I have a problem with stage-anxiety. It's a shadow that has hung over me as long as I can remember - probably to do with some kind of childhood trauma I've never really dealt with, never really bothered to deal with even though I've been painfully aware of how it has restricted me in doing the things I've wanted to do all my life.
I know I'm not alone in this - I know that many people suffer with it, even professional performers. And normally I have no problem walking away from things that make me uncomfortable - where's the rule that says you HAVE to "face your fears"? I believe more in "freeing" them, and if that doesn't work, "flee" them... there's so much more to do in life than battling the "dragons of your psyche".
Trouble is, my passions - the things I really want to do in life - are often tied in with the need, and the desire to perform. I'm a songwriter, I like to sing my songs, I want to tell stories and share them with others... I would love to do theatre. So ultimately I'm faced with my dragons time and time again, and I can't flee them and they don't seem to want to be freed.
So the time has come to face them. I've tried talking to them, naming them, accepting them, but it doesn't help when my stomach is turning and my hands are trembling and sweat is running down my brow and my heart is pumping and my inner voice is screaming..."RUN!"
I did a crazy thing a couple of weeks back - I booked a cafe to give a performance in. I devised a two-hour one-man-show full of stories and songs - I made a poster and posted online inviting everyone to come. The idea alone sends shivers through my body - waves of nervous energy and fear flood my body when I think of it. So why the hell did I set it up? Well, because it's what I want to do - and it's so important to me that I'm prepared to suffer the pain of the fear.
But I'm not stupid... I know the fear is all in my mind, I know the danger isn't real but imagined. I know I'm quite capable of telling stories and singing songs - but I also know that I could give a much greater performance if I wasn't held back by this anxiety - if I felt free to give the performance I visualize in my head. And I long for this freedom.
Yesterday I browsed through a few videos on YouTube on the subject of dealing with stage-anxiety. They weren't much help. But then I watched a video about a research project some guy had done in Hollywood with 150 or more professional performers, to get some real insight into the question. It was interesting to know just how many professional and seasoned film-stars never get over their performance fears, but further than that the results only seemed to confirm that it was common and there is no real wonder cure..."live with it" seemed to be the conclusion.
But towards the end of the video reference was made to the viewpoint of another researcher from the early part of the last century... and this hit home by me. It seemed to hold a key to the essence of this anxiety, and thus to it's transformation from negative experience to positive... from something you want to run away from to something you could even welcome.
So I made some notes, and, after sleeping on it for a night, I spent this day reflecting and writing on this new "perception" of stage-anxiety. And I do believe, by golly, that I've GOT IT! So I'm going to share it here while it's all still fresh in my thoughts... and it goes like this:...........
FORGET the idea that we are flesh and blood and organs and cells... forget that our brains are full of synapses sending electrical impulses to our organs... forget that our organs create chemicals that surge through our bodies via the blood-flow... forget that we are even made up of molecules that are in turn made up of atoms... and so on.
Forget the idea that anxiety is the result of chemicals such as adrenalin that are created when we sense danger, in order to prepare our bodies for fight or flight... forget all this.
INSTEAD... think of yourself in terms of energy. Now if you're up to date on quantum physics theory, you'll already know that science is proving what spiritualists have been saying all along... that matter doesn't actually exist, it's all virtual simulation... and all the matter of the universe (including us) is in fact waves of "potential" in a limitless field of electromagnetic energy (Unified Field Theory). If you're not aware of this, then you're a bit out of touch with reality and I advise you to check it out (Unified Field/Holographic Universe)
So what does this have to do with stage-anxiety? Well I'm coming to that...
As an individual, then, you are not dense matter, but a "condensed field" of electromagnetic energy with a unique and particular wave-frequency. And you are intricately connected within the "field" to everything else... and every-ONE else. Your body, besides resonating within your own personal field, also receives energy from other fields (people, things, events, thoughts...everything that exists actually) and sends out energy into these other fields. It's a constant dance of energy-exchange.
Now, when you're going about your daily business, even within a group or crowd setting, your energy and the energy of every individual around you is not focused toward anything specific, but rather dispersed evenly across a wide area of elements that make up the personal experience of life. Some energy goes to what you're thinking about, worrying about, planning for tomorrow, looking forward to, memories, feelings and emotions etc... everything that you are focusing on with your conscious mind. More energy is directed (unconsciously or consciously) towards the people and things around you... passers-by, the general public, the trees, birds, dogs, buildings, traffic, shop windows, noise, sights and sounds.
The energy that is exchanged between you and everything and everyone else is distributed and "diluted". Your own personal energy-flow is in balance, flows evenly without too much disruption or disturbance from outside - you just go about your day and you feel fine and in control.
VISUALIZE THIS... not in terms of matter, but as lots of swirling, flowing, individual ENERGY-VORTEXES within a vast all-and-inter-connecting ENERGY-FIELD.
GOT IT? Good!
NOW... visualize the idea that stage-anxiety is the result of an "energy-surge" that actually forms when a group of individuals gather in one place, with ONE SPECIFIC POINT OF FOCUS... ...and what's at that point of focus?...............YOU!
So, great amounts of focused energy from all these individuals emanates out into the field, combines to create one powerful energy-vortex which then rushes towards center-stage where it hovers like a vast spinning tornado - and right in the middle of this vortex is your individual energy-vortex-self, trying desperately to maintain it's calm, individual-flow... and not be torn apart and swallowed up by this powerful force. No wonder you feel shaken, that your stomach churns, that you sweat and shake and your heart pumps violently... you're in the middle of a tornado.
GOT THE PICTURE?
So, how the hell do you deal with this?
People who don't experience stage-anxiety do one of two things:
1) They're just not affected by the "tornado". They've built up, naturally or through time and experience, an extra force-field around themselves, whereby outside energy literally bounces off their own field - or that the spinning of their individual vortex is higher than that of the combined vortex - again, outside energy bounces off and can't enter the individual field.
2) They "ARE" affected by the "tornado", but they've learned to open up to it and let it flow THROUGH them... they "CHANNEL" this outside energy, controlling the flow/spin to match their own. In this case, they experience the energy NOT as fear or anxiety, but as EXCITEMENT... and they call it by that name. And they direct this extra energy into their activity (a speech or story or song or acting-role), and use it to enhance and inspire their performance.
Energy is neither good nor bad, positive nor negative... it is just energy. Stage anxiety should NOT be labelled as "fear", nor even as "anxiety"... much better to call it "excitement". Know it and experience it purely as "high-vibrating-energy". It is exactly the same as the energy you feel during an enjoyable performance - the KICK - and at the end of a performance - the "HIGH". It's the SAME ENERGY.
So, instead of looking for ways to dispel it, or fight it, or escape it... EXPERIENCE it as it is, let it run through you, learn to direct it, bring it into your own flow... have FUN with it, ENJOY it. Feel the KICK. Because it's this same energy you can re-direct and send back into the audience so they feel the kick too and become more connected with you and your performance. Use the energy that the audience sends to you, to share back with them so you can all laugh and cry and FEEL together. That's why you're up on the stage in the first place... to share with the audience. And that's what the audience is anticipating, what they desire, why their focus is so directed... and why YOU get the GIFT of SO MUCH of THEIR energy.
So... try this perspective when you next experience stage-anxiety - see what it does with you. The proof is in the pudding of course, and I've got a one-man-show coming up... I'll let you know how I did.
"A SONGWRITER'S JOURNEY"... below the poster and intro...
WOENSDAG 11 JUNI 2014. THEATERCAFE DE RICHEL (NES 71 AMSTERDAM) DEUR OPEN VANAF 19UUR. ENTREE: 6 EURO.
CLICK HERE to reach the facebookpage promoting the event.
It's come so far that I'm pretty clear on the path I'm ready to take - giving up Amsterdam and all the fluff and baggage that I have to support here, so I can live "on the road" with a basic but sufficient income earned from busking and whatever comes my way. The whole essence of my desired lifestyle at this period of my life comes from a feeling in my heart to let it all go, release myself from all the trappings of conditioning, bring my life back down to a simpler level and trust in the wisdom and power of my heart to care for me and guide me to where I need to be, because I believe my "higher self" knows the bigger picture.
It's a process of surrender and faith in a higher consciousness part of oneself. My belief in this has developed in clarity over the last 6 months, and every day brings more and more clarity. It's not always easy to stick with one's faith, I'm still prey to my old conditioned habits of thought, which bring fear and doubt into my glorious "dream of freedom". But then come the synchronicities that soothe and comfort and strengthen me.
Two days ago, I was surfing through various videos on YouTube, can't remember exactly for what, but I came across an interview from one spiritual lady in Norway with another in America. The title intrigued me... "How To Use Your Intuition". The "expert being interviewed was a lady called Sonia Choquette. I'd never heard of her, but she had compelling and exciting things to say that were well in tune with my desires to follow the whims of my heart.
Anyway, I Googled her and found out that she's been an international authority for many years with 14 books to her name. I then clicked on another video in which she gave a talk at a spiritual seminar, and she was captivating. A great and humorous speaker who inspires and motivates with such a powerful and contagious "spark of life". This was just what I needed to discover, as if it opened the door to my dreams that last difficult inch. What she says about 'Intuition" and how we can learn to access and use it is so exciting and all-encompassing, and at the same time obvious to me... I have been able to release the last remnants of doubt that have shadowed my decision to break away from it all.
In her presentation she talks of 4 steps on the way to "enlightenment"... 1) Awakening, 2) Discovery, 3) Surrender, 4) Flow. I feel that I'm just starting off with step 3. And it fills me already with great joy and confidence. I don't have to wander anymore if what I'm doing is a good idea... I KNOW it. And that makes everything so much easier.
Here's the links to these videos... watch for yourself:
Sonia Choquette - How To Use Your Intuition
Sonia Choquette - Guest speaker at Bodhi Spiritual Center
I didn't write on this blog for a long while - got myself caught up in England, without internet. It was three months of soul-searching and dreaming and spiritual discovery. The result from those three months and these last few weeks I've been back in Amsterdam have given me a new clarity. The journey is still on, but much greater than before, much more existential... and so much more full of promise and potential and adventure and freedom and joy. Read on...
I started a new site, on a whim, that was to reflect the more spiritual aspects of this "journey"... more the inner-journey than the outer-journey. The last few months I've made a deep sojourn into my "spiritual being". I thought for a while that this site would become redundant. I even published a post right here to say as much and direct you to the new blog. But every day brings new surprises and clarity and insight - and it turns out that this blog is still the most relevant. So I duly deleted the post, and substitute it for this one.
To bring you up to date, I recommend you first read the last post on the new blog, then come back here for the definitive story as it now stands. I'm not sure if I'm going to keep the new site up, but I don't have to decide that yet.
Anyway... You can reach that new blog HERE.
So that was my situation a week or so ago. Oh and how things have developed. It seems that this whole last year has been a preparation for this moment... because I'm about to make one of the most drastic changes in my life.
When I started this blog, I envisioned myself travelling around in my camper-bus, singing and telling stories as a traveling minstrel. That didn't happen, and the reason it didn't happen was because I didn't have the confidence to BE the minstrel I saw myself being. The travelling made me feel lonely, singing scared me. And I had little success selling my album. When my funds became really low, I came back to Amsterdam to sort things out. I imagined I might even have to swallow my pride and get a normal job again. As it turns out I haven't yet needed to do that - and now I know that I don't have to. The greatest burden I experienced was having to use my funds to support my house and bills in Amsterdam, even while I wasn't living here, and this idea of keeping a base here makes it very difficult for me to really break free - having to earn several hundred euros every month while on the road is a hell of a stress. And it's really only just come clear to me what I need to do to achieve what I want to do. So, I'm going to tell you first what it is that I really really really want to do... and then tell you how I've decided to go about it.
What I really really really want to do...
Have you ever asked yourself this question? I ask myself continually - always trying to get to the essence of what I want my life to be about. And in the end it's very simple... and it's always been my answer. What I really really really want to do is be free. Free.. to do what I want, when I want, where I want and how I want!
Get real Mike... it isn't that simple! Oh but it is! I've just been making it hard for myself. I always thought that lots of money would allow me to be free... but I'm not much of a money-maker because deep in my psyche money doesn't really interest me. In the choice between money or time, throughout my life I've always chosen time (only the last eleven years have I kept a secure conventional job, for the purpose of giving my son a stable lifestyle). And I haven't changed. I still choose "free-time" above earning money, that's why I don't have a job, or money, or career, or lots of possessions.... or much of a future as a model citizen. It's not that I don't like money - I love it - but I don't like having to work 40 hours a week, for most of my precious life in order to earn it.
Having a job leads to needing a stable address and a bank account, and from this comes bills and rent and taxes and energy-costs and gadgets... it's a way of life, that's all. And it's not the way of life I prefer.
If I could win the lottery I could pay for my freedom without a job... but I don't do the lottery so there's not much chance of winning (if ever there was). So - how do I get to do what I want, when, where, and how I want? And what does that mean?
It means I want to be free to wake up every morning and decide on the spur of the moment, on a whim, what I fancy doing for the rest of the day. It could be walking, or sitting in a cafe, watching the world go by and writing in my journal. Or it could be something physical to feel my body. Or it could be something spiritual - meditation or yoga or experimenting with manifesting (read the other blog to know what this is all about). Or it could be talking with others - long and deep conversations about the nature of reality. Or it could be travelling to new places. Or it could be something creative - songwriting, singing, drawing, sand-sculpting, playing or learning a musical instrument. Or it could be doing nothing in particular... read a book... watch a film... lie in the sun... nap and dream...
That's simple enough to understand right? Good.... now on to the next part.
Living The Dream
I have a belief - a spiritual belief - that we are in essence spiritual beings having a human experience. And I'm sure that, as a spiritual being, it wasn't the plan to be human and live a miserable life full of stress and haste and regret and doubt and fear and anger... but to have fun, be happy, feel love, feel oneness and connected, learn and grow, and experience to the full the magic of this place called earth. Trouble is that we get so caught up in the details of fitting in with the society we've created, that we give up a lot of our personal joys and pleasures and dreams through habit... through conditioning... through thinking that "fitting in" is the right thing to do. I'm fed up with fitting in.
So I have to give up all the things that allow me to fit in. All the things that are costing me money - money I have to earn. It's clear to me now. I need to give up my house, my possessions, my Amsterdam lifestyle, my bills, my tax payments, my registration as a resident of Nederland... and really hit the road. Doing this frees me up considerably from having to earn so much. All I really need is enough to feed me and fuel my camper (and a bit extra to pay off debts, but they're not something I intend to worry myself with). I'm talking a couple of hundred a month... and I can earn that quite easily by playing guitar on the streets a few hours a week. So the time has come to make this lifestyle change... and I intend to make it within the next month (stay tuned).
It might sound quite drastic to some to give up everything, but I don't feel that it is. I reviewed all my possessions a few days ago and realized I have nothing that's really important (a couple of boxes of old stuff from past years). What doesn't fit in the camper can go. I see that my real valuable possessions are the memories and experiences I have, and the people I love... and I carry them with me, in me, always... the rest is fluff... illusory value.
So it is time to give up the fluff if I want to be free. Live more in the now, collecting more experiences and memories, meeting more people to love.
At the moment of writing I scarcely have enough money to pay another month's rent... yet I feel free of worry. It's a fantastic feeling!
On Friday, 16th August I intended to tell this story at the Mezrab - but circumstances and the "special" atmosphere of the evening persuaded me to save it for another time and tell a different story on the night.
It was a good decision - and because I didn't get this or the other story on video - I'm posting it here... hope you enjoy it.
I was in England a couple of years ago, visiting family. My youngest brother Gary invited me over to one of his gigs – he dj's at a dancing club for older folk!!! My dad is 85 and he's NOT the oldest. It's an easy gig – he plays the records, counts them in – 1 2 3 1 2 3...and off they go... all night long.
It's easy but quite boring for Gary, so he tells little stories in between dances. The night I was there he told this one:
I've got a guest tonight (he said) my brother Mike. He's over from Amsterdam, in Holland. (I get some applause – give them a wave. They know about Holland – it's that little place near Germany. And they know about Germany because they can all remember the war vividly. Gary goes on...) You know – when he left England I was a bit upset. I said,
why are you going to Holland? And he said,
I'm going to Holland to be an illustrator.
And I was shocked – really shocked. I ran to my dad and said
-Dad, dad, Mikes going to Holland to be a spy.
Dad said - WHAT?
I said - He's going to be a spy.
He's not going to be a spy – where did you get that from?
- That's what he said.
- He said he's going to be a spy?
- Yes, sort of... He said he's going to Holland to be an English traitor.
Gary's story wasn't true of course – but the story I'm going to tell you now IS true.
It's a story of a wild Indian and a gallant knight – of fearful dragons and a holy grail. A story of mountains and magic and miracles and music and dreams. Of seagulls and scurvy elephants. . .
And it's called
When I was a little boy – 7 or 8 years old – there were 2 games I used to play regularly with my friends. One of these was called “Cops and Robbers”. And me being a good guy I was always a cop. When grown-ups asked me around that time what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd say “Policeman”. I don't think I really wanted to be a policeman, but you've got to give them an answer right? You've got to say something – it's what they expect. It's silly, because who knows anything about the world at that age? Who can know at that age what they want to be when they grow up? It's a long way off. But grown-ups, parents, uncles and aunts and neighbours, teachers, the church if you're in one, and especially society – they all want to know this as early as possible so they can reserve a pigeon hole for you.
And if you can't answer, they'll answer for you. I was good at drawing – oh he's going to be an artist, they'd say. I used to make things in the garage, all sorts of things – oh he's going to be an inventor...?! And if you're unlucky they'll force you onto a path: he's going to be a professional footballer and play for England– she's going to be a prima-ballerina – he's going to be a lawyer, a doctor, just like his father, and his father before him...
One thing I knew I didn't want to be was a plasterer like my father... dirty hard work, low pay, long hours, working on Sundays...
But the system wants to know. And as you grow, you're groomed towards one or another of these pigeon holes – and if they can't fit you in one they label you...Scurvy Elephant.
Another game we played was “Cowboys and Indians”, and again, me being the good guy, I was always an Indian. And often I'd play this game alone, but then without cowboys – because being an Indian for me wasn't about shooting arrows and fighting cowboys – it was about connecting with the earth, being ONE with the spirit of animals and trees and the mountains. And when I played alone, I'd build a teepee in the back garden facing the farmer's fields at the back of our house. And I'd sit cross-legged in front of my teepee, feather in my headband, naked, except for a little piece of cloth hanging from my waistband. And I'd sit and contemplate the eagles soaring high in the blue sky, and over the red mountains on the horizon. I'd listen to the bubbling rivers and see the swaying pine-trees, and I'd watch the buffalo grazing over on the prairie.
I was at peace in these moments, oblivious to my mother hanging up the washing around me.
When grown-ups asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I really wanted to say “INDIAN”... but you can't do that – you can't be an Indian when you grow up.. that's childhood stuff. I remember saying to my dad at the time, It must be really boring being a grown up – you can't play cowboys and Indians anymore....No, he said... but we have 'other' games to play...
And on your way to being a grown up, you hear the same things over and again: what do you want to be, what do you want to do, you can't do that, you can't be that, this is what you should do, this is how you do it... But I knew too though, even in my fantasies, that my game wasn't real. And that was okay, because it wasn't about BEING an Indian, but about experiencing the essence of what being an Indian meant. And I felt, even then, that my life would be a journey, to find and understand that essence.
Pretty enlightened for an 8 year old don't you think? But you see, I'd already had my first awakening... and I knew, whether they liked it or not, they weren't going to squeeze me into any pigeon-hole.
That first awakening came when I was 5 years old, not long after I'd started school. Now I was raised a Catholic – luckily not strictly. Dad was really easy about it, just took us to church on Sundays – when he wasn't working. Mum was a Protestant anyway and never went to church. There was no bible-thumping or God-fearing in our house. But in the school...
There they were pretty fundamentalist. Church Sundays AND Fridays, and confession every month, and whoa be anyone who didn't confess their sins every month. They had their belief, we were all born sinners – period.
The headmistress of the infant school was called Mrs Cook – a frightening battle-axe of a woman... scary as hell. The headmaster of the junior school was even more scary, Mr Keegan I think he was called... always frowning, always angry. But the scariest of all was the parish priest... he could make the other two tremble at will. And all three together ruled the school with a hard hand of fear, in that good old English Catholic tradition.
So there I sat, one Monday morning in class. The teacher, who happened to be Mrs Cook that day, called out the register and then said: “Hands up, anyone who DIDN'T go to church yesterday”. Well dad had been working all weekend, and mum never went to church and my older sister was only 7 so she couldn't take us, so I hadn't gone to church. And I raised my hand... and I was the only one... I was the only sinner in the class. Mrs Cook pointed to me and called me up to her desk... smacked me across the kneecaps with a wooden spoon, and sent me to stand in the corner for the rest of the morning.
Now, I don't remember crying, but I must have cried – and I don't remember the pain, but it must have hurt. And I don't remember feeling angry, or abused. The only thing I remember is that I had this feeling...there's something not quite right here.
And they would never know it, but in that moment, instead of creating a god-fearing catholic member of society, they'd created a scurvy elephant.
So I'd had a revelation, I was awakened, and I kept my eyes open. Skeptical from that moment on, I witnessed many more occasions of this tyranny throughout my school life. Not just to me – and often not because I was careful and followed their rules calculatedly,kept my mouth shut and didn't try to rebel – this scurvy elephant was just waiting and learning. And I learned to see through their charade and lies and beliefs, and I knew it was all wrong. And if they were wrong about this they could be wrong about everything. And if everything was wrong, then what was right? I'd have to work that one out myself. And so began my journey, my quest. I didn't know then what I was looking for, or where to look, or when I'd find it, but I was compelled to search, and I knew I wouldn't find it on the path that everyone else seemed to be following. The trouble was – I was also compelled to stay on their path for as long as I was at school. So I would have to be patient... because 16 was a long way off.
My second awakening came in high-school. I was already pretty estranged from the flock by that time... I felt sometimes like I was on a different planet. The tyranny carried on down to the playground – there was a lot of fighting and bullying. If you didn't play football or fight you were a softy or a wimp and you needed thumping. I didn't care for football or fighting, so I never felt safe or comfortable. And to make matters worse, I could draw and write poetry... that didn't go down well with the macho crowd. I had a couple of friends, but in class mostly I kept quiet, counting the time to when I could leave school for good. I was pigeon-holed by others, and I couldn't escape them and re-invent myself because all the same bullies and footballers and fighters went to the same school, same class from 5 to 16. So I just watched and endured the narrow mentality of the world I was stuck in.
And then, at 14 or 15, I found the book that would lighten and guide my life. It was my sister's book, but it became my Bible – and it was called Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Jonathan was... a seagull.. but an outsider – different ideas and beliefs and values that upset the flock. He didn't live for their rules or traditions or expectations, he listened to his own heart and it told him to fly. For this he was cast out from the flock and labelled a scurvy elephant. And I felt like I was Jonathan, only I wasn't flying as he was.... not yet.
There came a day in English class when the teacher asked us to bring in a book that we were reading and to read a piece for the class. I hated this sort of thing, and I was only reading this one book, over and over, and I knew they wouldn't understand. But there was no getting out of it. So the day came and everyone read aloud from their books. The girls read girl's-adventure stories and romances – the boys read boy's adventures stories and tales of war or football. And it was my turn, and I read a chapter relating the following:
Jonathan had been practising speed-flying. Climbing high into the sky then free falling to gather speed, but every time he hit 150 miles an hour he'd stall and lose control, tumbling and toppling in a flurry of feathers until he hit the ground. He could never get past that 150 miles an hour and became disillusioned and frustrated. In his frustration he thought: maybe the elders have got it right – maybe a seagull isnt built for speed, maybe we weren't born to pursue the art of flying – maybe we just have wings to fly out to the fishing boats and circle around for scraps of fish, as the elders tell us... that's what seagulls do, always have, always will. And any seagull who thinks different is mad and a trouble-maker. So Jonathan decides to stop his activities – become a normal seagull. Squark and flap and chase the fishing boats with the rest of the flock. And he set off back to the beach – and as he was flying, the way a seagull is supposed to fly, he's thinking – of course I'm mad – if I was meant to soar like an eagle I'd have an eagle's broad wings....if I was meant to do acrobatics I'd be built as a swift or swallow....If I was meant for speed I'd have the short sharp wings of a falcon or...... and he blinked, and in that moment he forgot all about the flock again and instead climbed up into the sky – 500 feet, 1000 feet, 1500 feet and then dropped.... speeding down through 100 miles an hour then 125 miles an hour, then he folded his wings in and left just the tips sticking out from his body, 150 miles an hour and he didn't stall...faster and faster...200 250 300 miles an hour and he still had control with just a twist of a feather....he soared through the sky and sped across the sand and through the resting flock like a tornado, to land safely on the end of the beach.....
When I was finished reading I looked around. Blank faces everywhere. They didn't get it, no-one, not even the teacher, got it. I heard mutters – stupid story about a seagull... The teacher said “NEXT” and they moved on. I just didn't belong here – I didn't want to belong. They had nothing to teach me so it wasn't worth listening to anything they had to say. I got interested in photography round that time, and there was a darkroom in the school, but there was no-one who knew anything about it. In my last year the careers-advisor came to visit. In my session with him he asked,
What do you want to be?(????) I said:
-Oh... and he leafed through his map... P, P, P, photography, photography.... No. Nothing here. Do you want to be anything else?
That was my 30 seconds of careers advice. I was on my own – but I didn't have much longer to wait. As far as I was concerned this flock could squawk and flap and chase after fish as much as they wanted... I was Jonathan, and I was going to learn to fly.
I left school at 16 with just enough qualifications to get into photography college. I worked a year first in a darkroom then did 3 years of college. But the study was set up for career-seekers – you did your study, got your certificates and a portfolio, went to work in a professional studio somewhere, worked your way up, got your own studio and so on. It was totally the wrong place for me, but I didn't realize that until it was too late and I left with nothing concrete... I didn't want that path anyway right?!
Maybe I should have just gone travelling instead of college, but I'd made my choice and you can't go back. But there was some gypsy in my blood and I spent the next 10 years in different places learning to break away from the programmed conventions around me. I never worked longer than a year at any place – mostly quit a job after 3 months – had a lot of jobs. In my early twenties I joined a rock band and made up for a rebellious puberty I'd never had. I drifted through those years with very little money but a very lot of free time. At 24 I lived 3 months as a hippie songwriter on a Greek island – best time of my life until then. I went back and repeated the experience the following year, with a saxophone instead of a guitar... I drank, I partied, experimented with consciousness-enhancing substances... and had a lot of exotic foreign girlfriends.
At the time I was also reading another book by the author of Jonathan...called ILLUSIONS. And this convinced me of the possibility of this reality being an illusion, and I played with some of the book's concepts... like manifesting, and trying to disintegrate clouds with my thoughts. I never got THAT good, but a lot of things happened in those years that I can only call magical...
And that magic brought me to Amsterdam.
I'd been dumped by my girlfriend after 7 years and was feeling down and frustrated to find myself back in North England, alone, with xmas approaching and – the worst of all things – working with my dad as a plasterer... no no no, what am I doing here...this can't be...! But I had some money for once.
I needed to escape and headed to London with the intention of jumping on a bus to Belgium for a few days, just as a break. Stopped at a friends house and he said “don't go to Belgium – go to Amsterdam".
So I came to Amsterdam. It was cold and wet and miserable – early December – and the cafe's were empty except for other drenched and miserable tourists. I roamed the streets in the drizzle for 2 days and on my final 3rd day I was defeated. Walked from the city centre to Amstel station to find a cafe to write in and kill the hours before my bus home – but there were no cafes there in those days, so I walked back to the centre, and stumbled on The Balie by the Leidseplein. And the Balie was lit up and full of people and chatter and merriment – something was happening, I didn't know what and I didn't care – I just needed to be among the crowd.
I bought a beer found a place to sit and just looked around at all the pretty girls – and there were a lot of them, and I was aware of my loneliness. But there was no way I was going to go up and talk to any of them because I'm not good at that sort of thing, so instead, I called to the universe in my thoughts:
-What I want, is a pretty girl to sit down at my table, and for us to get talking, and like each other, and for her to invite me to spend xmas in Amsterdam.
Then I let it go – that's the trick to manifesting. If it was going to happen it would happen. If not then it wasn't my fate. And I turned to my writing.
It happened so: 5 minutes later, a girl asked if the seat at my table was free, and she was pretty so I said yes and she sat down. Then she Pulled a plastic viewing frame from her bag, something used by photographers and filmmakers, and laid it on the table. It was like the cardboard one I had in my bag, which I took out and laid on the table. This started our long conversation. She was studying film and photography and she was at the Balie for a film festival and said I really should go see this particular film before I left. I said I only had 4 hours, she said the film was only an hour and so I found myself in a cinema next to a pretty stranger watching Christo wrap bridges in paper – and I was thinking... thankyou thankyou thankyou thankyou.....
We ate together after the film and she brought me to my bus. After our farewell hug I said if she wanted some company for xmas she only had to call. 3 days later I got the call and the invitation, and came back to Amsterdam for xmas... and stayed.
That was 23 years ago.
21 years ago our son was born.
That 21 years was a different sort of journey – one I never planned for or imagined. I led a conventional life with a regular job and wage, and my personal path became an inner-journey of spiritual growth and patience and self-reflection. There were enough demons of frustration and stress to encounter and conquer... but I don't regret anything. My relationship ended along the way, I took up illustrating for extra income, gave up songwriting 10 years ago and started blogging, and I manifested a house... but that's another story.
And I always held the intention that when my son was full grown and independent, I would set off again on my path to continue my personal quest.
21 years passed, and begin last year I quit my job.
The first 6 months were the hardest, I didn't have that much financial security, and I didn't know what I really wanted to do or which way I was headed, but I put my faith in destiny and believed that I would be guided. After a few months I got desperate and applied for funding from the government – which I could get if I started a business. So I set about starting a business as an illustrator, making my own children's picture books. I didn't really want to be an illustrator, I didn't want to run a business, I didn't want to make business plans and learn about administration and tax and marketing. What I wanted was to be free. To sit at cafes and contemplate life, and discuss it with others, and travel, and dream of mountains and eagles. I wanted to fly with seagulls and walk with scurvy elephants. Get back the connection with the essence and the miracle and wonder of life. Back in touch with the spirit.
And one year ago a series of synchronicities began that would take me away from Amsterdam, lead me to my holy grail, to confrontations with dragons, and right back to where I started.
In August, halfway through my second book, I was glancing through a magazine called ODE which I had a subscription on. I'd bought the subscription as a birthday present for my ex a few years earlier. But she didn't read it anymore and said I should cancel it, but I kept missing the cancellation date so it kept coming. Being so short of cash, I finally cancelled that year, but had a few issues still due. This was one of the last ones.
In that issue I read an article about a storytelling club in NewYork and it excited me. I thought, there must be something like this in Amsterdam so I went on Google and found the Mezrab. Went to the Mezrab blog, and there was an English story night that evening. I called a friend and we went... and it changed my life.
It was an oasis of promise and peace and magic. I thought... here be indians and seagulls and scurvy elephants. This was it, I wanted to tell stories. But I've never done storytelling, no, but wait, I could maybe sing my songs here... my songs are stories too.
I was captivated. I went home and picked up my guitar for the first time in 10 years... started playing all my old songs...Passion was burning inside of me. I'd given up writing 10 years earlier because I wasn't going anywhere with it, and I wouldn't because I was always too scared to go out and sing in front of an audience. But now I felt inspired again. I started writing new songs... I did this every day for a week, and all the time the unfinished second book lay on the table awaiting my attention.
It took a while, but as I kept looking at the book and imagining the work I still had to do if I wanted to run that business, and then played music and felt my joy and freedom... I knew I had to make a choice. This was the proverbial fork in the road. And I chose to follow my heart, giving up all I'd done in the last 4 months. I put the book and paints and pencils away in a cupboard, and went back to my songs.
I wrote a song for the Mezrab – thought I could sing it one evening – tried it and was overcome with fear... stage anxiety. Tried it again, and the fear remained. I needed a plan – and I wasn't going to give up because this is what I wanted to do. So I made a new plan, an ambitious one.. and went to a friend to find assistance and financial support. And a project was born.
I wrote 15 songs in a month, and we made an album together. I built a new website, and when the album was completed, 4 months ago, I bought a camper-bus and set out on a journey to become a travelling minstrel, singing and telling stories across Europe,and selling the album on the way.
I said “become” a minstrel, because I wasn't one yet. I was still afraid of performing. But that was the true purpose of the journey – to find the essence of myself, to free myself of my fears, to trust in my heart and discover my truest passion... MY purpose, my holy grail.
I've never really taken much interest in folktales and legends and sagas of old. The messages and wisdom hidden in those parables that speak in metaphor of man's journey through life were too abstract for me... but there is one I CAN relate too, the story of Percival – one of the knights of the round table.
Percival was an innocent naive young man who dreamed of becoming a knight himself after having met one. He left the protected world of his home and set off to King Arthur's court. He battled with and killed the Red Knight on his way which helped others to take him seriously and believe in his intentions. His quest and path took him from innocence to knowledge, from learned courtesy to righteous gallantry and led him eventually to the castle of the Fisher-king and the Holy Grail – something all other knights had searched for in vain.
I see myself sometimes in these terms – dressed in my comical suit of armour called ego, false pride driving me to battle with dragons called fear and insecurity, on a quest to find a grail called self-awareness... the grail castle eluding me so long I remain on paths that are not true to my heart.
And this is not just my life-journey... it's everyone's.
So.... in my guise as Percival I set out on my quest... My route took me first to England on the pretext of visiting family, but mostly it was because I was a little scared to set off into the unknown... this was a tentative first step to get me used to the road.
I visited my sister in Yorkshire, my brother in Cumbria, my father in Lancashire and finally my youngest brother Gary in Staffordshire... and there something special happened.
Gary and I are alike in many ways and we're on parallel paths of self-discovery. We have a special bond – like twins have. We think the same, have the same visions and values and beliefs...we even look similar... except that he's younger and better looking than me.... but I have more hair.
He lives in an old stone cottage which he's completely renovated with his girlfriend over the last 6 years – and now it's almost completed they realize they don't want to live there. It was part of their path, something they had to do and it had its purpose – but it wasn't the dream.
And while I was there, our dreams merged, our paths joined and we decided to continue our journeys together... destination Spain. And this new dream and path became my grail... and the stone cottage became the fisher-king's castle that would fade with the mist when our quest continued.
But before Spain, I still had a dragon to slay, my fear of performing, and I had to face that dragon alone...
I headed for the Black mountains in South Wales where a friend was himself performing at a music festival. I had the chance there to play my songs... but Wales IS dragon country, and I wasn't ready. I followed my friend to London where he lives and he invited me to open-mic evenings where I could sing... but my dragon had followed me and I wasn't ready. On my friends suggestion, I headed for the Atlantic coast of France – visions of singing on golden beaches like I used to do all those years ago in Greece... but my dragon was there too, breathing fire hotter than the summer sun, and I wasn't ready. So I headed inland to the Dordogne and found a small camping. As I entered through the gates I felt I'd arrived at a place of serenity and harmony... a kind of sacred ground where dragons could not tread. It was here that I felt ready... called my challenge to the dragon... c'mon c'mon.... but he never showed – and there I played my first real concert for a crowd of 80 people, without any trace of fear, or nerves or sweaty palms and pumping heart. I felt liberated, and suddenly a future of opportunity and potential opened for me.
With this new-found sense of liberty I felt strong and confident... I could sing anywhere. I set off to Germany to busk in the streets like a real minstrel. My gateway to Germany was Freiburg in the Black-forest region. I booked a couple of days at a camping to acclimatize myself to the language when a friend called from Amsterdam to say he was on his way there too. So I booked a few days extra. Then, on my second day I got a text message from my son to say he was on his way there too. This was a joy in itself, but when he arrived I realized that my house in Amsterdam would be empty for the few weeks he was travelling... and I heard a call to home,.... and that call was Mezrab...
I saw the week out and headed for Amsterdam – feeling guided by the hand of synchronicity.
My journey has brought me full circle, and two weeks ago I came to tell a story for the first time at the Mezrab. The atmosphere that night was serene and intimate like the camping, but I still felt the presence of my dragon...faintly though. I still wasn't free of him, so I looked around, ready for confrontation, ready for battle, ready to slay him finally.
And when I found him, he wasn't the terrifying monster I'd imagined – that monster was in my mind. My dragon was no bigger than a sparrow, the fire emanating from his defiant flaring nostrils was no greater than the flame from my cigarette-lighter. His power was an illusion. How could I battle with this? How could I slay this helpless creature. I picked him up in my hands, could have crushed him in my palm – instead, I lifted him into the air and set him free. And as he flew into the distance he was joined by other dragons in his wake – dragons called doubt and envy and mistrust and insecurity, pessimism, ignorance, prejudice, judgement, regret.... a swarm of dragons who'd been hiding in the shadows of my ego, holding me back from the truth of myself... now all freed from their illusory hold on me...
So I told my story that evening and felt again the overwhelming sense of freedom and potential that I'd felt at the camping in France. And I'm here this evening to exercise and experience and celebrate that sense of freedom one more time before I leave again.
When I left Amsterdam 4 months ago I got a text message from my ex – it said: I hope you find what you're looking for. Well it didn't take a year, and I didn't travel all over Europe... but I did find what I was looking for...it wasn't about the traveling, it wasn't about the singing, it wasn't about the selling of cd's – it was about finding that elusive essence of being I sensed when I was a young Indian.
And when I look back over all those years I can see how rich that journey has been. I never had a career or even a well-paid job. I never owned my own house or a new car or anything other than 2nd hand clothes. I never had all the latest gadgets and luxuries that money can buy...I don't have a pension...
-But I've raised a son who is everything I aspired to be at his age, and I've traveled Europe with him in a hippie-bus, and climbed rock faces with him and walked with him for hours on end discussing life the universe and everything.
- and I've sang songs for teenagers in schools in Germany
- Drawn cartoons with 200 kids in Cambodia
- I've lived in a bamboo hut on the sands of Naxos
- I've played jazz on a saxophone in a piano bar for drinks and tips
- I've busked on the streets of Paris and London
- I've made girls cry with my songs on the port of Pireaus
- I've swam naked in the Mediterranean at sunrise, and had the ocean all to myself
- I've slept on stone under dark bridges in far off Canadian towns
- I've woken in my tent to the first snows of fall in Algonquin park
- I've seen the northern lights flikker and shine above lake Ontario.... while tripping.... wow! Wow!...
And if I died tomorrow and found myself standing before a white-bearded god in front of his pearly gates, and he asked me: “well, what have you got to say about your life?” I'd have one word....thankyou.
But the great part is that my journey's not over. My grandfather died an old broken man at 53 – my father is 85 and still strong – I'm 55 and life still stretches out a long way ahead of me...
And I've learned that there is always a fork in the road, always a choice – and the road less travelled is always the right one to take – because it's your own personal road.
And it seems scary sometimes, full of the unknown – but it's your road
And it seems dangerous, overgrown and rocky – but it's your road
And it seems hard, full of disappointments and uncertainties and mountain high obstacles – but it's your road
And sometimes it seems to lead you in a circle right back to where you started – but it's the right road to take because it's your road, the road of your heart, the road of magic and fulfillment and happiness and insight and knowledge and love and Indians and seagulls and scurvy elephants and.....
Okay... what IS this with those scurvy elephants?
Scurvy elephants is a term Wayne Dyer uses to describe a certain group of people who've been important throughout the ages. From ancient philosophers and prophets to more modern poets artists writers leaders. He calls these people self actualizing people – they live according to their own beliefs even when they become persecuted for doing so. They are independent of the good opinion and approval of others. Some have given up their lives for their views, been crucified, vilified, executed – cast out from the flock like Jonathan... people like Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, to Gandhi Thoreau, Martin Luther King... they are trouble-makers, disturbing to the authorities...
And Dyer calls them Scurvy elephants because of the following story...
Wayne Dyer was raised in foster homes for the first ten years of his life... so he could be a handful himself. He recalls one day when he came home from school and asked his foster-mother;
-What's a Scurvy Elephant?
She said - I don't know, I never heard of that term. Where did you hear it?
Wayne said - In school. I heard my teacher talking to the Principal, and she said that Wayne Dyer's in her class and he's a Scurvy Elephant.
His foster-mother called the Principal at the school to clear the matter up.
The Principal laughed - Oh that's Wayne, he gets everything mixed up. She didn't say that he was a Scurvy Elephant... she said that he was a DISTURBING ELEMENT in the class.
So... now you know.
My camper bus is covered in scribbles – some texts from my songs, and inspirational quotes that inspire me.
One of those quotes goes: The world is full of magic things. I liked it so I used that line to write a song:
The world is full of magic things to take your breath away
Miracles are everywhere to brighten up your day
The beating of an insect's wings the logic of a flower
Infinity within a grain of sand, eternity within an hour...
And I was going to end this story with another quote - by TS Eliot – one wayne Dyer has used – which seemed fitting because it was about paths leading you back to where you started. But I couldn't remember the quote so I googled it:
TS Eliot Quotes.
I came to a site and a page with all these quotes by TS Eliot and the one I was looking for was right at the top. I wrote it down, but before I closed the page I thought – wait a minute – maybe – maybe synchronicity has something else for me.
So I went along the alphabet at the top of the page and chose a letter at random. . . "J" - and a page opened with all these names beginning with J - writers and poets I'd never heard of. Then I went down the list and chose a name, again at random. . . Helen Hunt Jackson - and a page opened with quotes by this writer. . . . .
. . . and this one - just for me :
"I shall be found with 'Indians' engraved on my brain when I am dead. For A fire has been kindled within me, which will never go out."
The world is full of magic things...
There's a lot going on in my head right now... in my heart too. And it's all good. It feels like every day is a compounding of my realization about the path I'm on and that it's the true path.
This has all come about because I went to the Mezrab last Friday and finally got up before the audience to tell a story. Just as when I arrived at the camping in France I had a feeling that this would be the place I would sing, and my intuition was correct, so was my feeling when I arrived at the Mezrab.
It was a Dutch-story night - no worry, I can talk in Dutch. But the atmosphere was intimate. There were only about 20 people present and I felt part of the group. I bought a beer on arrival and went outside to smoke. Before I'd settled, one of the visitors, a Turkish man sat with two other guests on the table next to me, invited me to sit with them. This was a welcome gesture and I joined their conversation. One guest had told a story a couple of weeks earlier, and I told them I intended to tell one tonight. At that moment it was set - there was no backing out. As we sat there Sahand, the storyteller who runs these evenings, saw me and came over to greet me. I mentioned to him too that I would like to tell.
There were no fears, just a little flutter of excitement, and as Sahand started and filled the whole first session I was starting to look forward to telling myself. Sahand had created an atmosphere of such harmony with his story that was just right for my debut.
After the pause, A young lady called Krista told a story in her quiet relaxed way - inspiring me even more. When it was my time to get up, after a generous introduction from Sahand, I felt at ease in a way I always dreamed of.
I told my story - one I'd told once before at a parent's-evening at Kyrian's school years ago - preceded by two introductory tales about my journey and about the telling in the school. I was relaxed and noticed as I was telling how that state of confidence and ease grew with the telling. I felt what it was like to be in contact with the audience truly. I rounded the story off with an extra anecdote about Kyrian's car-trip last year, which related to the story perfectly, and ended my debut to applause and smiling faces.
A few people thanked me later and praised my telling. Sahand did his praising publicly and told of times when he suffered with stage-anxiety. I think he was genuinely impressed.
Later I got talking to Krista and her friend, and at the end of the evening carried the conversation on for a while longer when most people had left. It was the most enjoyable evening I've had for a long time. I was euphoric - this is/was better than anything I've experienced musically.
And in the magical spirit of synchronicity - Krista was talking of possibly travelling some way with me, with a view to heading to Eastern Europe. I told her my plans aren't set, so that may still happen.
When I got home at 1 a.m. I didn't go to bed - I couldn't sleep in this state. I reviewed my experience and enjoyed my feeling of contentment and wonder, writing for the next few hours in my diary.
This experience has dictated my activities over the last few days. I've realized deeper than ever that the core of my desires lie in storytelling. Music, songwriting, gigging, trying to market the album - all has become secondary to my development as a storyteller. It's all I can think of and I can't wait for the next opportunity. I've discarded my plans for busking and doing the open-mic sessions and I'm listening to my heart, and it's telling me to focus on the storytelling.
This Friday is True-story night and I will attend and hope the "theme" of the evening inspires me on the night, because I don't yet know what that theme is. But I'm working on an opus of a story called "Journey" for the week after. I feel such a freedom in me that I can dare to visualize a grand telling and have the confidence to pull it off. And this state is guiding me in my writing. I feel truly connected with source and I am being rewarded with inspiration. The visualization of all I can do with Gary and Anna in Spain has taken global proportions - I see a line from simple storytelling to giving seminars on the projects and subjects that lie close to our hearts - and I see how synchronicity brought me back to Gary and how Spain will be a perfect place to bring it all together.
And the freedom of my spirit is a reward and joy in itself. To start each day in wonder and excitement, listening to what your heart tells you to do that day... no pressures, no stress, no worry, no fear, no need for justification to any or self, no guilt. This all leads me to seeking videos on YouTube for deeper understanding, and I find one on the power of transcendental meditation - silence...stillness... that's where the knowledge is to be found. The sun is shining on my path.
It's funny and interesting how you can set out to do one thing but the road has another idea for you.
I got to Frieburg on a beautiful Sunday morning, sat drinking coffee on a terras on the Radhaus Platz. I'd parked somewhere by the station - free because it was Sunday - and walked into the centre to get my bearings and get a taste of the atmosphere. After my coffee I decided I needed to find the tourist info offices - turned out they were on the square itself so I didn't have far to go. There I enquired about camping and busking. There were 3 campings - one of them a place reserved for just mobile-homes, the other side of the railway tracks. Regarding busking I was told there would be no problems. I felt settled, comfortable and enthusiastic about what was to come.
So I went back to the camper and set off to find the mobile-home site first - I got lost, couldn't find it anywhere and gave up, heading for the closest of the two normal campings.... and I'm so glad I did. It was busy and packed but they could slot me in for a few days. Parked next to a covered picnic table I had internet and electricity, but more importantly I was in a prime location to make contact with lots of other campers who had to pass by the table on their way to their tents in the field behind me. On that first afternoon I met a german family, and spent two hours talking in German to the ten year old daughter. I didn't realize that my German was that good. Later I got into conversation with an older man from Berlin who'd been cycling around France - again in German - he even commented on how good my German was. This was such a good experience that I sat there the whole day, just feeling at-home.... there'd be time for busking another day.
The second day I had contact with a friend from Amsterdam who would be arriving in Freiburg himself in a few days - and then I got a text-message from my son to say he was on his way too with a few friends and could we meet up - now that was the greatest gift I could have had at that moment. In this state of expectancy my focus wasn't on busking anymore but on the prospect of seeing my son shortly. So I sat another day and passed the time writing new songs. And these new songs are getting very close to the musical potential I feel within me - I'm discovering new chords and melodies, and inspiration far beyond my own talent. Like there is an abundance of songs yet to be written, and they're flowing to me in an unlimited effortless stream.
My son turned up the next day with three friends - but they had plans to head out farther to a camping located on a lake some 40 km away. But we drank coffee together. It was so good to see him. He told me how he's changed the house around and showed me some pictures, and what his plans weer for the coming month - and here's where my own plans changed. While he's holidaying, together with a girlfriend from his theatre-group who has taken the spare room in the house - the house is empty. Now, there are things I need to organise in Amsterdam (financial matters) and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to go there. This has an important effect on my state of mind - going back to Amsterdam was reserved for the end of my travelling - an end destination. And the thought was always, would I return having attained my goals, or with tail between legs searching for a job in an old way of life. Well, now I could return not as a final destination, but as just another en-route location... why not. I could try busking in Amsterdam - I could use the opportunity there to look for places to give a concert - I could visit the Mezrab again and see if I'm really ready as a storyteller. Amsterdam could be a better step to my goals than Freiburg. Once this idea took hold I couldn't wait to get back and make it all happen. But I waited a few more days til my friend arrived - spent an evening with him, then set off the next day for Amsterdam.
It was really nice to be in my house again - what peace - what comfort. Space to review how far I've come in these two-and-a-half months. I had one day alone, then my son came back - only to head out again a day later to Sweden - this time taking my camper with him. Being able to offer him the keys to the camper is something I've longed to be able to do since he got his driving license... it's a father thing!
So - I'm in Amsterdam for a couple of weeks, with no idea what will come after this or from this. I haven't tried busking yet (it's a big dragon), but I did take myself finally down to the Jet Lounge for the open mic session last Tuesday. That was an interesting experience and also a big step - done! I need to do it again a couple of times before I can say it doesn't scare me anymore, so that's something for the coming two Tuesdays. But my biggest wish now is to finally get up to tell a story at the Mezrab - and over the next 3 weeks I've got 3 oportunities to do just that. Here - now - in the comfort and space of my own house in Amsterdam, I'm making important steps that will, once conquered, free me from fears that have held me back in the past from following my heart truly. At this moment, travel, busking, selling cd's, being on the road, writing on this blog are not priorities for me - the inner journey of personal growth takes front seat - and that is my focus for the coming weeks.
It rained yesterday - I wondered if I was subconsciously manifesting bad weather to make it easier for me to leave. But that would have been unfair to other holiday makers. It didn't last long and the sun shines again, it's going to be a hot day. But I won't be experiencing it here. . . I leave today. Heading for Germany. I've marked a route out that will cut across the country and bring me across the border close to Freiburg in the southwest of Germany - Black Forest country.
I'm excited and I'm ready. It seems more and more that I needed to be here just for the one performance experience, opening doors to the potential within me. And that the rest of the time here was needed for retrospect and meditation. But a new day dawns and the road calls with the promise of exciting meetings and experiences in music and storytelling and new inspired songs and more diverse life-energies. I'm looking forward to busking and how it will build my confidence more, allowing me to pursue more and accomplish more.
Two months ago - 19th May - I landed at Hull in England. I didn't know where the road would take me or how things would progress. I was nervous, uncertain, worried about finances, stressed with the pressure of possibly having to return to Amsterdam early and with no great tales to tell or achievements to show. A lot can happen in two months - and for me this "lot" has happened mostly within me. This has all been preparation . . . the outer journey of music and singing and performing has yet to start - this is the "Minstrel Quest" . . . and I feel that its time is just breaking .
I'd first booked five nights here - after my singing experience I decided five wouldn't be enough - I felt at home and so I booked another five nights. I had ideas that I would sing regularly, make lots of friends (and fans), sell lots of cd's. It didn't turn out that way at all - seems I was here for other reasons (so I like to think).
The concert was good and well received, and I sang again the next night at the campfire - but that was it. No-one came running as fans, no-one asked about my songs or album - everyone was just into their own worlds and holidays. This was a bit of a downer for my ego at first but I decided that maybe this was a chance to learn to detatch myself from the ego for a while. I didn't ask why I wasn't asked to sing again (maybe the owners wren't impressed, or maybe they thought if they asked me they'd have to pay me, being so professional and all!), and I didn't push it, because even though it's advised to sell yourself, that's NOT how I want to be. I'm not doing this to become a successful pop-star, for fame and money and a big ego... that's part of a system of thought and reality that I'm on this journey to escape. It's easy to fall into the trap of doing things the way they've always been done and for the same reasons. This adventure I'm on is more an inner-journey than an outer one. I want to write and sing because I enjoy it and want to share what I have to say, and give pleasure to people. I don't want to try and sell myself to people who are not interested in what I do. I want to find those who are - wherever they may be. And it doesn't matter if it takes forever to find them. And it doesn't really matter if I don't sell my cd's to everyone everywhere fast . . this journey has no time-scale, no deadlines, no particular destination.
So I decided I was going to devote my time here to deeper things. Maybe I was guided here for only that one performance, because that's all it needed to free me from my stage-anxiety - and if that's so then I can go away content and grateful for that. Maybe my audience is waiting somewhere else. I felt at peace with this. I had songs to rehearse for what was to be my next quest - to experience busking (which is an even greater dragon than the last). So this is what I did: relaxed, shed my financial concerns and used the time to get deeper into my connection with the source. This place became a retreat for me. I went jogging, I swam, I soaked up the sun, I did some meditation, I wrote in my journal, I watched some inspiring videos by Wayne Dyer, I wrote some more inspirational quotes on my camper, and I let the days go by with a sense of peace and one-ness in the "here and now".
Thursday 18 July
My time here draws to an end. I leave tomorrow - heading for Germany, which I've decided is the place I want to be to face my busking dragon. I'm looking forward to it immensely, to the opportunities to develop my performing abilities even more and directing them too towards the activity of storytelling. When I look back on this journey so far I realize that I've only been away from Amsterdam a couple of months, and though I haven't yet traveled far in terms of space, inwardly I've come a long way. I 've had one/two performance experiences, but that's all I needed to reach this level of confidence. I've sold no cd's. My funds are diminishing. But I believe I am in tune with the universe to a greater level, and I know in my heart that I'm being guided and supported, and I will not be deserted.