise around change. By focusing on what is truly non-negotiable in our lives, we can face any change with confidence and grace. In jazz music, structure and improvisation coexist to create harmony. We too can find balance by embracing both the structured and the spontaneous. An improvisational approach to life enhances our mental health and enriches our personal growth and relationships. We are prepared for whatever life throws our way.

You’re invited to reflect on your non-negotiable core values. Share them in the comments below and let us know how they guide you through life’s changes. Join our community discussion to gain insights from others and strengthen your own internal structure. Join us now and start your journey toward better mental health and personal growth!

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The Wellness Universe supports Mental Health Awareness Month. Join our event 5 Tools for Better Mental Health 2024 to discover tools that will help you achieve your best mental health. Did you know that the average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years #NAMI

Join us in making a difference—not just in your life but in the broader community. Register today at and take a moment for your mental health. #TakeAMentalHealthMoment #MentalHealthMonth

By prioritizing mental health care without guilt or shame, we can collectively reduce the stigma surrounding mental health challenges.

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