How I became able to perform freely as a guitarist

As a composer, guitarist and singer I used to hate playing solo in front of people for fear of being ridiculed and wanted to smash up my guitar whenever I made mistakes! Despite this, I would often get enthusiastic feedback from my audiences. This went on for a number of years until I realised that something had to change: either I gave up being a musician or worked on feeling free on stage so I could appreciate what I was doing as much or more than my audiences, despite “imperfections”.
In a nutshell: I took a firm decision to become free and 2 weeks later was offered the chance to play with a Bavarian comedian/musician celebrity on state television for whom I had done recording for his CD previously. At first I told him (Willy Astor) that I was busy on that date but after putting the phone down I realised this was an excellent opportunity to achieve my goals. Despite fear I called him back, to confirm that I was actually free, and committed myself.

I forced myself to play much harder solo pieces in front of unofficial audiences as much as I could before the gig where I was to play a simple accompaniment. The concert went really well and all the musicians were likeable and easy-going. I wasn’t nervous and could hardly believe that! This lead on to further gigs at 4 of the most famous venues in Munich and surroundings, including a further TV performance and audiences of between 1500 and 2000. In the middle of all this I had envisioned my final goal of feeling free, playing a challenging solo piece of my own in front of 1000 people, for example in the flamenco style. Just after this and without having mentioned any of the above story to my colleagues, the main guitarist in the band said that I should do some improvisation at the next gig! I knew this was another fantastic opportunity and took it gratefully. It went well I wasn’t nervous!

After this performing solo became a breeze generally speaking but it wasn’t until about 4 years later that I realised I had achieved my goal after having performed 3 fairly challenging solo compositions of my own in front of 1000 people at a church for the funeral of the brother of a girlfriend who tragically died young whilst snowboarding. It was freezing cold and the church and I had to use hand warmers but I was both touched and happy to support the family of the deceased and was completely free in my mind as I performed. This was an unexpected backdrop to my goal but it also taught me yet again that when one focuses on providing value for others, it is perhaps the best way of feeling free as a performer, rather than concentrating on achieving a high standard per se, free from any imperfections!

Why Is meditation and discipline important?

Many men spend a lot of time and effort on improving the state of their cars and computers. It is of extreme importance to them that their machines look good or run smoothly and fast. A lot of women focus huge amounts of energy and time on making their flat or house clean and beautiful. Having a “fit" body is also a high-priority on today's list. Many drive to the gym and work themselves into exhaustion with some intense training programme. A lesser number of people are inclined to make sure that they eat healthily, although the numbers are growing. The external things to tune seem far more important than the inner factors, which explains why it is only a very small percentage of humans who seriously attempt to keep their minds in good health!

More and more have heard about meditation, and it is generally becoming more popular. However, to really put it into practice in a disciplined manner, enough to keep our minds as finely tuned as our cars, is another matter. It is much easier to find an excuse for not having time to take care of the mind. The logic goes, everything else is far more pressing. But the fact that everything is so stressful or that we have reason to complain so much simply shows the lack of discipline to fit in regular meditation which would certainly ease our minds, free up energy, create more quality time, healthier bodies and satisfaction in life in general.

Discipline is essential for breaking bad habits and illusions. It is not about overworking just for the sake of some unreachable, utopian vision. It is about replacing all that is destructive and restricting, with something that makes us feel alive – this requires vigour. Meditation or something which is very meditative and puts us in a positive trance, is fundamental to our well-being. How can we create deeper perspectives on our lives otherwise? How can we develop our understanding of others and a sense of goodwill for fellow humans through more acceptance, or see where we have been lacking in courage to stand up against injustices?

Without discipline and meditation activities we will surely become like trees on underdeveloped trunks. We will sway extremely with any buffet of the wind. The choice is ours: whinging, whining, bendy tree in a state of illusion ans suffering or tree of straight, healthy trunk able to stand and support us through the storms?

Why I became a vegan

 

I was brought up on a fairly standard diet: a lot of animal protein, animal fats and a fair amount of sugary food, but with a quite rich diversity of vegetables and fruit. It wouldn't be called unhealthy by today's standards and I had great tasting meals (thanks to Mum!) But there is still a great discrepancy between what is conventionally considered to be a good diet, and what is actually the case.

 

Because of animal cruelty issues I became a vegetarian during my studies at University. As a source of protein, I would frequently cook meals with TVP (textured vegetable protein – from soya beans). I continued to eat large quantities of cheese. I got to know my 1st vegan at the time: a very thin, rather spotty red-haired girl. She was doing it partly for health reasons and partly as a moral stance. I was inspired by her ethical practice but was neither persuaded by her cooking –  insipid, watery soups with overcooked vegetables – nor her health reasons. She simply looked ill! I then had of leading girlfriend who held the same position. Her meals weren't bad but there was something a bit insincere about it all, to me at any rate. Maybe I just didn't want to give up cheese, so I didn't follow her example, either.

 

Sometime after university, I reverted to eating meat, although only 2 to 3 times a month, and then only organic and free range, unless I was invited to dinner. This diet continued up until about 3 years ago, when I started a relationship with my present girlfriend – also a convinced vegan. She is not only a great cook, but highly knowledgeable on the subject of health and nutrition in general. She had been forced to go animal-free due to a long-winded allergy problem, so severe that she had to be hospitalised twice. She successfully healed herself from an array of ailments through changing her diet radically. At one point she was only able to digest potatoes, but it worked. I have learned more from her on this subject, as well as a great amount in my own personal development. I am very grateful to be able to pass on this enriching nutritional information based upon personal experiences and proven therapies around the world.

 

At the time of going vegan I was generally healthy and certainly physically fit. I rarely got colds or other viruses. However, I suffered from occasional dizziness, notable energy fluctuations, and also from a tendency to feel cold easily, apart from during vigourous physical exercise. This factor impinged upon my guitar-playing, as my fingers lost a significant amount of flexibility when cold. My girlfriend informed me how eating dairy reduces metabolism, which then causes coldness. This, and the other reasons were good enough for me to resist the temptation of further eating cheese, although I felt it would be sorely missed. Additionally, I reduced my sugar consumption by about 80%, in order to combat the symptoms arising from low blood sugar. I stopped frying food in oil, replacing it with a small amount of water in the pan, and adding any good quality olive- or sesame oil right at the end of the cooking process. Overheating oils has been linked to cancer. At lunchtime I often start with a large salad. Raw vegetables are responded to by the body normally, whereas when you eat cooked food on an empty stomach, it is treated as an alien substance: lymphocytes are produced, sometimes in abundance, and this also affects your energy-levels negatively. I also avoid eating sugary food and other highly soluble carbohydrates to begin with, when I am hungry, as this is a significant contributory factor to causing low blood sugar.

 

The results have been very positive: the coldness has gone down by about 80% and when I avoid sugar I have very stable energy levels. On the rare occasions that I go out to eat, I may consume a small amount of cheese. At the beginning of my diet change I had cravings for it but now I hardly notice its absence. In fact, I have gone off many of the softer cheeses altogether. Until about a month ago I would eat fish 3 to 4 times a year. I have now decided to ban all fish from my diet, which doesn't come from proven sustainable sources. I can't abide the way the oceans are plundered. This and the quota system with all its wastage, defies belief.

 

I have noticed an increasing sensitivity to the plight of animals in the food industry, and am pretty sure this has come from my diet itself, because I am certainly not more factually aware now of the destructive processes involved, than I was as a cheese- and meat-eater. The killing of animals in itself, is not an issue for me. It is basically the amount that are slaughtered for greedy and ignorant lifestyles, and the treatment inflicted on a powerless being that I find grotesque.

 

I don't try to force legalism down peoples' throats (!) But in view of the misinformation and fears regarding the subject of diet and health, and also the ignorance about the huge environmental cost associated with our animal-protein-rich diet, it is important to speak out about the hidden facts and lack of compassion. We have to stand up for the rights of all living beings on the planet. To put everything into an economic balancing act, in order to formulate policy or day-to-day decisions is frankly a sinister motive. As the limits of the world's resources are being approached and even surpassed as I write, it would be absurd for anyone interested in harmony, sustainability, fairness or animal- and human rights – not to look at the role of their own dietary choices in the context of health and responsibility.