I meditate every single day.
Some days I only sit for a few minutes. For example, the other night I realized it was 11:55 pm and I had not meditated that day. So I did a quick three-minute sit. Whew! Other days I engage in multiple sessions of 20+ minutes. Occasionally I’ll sit and watch my breath for more than an hour.
Right now I’m on a streak of 569 days. Before that, I was on a streak of 555 days. I know this because I use the Insight Timer meditation app, which keeps track of that kind of stuff. Keeping up with streaks like this is a good way to trick the ego into engaging in a process that diminishes its power. Which is a good thing if you’re a person like me.
Meditation is just one aspect of the mindfulness practice I started developing for myself about three and a half years ago. The real work happens in the real world. Trying to be mindful and present with the people in my life. Being mindful and present with work. Being mindful and present at the grocery store, in traffic, on hold or waiting in line. Being mindful and present while I’m just sitting here feeling bored.
Since I’ve been working out my mental muscles mindfully, I notice lots of crazy shit about myself and the reality around me. Stuff I would not have noticed before I started doing the mindfulness thing.
I notice my thoughts and emotions. I realize that my thoughts are just brain secretions that don’t actually define me. They come and go. I don’t have to be involved. I listen more attentively. I have more awareness about my surroundings. I catch things before they hit the ground — sometimes literally. I also have more compassion, gratitude and empathy. I’m more flexible, psychologically. And I get more done.
Finding My Place in the Music
My current levels of ambition, musical and otherwise, would not be possible without a mindfulness practice. For me, it means meditating every day. It means always returning to awareness. It means being present in all situations. It means striving to be more conscious and in the music.
Sometimes when I’m playing, my mind will be elsewhere. Figuring out how much time is left in my set. Making mental to-do lists. Thinking about dinner. Thinking about breakfast. Watching sporting events on the televisions the venues refuse to turn off during live performances. Considering the likelihood that the Milwaukee Bucks will re sign Khris Middleton in the offseason. Stuff like that. Then I notice that I’ve left the music unattended. So I go back into it, which benefits the performance considerably. I’m getting better at this. There’s a reason it’s called a practice.
Mindfulness has allowed me to question and debunk the false notion that a successful music career is unobtainable for someone like me. It has allowed me to make music and create for the sake of making music and creating. It has allowed me to tune in more clearly to my most authentic self. It has allowed me to identify my true values and how to live a life more closely aligned with them.
And now most of my music is about mindfulness in some way or another. A lot of it is about the psychedelic realm, which is a place I visit occasionally in my mindful journeys. A lot of it is about non duality and the illusion of separation, which are ideas that become clear through the practice of mindfulness. A lot of it is about the fear of death, which is something I have conquered through mindfulness. I used to want to die, but I was afraid of death. Now I’m excited to live and I have no fear of death. Which helps me write songs and play them for the nice people. Fascinating!
The Shift, the Struggle and the Reward
I used to be the last person you would suspect was a meditator. I was an angry atheist. Cynical. Misanthropic. Self sabotaging. My whole belief system was entirely oppositional and defiant. I could be kind of a jerk. I was sure I had everything and everyone figured out. In my mind, I was not the one with the issues. No, I was cool. Everybody else was the asshole.
To get to where I am now, I had to go through some things. I had to hit my personal rock bottom. I don’t feel like getting into that here. But here’s a podcast you can listen to to hear my story.
To come back to music, I had to let go of “musician,” “guitarist” and “songwriter” as identities. I stopped being a musician and a guitarist and started being a person who plays music, often on the guitar. I stopped being a songwriter and became a person who writes songs. I am not anything but a cosmic consciousness living in an organic space suit. What I am has nothing to do with what I do. But what I do is informed entirely by what I am. And everything is everything. All that woo-woo hippy shit is the real shit. Sorry not sorry.
All this stuff is not easy. It’s a struggle sometimes. I am not some kind of glowing, beaming beacon of magical awareness and presence. I am not some kind of supernaturally enlightened Zen master or Bodhisattva. I still get pissed off about stupid shit. I still have neuroses and sensitivities that get the best of me. But I know how to deal with them more effectively now. I can step back and notice them. I don’t feel compelled to honor them or let them take control of my actions. I flow with what is. I don’t fight against the current. I accept reality in all its simultaneous terribleness and bliss. The whole enchilada. And I love enchiladas!
To get to where I’m going, I have no choice but to start from where I am right now in this moment. So I’m not going to complain about this moment or list the reasons why certain aspects of reality are unfair. I’m not going to wait for the ideal conditions to present themselves. Here I am. Let’s go.
Mindfulness is my number-one deal. My daily meditation practice is essential. Music is up there, but it is not as important as the mindfulness. The music is secondary. The truth is that there would be no Matt Kollock music without Matt Kollock mindfulness!
Now I need to continue the practice. I need to notice when I start identifying as a certain thing. Like, I am not an “Albuquerque Singer Songwriter.” No, I am a human being who lives in Albuquerque, writes songs and sings them. It’s a thing I do, not who I am.
I am working on filling out my calendar with live gigs. This requires me to interact with people who might hurt my very sensitive feelings. It’s easy to maintain my place inside a peaceful bubble of mindful awareness when I make most of my music at home in the privacy of my own dwelling. But that’s not an option anymore. I need to go out there and mix it up. And that means dealing with other people. So I have to be mindful, present and aware. I have to let my feelings and emotions come and go as they will without getting caught up in them.
So that’s what I’m going to try to do. Mindfully. In presence with the moment. Here.
Do You Even Meditate, Bruh?
What about you? Do you have a meditation/mindfulness practice? Have you tried meditation and it just didn’t stick? Does mindfulness have any relationship to your creativity?
If you want to talk about mindfulness, meditation, music or various other “M” topics, I invite you to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!