Words. Music. Silence. Besides being an irresistibly sexy branding gimmick certain to catapult me to immortal renown, these three words actually do describe three important and abiding interests of mine.
I was born into a family of storytellers. The Kentucky Falconers on my Dad’s side were all great raconteurs. Some of my sweetest early memories are of sitting at the table absorbing the soft Southern accents, sly humor, and engaging stories that came from these everyday folks, and of their wonderfully civilized tradition of simply listening, which is half of the art of story. There was space for anyone to hold forth on any subject for as long as he or she wished. As I said, these people could talk, with the skill to turn a non-event from earlier in the day into a thirty minute discourse and make it entertaining. I had one uncle who could read the phone book and have everyone in stitches. Once the speaker was finished, there would be a pregnant silence, until someone else would say “Well, …”, and the next tale would commence. I believe my love of words and respect for their power come directly from these family roots.
I have been a performing musician for most of my life, having played my first gig at age eight, on drums at the Mendocino County Fair in Ukiah, CA. From childhood, I had a radio by my bed, and am fortunate to remember a time when radio was a much more eclectic affair than it is today. The “teen-beat” stations in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time would feature songs from ultra-diverse musical worlds: Buck Owens to Ray Charles; Dusty Springfield to Shirley Ellis; Wayne Newton to Elvis; Connie Francis to Barbara Lewis; Sinatra to The Kingsmen; the Beachboys to the Beatles and Stones. It was great.
In my teens I played with friends in local rock bands. In my twenties I had a respectable run as a pro on the demanding Southern nightclub circuit. Upon “growing up”, I’ve maintained an avocation of songwriting, recording, and performing on the local level, just to keep the juices flowing. I never tire of the creative process.
I also continue to be fascinated with how the popular music of any given time reflects that time, and represents both the admirable and less admirable trends in play during the period. In this light, music continues to nurture, delight, and occasionally infuriate me.
My practice of meditation has lasted fifty years, and is still evolving. As I learn, I simplify, drawn to find the most direct route I can into the clarity and peace meditation offers. But while I’m always most excited about my latest discovery in streamlining the process, I’m equally grateful for all the twists and turns along the way
My path has led through some colorful and interesting phases: self-taught acid-bruised beginner at age 19; becoming a devotee of one of the “pop” gurus of the day at 21; travelling to India for an intensive period of meditation at the guru’s ashram at 22; playing in a band that was the guru’s opening act on a US tour at age 23; deepening my involvement with the guru’s organization while pursuing a career as a rock musician- (bit of a stretch at times…); achieving saturation with group dynamics, the role of devotee, and the spiritual marketplace by age 30; leaving “the fold” for keeps with my bride Jody, and moving across the country at 33 to start over in California…Wow! All told, I don’t regret a moment of my decade in that group. In addition to making lifelong friends and having a wonderfully deep experience of meditation, I got a crash course in belief, group-think, and zealotry, all enduring and potent forces in the larger world.
As time went on, if anything, my practice became more intensive within the stresses and challenges of adult life. The crucial experience and established faith in the power of meditation I had gained in my earlier phases became the foundation and the compost for a new, more streamlined approach, as dictated by circumstance: fitting more focus into less time.
My practice “off the map” has gone through its own beneficial evolution. Over time, I shed many of the vestigial spiritual beliefs I had picked up along the way and carried without question or examination. I incorporated more of myself into the process, working with emotions and the shadow energies that many forms of meditation gloss over. I began to meditate not so much to escape the world as to engage with the world. I sought, and found, the most direct meditative experience I could, free of dogmatic concepts or cosmic hierarchy, resting in the natural reality of me, my breath, and the raw energy of Life, full of familiar power and kindred intelligence. Aaaaahhhh….
As stated, this process of simplification is ongoing.