Blog entry

zen on tour / Madison

song of the day: sunday bloody sunday / u2
word of the day: cryptonym / a secret name

well, i had indeed submitted more blogs while i was on tour with Vid (my friend from Minneapolis, who's a Zen priest, who came on tour with me all last week and gave dharma talks as part of the show) but somehow they did not go through. i probably screwed up the button clicking part which is crucial for entry. Vid Vid Vid. kid Vid. Vid Sicious. anyway. the first show was in Madison, Wisconsin, and we had a kick ASS audience. they were bright, engaged, open to experimentation, we all got naked, and voila'- an unmentionable Guiness record was broken. the first night we put Vid in the middle of the show. i let people know that as strange as it may sound, we were going to have a period in the middle of the show where another bald guy was going to get up and give a dharma talk- if you don't know what a dharma talk is, dont' worry about it, it's not some fancy weird esoteric spiritual thing, it's simply taking a look at what it is to be a human being. and really, that's what all of this is about, the music i work with is an exploration of what it is to be human- working to be more fully human, and Vid's dharma talk is the same thing, with fewer swear words, explicit sex, and taboos. well, maybe. i had asked Vid NOT to prepare anything for this tour, to have us just improvise this each night, and go off of whatever was happening in the room, we could begin by opening it up to questions. like a trooper, that's just what he did. he got up, said a bit, then opened it to questions. as i suspected (excepting one woman who just wanted to use the opportunity to advertise her favorite movie), the audience had sincere, really cool questions for Vid. and Vid did not treat it as "i have the answers, so you ask the questions", but rather opened it up as a discussion among the group with him at the healm to explore what it is to be human. now, of course this shit is risky. we were in danger, possibly, of having it turn into some new age crap, or having it come off like Scientology, or Amway, or pablum, but not too much danger, because it was Vid up there, and Vid is the real deal, and it was THIS audience, and they are the real deal, so- wind them up and let em go. one of the central reasons i wanted to do this was because i constantly get inquiries from people at / after my shows about spiritual practice, what is meditation, etc. why not just take 30 minutes and really discuss it? but also, it was important to me (and Vid, i think, but i'll stop short of speaking for him) to let go of the notions of what is the "appropriate" setting, forum, and approach to Zen. here is my definition of Zen: Reallity. if i were to have to expand upon that, i'd say Reality before it's been interpreted. Zazen (meditation) is just the direct experience of Reality, without interpreting it. it doesn't mean there is no interpreting-mind anymore, there is, and that's fine- that's the brain. brains are good. it means that there is an awareness before, during, and after any thinking which is not thinking. it is just aware. that's all. now, even though Zen is a tradition that is supposed to be one of the most pure and immediate in this praxis, like everything else humans touch, we codify it, categorize it, put it into forms- again none of which is evil, but then we mistake the forms (a zendo, black robes, black cushions, staring at a wall, the sutras, - whatever) for the awareness. but it's just about being a fully free-functioning human being, to pseudo-quote Genpo Roshi so in part, Vid and i were interested in forgetting what we thought we knew about Zen, or Dharma talks, or the forms. that does not mean abandoning forms, or the tradition, it means dropping them in any moment to encounter new possibilities. i still recognize, and have always recognized, that without committment and discipline to a daily contemplative practice (meditation, christian centering prayer, etc) we're fucked. this night in madison was the beginning of a great week of discovery for me, and i thank the audience and Vid for making it possible for me to have new eyes again. after all, this is the Mystery. not-knowing is a sacred secret.

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We were blown away by Stuart’s pure genius. Finally a songwriter with something to say. We booked him on the show, calls started coming in “Who was that? Who was that you had on World Cafe?”

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