Tag Archives: meditation

Sunsets, Sunrises, & Relaxation

There are many times I try to find ways to center myself through meditation or just listening to music. This week I learned a 4-7-8 breathing technique from my therapist that I found helpful in the moment. 

First you inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold that breath in for 7 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. I repeated this about four times – and felt my anxiety sort of melt away. This isn’t a guaranteed fix and I am no expert – but when I learn things that I find helpful for me, I think it is important to share just in case it may help someone else along the way. 

Watching sunsets or sunrises used to be my favorite calming activity that left me feeling a sense of relief and hope. I often miss seeing those sights in my old South Philly apartment and definitely miss the beauty of a Cape May sunset in my hometown. 

Which is why I take so many sunset/sunrise photos and the reason behind the photo wall in my apartment. Looking back over those photographs gives me a sense of comfort, almost like I feel at home when looking at them. 

Here are a few of my favorite sunset/sunrise photos I have captured with my commentary attached: 

North Cape May, NJ by the bay 2015

This photograph was taken the last time I went to see my Mom Mom before she got too sick. Looking back on this photo always gives me chills because it is one of my favorites for how exquisite the sky appears – but knowing what I know now it also feels like a reminder message to appreciate. This photo brings to mind a quote my Mom Mom used to say to me often, “Ya know those bumper stickers that say life’s a beach? Well they lied. Life’s a bitch, not a beach.”

4th and Washington, South Philly 2014

Without a doubt, this right here is one of my favorite photographs I have ever taken during my time living in Philly. I used to walk all around this city and I captured this on my walk home from a restaurant shift. As a person that grew up in a beach town, I consider myself able to say this… Philadelphia has some of the best sunsets I have ever laid my eyes on. With that being said, most things Philly remind me of Grouplove – and at the point in my life when I took this photo I used to play this band so much it got on a lot of peoples nerves.

Mifflin Street, Home Sweet Home 2015

I really loved this apartment because of the sunset and sunrise views I got. After living in the same house for 23 years of my life, knowing I could never return because it was sold – I never knew if I would feel the same sense of home again. I felt that deeply when living in this city and viewing this skyline everyday. It gave me a lot of hope and reminds me of this quote by Mary Oliver, “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

Views from Seattle 2015

My spontaneous 25th “treat yo self” birthday present …one of the best decisions I ever made. A city I often dreamed about moving to since I was 13 or 15. Andrea Gibson one of my favorite poets has said, “Commit to loving yourself completely. It’s the most radical thing you will do in your lifetime.” That is what that trip and that fiery sunset photograph remind me of – to love oneself.

The View of a Mifflin St Sunset 2015

I wasn’t kidding when I said this view delivered sunsets and sunrises to photograph nonstop. In my early to mid twenties living in Philly, I did feel lost and unsure of what the future held – but seeing those bursts of color in the sky made everything seem okay. Sometimes I’d ask myself in Talking Heads fashion though, “How did I get here?”

Balcony South Philly Views 2016

Oh to have a private outside space in the city! And with sunset views that look like a painting? My Dad used to send me this song (Fall in Philadelphia by Hall and Oates) all the time when I lived in Philly, so naturally it is bound to jog my memory when looking at these glorious Philly photographs.

Portland Maine sunrise 2017

First trip to Portland, ME was a solo trip and I fell in love with this town. So much so that I made sure that one of the first trips my partner and I went on was to come back to Portland. This sunrise was a resetting of sorts, and beginnings were right around the corner that I didn’t know were coming yet. Whenever I need a bit of hope, I often will play some Rilo Kiley – that resonates deeply with this photo. A sunrise bringing on many new horizons.

NYC Christmas Eve 2018

The first Christmas I spent with my partner in NYC and it was absolutely magical. There really is a sunset for every special moment in life. After this view we went to dinner and then spent the majority of Christmas Eve in Cubbyhole when Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” came on. That song tends to follow us around, and when I look at this photo I think of my partner and our moments with that song.

Ocean City, MD at sunrise 2018

I grew up in Cape May, but my partner grew up going to Ocean City Maryland (which as someone from NJ that is not the Ocean City I knew). The sunrises we could see from the balcony were breathtaking. I remember during this time having lived in DC for about a year – really needing something to bring me back to myself. I didn’t appreciate sunrises or waking up early until I got a bit older. Truthfully I only ever get up early because of sunrises.

Sunrise Over South Philly 2015

No, this isn’t a painting…although it definitely looks like one. I remember rolling out of bed this morning and seeing how exquisite the sunrise was. I sat there trying to capture the vibrant colors. Hands down my favorite sunrise photo I ever captured living in this apartment. The song that started to play in my mind when looking back at this photo was “New Slang” by The Shins…no clue why, but it seemed right.

South of Spruce Street Harbor Sunset, 2016

Every now and again I would walk from South Philly up to the waterfront right around the time the sun would be setting. Growing up by the ocean I often feel compelled to seek out bodies of water as a sense of comfort or reminder that things flowing along in life as they should be. This sunset was one that brought me reassurance. In the words of Mary Oliver, “I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.” Although plot twist, the sights did change because I ended up in DC the following year.

Born & Raised: Cape May Beach Sunset 2014

Last, but not least and with a classic old Instagram frame added to it as well. This was taken during my first trip back visiting my hometown after my childhood home sold and I moved to Philly. I longboarded down to the beach front from my old work place where I was visiting some old friends just to capture this sunset. My love for sunsets all stem from where I was born and raised – it is often how I hold on to that piece of me as I exist in other places in the world. You’re welcome in advance for this old Al Alberts classic…I guess I love my lil ol’ hometown in NJ more than I like to admit sometimes.

*please contact me for permission to use any photographs or if you would like a print*

Music is Meditation

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Poetry has always felt like meditation in a way, from my perspective. Words that paint a landscape for us if only just for a few stanzas. 

When I write my poetry I feel like I am in a zone of only my thoughts and for those moments – I am at total peace. 

I have tried to bring meditation into my everyday life for the past few years (recommendation from my therapist, and just something I thought would be better for my mental well being). I started to keep track of the days I meditated back in December, then a good friend invited me to do a meditation challenge for 15 days. *which I was doing well with, until the weekend hit* 

Music does something similar – it gives us different perspectives into different worlds if only for a few minutes in a song. 

I’ve been trying to think of the songs I turn on when I need to just get lost in the music and be present in reflection. These were some of the songs that came to mind right away for myself:

World Spins Madly On – The Weepies

I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with this song, but I think it happens every single time I listen to it. As I type this and have this song playing in the background – I am reminded how similar poetry and music are. Lyrics are poetry, and I think this song is a testament to that. “And the world spins madly on…” 

Baby Can I Hold You – Tracy Chapman


Oh Tracy Chapman, how I could listen to her sing for hours upon hours of any day of the week. When I need to really “feel” I will put on certain songs of Tracy’s. “Baby Can I Hold You” is the song I like to play when I just want to get lost in her voice and her lyrics. A perfect three minute meditation of Tracy Chapman.

Brace feat. Rainsford – Twin Shadow

A couple of years ago I used to listen to this song on repeat on my way to work whenever I was trying to channel myself into a good headspace. I went through a solid few months where I only listened to Twin Shadow. If you’ve never listened to them, I highly recommend adding them to your playlist. I like to seek songs that remind me I am not alone in the way I am feeling, and Twin Shadow tends to have those lyrics I need in the right moments.

Tilted – Christine and the Queens

This is a song I had on repeat for awhile after discovering it on the season finale of Better Things (have you seen this show? Go watch it. Pamela Adlon is a treasure). Mostly because that scene brought me so much joy, but also the lyrics (that are originally in French) are like damn yes a message we all need 100 percent.

Ship to Wreck – Florence and the Machine

I didn’t fully appreciate Florence and the Machine until I saw them live a couple of years ago with a few good friends. It was a special night that I really needed at the time, and I’ll say they were the right group of friends to experience this concert with. I fell in love with this song that night. Also grew a greater appreciation for Florence as an artist. This song pulls me into myself for a couple of minutes and allows me to sing out loud in meditation to cleanse my soul & feel my heart beat a little louder.

Runaway Goliath – Mantaraybryn

No clue how I found this song, I assume it was from a Spotify rabbithole that I tend to go down. For a whole year I had this song on repeat (because my self esteem needed it bad). I loved getting lost in this song- and I still appreciate getting lost in it every now and again. The beauty of music is the power it has of reminding us of our worth or it can just give us hope that darkness isn’t meant to be permanent.

A Better Son/Daughter – Rilo Kiley

Jenny Lewis is everything and Rilo Kiley is a musical gift. There are many Rilo Kiley songs that I like to play, so it’s difficult to choose just one. This is a song that, if you aren’t a huge fan, many people don’t know. I think my favorite part is hearing the emotion of Jenny Lewis in the song, how it breaks from her speaking in the beginning and then her emotion continues to build throughout the song. And you can feel it – in the lyrics and her voice.

I Got a Name – Jim Croce

My favorite artist to listen to on vinyl is Jim Croce. I love almost every single one of his songs and know them all by heart. “I Got a Name” always brings me back to my college years and listening to this record in my old apartment when I didn’t know what the future held (I mean, do I know now? No..but you get what I mean). I’ve always been a dreamer, and I think this song sums it up for me….”Like the fool I am, and I’ll always be/I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream/ They can change their minds, but they can’t change me.”

Do you have any of those kinds of songs that you find putting on in time when you need to recenter?