I meditate for two hours every day– usually on a cushion on the floor–for one hour when I wake up and one hour in the evening.
I feel like meditation has made a big difference in my life. It makes me feel better and because I feel better, I’m more happy, calm, spontaneous, and creative and I treat people better. I think I make better decisions. For about 15 years, I pretty much was a shoe gazer on stage. I was very scared and would just look down. I wouldn’t connect with the audience at all–maybe it was a little boring for the audience. But recently I actually have been putting my guitar down, picking up a wireless microphone, running out into the crowd, looking people in the eyes, high-fiving them and really enjoying that connection. I don’t know if that would have happened if I wasn’t meditating, if I still had so much stage fright. I might still be in my shell.
The benefits come on two levels: First, I see the fear, as it arises in my body, as a physical sensation and when I recognize fear as just a physical sensation, I am less likely to let it run my life. I can say, okay there is the fear, and here is what I am going to do. And at the same time, the more I practice this detached observation, I find that the initial physical sensation of fear subsides and goes away, and then I’m just left feeling very pure, and I can do whatever I want. It’s very cool. It’s benefiting those around me too, I think. The band’s having more fun and the crowd is definitely having a lot more fun and yeah, I enjoy what I do now.
With this practice I now have a tool to calm myself back down and think more constructively and helpfully.
I discovered meditation in 2003 after Rick Rubin sent me some books on the subject. At first, I would not read them. I thought that meditation would rob me of the angst that I believed was essential for my connection to music. All the experiments I have tried in my life have always been an effort to improve, maintain, or recover that connection. Eventually, however, searching for answers, I read the first three chapters of one of the books, Ken Mcleod’s guide to meditation, “Wake Up to Your Life.” His words hit me like a lightning bolt. I realized that, in a sense, I had been wrong all these years in trying to connect to my creativity by violent means, for example, by mining my adolescent anger for “Say it Ain’t So”, crucifying my leg for Pinkerton, or consuming Tequila and Ritalin for “Hash Pipe”. Mcleod says:
These devices [such as the ones above] do not work in the long run because they draw on our system’s energy to generate a peak experience. Peak experiences cannot be maintained, and when they pass, the habituated patterns and the underlying sense of separation remain intact. (xi)
Mcleod, and other sources I began reading, showed me a new way to work. Instead of generating peak experiences for inspiration, I could strengthen my power of concentration through meditation so that I could get more and more inspiration from subtler and subtler experiences. Not only that, but the practice would make my life better, and make better the lives of those that live with me.
A friend gave me to the link to S.N. Goenka’s Vipassana courses (www.dhamma.org.) There are about two hundred centers around the world. I went to my first course in May of 2003 and I’ve been practicing steadily ever since. (The only daily sittings I missed were on the day of our tour bus crash in 2009.) I’ve attended 12 ten-day courses, 2 30-day courses and 3 45-day course. I’ve also served as a volunteer at about 7 courses. Since then, I have found that the areas of tension in my mind—the fear, the anger, the sadness, the craving—are slowly melting away. I am left with a more pristine mind, more sharp and sensitive than I previously imagined possible. I feel more calm and stable. My concentration and capacity to work have increased greatly. I feel like I am finally much closer to reaching my potential.
I also received training in conducting meditation courses for kids so I do that about once a year.
[adapted from the ABC interview and my letter for re-admission to Harvard.]