the TAO of CHANGE

a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for February, 2011

What I Learned in Rehab

Monday, February 28th, 2011

No, I haven’t been in rehab, but a lot of people have and well, there’s a lot to learn from those who have been forced themselves into sobriety. I recently found a book of Rolling Stone Interviews from the 80’s at a used book store and well, rehab is not a hard to find topic then, or now.

I never knew much about Robin William’s life or addictions, but something he said made me think. Robin Williams cleaned up over 20 years ago. When he was asked if he now had peace of mind, he says no, he will never be the person to say he “is now one with himself”, adding that to get there, “you’d have to be fucking dead, okay?”

Hmmm, he could be right. Authenticity and integrity trump most of our talents, skills and good fortune when it comes to a good life story, but peace of mind is simply not a worldly truth — although I firmly believe that peaceful moments are hopefully available to us on a regular basis. The mind was not meant to be peaceful. It was meant to create. And anyone who has done so, artistically or otherwise, knows that’s not a regular part of the formula.

We have a lot of tools to momentarily detach from the suffering we endure on this planet, but as humans, we are inevitably drawn back into  navigating the drama and chaos of life. We do some yoga, eat well, exercise, make friends, care for our families, fall in and out of love, hopefully find meaningful work and purpose and then, do the best we can with the rest. And when I stop expecting my mind to be free of painful thoughts, somehow, those thoughts are somehow not quite so painful.

The Tao of Keef

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

I can see Keith Richards writing his memoir, Life, at his kitchen table in CT, with a big smile on his face. I didn’t expect to be pulled into someone’s thoughts and stories about a life so different than mine, but here I am, enjoying each more than slightly ridiculous scene and preamble. Why? Because he can actually write and he has a way of letting us know that he takes it all not so seriously and that, overall, he had more “Life” in his life than most of us put together.

Part of this has to be true since he claims that for years he slept only two nights out of each week. He doesn’t exalt his drug use, nor does he glorify his decision to clean up from the hard stuff. His life was one of the times and he used it proliferously.

What he does take seriously, then and now, is being real, friendships and family, although even this he presents in a pure, honest but ordinary way, something available to all of us. In a Rolling Stone interview back in the 80’s, he said, “The thing about this life is you have to know yourself and then be real about it.” Adding, “That’s why I’m alive.” (That and the admission that he comes from “sturdy stock”, lucky bastard.)

Keith is a good role model for beating addiction without abstinence (he still smokes, smokes, and enjoys alcohol) but you could call him a professional, meaning I wouldn’t try this at home.

For the Love of….”banding together”

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Live From Daryl’s House. This web show rocks all warm and fuzzy but doesn’t fall the least bit short of professionalism and talent.  I was led there through my current favorite music business/analysis blog, the LefsetzLetter.com.

As the young and new names fill the reviews and news, older musicians aren’t sitting around whining about it. Daryl Hall, at 60-something, is touring with John Oates, making a solo album and producing this show, (and fits in a little historic house renovation on the side) and well, seems like one of the happiest, most relaxed guys on the planet. He is so obviously doing all of this for love of the music and everything it brings together and gives away.

But back to Daryl’s house, because this is where I want to be right now. It is an New York war-era renovation of two houses – now connected- and a non-ostentatious, inviting display of warmth and creative artistry. I really really want to live in this house or at least be one of the frequent visitors. It oozes a “come together” vibe, only without the drugs. And the music? Daryl is widely known as one of the best singers of his generation and is still well-received at shows as recently as Austin’s South by Southwest, 2008. He reaches far and wide into the music world on this webcast by inviting and playing with some of the best new and old performers including Jose Feliciano, Train, and Neon Trees. I’ve watched several episodes already and I can almost taste the chili on the stove and since when did wool sweaters become cool?

This whole deal is cool and makes me think of Beck’s, The Record Club sessions, and the rise of the “supergroup.” The Age of Aquarius is certainly upon us. It’s a time to band together, you might say.

Breaking Up is Hard to do.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The White Stripes announced their official break-up this month. Ouch. They will live on musically for a long while and be recognized and remembered for their unique ability to draw us into their world, where nothing else matters but the moment and the music. Still, I was often mesmerized by their live sound and Jack’s fury, unmatched in some ways in his follow-up bands, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, both consummate rock bands. If you’re not sure what I mean, watch this.

Jack and Meg have a history, of course, part of which is best left to mystery. This could explain just what was possible with two people on a musical stage – one coyly covert, and one full of obvious and desperate abandon in the process. Jack says his guitars are old and out of tune, but are “ferocious”.

Of course, Jack’s presence will only grow through his record label, his vinyl store, his bands and his other collaborations of muse and music. Meg’s path remains undercover, a different and just as important model to all who really pay attention.

Perhaps breaking up is really breaking out. Thank you White Stripes.

Aliens and Angels

Friday, February 18th, 2011

The human condition is complicated.

I was thinking about that this morning in the woods. That’s where I go every morning. I’ll say it’s for the dogs, of course, and sometimes I believe that when it’s cold and rainy and I am absolutely convinced I want to stay in bed but they open their eyes and give me that look of “Let’s go.”

But I know something about my own voice that often says, “let’s go” and I learn a lot during that time in the woods as the thoughts roll on through, uninterrupted, except occasionally, when Ayla and River decide to cause some trouble. Which happens often, and I wonder just why they can’t just be perfectly polite companions like those Golden Retrievers or Greyhounds rescued from the racetrack, and then I realize that they are not so non-human after all…

Because some of us were born to cause some trouble, to be compulsive or impulsive, even if it’s just within ourselves. We need it. We crave it. We thrive on it. We also suffer from it.

Each time my little life starts running along smoothly, I will find something wild and illogical start brewing inside. Something that will definitely be difficult and most likely cause some trouble inside and possibly outside myself. Nothing overt, but deep and intense and secret. And I’ll feel a little fear, but also a little surge of adrenaline – like a mental bungee jump.

Isn’t this the curse of the cultural creatives? The artists that turn themselves and sometimes their lives, over to their muse, even when it is certain to drag you through some mud. They accept their alien status and listen. Even when it’s dark and shadowy and risky. They have to.

Bob Lefsetz, a long-time author and blogger about music, musicians and the industry they navigate, said this yesterday:

“Our greatest stars were alienated.  They were not the cheerleader or the captain of the football team.  They were closer to suicide than being voted most popular. “

I was – and still am – the kid who uncomfortably straddled that fence, led, and often deserted by, my dark muse. Or was it really angels?

LOVE and Pillow Fights

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

There was a Flash Mob pillow fight in Asheville on Monday. Ironically, they called it an Anti-Valentine’s Day event. It looked like a blast and there was not one person not smiling, whether they were swinging away with a pillow or looking on. This is kind of love I like to celebrate every day – one with relevant irrelevance and expressed with joyful abandon. One that involves a little pain, a letting go of control, and a good bop on the head.

It reminded me of the scene in I Heart Huckabees ( a movie that expertly explores existentialism and nihilism) where Jason Swartzman’s and Mark Walhberg’s characters are taking turns hitting each other with a rubber ball to find truth:

Tommy Corn: [after being hit in the face with a rubber ball] Awesome! Can we do the ball thing everyday?
Caterine Vauban: Don’t call it the ball thing. Call it pure being.
Tommy Corn: Okay… so can we do the pure being ball thing everyday?
Yeah, let’s ditch the Hallmark cards (all that paper destroys a lot of trees, anyway). Love is messy and big and without boundaries, moves in all directions. It takes strength and weakness. It knocks you around all that is logical. Kind of like a good pillow fight. It’s everything “Valentine’s Day” is not. I get it. Thanks Asheville.

Yoga, the Arghh, Ah-ha and the Ahhh

Friday, February 11th, 2011

As it usually happens early in the new year, I have heard from many newly inspired and/or returning yoga students, wanting to at last – or at least – try to bring the benefits of a consistent yoga practice into their lives. Some of them I have heard from in months or even years past, which is usually how the process begins – as a quiet, but insistent voice we all hear from time to time, pushing us towards balance.

When I first speak to someone who is new to yoga but sounding eager to get started, I know that it will most likely be about a year before I see them regularly in classes. I’ve learned that this “incubation” period is usually necessary and very normal. In fact, it’s the people that bound into the studio at first glance that will more likely not come back after one or two classes. But if there is a contemplation period – even if it appears more like procrastination – by the time this person gets to the mat, there is a good chance it will stick.

I like to let these brave beginners that they will encounter three stages in this work, and whether you are strong, weak, flexible or inflexible, it will invariably go something like this:

Three stages of hatha yoga:

Stage one: Arghh….The hard part. Looking at the pieces. As you begin, you will be working separately with the components of asana, addressing each area of your body with both static and dynamic contraction as you work towards alignment. You will become more familiar with the possibilities of a longer and deeper breath. You will begin to find a sense of your limitations and strengths. Eventually, this concentrated effort will evolve as a more single-minded effort. This first dimension of yoga is often the most challenging as you work through blocks and patterns that have accrued over time in the mind as well as the body. This stage is about purifying and healing as well as increasing mental stamina through the efforts of focus and concentration.

Stage two: A-ha…. Putting it together. The components of your practice will begin to merge into a more meditative process. Gains in strength and flexibility allow you to work more confidently with your edges, using your breath and deepened physical awareness to achieve greater depth in postures while maintaining alignment. There is a greater understanding of balance and internal work.

Stage three: Ahhh! Easeful Effort. As your practice grows, you can experience an energized calm which is at the core of your being, and you can begin to tap into your resolve. You will still experience the challenges of the earlier stages, but you will also find the resilience and purpose needed to move forward in your practice with more ease.

These stages can and should repeat themselves each time you take on another level of practice. Remember, the struggle is supposed to be there. Enjoy the ride.

Determined and Beautiful Acts

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Have you seen the rainbow graffiti video? What moves me about this “act of art” is the meticulous way it was designed and implemented. It requires creativity, skill, and daring. The conclusion is not simply a reactive gesture, but a purposeful and therefore meaningful expression of determined beauty.

It’s undeniably beautiful and undeniably illegal. Our shadow side coming into the light. This works on me.

See if it works on you.



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