Bruce Springsteen has long been one of my heroes and favorite musicians.
I love his stories, his heart, his social conscience, his identification with real life ordinary people. I love his horn sections, his no-flash style, and his growl. But I never really thought of him as a Zen type or even as weighing in on that side of things. But now I have to go back and re-listen.
His Rolling Stone Magazine interview with John Stewart (the comedian, not the folk singer) is so wonderful and filled with such insight and wisdom that I’m giving a second look to his catalog.
Maybe it’s because of the death of Clarence Clemmons, his long-time friend and sax player extraordinaire. The death of someone close creates introspection and leads to deeper wisdom – if we don’t close off to it.
There’s much of worth in the interview, but this comment seems appropriate to a meditation guide. Bruce is talking about his development as a musician and what things have impacted him, and then this sentence drops in: “Listening, paying attention, being open – that’s supposed to be the natural development of adulthood.” Stewart makes a brief joke, and then Bruce continues: “It’s supposed to be how we broaden and move into adulthood. We’re supposed to be picking up as we go – a larger experience of our world. It’s something I’ve tried to facilitate through what I’ve done – broaden people’s perspective, broaden people’s vision and assist people in seeing through to, for lack of a better word, the inner reality of things.”
This is about as good a definition of what a meditation practice is all about as I can think of.
Several of the American Buddhist teachers I’ve read – Pema Chodron in the Tibetan tradition and Joko Beck in the Zen tradition, for example – talk some about how what meditation practice does for you is helps you to become an adult. Helps you live your life in a mature, accepting, compassionate way.
And of course, it’s all about paying attention, all about experiencing that inner reality, as Bruce says.
An interesting thing about us humans, with our human processing system we call brain or mind, is that the specific conceptual context we are immersed in – surrounded by, believe in – conditions our experience of this inner reality in some way. Or so it seems. It may be that it only conditions what it is that we say about our experience.
It’s not possible in any absolute way to know what another’s experience actually is, so we must rely on what others say about their experiences, inner or otherwise, to know them. But based on what we observe others say, write, and do out of their inner experiences, it seems that those are colored by the context they bring to it. As I’ve suggested before, I tend to think that the actual experience is the same for everyone, or at least that it is possible that the experience is the same.
But it certainly seems to be true that being open to seeing the inner reality as revealed in meditation and other forms of experience affects us humans in very similar ways. And the better, deeper and less contaminated with the things we bring to it that experience is, the more profound its effect on us. Opens us up, broadens our perspective, as Bruce says.
Which is to say, the more it helps us to behave in our difficult life situations in adult ways, unselfish ways, aware ways, ways that are cognizant of our effect on others around us – ways that are the lived out version of love.