Updated: Jan 18, 2021
System Addict -
Why Touring is an Exercise in Mindfulness, and How to Get Your Fix When You’re Not On the Road.
By Becky Pell
Monitor Engineer, Yoga Therapist, Holistic Coach
If you work in live entertainment, you’re probably already an expert at paying attention - concentrating all of your mental faculties like a laser beam on the task at hand, to make the show happen exactly as it’s meant to - because if you don’t do that in our line of work, you won’t last long. I have a theory that this requirement for concentration is part of the reason we get hooked on the job. You see, what we’re doing at that point has a name that’s become a bit of a buzzword in recent years - it’s called mindfulness.
Personally, I’m not a fan of that name at all; ‘mind-full-ness’ is not what we’re experiencing in those moments of flow. ‘Awareness’ would probably be a better word in my opinion, but that’s me being picky. Call it what you like - the point is that you already know how to do it. Similarly if you’re into anything like skiing, scuba diving, racing cars and so on, that’s what you’re doing - it’s absolute presence of all of your attention in that moment. That’s why we get drawn into those activities - we get to feel that quietness of our minds, that absolute clarity, that conscious awareness - because if we’re not 100% ‘there’, we’ll probably die!
Or get binned off the tour.
So if it’s so enjoyable to be in that state that we’ll risk placing ourselves in danger of death or sacking, how come it’s so hard to attain? Why do we have to go to such lengths to get there?
Why are we such slaves to our minds?
Our minds wander for many reasons, and boredom, tiredness, and getting distracted by our senses (squirrel!) are just the beginning of it. If we’re well rested and interested in what we’re doing, we’re less susceptible to getting pulled off course by a sound, an itch, or whatever - but there’s still a lot that can pull our minds in different directions.
Consider how many times a day your head is not where your body is: your mind might be worrying about something you’ve got to do, ruminating about a past event, bitching about something you don’t like, hankering after something you do like, getting scared about the future, and generally creating a lot of noise and havoc in your head which feels pretty crappy.
But there’s no point in making your mind out to be the enemy - if you look closer, you’ll see that all it’s trying to do is make everything alright. It really is just trying to help. Even when it gives you a hard time about how you screwed that up and you look like hell and you’ll never amount to anything, it’s just using old programming that it picked up somewhere way back, and trying to keep the present moment conforming to that model, because that’s what it knows. It might not feel good, but it does feel familiar - and our minds prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty. It’s why people self-sabotage, or stay in abusive relationships, or settle for less than they’re worth. It might feel shitty, but it’s less scary than the unknown.
The aim of the Eastern practices and philosophies like yoga and Buddhism is to liberate us from this torment. Not to make an enemy of our minds, but to bring them back into their proper place - along with our other senses - as tools, instruments for us to use. When they’re calm and settled and back in the tool box rather than running the show, they’re awesome - there’s no more powerful computer on Earth than the human mind - and they can serve us as we engage in correct and spontaneous action from a place of clarity and total conscious awareness. The end game of ‘mindfulness’ - or whatever you want to call it - is mastery of our minds. The whole of yoga, far from being about bendy people in lycra as commercialised western distortions would have us believe, is actually a 2500 year old system aimed at relieving our mental anguish by steadying our minds, so that we can concentrate and exist fully and vibrantly in the present moment. That’s called being in a state of yoga.
And if we normally get our fix from being on the road, no wonder we’re all suffering right now. So how can we do it wherever we are?
Well, it’s called a practice for a reason. It’s really just an exercise in realising, again and again and again throughout the day, that your mind has wandered off, and bringing it back to what you’re doing. It’s a lot like training a puppy - you don’t shout at it and freak it out and hit it, you just keep gently bringing it to ‘heel’ and ‘stay’ every time you notice it’s gone astray. You just keep coming back to paying attention to your task, no matter how ordinary. If you’re washing up, you give your full attention to washing up. If you’re driving, you give your full attention to driving. If you’re eating - you get the picture. And the net result is that little by little, you start to actually wake up and experience your own life, rather than sleepwalking through it. If you start to bring that quality of attention to your relationships, they’ll be transformed. When you start to wake up out of the dreamworld you worry and ruminate a lot less, because those things are never based on the present moment - they’re always concerned with the past or projecting into the future, when the only time that exists and has ever existed is now. When you did something three years ago, it was now. When you do something next week, it’ll be now. When you next get to do a gig, it’ll be now. It’s always now - and if you’re always here, you’re fully awake and alive rather than sleepwalking through fiction.
If you like, you can add a little phrase to the process. Each time you notice your mind has wandered off, you could say to yourself: ‘Wandering… come back… stay.’ Or: ‘Be here now’.
It’s not that you don’t use your mind to plan and enjoy happy memories - it’s that you use your mind, rather than your mind using you. And that, no matter what you call it, is the name of the game.
For further reading on this topic, check out:
‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle
‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A.Singer
‘The Way of the Peaceful Warrior’ by Dan Millman (also made into a movie called ‘Peaceful Warrior’) watch here.
I also highly recommend ‘Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change’ by Pema Chodron.
Becky Pell is a Monitor Engineer, Yoga Therapist and Holistic Coach.
She is originally from Yorkshire but lives on the Sunshine Coast of Australia.
Her website is www.rocknrollyogi.com and you can follow her at @rocknroll_yogi