• Mark Nanni

7a. Spiritualism in Performance (Part 1)

7a. Spiritualism in Performance (Part 1):

I mentioned in one of the first blogs the importance meditation practice has had on my live performance. I originally got interested in meditation in high school in hopes of unlocking infinite creativity for learning to take original, free, improvised solos, and musicianship in general. A few friends and I, (and apparently a good number of musicians around the country), got into a book called The Inner Game of Tennis, believe it or not. It was all about Zen and winning the mind game that stands in the way of winning the tennis match. As it turns out, many of the concepts in the book apply equally well to music performance. The truth is, you can put in all the work, do all the preparation, learn all the learning, and still lose in the mental game.

This led me to reading all kinds of books about different modes of spirituality, mostly Eastern. One was by Deepak Chopra who recommended finding a teacher and learning TM, (Transcendental Meditation), the technique that gained some sporadic popularity in the states. Some of the more famous students of TM, who studied directly with its originator, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, were members of The Beatles and some other famous rock stars.

I thought, I’m never going to find a TM teacher in this area, but then again, the saying goes: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” which is apparently true because my teachers appeared right in the Yellow Pages. They even helped me cover the cost of learning the technique as I was a starving artist, trying to learn how to make a living playing music and wasn’t there yet. This was the greatest gift, and I eventually was not only able to pay them back in installments, but uncannily soon thereafter, I was indeed playing full-time, for a living, and have never stopped.

I continued feeding my interest in Eastern philosophy and spirituality, eventually centering on Yoga. Yoga is so much more than the Hatha Yoga classes you can find everywhere. In fact, Hatha is but one small branch to the entire path, and its true original purpose was merely to train the body to be comfortable sitting still in meditation for long periods.

In learning about Yoga, I also got into Kirtan, (Yogic chant music), even writing and recording a CD in that style with all original music set to Sanskrit mantras. (The Now: Adi.) This practice of Bhakti (devotional) Yoga mixed my two passions and opened up some amazing experiences.

I also began to learn about Dharma (divine-given life path, or simply, truth). It is said that when one discovers their Dharma, and commits to it fully, the universe recognizes this commitment and begins to coordinate on your behalf and opens doors at the right time to help you succeed. You will make steps along your path, like the rungs of a ladder, and the universe will give you little gift-reminders that you are, in fact, doing the right thing, serving your Dharma, and making things happen for you that allow you to stay on your path, and eventually to find abundance in compensation for your service. This is exactly what is meant by making a “leap of faith.”

It may sound “Hippie Dippy” to you, or it may not. Either way, in my own experience, it has been absolutely true, and continues to prove itself to me 25 years later, with every year of my career getting better and better, both artistically and financially. I have no reason to lie to you or make this up. I’m not selling anything, I have nothing to gain by telling you this. But I believe in it with with all my heart, and seeing is believing. In this case, experiencing is believing, because it’s actually a complete life experience, with many onion-like layers, that takes on all the feels, not just seeing.

The more I believe in Dharma, the more bounty I’m given and graciously accept. The more I accept, the more I trust. The more I trust, the more I continue to give to it, and the universe bestows, yet again, making the whole thing the most beautiful, interactive, reciprocal cycle, which feeds on itself, infinitely.

I can’t tell you how many times, when I was younger, just getting started, rent would be approaching, for instance, the wallet empty, and a lucrative society gig would pop into my lap just in the nick of time to save my neck. So many times. I began to know that someone, something, somewhere had my back. It became like a secret friend that I could completely trust.

Who is this friend? God, of course. The Most High. I refrain from using the “G” word most of the time, simply because using it tends to have a stigma attached to it. “Holy roller”, “Jesus freak”, what have you. But if you believe in anything greater than ourselves, that’s what it is, and it actually doesn’t have to have anything to do with religion, per se. It doesn’t matter the name, but it is The Most High, and I do believe that it loves us more than anything, and that we actually are a part of it. Almost like we each are molecules of water in the ocean that is The Divine.

None of these thoughts are my own. They are all teachings that have been handed down for thousands of years. I’ve had a tough time with organized religion. Most of them say we need to go through other humans who intercede on our behalf to the Most High. What I love about Yoga and meditation is that they ask us simply to try to forge our own relationship with The Most High, and see for ourselves through our own perceived experiences. That’s a lot easier for me to get behind, and the more I give myself to it, the more it proves itself to me in clear ways that I experience for myself directly.

Please tune in next week for the final installment, where I’ll talk about how to identify our Dharma, how to harness our Dharma once we find it, and how to transform that harnessed power into a lifestyle where we get to live our dream life.


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