Meet the coolest guy I know. He is a Buddhist monk. Much of what I have learned about mindfulness has been taken from Buddhism.
Kusala is an extraordinary man. He is funny, charming and so worldly wise.
I dare you to watch a video and not be captivated by his words.
If you are feeling down, he will raise you. If you are feeling lost he may just help give you some direction.
The one thing he is certain to do is give you an insight into Mindfulness through the eyes of a Buddhist.
If you have not watched Russell Brands YouTube channel "Trews News" it may be because you are a victim of another post I have discussed "Theoretical Vs Practical Reality" whereby you think you know something (theoretical) and this knowledge that you believe you know prevents you from developing your understanding in "practice". In other words you may think Russell Brand is just an annoying comedian who has nothing to contribute to your wider understanding of the World. Oh my you would be so wrong!
Please do me a favor and watch just todays video - they come out daily following news events.
His views are fresh and untainted by media and government propaganda - you will find a very different World than what you have painted for you by the mainstream....
Well I suppose it is a great example of theoretical vs practical reality! In theory our news is there to provide a balanced representation of World Events but in truth it is engineered to ensure our thoughts and beliefs fit a wider agenda that we rarely know about.
What Russell is doing on a daily basis is very similar (but so much more important) to what I see and have to deal with in my industry.
Please continue to question everything you read, everything you watch - whether its World News, Guitar Press, Online Media or your local friendly guitar retailer.
My brother is working with children who have troubled lives for one reason or another. Many from families who are living in poverty as you may expect but equally from children who have lived privileged backgrounds. They have been given "everything" - well materialistically everything.
Rather than focusing on his line of work I want to mention something that really struck a chord with me personally this past week and I thought back to one of my brothers "techniques" to remind myself of my own value.
As with the children that my brother visits, I personally thrive on "acceptance" and "appreciation". I am driven by making people happy in my adult life as children may do to gain acceptance in their own world. With children however they do not have the foresight or life experience to understand that if they don't get that acceptance or gratitude - if they don't get the praise and appreciation for their efforts - that doesn't make them worthless. Their value is true to them and very very real.
Inner peace and strength comes from knowing that you are being true to yourself and being the best you can be. If nobody else notices or wants to think contrary to your knowledge of who you are then that is "their loss" as the old saying goes.
To demonstrate this philosophy to the children my brother revealed a nice crispy £50 note. The kids eyes opened wide. No doubt they were already looking at this lovely recently printed note and wondering what they would spend it on! At which point he threw began to crumple the note up in his fist. The children looked on with anxiety in fear that something bad was going to happen! Once he had screwed the £50 note up he threw it into the dirt, trod it down, scuffed it up and kicked it into a dirty puddle where it lay floating looking pretty sick and "worthless" you could say. Certainly worthless to anyone who may wonder past. Nobody other than these children would know that this crumpled up, wet, dirty scrap of paper was was actually worth £50.
"So" my brother asked, "What is the £50 worth now?".
The penny began to drop and a discussion was had on understanding their value, believing in their value - even when others around them are questioning it or simply ignoring it.
Our self worth is questioned throughout our lives so don't allow others to undermine your knowledge or your truth of who you are.
Something I love to talk about almost it seems on a daily basis is theoretical reality Vs Practical reality!! The two are not quite the same....
In theory, when I wake up in the morning and make my way to work, any number of theoretical tragedies could unfold from slipping over on the soap in the bathroom through to crashing my car on the 1 mile trip to my shop. In practice however I don't let these details overshadow my day! I am mindful of the possibilities, am aware of their existence but I allow my practical mind to stop me worrying and getting bogged down in all the "what ifs".
So.... how does this all pan out in the Wold of Guitar Buying? Here is how...
Theoretical Reality #1
" Wood types govern the tone of the guitar, so I will opt out of certain acoustic instruments due to the wood used in production. "
In practice there are so many variables that effect the overal tone of the guitar that you cannot exclude ANY wood type when trying/experimenting with guitars. I have witnessed so many rules of tone being broken over the years that anyone who focuses on "theoretical reality" will not benefit from one of the greatest experiences which is "testing your own pre-conceptions".
Theoretical Reality #2
"I wouldn't buy an acoustic with a cutaway as I have heard it destroys the tone"
I would like to believe I have a good ear for acoustic tone after the many years (nearly 2 decades) of testing thousands of them pre sale with the desire to expand my experiences. I have to say hand on heart that I would like to believe I COULD tell you which brand of guitar is being played in my store - blind. I should be able to get close on the model too. However, if you put 6 Stonebridge GS23 CR models and 6 GS23 CR C models (cutaway option) I could NOT tell you which is which. The reason? Each guitar will have its own personal sound cutaway or not - although every guitar will share the tonal VOICE of the GS23CR. Trying to differentiate between the tonal variance caused by the guitars personal characteristics and that of the cutaway - well that would be beyond my ear for sure! So once again, the theory is sound - of course the cutaway has "an" effect on the tone but its not one we should practically allow ourselves to cloud our judgement.
Theoretical Reality #3
"An all solid wood acoustic is the best"
Whilst once again the theory is sound, manufacturers prey on the uninitiated by providing "specification" that sells the product without even having to play one. Just remember that a poorly manufactured instrument will always sound poor regardless of what it said on paper (the theory). Transversely a well made acoustic built from knowledge and experience can sound fantastic even from basic materials. This is another reason to focus on practice IE the practicality of playing! Trying and exploring. Being mindful allows you to experience a moment without prior judgement - sometimes this is essential to get a true picture. If your mind is full of theory (theoretical knowledge / "reality") these can be totally at odds with the practical reality you are experiencing and you must not allow these "theories" to overshadow your own reality in practice (practical reality!). What is real is what you are experiencing NOW.
This list of theoretical Vs practical realities is almost endless - I would be writing all night if I gave you all of them. This post is really about getting you to challenge the theories and be aware that in practice even something that is theoretically "correct" is not always worth worrying yourself over and certainly not worthy of changing your chosen path or worse still - stopping you from taking the path at all.
OK - You may not have seen this on Facebook....
I set it up some time ago on Facebook.
If you don't have a Facebook account, it is basically the "Porridge Appreciation Society" which I set up for a number of reasons,but primarily as a study for my "Mindful Guitarist" blog!
The Porridge Appreciation society is/was my physical metaphor that encapsulates mindfulness for me personally.
Mindfulness helps you focus your attention on details that you would normally completely overlook. It helps you be aware of your surroundings, your taste, textures, colours - even just moments in time that you may otherwise miss.
Hang in there - it will all make sense I promise!!!!
My wife Teresa constantly makes jokes about how I can get so "excited" or "passionate" about most basic things. I don't think passion or excitement are things that I should feel I have to defend and if I find passion in porridge then surely my life is all the more colorful for it?
The few posts that were made in my Facebook "group" were actually really interesting to read and it showed there are others that had much to discuss about what on the face of it seems like a topic that could go no further than "its made from oats and milk" - when you start to look at porridge in more detail you get to see there are a million and one ways to make it, different variations, tastes, cooking methods. I am sure I could write a book on it!
All of a sudden something incredibly obvious/overlooked becomes something of interest and exploration.
Well my own personal journey with porridge has brought me to a new understanding!
I have learnt that the porridge oats you buy in the supermarket are heavily starched to make them cook quicker and a lot of the goodness of the oat is actually lost. I am now buying a whole grain oat "steel cut" so you keep all the goodness from the grain and you are basically eating in a way that your body has been used to during evolution.
So where is all this going?
I will try and create a conclusion from this ....
I could have continued to eat my porridge and work on "auto pilot" (Add the milk, boil it up - eat it - go to work!)
However I chose not to. I chose to take an interest in its form, its taste and how it can be improved
I chose to take time to study whether the porridge I was taking for granted as "porridge" was indeed the only option and from that learnt that there were indeed other options/choices available that may suit my lifestyle better.
As a result I feel I am healthier and am more aware of what I am putting into my body.
Can you see how this links to guitars yet? LOL OK I will give you a push if you haven't got there yet....
When you next pick up a guitar. Take time and be mindful of its form, its colour, its sound - texture! How could this guitar be improved for you personally? How could you benefit from changes to this guitar? Is this the right guitar for you?
Sit with that guitar, take some REAL time with it (you don't have to be on auto pilot, thrashing out the latest solo either). Spend real time understanding that guitar.
You may find it quite therapeutic if you do it properly and it MAY help you find your perfect guitar..... but the principles I am discussing could also help shape your life in more ways than you could ever imagine.
I popped into my newsagent this morning and it took a big dose of mindfulness to help me consider what I genuinely think is important to me this morning.
The main news spead across the papers front pages was this...
Of course we all want to believe we are in control of our own thoughts - that we make our own judgments on what is important or relevant in our lives but this front page "news" is actually a fantastic example of what I have been aware of in the guitar industry for nearly 2 decades.
What we are provided as "news" forms the fabric of our understanding of the World around us, whether it is World Events or the latest news about guitars.
When in "auto pilot" which most of us tend to be these days, we take in the information, digest it at a rapid pace and like it or not that information has now helped shape your views in some way. We rarely consider the reasons WHY the publications have chosen the specific storyline we are reading - and I am afraid it rarely represents your "best interests".
When I reflect on what I see in the news (in a moment of mindfulness) I see the real story is behind the headlines - The real story is WHY has this organization chosen this specific story as "most relevant"?
News is provided for so many reasons - whether they be political, social, economic, humour etc. but more often than not there is an agenda of somekind - an influence they want to make on your judgements, your thoughts, your decision making processes.
The mindful guitarist should always be alert to this! Don't just take everything you read as "fact", consider it as "input" but input that you now need to digest, pull apart, dissect - call it what you want!! Taking time to reflect on what you have read and the possible motives behind the information you have been provided - I believe - is imperative.
Regrettably, Nia (my daughter) is off sick today and is well enough to be badgering me - and my wife Teresa tells me if I don't go to the gym now I won't have time so how all this relates to guitars will have to wait!!
My next instalment will take it away from World Events (AKA Britains Got Talent) and show how the agendas that fuel news"relevancy" are the same whether it be World events, guitar publications or your local guitar shop ...
As you may or may not know in my eternal search for perfectionism and control in my life i have suffered varying levels of "nervous energy", anxiety and depression. Over the years I have come to realise it generally goes with the territory with a person who is "driven" in some way.
At the age of 35 I closed my former business Regent Guitars - the anxiety/pressure was just too overwelming as I tried to balance what I believed I wanted from my life with the reality of what was occuring.
I needed life balance.
5 years on and largely I have found this balance through a number of important changes to my life but without question the most overwelming benefit has come from the study of mindfulness
As a lifetime sufferer of anxiety from childhood and someone who believed I just had to "make do" with the genetical realities of life I feel I have a responsibility to share my feelings with anyone who wants to read this blog.
I am hoping the blog will provide a number of benefits.
1) An insight into the workings of my business, along with the decisions & problems that are made or dealt with for better or for worse.
2) How a "mindful" approach towards reasoning with these "events" helps me reflect, remain balanced, appreciative and understanding of what has occurred but with a view to learning and developing from them - not the "historical" path of self deprivation!
3) Mindfulness relies on self reflection and writing the pages in this blog will certainly help me do this
4) Ultimately I am hoping the pages will help people who even have no interest in guitars, me or my business. I hope that anyone who has suffered with anxiety on any level, depression or even someone who simply struggles to cope with daily chores or workload in the office can benefit from my updates.
OK - Please don't expect a weekly report or any kind of continuity whatsoever - there you go! Mindfulness tip #1 - Don't put yourself under undue pressure just because of your own expectations. I would LOVE to do a weekly report but I know realistically I have a very busy business and family pressures that will prevent it!
Thanks for listening and hope to bring you an update when the moment is right.