Saturday, 27 June 2009

Meditation, band-touring and snow loving....

Yet again quite some time has passed and I have had a multitude of new and vaired experiences and no idea how to squeeze them into a relatively short piece of writing. After completing the meditation course in Wellington I wanted to sit down for at least a day and try and write about the experience, and now as I sit here sooo much has happened since then that it is hard to summarise.

Mind you, perhaps it is easier because it's further away in the distance of time. So basically the idea behind the meditation course is that we're taught the practice of Vipassana meditation - an ancient Indian technique - to then go away and continue in our daily lives. In order to learn the technique we are required to adhere to 'noble silence' ie. no communication of any sort, with anyone, for the entire 10 day period. It's so that you can go inside yourself and feel alone, but to be honest the awkwardness of sharing living, eating and bathroom space with a whole bunch of people without even being allowed to smile at each other was a bit much!

Roughly summarised the practise is an exercise in tuning into the body's sensations and bridging the mind / matter gap, that any cravings or fears felt in the mind are also present as bodily sensations and by observing the body's sensations whilst meditating, and not reacting to or judging them, one is tapping into the subconscious and removing pains built up over time in the mind. 10 days with your own thoughts - what do you reckon would occur? For me it was a time for looking over the events of my recent travels and thinking excitedly about what's to come. Apparently this is because I have a 'chattering' mind and the aim of the exercise is to quiet it down. But I enjoyed the thoughts! One thing I definitely gained was learning how to 'observe' the intense pain felt in the legs from sitting cross-legged for an hour at a time without moving. When I managed to do it, there were times that I really felt totally disconnected from my body, I wouldn't go as far as to say it was an out-of-body experience but it was quite a fun mind-over-matter game.

I really wish i could share more but there's so much more since then that I have to catch up on...

One of the things that camne to me whilst meditating was the idea that I should ask the band that my friend Owen had told me he was going on tour sound-engineering with, if they needed anyone else to assist. This I promptly did when I came out of the course and the way things worked out, yes they did! So about a week after meditation course I am on the road again!

I'm not really feeling in the best mood for articulating my experience right now but this is the only good chance at some long internet free-time I'll have in a while so I will do my best!

Basically the next two weeks I spend living out the back of the van with some wonderful musical people, sharing some great fun times, some hard work and some beautiful music. I work for the band by looking after door takings, merch sales, helping carry gear, set-up and look after lighting them as best i can with what's available at each venue. Also general helpfulness such as cooking and remembering things that people forget. It's a great way for me to expand my music-related experience, I've wanted for a long time to go on the road with a band and see things from the perspective of being on the road as opposed to fixed in the one venue like I was back in England. It's very easy to understand how bands find it so hard to arrive 'on time' now, with some nights not finding sleep til 4am then an 8am start to drive to the next town, stops en route etc....

The band's called Hikoikoi, they're based in Wellington and are getting some great press and reviews, it's tough to categorise their music, it's rootsy New Zealand music with dubby, jazzy, reggae vibes and conscious lyrics. (New Zealand has some sweeeeet music by the way, I have found so much amazing stuff since I've been here and the people here are well into their multi-genre music appreciation!)...I couldn't have wished for a better first-time on the road, we all gel so well together and share some beautiful times....natural hot springs in the moonlight, after-hours drinking/chatting/jamming, van/trailor loading jigsaw puzzles, sleeping on floors & sofas, picnic by lakes & oceans, radio interviews, swine flu pollination (the running joke about the cold I dealt with half-way through the tour)... ah yet again too much to be able to summarise. Getting to know a band at the same time as their music, watching them evolve through each live show and being a constructive part of that evolvement in various ways is an incredibly rewarding thing to be part of and a blossomming mutual joy!
If you are on Facebook check out Owen's tour pics at:

The tour takes me as far south as Queenstown at which point I bid the guys farewell and hop into my next place of lodging - with dear Bryce and Alex. From their beautiful flat overlooking the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and Remarkables mountain range, I venture out into the surroundings and complete the following tasks:

Bungee jump -
Heading straight for the big one, the 134m high Nevis canyon jump. Sorry to say it but I wasn't as scared as I thought I'd be and so it perhaps was a bit of a let down. My god is there no end to my thrill-seeking?!, on Bryce's advice I ask the guys at the jump-site about the rumour I heard that it was possible to jump a second time for free if you do it naked. It just so happens that AJ Hackett's (who invented the bungee jump) dad is present and he agrees to it. Now THAT is a liberating experience! Bloody cold, and a real buzz, flying free through the air with just a harness and massive elastic cord attached! For once I purchase the DVD of the experience to send Mum as a surprise birthday present!! Okay enough of naked's the start of winter in Queenstown, there's snow on the mountains, it's time to get up into the snow....

The mountain -
Being led on a starlit forest walk at 3am and connecting with the sky in a way I have never done before - something about the southern land, the high altitude and the frostiness, this was the closest I have ever felt to the stars, the most clarity I have ever seen them with. Staying up to watch the dawn of another beautiful blue-skied day. I cannot explain how epic the scenery is around here. I get a ride up to the skifield to have a look around and it's all pretty daunting and ridiculously beautiful. I have many photos but am unable at the mo to get them online due to a lousy net connection. Look up Queenstown Remarkables or Coronet Peak to find images!

Snowboarding -
If I am going to spend a winter season working in a snow resort and learning to ski or snowboard then I need to see how it feels before I make the investment. So hiring of a snowboard, boots, borrowing of some padded trousers, gloves, goggles, and a few pointers and I head up the mountain to try it out. What FUN!!! Firstly, being up in the snow on the mountain is something I have never experienced in my life so that in itself is amazing! I am actually really enjoying it and not caring about falling on my bum (thanks to the towel padding I have shoved down my leggings!)..... I spend the day walking up the shallow slope and trying to figure it all out by myself so as to save the expense of lessons and lift pass. Beautiful sunshine, beautiful views...indescribable really.

Skiing -
The following day I repeat the exercise this time with skis. Much harder. Possibility of legs going outwards in opposite directions very scary and falling over much harder to get up from! It's really frustrating, the boots are super uncomfortable and I am annoyed. I watch and listen to the lessons taking place and eventually manage to get the hang of turning and stopping but it feels way less comfortable than snowboarding. This I find amusing since almost everyone I spoke to before trying either, said snowboarding was harder to pick up. Now I've tried both I know which one feels better, so two days later I return to the slope with the snowboard and continue to practise...

At this point I reckon I have pinpointed my issue with physical / extreme activities - what I need is something like snowboarding where I am actually in control in order to get that real rush. Jumping out of a plane is fun, don't get me wrong, but once you're in someone else's hands there's not really anything to conquer because you've already signed your life away, as it were. So the next step for me has got to be to take up snowboarding seriously and overcome some barriers.

So that's the super brief version of what's been going on with me over the last 6 weeks. It continues to be very exciting and this country has no end of amazing experiences to be had. New envirnoments are everywhere and I am well and truly in love with the mountains and the snow. And no the cold isn't bothering me now because down in Queenstown you're only cold when you're outside and that's only to go from one warm place to another! It's the first time in my life I have been somewhere that people are excited about the start of winter and I am really feeling it too! Of course it helps that nearly every day has been blessed with beautiful blue skies and sunshine!

Okay enough for now, surprises await.....