What a Highly Successful Music Executive Learned About Mindfulness, Love, and Purpose – Jason Garner – HPP 74
Not knowing our unique purpose and not realizing what we want to achieve in life may not be very comforting and may often lead us more into developing fear, anxiety and stress over time. While all of these thoughts bombard our minds constantly pushing us closer to the edge, perhaps all it takes is looking at it from a different angle. With all the struggles we face, we might simply need to change the way we think and introduce a new perspective in order to deal with all the stress and challenges that life throws at us.
Valuing ourselves, first and foremost, gives so much of an impact on the way we perceive life in general and how to live it fully. But with this in mind, how exactly do we go about achieving success in all our endeavors? What routines and practices should we implement in our lives that can bring us closer to our personal goals?
Today, we are graciously joined by former CEO of global music and concerts, Live Nation Entertainment Inc., Jason Garner. Join us as we deep dive into the conversation around love, purpose and self-worth despite the struggles in every aspect in our lives from grief to trauma and striking a perfect balance to come out on top.
Former Life And How It All Started – 02:20
“And so, I went to work as soon as I could, I washed dishes, I cleaned toilets, I sold roses on the street corner, I sold dictionaries at the flea market. And through a whole kind of long story. I ended up in the concert business and I worked my way up through the concert business with no formal education”
Taking A Step Forward – 02:55
“I really have kind of come to believe that things are kind of happening when we need them to happen. I don’t go so far as to say like, things happen for a reason, or that there’s some grand plan and like life takes away my mom that for me, assumes too much knowledge of the unknown. And I’m quite comfortable kind of sitting in the mystery of it all. But certainly, I have this sense that like my life needed to change”
An Interest In The Shaolin Teachings – 08:57
“And so, my first kind of foray was into the Christian church, and that didn’t do it for me. And then the next move was, I found a spiritual teacher and then I ended up at the Shaolin Temple, which is where Zen Buddhism was born and Chinese herbal medicine was born”
Taking The Risk: The Painful Decision – 10:29
“And I said, I’m really afraid that I’m not gonna like my life much when we get on the other side of this. And so it was deeply scary, I mean, it threatened everything that I thought that I knew about who I was, it threatened and yet, the pain itself was a sign that I was going in the right direction”
Achieving Success: How To Get There And How To Be Better – 13:30
“even though I was raised by a single mom, no privilege there, and even though we were very poor, no privilege there. I still wasn’t like in fear of my life, and I didn’t have a system to work against, and so I’ll speak to it from what I’ve learned without kind of making the bigger step to say, gee, this should apply to everybody’s life, because I think everybody’s got their own thing going on”
Getting To The Next Level: A Priceless Advice – 19:56
“And so I feel like sometimes when we’re stuck, it’s because we’re too zoomed out, And we’re not getting the details of the situation. Other times when we’re stuck. It’s because we’re so zoomed in, all we can see is the crappy paint job”
Giving Value And Being Loved – 25:23
“And I needed more and more and more and heavier proof that I was lovable. And to the point that CEO of global music, and millions of dollars was not enough, I need more, you know, and you can feel why that gets so heavy, that the psyche breaks and that the heartbreaks and that the body breaks, I really think there’s a lot to be said, about tenderness”
Looking For Love In A Loveless System – 40:58
“And I think maybe that’s the skill set that we’re lacking is that we so want things to be a certain way, but we’re unwilling to actually be with the way things are. And when in reality, if we’re actually going to be able to create any change in ourselves or in the environment around us, let alone the whole world. You kind of got to start from a place of truth, and we don’t like that truth very much, and so we tell stories about it”
Full Episode Transcript
Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer, Jason Garner
Jason Garner 00:00
We all have this sensitivity, we just have to get in touch with it. And we’ve got to kind of take off the leather jackets and the tattoos and the long hair and allow a safe space for our heart. And when we do that flow or whatever word you want to happen, it happens quite naturally. But the problem is, I’m afraid to be there. But all these things like intuition and gut feeling flow, or flow state or the zone or you know, whatever everybody calls it, is all actually just being in touch with the sensitivity of what it’s like to be a human being.
Keith Kurlander 00:42
Thank you for joining us for the higher practice podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander with Dr. Will Van Derveer. And this is the podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Hey there, Welcome back everybody. Today we have a really interesting personal story. His name is Jason Garner and he was the CEO of Global music alive nation. If you don’t know what Live Nation is, they’re really responsible for a lot of the concerts around the world that go on for musicians, the big concerts and Jason’s former life was all about booking these concerts, getting them properly set up. And as he said, 10 years ago, basically any major concert that you attended, he was involved in. So he’s got a really interesting story of that life. And then really a spiritual person that he went through, and got out of that game and became a really serious meditator and actually has a lot of wisdom to share here about success and achievement and ambition, and about tenderness and vulnerability and openness, spirituality. We’ve really enjoyed this conversation. So I imagine you will also. So let’s welcome Jason Garner to the show. Hi, Jason, welcome to the show.
Jason Garner 02:17
Hi, thank you. Thanks for having me.
Keith Kurlander 02:20
Yeah, it’s really great to have you and excited to dive into your story a little bit, you have a pretty compelling story to share. I’m wondering if we can just start a little bit about your former life, about working in the music industry? And maybe just give us a little context to your What were you doing? And just leading into, like, what were you also facing psychologically, in your former life that really had you rethink your future?
Jason Garner 02:45
Yeah, I mean, I think like all stories begin at the beginning. And so I was raised by a single mom, kind of very service oriented woman and many ways ahead of her time. And like she counseled people for PMS before anyone knew what PMS was, and she worked with special needs children when that kind of wasn’t a thing. And so she was very loving but her time was also very much taxed. And so she wasn’t making any money. So we’re kind of living somewhere around kind of the poverty line for much of my life. And so there were these two messages that little Jason was getting consistently which was, find a way to get some money because this is a pretty crappy situation to be in. And then number two, you need to be the best little boy ever because mom’s got a lot of people who really need her and can’t really focus with you acting out. So you know I was the kid that got straight A’s but then got a satisfactory behavior. And then was put on restriction for that type of thing. And so those two kinds of messages were really strong in my psyche. And so, I went to work as soon as I could, I washed dishes, I cleaned toilets, I sold roses on the street corner, I sold dictionaries at the flea market. And through a whole kind of long story. I ended up in the concert business and I worked my way up through the concert business with no formal education. And at the peak of my career, I was the CEO of Global music-live nation which basically meant for the years prior to that. I guess I left in 2010, So for those years prior, if you went to a concert, it was probably something that I had my hands on, in one way or another. And then my mom got stomach cancer, she was given just a few months to live, I was in the middle of my second divorce at that time. And I just kind of paused and took some time and went to be with my mom, and she ended up taking her last breaths in my arms. It was really a deeply emotional and a moving transformative experience. And after she died, when I tried to go back to work, I just couldn’t do it anymore, I didn’t care. And the fact that the water wasn’t the rock, right water in a rock stars dressing room was no longer an issue for me now, like people are dying was kind of you know. And so I worked kind of with my boss and figured out how to exit that job, and not lose my stock and get severance. And I found myself without a job for the first time and realize I had no idea who Jason was. I knew what I did. But I really woke up with a very strong question of like, Who are you? And that question kind of propelled the next decade of my life.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 02:55
Wow, that’s such a powerful story. Jason, thank you for sharing that. I’m curious about the part of you that knew something had changed. When you tried to go back to work or after your mother’s death? I wonder, in your time, since I’m guessing that you’ve explored a little bit more about the depth of your being and what would you say about that part of you that kind of knew that something needed to change?
Jason Garner 06:20
Yeah, you know like, I really have kind of come to believe that things are kind of happening when we need them to happen. I don’t go so far as to say like, things happen for a reason, or that there’s some grand plan and like life takes away my mom that for me, assumes too much knowledge of the unknown. And I’m quite comfortable kind of sitting in the mystery of it all. But certainly, I have this sense that like my life needed to change and beyond me, like the family story, my mom’s mom was orphaned at a really young age. Her mom went out to live in rural Minnesota, her mom goes out to buy milk in the middle of the night and never comes home. And her dad’s an alcoholic, and he can’t deal with his wife’s death, and so he literally goes and drinks himself to death on a barstool and social services comes and takes my grandma and her two brothers and separates them and they never see each other again. And so it’s kind of this image in our family story of like, grandma sitting all alone on the floor of an orphanage. And that story of kind of not being good enough of not being loved has a kind of lacking in inherent value that is different from what’s in the external world. It was kind of traveling through my family’s story. It’s why my mom was so service oriented. you know, and then I just took it in a different direction and made it about making money. But I have this sense that like, we were all going to work ourselves into the ground, to prove to grandma that she was lovable. And so when I look back at that part of myself, I think there was something in me that it was time to change that story. And really, kind of create this line in the sand moment for our families generational story of it’s going to end now. And luckily, I had the resources that I could go out and really like say, okay, it’s ending now, because I’m actually going to stop this thing that I’m doing, and I’m going to go create a new life and really explore this. And I think there was a part of me that knew that there was a bigger mission. And I think that because it was quite easy once I got going to kind of go and do this, you know, like, things started to fall into place that didn’t make a lot of sense in my life. But somehow in some part of me, I kind of knew what direction to go once I was able to take the first few steps.
Keith Kurlander 08:57
Did you have a framework inside of you that this was like a spiritual process for yourself that you went through? Or is spirituality not really the way you talk about this?
Jason Garner 09:09
It was definitely a spiritual process, you know, kind of a little boy, my mom’s second husband, I would sit at his house, my stepdads house and I would watch the TV show kung fu on TV. Which is amazing because that show was centered around the story of the Shaolin Temple in China, which is the first place I went, without not on purpose without connecting those two I ended up at the Shaolin Temple. But I remember as a little kid and then at different points in my life thinking, I need a guru like that, you know, that’s what I need. And so, my first kind of foray was into the Christian church, and that didn’t do it for me. And then the next move was, I found a spiritual teacher and then I ended up at the Shaolin Temple, which is where Zen Buddhism was born and Chinese herbal medicine was born. And yeah, so for me it’s definitely a spiritual journey, but not in a woo-woo sense, I really kind of believe in a kind of nitty gritty cut the crap kind of spirituality that can fit into our life and doesn’t require a lot of magic. And yet doesn’t deny the magic that we all kind of experienced day to day in life.
Keith Kurlander 10:29
It reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Joseph Campbell, he talks about the archetype of this kind of transition that I think you were talking about. It sounds like you felt a calling for a change. And a lot of people get scared and have resistance to listening to the call. Did that come up for you? Or did you feel the way you told the story sounded like you were just kind of like, Okay, I need to tell my boss, it’s time for me to make a change. Was that scary for you?
Jason Garner 11:00
Yeah, I mean, there’s kind of this scene of like I’m sitting at my therapists office and her office was in like, the basement of her house, I’m sitting on the floor of the basement, I’m kind of sobbing, I’m in the throes of exploring, who is Jason. And I remember having this realization and she asked me to put some words to it. And I said, I’m really afraid that I’m not gonna like my life much when we get on the other side of this. And so it was deeply scary, I mean, it threatened everything that I thought that I knew about who I was, it threatened and yet, the pain itself was a sign that I was going in the right direction. And the pain was so much I didn’t want to go back because I knew I’d be stuck there. And so it was, it was like the pain was propelling me forward and was like a flashing light saying, hey, you’re going in the right direction, because I hadn’t realized until I kind of got into therapy and slowed down and began to explore a little bit, that you know, how much pain I was in how much I was suffering inside, I was just kind of going from one deal to the next deal, and one exciting concert to the next exciting concert, hiding out from all this pain inside. And so, yeah, I think sometimes we tell our stories glibly, and make it sound easy, because looking back, well, it all worked out. So that was great, right? But when we’re in the throes of it, I think it’s helpful to know that it’s painful, because it’s supposed to be painful, as painful because we’re human. And there is no spiritual practice that I’ve found, that transcends humanity. And so really, the core of what I’ve discovered about myself, and the core of what I believe about the world, is that we’re really just creating more and more space, to be able to hold our discomfort to be able to hold our pain. And that’s what allows us to tend to the broken heartedness is my ability to sit with my pain and not push it away and not run away, and not commit further violence against myself by saying that’s not welcome. But actually, I can hold a space that’s big enough for all of that to be with me. And in doing so I can start to tend to my own heart.
Keith Kurlander 13:30
That’s beautiful. I’d love to hear your thoughts, it’s kind of a two-part question about success and achievement. And you’ve got a great story, because you sort of achieved a very high level of success in the way that a lot of people talk about success. And then, you know, you said, Well, I’m done with that game. And now I’m doing this other thing. And so I’m curious about the first part of the question. You’ve also got this interesting part of the story where you took a little more of an unconventional road to that success. You didn’t go to an Ivy League school, and this and that, and the other. And so the first part of it is like, what are your insights on what allows people to achieve very high levels of fully talk about success? Like, what are some of the things you’ve learned that gets people there, into those places? And then the second part of the question would be more about, okay, so how do you do it well, versus getting all neurotic and crazy about it, right? And so it’s kind of a two part question.
Jason Garner 14:36
Yeah, I think that it’s such an interesting question, because you can come at in so many different ways. And I think one, as a white man, I have to acknowledge that there’s some privilege involved in my success. And so I want to be sensitive and speak in, even though I was raised by a single mom, no privilege there, and even though we were very poor, no privilege there. I still wasn’t like in fear of my life, and I didn’t have a system to work against, And so I’ll speak to it from what I’ve learned without kind of making the bigger step to say, gee, this should apply to everybody’s life, because I think everybody’s got their own thing going on. For me what I’ve learned about success is we’ve got to pay attention. And it goes hand in hand with this other part of my life, because meditation, and it’s kind of very base essence, is just paying attention. And I think we get caught up and kind of rules and stories and regulations. We start to take things for granted, and we don’t actually pay attention. In a way you could say, we don’t love these things that we’re doing, and that’s one thing about the concert business is that it is easier to love your job, because the job is like the Bruce Springsteen concert, you know what I mean? It touches you there’s something going on. And when we can actually pay attention to what we’re doing, it’s easier to see it through, it’s easier to cross all the T’s and dot all the i’s. And so I really feel like there’s some big thing about success, and especially right now in our world, where just kind of pay attention and to like, invest a piece of our heart into what we’re doing, in seeing it through. And maybe the second part is like, really understanding that our jobs are to deliver, and not just to like, do something but actually there’s a deliverable on the other side. And I always felt like my job was to figure out how to get things done, you know how to take something that’s stuck, and make it unstuck. Versus Gee, I tried it the way that Keith told me and it didn’t work like that was never actually, my personality is such that if Keith tells me how to do it, I’m going to do it a different way. You know, you can’t tell me what to do, It is kind of very strong in my psyche. And then the second part of that question is, in the same vein of like, how do we do this without becoming neurotic and having midlife crisis and crashing and one thing is we might not or we may, at certain stages of our life, become all consumed with success. And that may, I’m not convinced that because of my kind of family dynamic and story that there was like a different path for Jason. But again, I look at things in terms of like stuckness, or flow is a word that I like, a lot more than balance. And I just feel like, if we think about these parts of our lives that are important, and you have kind of business, or work with that as money. And then we kind of have things that relate to the heart. And we might call that spirituality or wellness. And then we have kind of our physical health and well-being. And if we think of these as like pipes with water running through them, I feel like our job is to make sure that we have flow in the areas that are important to us. And doesn’t mean that they’ll be flowing at the same psi all the time, you know, it might be important at one point when a project is due on Friday, and our financial well-being depends on it. That pipe may be gushing, but we don’t want kind of the heart and spirituality or the physical well-being types to be shut off at that point. Because shut off creates stagnation, stagnation, creates disease, diseases, death. And so as long as we can keep even a trickle going through these pipes, I think we can avoid some of these massive breakdowns that we see because what they’re really coming from is saying I have no time for my heart, I have no time for my body. And all I’m going to do is spend all my time over here, in which case of course, we have broken hearts and broken bodies. And likewise, if you go to the second phase of my life, where I did no business and had no money coming in, well I was really nurturing my heart and really nurturing my body. And luckily, I had savings. But my bank account wasn’t growing during those years, right. And so I think what we’re kind of shooting for is to just to keep flow. And then based on what’s happening in our lives, it might flow more in one tube or the other. But we always keep these tubes open so that we’re caring for our financial well-being, we’re caring for emotional and spiritual well-being and we’re caring for our physical well-being.
Keith Kurlander 19:56
Yeah, thanks. That’s helpful to hear the way you say it. I’m also curious About if you had to inspire team members or like when you are in your role as a CEO, and if you have people that they’re wanting more, they’re wanting to achieve more, they’re wanting to just experience more in their life, they’re wanting to get to the next level in their life, but they’re kind of stuck in some way. Then maybe we could use the example of maybe it was a team member or something, but like, what would you say about how a person gets unstuck, to get to that next level in their life?
Jason Garner 20:32
Yeah, I get lots of these calls. You know, like, I’m kind of the friend that people my wife laughs like, if we take a walk in the woods after a rain, and the water has pulled because of like pine needles, even without thinking about it, I’ll take a stick, and move the pine needles to keep like, I’m very sensitive to, to flow and stuckness. I think awareness is really, the key to this isn’t like, I’ll get lots of calls from people who are stuck in one area or another. It usually doesn’t come with Hey, I’m stuck. It usually comes with, I don’t feel good. Or my boss is a jerk, Or I got an XYZ medical report, And then as you start to talk about it, like shine some light on it, it usually comes down to an issue of stagnation in some area of someone’s life. You know, like, a question I ask often is like, so like, what’s your practice? How’s your practice right now? Or what are you practicing? And then oftentimes at the end of the conversation, because a friend will go, Oh, yeah, I haven’t been practicing. How’s your diet lately? Oh, yeah, I stopped drinking green juice, or I, you know, I stopped, or how’s your communication with your boss? Oh, yeah. Like, I’m not answering emails, right. Okay, well, and so oftentimes, my wife is also a doctor of kind of natural medicine, Earth medicine. And she’s a trained chiropractor, but specializes in more earthy medicine areas. And so she’s always taught me that homeostasis is always a tiny shift away from being available, you know. And so I think that’s true with everything. And I find that when we’re stuck, choosey just a tiny shift in perspective, and that you know, how Google Earth you can like, zoom all the way in and like, you can zoom so close that you can see that the house has like a crappy paint job and a car broken down on the lawn. And then you can also zoom out and zoom out and zoom out and zoom out. And so I feel like sometimes when we’re stuck, it’s because we’re too zoomed out, And we’re not getting the details of the situation. Other times when we’re stuck. It’s because we’re so zoomed in, all we can see is the crappy paint job. And we’re missing that, Oh, yeah. But the house is surrounded by a redwood forest, And you know, there’s a creek. And so as we talk through these things, what I think is we just when we have awareness, and we can start to look at the details of the situation, usually it becomes pretty clear how we’re stuck. And then people are actually really good at unsticking themselves. Once they’ve seen what’s going on.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 23:21
That makes a lot of sense that the service of a guide or a conversation really can help identify stuck areas. And there was another thing you said, that really got my attention about, you know, people coming and saying, well, I just don’t feel good, or something feels off. And that one of the things I like to share with my patients in my psychiatric practice is that the body can be such a big ally, in pointing us toward what’s wrong or where we’re stuck. And that these pain points are opportunities for us to look deeper. And to see what’s really going on in there. I’ve been blown away by the usefulness of somatic awareness, and what that can lead to terms of uncovering the issues.
Jason Garner 24:10
It’s talking to us, right? I mean, I think it goes back to some prior question where I just said, like, we don’t pay attention, and our body is always talking to us. In the same way life is always talking to us. And you know, but we don’t listen to our friends, We don’t get so lost in our stories that we’ve become, We’re throwing out stories on top of people instead of actually listening to what’s going on. And I mean, physical medicine is not something that I feel qualified to talk about on a podcast in my private life though. I believe all I need to do is listen to my body and when I listen to my body, as you said, it will tell me what’s going on, you know, and then if you don’t tell it to shut up Then it will give you feedback in my emotional body. I mean, all I’m ever doing in meditation is listening to what’s going on. And then the body and the mind and spirit, whatever else, you know that you believe there is, we’ll give you feedback, if we’re actually willing to sit down and get quiet and listen.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 25:23
Absolutely, yeah, I agree. And it’s a skill that we’re not taught as children to do. And just reflecting on my own human journey, as I’m listening to you talk about your story and kind of a similar developmental story about achievement and performance. And, you know, getting good grades and doing the thing. Just the drive which, in my own side of the therapy, I began to see how that was a defense or a strategy to protect myself, you know, a way to feel secure and safe. And it’s very profound to think about the ways that we all adapt to the environment that we grow up in, we develop these patterns, these thoughts, these behaviors, these ways of doing things that really are, I think, oftentimes, at least in my life driven by fear, or driven by a need for security that I didn’t feel as a child.
Jason Garner 26:21
Yeah, we want to be loved right? At the core of it, I want to be loved and because if I’m loved, I’ll survive. If Mommy loves me, she’ll feed me. And if later on, if my boss loves me, he’ll give me a raise. And, you know, in my case, if Coldplay loves me, I get to do their tour, and then I get money, and then I get to eat and then I, you know. like, it’s a quite profound thing, when we think about how we don’t tend kind of to this childhood, broken heartedness that most of us are carrying. And then we grow up. And we end up in a boardroom somewhere, and like, feel very accomplished and have a suit and tie on and are sitting across from somebody and negotiating something that we believe to be quite important. But in reality, it’s two little children, saying, Do you love me now? Do you love me now? Do you love me now? And then we wonder why we miss and why we argue and why sometimes things are so irrational, and our behaviors are so childlike. And, you know, we see it playing out right now in our world, temper tantrums going off, and things that are very hard to, like, the adult brain has a very hard time getting until we think about, I never resolved my inner worthiness that I or lack of inner worthiness that I felt as a child. And so we can tell our story, our whole life story is through the lens of I just ran through life saying, Do you love me now. And I needed more and more and more and heavier proof that I was lovable. And to the point that CEO of global music, and millions of dollars was not enough, I need more, you know, and you can feel why that gets so heavy, that the psyche breaks and that the heartbreaks and that the body breaks, I really think there’s a lot to be said, about tenderness. There’s a lot to be said about vulnerability and gentleness. And I think it’s something that we find in psychotherapy. And I think it’s things that we find in the right spiritual communities. the right kind of friendships and even romantic relationships that are safe is that we start to find that I can actually let them take the mask off, and I could put my sword down for a minute, and then what happens we cry, right? Why because finally safe to be a human being versus this thing that’s going on out in our world. And so I think the dichotomy between violence and tenderness is really strong for me right now. And they talk about violence a lot, Because I think we have some big examples of it in the world. And it’s good, because we could see it is also detrimental, because it’s so easy to go, I’m not that. But when we turn inward and say, actually, how am I that and then we realize, I don’t listen to myself, I don’t care for myself, I don’t think certain parts of myself are worthy, or good. I’m actually quite oppressive with my feelings, or sometimes with my body. I’m actually not a good leader to the cells of my body, I’m not a good leader to my own heart. And then what do we find instead of getting down on ourselves, but that’s an opportunity to change that behavior. And it’s actually an opportunity for love. And when we start to treat ourselves with love, instead of that violence of you must be this way and push these feelings away. You can feel like that. Just aggressive that is and it mimics what we see in our world, but the funny part is it mimics all the things we say we don’t want. And then we write on Twitter to criticize other people about how they are. But then we’re doing it to our own hearts, And I think we just really have this opportunity to attend to our own hearts. And you could feel how just saying that touching the heart, it does something tender starts to happen. And I think that’s the path, you know, at least that’s what I found.
Keith Kurlander 30:26
Yeah, and right now, obviously, there’s a lot of stressors like chaos right now that people are relating to. And you talked about one side of the coin, sort of this external chaos and stress and constriction and closed down this. And then obviously, the other side of coin is finding a space to be able to be open and transparent and vulnerable. And I think a lot of people, probably in our listeners, you know, they go to spiritual teachers, and to learn how to enter those experiences with people and therapy. I’m wondering, did you get any insight, because you were exposed to so many major influencers in the world in terms of celebrities, musicians who are influencing the world through art and music, right. And I’m wondering if you had any takeaways where you were kind of watching and learning from these influencers around how to enter you called flow, but also just a more inspired state versus a more shut down state. Did you come across people, Like any musicians that kind of woke you up, Like, wow, that’s an inspired state? I haven’t seen that before.
Jason Garner 31:39
Really great question. I want to tell you a story about an artist. And so in my current life, I still work with a couple years ago, I started working again, with artists and very small business, and I work with artists that I love that I have a heart connection with and we and it’s kind of a combination of like, how do we honor the art and the heart while still making money, you know, and so kind of taking everything that I’m passionate about putting it into one. And so a couple years ago, I was at the Jimmy Kimmel show, and an artist that I work with that I love a friend of mine, was doing the soundcheck and he heard a sound in his ear monitor that nobody else heard. And so an argument ensued, And it’s actually quite a funny argument only because this happens all the time. And so the artists started to say to the guy at Jimmy Kimmel, there’s a sound, it’s not supposed to be there. And the guy Jimmy Kimmel said, No, there’s not. This went on and the artist was getting upset, Because the sound was quite troublesome to him. You keep in mind, this sound that was troublesome to him was something that no one else could hear. And ultimately, they found, of course, that there was the sound, it’s just that no one else was hearing it, they corrected it, and everything went on to be fine. But when this happened, I just had this kind of aha moment with my friend, and I thought, wow, like he’s so sensitive. And he doesn’t turn that off, get to turn that off when he comes down from the stage. And so I’m sharing that because what I’ve learned about artists is that they are the most sensitive among us. And we have thrown a story on to rock stars, and some of them have put on costumes, like leather jackets, and long hair and tattoos and sexual escapades. But at the core, they’re sensitive. And so what do they do, they empty their heart into song. And then they connect with us, because they’re sensitive, and this is what they do, they’re impacted by the world, and they’re impacting the world. And so that’s really what I’ve learned from artists is that we all have this sensitivity, we just have to get in touch with it. And we’ve got to kind of take off the leather jackets and the tattoos and the long hair and allow a safe space for our heart. And when we do that flow or whatever word you want to happen happens quite naturally. But the problem is, I’m afraid to be there, and so I start thinking my way through everything I start layering story upon story upon story on top of everything, to the point that I just totally lost to what’s actually happening in my heart, but all these things like intuition and gut feeling and flow or flow state or the zone or you know, whatever everybody calls it is all actually just being in touch with the sensitivity of what it’s like to be a human being. But that’s hard. That’s scary because most of us from a pretty young age, were beaten out of us or yelled out of us, or teased out of us, or bullied out of us or whatever. And so that’s what kind of this thing that we’ve got to recapture and get back in touch with is that it is safe to breathe into our hearts, it is safe to open up and when we do, do not have to really try after that to be in some kind of flow, because that’s what that is.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 35:31
Makes a lot of sense, Jason. Yeah. It’s a beautiful message. I’m feeling a lot of gratitude right now for sharing this with us, because it’s kind of a lifelong puzzle for me, that I’ve been thinking about and working with personally is how do you stay in touch with the heart, and the tenderness and the vulnerability, the broken heartedness that you spoke about so well. And be on a mission in the world to affect change, and to not trash your nervous system as you go out into the world to do what you’re meant to do. And it’s just really encouraging and exciting to hear from a person like you who has done such deep work to discover a kind of dynamic flow of keeping all the pipes under your awareness as you move through life. Thank you.
Jason Garner 36:27
You’re welcome. And thank you for sharing that, you know, I mentioned about going to the Shaolin Temple. And that, for me, was really kind of this eye-opening moment. So the Shaolin Temple is like in Buddhist legend, bodhidharma, who’s this patron saint of Zen Buddhism, walks from India. And he arrives, and he finds all of these kinds of like, lazy, out of shape monks at the Shaolin Monastery, and they won’t let him in. And so he goes up to a cave, and he meditates for, you know, seven years and his auras imprinted on a rock, you know, it’s a religious legend. But the result is that he takes the yoga that he brings from India, and he combines it with martial arts that he has seen in China. And the result is that he creates Kung Fu. And so the Shaolin Temple is known for these warrior monks. And I have a few friends and one who’s a really dear friend of mine, who is a Shaolin monk. And so it’s a very weird mix of, they are Kung Fu masters. And so my friend, Wong Bow is his name, can kill you, with a couple moves that you don’t see coming, he probably weighs 120 pounds, and I weighed 190, or 200 pounds, and if he put his arms behind his back, he could still beat me. I mean, it’s just kind of, and yet, he also will often just lay his head on my shoulder and say, I love you. And he’s also an amazing meditator and can heal through kind of his loving energy. And so, when I was at the Shaolin Temple, I was just really amazed by this mix, and so I came up with the term, I didn’t come up with it, but I started to apply this sense of warrior monk. And in other kinds of Buddhism, they talk about Bodhisattva, you know, this kind of like, sense of a Bodhisattva is like, I will walk with you for as long as it takes for us both to be whole, like that sense of, I love you so deeply, I will be with you, and yeah, I am strong enough that I’ll hold the space for both of us, until we both can feel healed. And so I think for me, what I’ve learned is that it really comes down to the concept of right effort. And what I learned from the monks, is that they use meditation, to take all of their energy and put it in the part of their body that’s going to do the strike. And when the strike is over, it’s over. It’s not an angry thing, it is, oh, I need to punch this person in the chest to win this match, boom, put all energy here, punch done, great, Let’s get up, let’s go have lunch. You know, kind of, I think what we tend to think about it versus just taking the action and being done with the action. And so one of the things I Will really like to work on when I’m dealing with people in business, if I’m in a negotiation and I’m trying to figure out how to get something done. Is that sense of like, I don’t have to vilify somebody, I don’t have to put all of this extra mental energy into getting something done, I actually just have to take the right step. And then if I take the right step, I’m probably going to meet them, and they’ve taken the right step, and we can do it. But it’s the storytelling and the extra thing that we bring to the mission that says, My heart can’t be open. Because I got to go slay a dragon, except for there’s no dragons, there’s no one to slay, and we don’t even have swords, like, you know, we’re just gonna sit down and have like, two guys are gonna have a discussion, try and make a deal. But we turn it into that thing. And so for me, those Shaolin monks were just like, it was so wonderful for me because it said, I can be powerful in the world. And I can actually get things done, while also being sweet and tender and hoping and that’s the kind of human being that I want to be, you know.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 40:58
It seems to me that the Shaolin system, as you describe it, is a kind of a benevolent system that’s very different from the systems that people live inside of in our culture. And just zooming out a little bit, it seems like there’s systems falling apart, left and right. In the current environment, not even sure if this election is going to actually, we’re recording this at the time where we’re after the votes, the initial votes have been counted. And there’s still a big question about what’s going to happen next. And I’m wondering about, it seems like a lot of people in America are living in this, you know, massive upheaval and transition, we talked about privilege and systems of racism that have been going on for hundreds of years in this country. And I’m just wondering about where we go from here in terms of the falling apart of systems and structures that are not based on the tenets of, as you described in Buddhism and the Bodhisattva. Perspective, seems like a lot of what we face as Americans, at least and I think this is probably true, globally, is you were talking about looking for love, looking for acceptance, myself included, I think a lot of us grow up looking for the systems to reflect back to us what the things were that we felt we’re missing as children. But the systems are not giving us that. And that’s a tough spot to get to, right is noticing, well, I’m actually not going to get it’s like the Willie Nelson song looking for love in all the wrong places. Like, it’s actually not going to happen from the system.
Jason Garner 42:43
And how hard right like, before I get there, I do want to say like, and then the Shaolin Temple has all the problems that every system and religion has in the world. So I don’t want to give the impression that they have, but in that area, they were great teachers for me. But I think, yeah, how hard right? I remember when Trump was elected, a lot of my spiritual teachers, who were hippies and had this idea, I noticed that it hit my teachers really hard. And I think it was that a lot of people had that realization that you’re saying of like, Oh, we didn’t fix the system. And when I talked to friends of mine, who are people of color, that idea is laughable to them, like, Hey, we get Welcome to what we’ve been trying to say all this time, like, of course you didn’t fix the system. And there’s something beautiful about not arguing with reality, about seeing the way things are, and saying I can actually sit with that discomfort. And I think maybe that’s the skill set that we’re lacking is that we so want things to be a certain way, that were unwilling to actually be with the way things are. And when in reality, if we’re actually going to be able to create any change in ourselves or in the environment around us, let alone the whole world. You kind of got to start from a place of truth, and we don’t like that truth very much, and so we tell stories about it. And I know when I woke up the artists that I work with, and I really worked hard to get out to vote on this election. And sometimes we surround ourselves, thinking everyone right now you get stuck in a circle where you can’t see outside of your circle, and I had hoped for much more kind of moral victory from the election and that didn’t come right. And so I was disappointed. But I think in a way, it’s actually quite beautiful because I don’t get let off the hook. The call to a friend of mine who’s an African American meditation teacher, and said I was hoping for moral victory. He said, Now Jason, there’s still work to be done. You know, it’s like, that sense of like, yep, This is where we’re at. And when we bring that into our internal life into meditation, it really is the sense of I have to practice every day. Something I like to say kind of tongue in cheek is like, you’ll brush your teeth today, you’ll wipe yourself after you use the bathroom. For like, what are you gonna do for your own heart today? We want to meditate for a week and go, Okay, that’s it, right? It’s fixed. But no, like, we have to continue to care for ourselves. And I think when our practice becomes kind of this daily showing up and paying attention to what it is like to be Will, Keith or Jason, what is it like to be in my heart today? That’s a very kind of, grounded in reality place to be. And I think it makes it easier than to say, what’s it like to live in the world today? We start there, just kind of like one heart at a time. Just like that Bodhisattva for that said, like, so it’s not just I’ll walk with you, but I’m going to walk with the world. And I’m not going off into Nirvana, until everybody’s heart feels good. So with that comes exhaustion. And with that comes, so then we’re back to, you got to care for your body, you got to care for your heart, you got to go to sleep, that idea of fixing the world is impossible, and yet I’ll show up. The idea of fixing myself is impossible, and yet I’ll show up but also rest. Because I know it’s impossible and I got to rest. so in there Like, I don’t know, there’s something just kind of about, like, getting with the truth of it, and letting go of this arm-wrestling that I want to do with life. Because it didn’t turn out the way I said it was supposed to turn out, you know,
Keith Kurlander 46:49
a lot of the people I work with and speak to these days, I think what I’m seeing is that and to myself, obviously, too, like there’s this way in which we can have a vision for the future that we have some vision and it’s maybe we think it’s better than what it can be today and maybe it is. But it seems like there’s so much disappointment in the fantasy that the future is not here today. And that every time we wake up and see what’s actually going on that’s not matching our vision, or just like realizing, oh, I you know, we were just in a fantasy of what’s actually happening right now. And it’s very easy to get into a disappointment of what the world actually is. And I think that it’s still obvious we want to hold our vision and take action on the world that we want to create while we’re here. But there is what you’re speaking of, but you also have to just get real and see what’s just actually going on. And that doesn’t mean complacency, it actually means if you’re actually being real with what the world’s what’s actually going on, you can be a functioning human being that could actually impart some change.
Jason Garner 48:05
Yeah. It’s why GPS works, right? Like, we go back to all of our law, and we are old enough to remember when you had like Rand McNally in your glove box or in your trunk. And then you would look at it one of the hardest things was actually figuring out where the hell am I first, right? And then where is it I want to go, GPS works, because GPS starts from the place it knows where we’re at. And so if we just use that simple analogy for life is you’re not fixing or going anywhere, if you don’t know where you’re at today, right. And if we don’t know where our world is, we’re not going to fix anything. And so the hard part is that when GPS will often tell you, it’s your loss. That sucks, there’s human emotions that come with the sensation of being lost. But it’s also the beginning of being found, because the moment I realize I’m lost, I’m not lost anymore, right? And I’ve figured out I’m somewhere and I can start to take steps. But all that comes with a flood of emotions that are just part of being human. But what we usually do is on top of realizing we’re lost, then we started on the judgment of the feeling. It’s not supposed to be this way, and it wasn’t supposed to be lost. And for God’s sake, I’m almost 50 years old, and I’ve done a decade of therapy, and I studied with gurus and I’ve meditated for months on end, and here I am and I’m not supposed to be here. And then it’s like if life had a voice to be like, cool, are you done now? You know, like, great. So now you found yourself and you’re here and you’re actually drowning in self pity. But now we know where you’re at. And then we would layer on anger on top of that. And we know, at some point, we got to meet ourselves in this place. It doesn’t really matter where you could take three years of going through pity and grief and anger and sometimes we do and that’s cool. But at some point you go, here I am. And then that’s the beginning, right? And then we just kind of the great Zen Cohen says step by step in the dark. If my feet are not wet, it finds the stone. That’s it, right? We’re just taking all of us. And that’s the beautiful part is my journey in the dark, like, has some different curves and fantasies than yours did, and then yours, but all of us are just taking steps in the dark and then checking our feet to go like, did I step in the river? Or did I find a stone and I stepped in the river. And then I got to start over and try to find a stone. And it’s frustrating, and it sucks sometimes. But that’s like, here we are, right. And the cool part is where together, we’re all stepping in the dark together. And there’s something I think right now with the pandemic, and kind of the global nature of which we’re all experiencing something at the same time, that actually has a chance to pull us together. And that’s quite tender and beautiful as well, you know?
Keith Kurlander 51:07
Yeah, thanks. Well, we end with a, you’ve kind of, given this answer about 20 times throughout the show already. But I want to ask it anyway.
Jason Garner 51:15
That’s like my wife saying, that’s enough, I’ve heard you. I get it.
Keith Kurlander 51:20
Well, it’s more like he gave a lot of good answers to the question already. But let’s ask it again. Anyway. So if you had a billboard that every human would see, once in their life had a paragraph on it, why would you want to tell them?
Jason Garner 51:34
You’re okay. You know, like, you’re enough. And here we are, you know, and I think there’s just that sense of knowing that this is the human experience, and this is your life, it’s not a mistake. And not, one of my teachers sent me a note after the election that said, we’re okay or we’ll figure out how to be okay. And I think that’s really beautiful. And I try to spend as much time as I can telling people here, okay. It doesn’t mean you want to be here, as the two different things, but doesn’t mean tomorrow, you’re not going to try to be somewhere different, but right now you’re okay. And then I guess the second message would be you’re not alone, you know, and I’ll be here with you, and Will be with you, and Keith will be with you and all of us, who are endeavoring to kind of live a more tender life. You know, we’re here and we’re going to be together and we’re going to find a way through what we’re feeling, you know,
Dr. Will Van Derveer 52:31
together, we’ll find a way. Very beautiful. Thanks, Jason seemed delighted to meet you and spend time with you.
Jason Garner 52:40
Keith Kurlander 52:40
It has a really tender up for me, there were a lot of things that Jason just shared that really hit home for me. And I just love his message here that we can all benefit from slowing down and facing reality as it is and feeling the tenderness of reality as it is and working with ourselves in our experience to be able to meet reality and then create a better future. So pretty powerful episode here, and I want to thank Jason again for being on the show with us. We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of The hire practice podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.