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Bloom Vol 22: Trust

This week, musician and mental health advocate Alex Wagner discusses how trusting ourselves increases our empathy and how observing sound can be a foundation for developing this personal trust.

Thirty-two years it took for me to trust myself.

A sliding glass door to an inherent truth–value in my existence.

“Stepping into my first dance-music concert was the beginning of opening that door,” I thought to myself, as I walked the grounds of Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

Standing amongst countless variations of flora and trees, my dad seemed to recite their names by memory.

Hundreds of acres of meticulously designed gardens represented their natural surroundings while defining their uniqueness.

It was the vision of someone who built an enterprise in timber, trusting themselves to give the community a treasure of reverence.

The reserve was a place outside normalcy that ratified reality, like a music festival.

I stood still for a second and closed my eyes. Inside of me was both empty and full.

We came across a substantial, sizable zen garden, lines in the sand drawn by a mind shifting its relationship with thoughts to find clarity.

White petals displace pressure from the pores of my skin.

Giving myself the benefit of the doubt harbors home for observation of what it feels like to walk amongst trees and respect them for what they are.

Perhaps the coming of age, the former Timber Tycoon found empathy once he understood who he was, what he had built, and his self-worth outside of all accolades.

No longer did he hear the commotion of chainsaws and crashing of trees.

To me, the garden was an outward representation of a trust he discovered within that he projected outward.

To fully embrace the experience of music live, you must trust yourself and let yourself go.

You must surrender to the sound, the lights, the people, the unknown.

As a monk would say, you are with the sound in this instance. Observing the sound for what it is, the moment for what it is, awareness at full and present.

I mention my first EDM concert and festivals because, in those settings, we seem to trust ourselves, our value to the community within that space, and want to ensure others feel the same.

My dad and I come to a long stretch of rectangular glass with a small waterfall at the end.

Believing that the waterfall placement would bring others peace and serenity took an understanding of how deeply surroundings impact emotion.

To get past us, and to see outward requires harnessing tools of emotional control. We will not always have a gorgeous Reserve or Festival.

Dr. Matt Gracek in his book “Permission To Feel” outlines a technique called RULER:


In short: It is recognizing that you are in the throes of emotion or distraction.

Understand why it is happening.

Labeling the emotion defines the “what,” and gives you something to pinpoint.

Expressing allows us to feel–sit with it, don’t run from it.

Regulation pulls it all together. Once you have done all the previous steps, you can categorize and control elements.

Observing a sound can be a vehicle to a place where we can run through RULER. Use sound as a guide, even if it is the sound of cars passing by on a highway.

When there is no fog, we see the expanse of water.

I look at the Puget Sound from the reserve, admiring how remarkable the natural resources of the Pacific Northwest are for all who visit and inhabit it.

I want to protect that.

A neutral state carries fewer biases.

Dance music connected me to my soul and those around me. It was an abstract introduction to the subject of Emotional Intelligence that made me trust strangers and myself within a particular space.

Tools like RULER help us consistently hold this trust, assurance, and platform. Consistency is key to establishing a prominent belief in the self.

Tools of emotional intelligence create a constant.

With the power to regulate our emotions comes the ability to create enough space, structure, and clear-headedness to see our gift to the world and the benefit of our neighbors.

The Timber Tycoon, possibly, found a center later in life and looked past ego.

He commissioned a spectacle of design for outsiders to enjoy.

Maybe he heard the sound of birds chirping and flying between the trees to grapple onto something more.

Providing to those outside of us indicates more often than not that we want them to see the same beauty that caught our eye upon the reserve.

When you are at a music concert, it is astounding to witness a sea of people swaying to a melody and singing as one voice to a song someone else wrote that resonated within them all.

Meditating and learning how to change our relationship with our thoughts, walking through a process like RULER, and changing our relationship with emotions all can come from a new relationship with sound.

Is there a sound that you can easily focus on that you could use to set the stage for meditating?

Objectivity allows to see ourselves for how we are in relation to reality.

Then, we can see others for who they are.

Walking through that reserve, hearing the wind bristle the trees, aware of the hues of orange and red, thirty-two years of my life granted me the ability to trust myself.

Taking in that next breath of fresh evergreen filtered air felt so good.

I wanted others to feel the same.

I wonder what the world would be like today if we fostered these moments as much as possible amongst one another.

I focused on observation much today within my words, the power of observation goes far past the eyes. It can construct an invisible framework for us to see the wonder of life.

Elements of the rave we can feel in broad daylight; self-empowerment translating to empathy.

Perhaps many sources of aggravation, conflict, and selfishness might come from those who do not trust themselves, or love themselves, which formulates heaps of mental health challenges perpetuating even more pain.

They have a chainsaw to the forest, looking for a way out when they could halt, become one with the forest, and thrive.

I believe that is why Bloedel Reserve is a place that works with nature and is one with its surroundings. It respects what is.

Let’s stay still for a moment, and listen, find our root to the self we can trust.

Observe sound; find an anchor.

Trust the value of You.

Trust the value of the World.


About the Author

Photo: Sumit Dhungel

A dance music producer, singer, and songwriter, Alex Wagner (known by his music project ASW), was called an emerging artist to watch by DJ Mag in September of 2021. His production career includes releases on Atlantic Records, Big Beat Records, and more.

As a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line and certified peer counselor with the state of Washington, he has organized multiple mental health awareness events called “Grooving for Good” leveraging the power of music and the arts. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on Instagram at @asinglewave.