A Little Levitation and A Little Rock and Roll

The shows last weekend included long drives at the beginning and the end. I drove nine hours up to Eugene on Wednesday, and then 11 hours from Portland on Sunday. At the last minute before the trip, I thought of downloading an audio book, and chose Autobiography of a Yogi, which was something that had been on my reading list for a long time, and it seemed like the perfect length for the drives. Which it was, as I finished on the return trip as I was passing through Redding.

The book was the first one written for the West by an Indian spiritual master. I love the film footage of Yogananda arriving in America in 1920, a sari-swathed, long-haired guru walking sandal shod through the streets of New York City. In a way, I feel that people were more open then. He was such an anomaly that folks seemed to welcome and celebrate him, and he was able to meet people and pretty instantly start spreading his teachings of Indian spirituality. read more

The Rock-Addled Brain Goes On Repeat

Last Saturday, I drove 12 hours. The day started at 9AM. I drove for seven hours from Oregon to California, then five hours after an early show at a festival for marijuana growers in the center of the Emerald Triangle in Northern California.

On the drive, it occurred to me to do something I never do, which was to listen to some of my previous blog posts to see how they were hanging together, see what I could improve going forward. I committed to writing the posts weekly over a year ago, and I do my best to make it happen, even though I have missed a few weeks. The weeks when I have shows on either end are often the most challenging, but I try to find time in a restaurant or backstage, and then I wake on a weekday morning and force it to all come together. read more

When A Boat Is Just A Boat, And A Singer Is Just A Dream

A monk decides to meditate alone, away from his monastery. He takes his boat out to the middle of the lake, moors it there, closes his eyes and begins his meditation.

After a few hours of undisturbed silence, he suddenly feels the bump of another boat colliding with his own. With his eyes still closed, he senses his anger rising, and by the time he opens his eyes, he is ready to scream at the boatman who dared disturb his meditation. But when he opens his eyes, he sees it’s an empty boat that had probably got untethered and floated to the middle of the lake. read more

Chicken of the Sea: Why I Don’t Swim at Aquatic Park

I love the early mornings. The house is so still and the air is fresh and smells like the sea. The salty crispness makes me think of those early swimmers down at Aquatic Park, the little cove off the San Francisco Bay that is a short walk from my apartment.

The San Francisco bay is an estuary, which means that the ocean washes in and out and the water is surprisingly clean, at least at Aquatic Park. It is the cleanest beach in California. How bracing it is to step into that water first thing in the morning. Your mind gets wiped clear when you swim in ice water as the sun rises. read more

Finding Compassion Behind the Drumkit

In between all of the band time, I have been taking a course in Contemplative Psychotherapy. My version of fun. This year, we study Compassion. One of my favorite subjects. Lately we’ve been learning about the difference between what Buddhists call relative and ultimate compassion.

Relative compassion is a creation of the mind and of the false self. Therefore, it is subject to all of the confusion and danger that comes from attachment, craving and aversion. We want to help and that want, that desire, immediately clouds our vision in the way that desire clouds our vision whether we are desiring an object or desiring a feeling. We want not just to help, but to see ourselves helping. Desire carries with it aversion, and relative compassion puts our conditioned and biased experiences onto another’s situation. The ego can never truly be compassionate, because the ego is only ever looking to solidify itself. read more

Deeper Feeling

We’ve been shut in all week, the pug and I, due to the terrible Northern California fires and the subsequent sinus infection from the air quality. It’s been harrowing, watching the notices come in about the beautiful areas overtaken by firestorm, and the neighborhoods burning daily. It is paralyzing, watching and not being able to help beyond donation. It feels callous to participate in life going on while so much suffering is so close at hand.

That is a heavy feeling, this guilt of being momentarily spared. Each of us are assured of suffering in life. Suffering is happening right now, all around us, possibly within us, or within the people we are sitting near as we read this. Maybe the suffering is not as tangible as that of a home burning down, or of losing loved ones in tragedy, but in the minds of many, the anguish is just as real. It is the human condition to suffer, as long as we identify with the ego and its preferences and emotions and attachments. As long as we are in duality, we suffer. Light has its opposite. Just by shining bright it deepens the darkness of shadow on the other side. It is the human condition to live in both light and darkness. We will live in both, that is unavoidable. read more

Ten Ways to be an Awesome Studio Musician

One of my songwriting partners asked me to come into the recording studio for a couple of days and play drums on some songs that he’d been itching to get going. It’s been a while since I got to record anything but Zeppelin on the kit, so I was excited he asked.

The studio where we recorded is one of my favorite places in the world. I have been working there for 16 years, the whole time that I have lived in San Francisco. Nearly every project, every record I’ve made, it’s all come out of this place. The reason: Robert Preston, owner and engineer. He is my dear friend. I could never describe the depth of my delight in this human. Because of him, the studio is my happy place. read more

That Which Comes and Goes, Or, It’s Only Rock and Roll

That which comes and goes, rises and sets, is born and dies is the ego. That which always abides, never changes, and is devoid of qualities is the Self.
Ramana Maharshi

A joy of my life is showing people how to meditate, how to fall into that place of ego-less consciousness that is at the base of ourselves. During the one-hour calls, we find that open awareness that exists underneath our thoughts, emotions and personality, and we watch what comes up. We see what it’s like to be pulled away into the past and future by thought. We see what it’s like to observe our emotions devoid of story. We see pain rise and fall. We find the field of our true being, our truth. To live from this place is bliss. read more

To Protect and Border and Greet Each Other: Musings of Love at an Island Wedding

This weekend the band was flown to the East Coast, to an island wedding that was spectacularly fun and joyful and quite extravagant. We don’t play many weddings, and the ones we have played have sometimes ended awkwardly, with the bride obviously unhappy that she got talked into indulging the groom into hiring a pounding rock band for her reception. This one was not like that. We had a great time and were part of a series of musical events that kept the party going until late at night.

I was happy, seeing two people so obviously well-matched and in love. Married people like to see other people getting married. For most of my life I assumed that was because they wanted other suckers to commiserate with, to validate their poor choices. Which says everything about my previous mindset about marriage and pretty blatantly shows that I am probably not the best person to which you should hitch your wagon. read more

In Praise of Great Women

The most recent journey in a Summer of traveling was to the East Coast for a couple of shows and then a few days with my mentor in upstate New York. She has been a part of my life since I was 22, when I was living in New York City and bouncing like a ping pong ball from identity to identity. She was my teacher from the moment we met. I wanted to know what she knew, that easy and joyful way of being in the world, the seeking mind, the deep knowing. I wanted to be on the same path. I was too naive to know what that meant, but it was instinct to follow her influence. read more