For those of you who don’t know them, Lynyrd Skynyrd is the American rock band responsible for hits like “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama”. Just as they were getting into their peak years, they lost two of their members in a plane crash in 1977. The individual members tried to form new bands, but saw little success and regrouped in 1987. Now, you might be asking, “what does any of this have to do with zen?” It turns out, quite a bit. After attending a recent concert of theirs, I had some thoughts I wanted to share.
First, I realized that the original line-up had the ability to find their Zen or “seed potential” through others that they shared something with. You see, the band never had the same energy or peak performance after the plane crash; the band’s best music is still from 1973-1977. Three of the five albums they did during that period went double platinum, one platinum and one went gold. That was the Zen of the energy of that band.
As a group during their peak years, they expressed their unique and powerful style of Southern Rock music which seems to only occur with that original mix of band members. So in a way, the Zen was found not as much individually but through the seed potential of the group. And through the group each member found their seed potential or Zen; the band was the instrument through which the music was played; through which their Zen was found.
This occurs in sports, business, relationships, film, shows, whatever endeavor that requires groups. Bill Gates hand picked those first people at Microsoft and if you likened them to a rock band they would have been cutting platinum and gold albums. Sports teams, when the mix is correct and the Zen is found, win titles and championships. We can find our Zen through a group as long as we realize that we are a part of the whole, just as we are a part of the whole of the universe and we are the whole itself. It seems like the sensitivity to peak performance is most in music, as many bands like the Rolling Stones work as a group but perhaps not individually, much like Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The other thought I was having during the concert was the “rebel” nature of the group and in the old days they used to have the confederate flag behind them. In a politically correct present environment they have removed it, but now have it folded up on a mic pole and wave it. But it is not what the confederate flag stood for at its time, it was the fact that they were the rebels or “pirates”. I have always loved the pirate or rebel spirit and not because of their acts against authority, but because of the “freedom” from authority that they emanate. True freedom is what we all seek! Nobody wants to be told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Even though everywhere we look, we are told what to do, wear, use, buy, in every advertisement we pass…everywhere!
We look at freedom of choice and question that also. As we know, we are conditioned beings and even recent studies have shown that our brain processes our choices a half of second “before” we become aware of them. So where’s free will? I spoke about this in another newsletter. So there is the inner authoritarian rebel and the outer authoritarian rebel. I believe the band was the latter. Unfortunately, the outer authoritarian rebel can become fatal as they seek to release more and more from the world around them that they rebel against through alcohol, drugs, and excessive behaviors.
And what I was thinking was that I started out as the outer authoritarian rebel, but later became the “inner” authoritarian rebel through the practice of Zen. Essentially, the the very heart of Zen is to rebel against your own conditioned ego-self and when you suddenly realize that you are not this ego-self and that you are the unbounded awareness that contains this ego-self, then Satori or enlightenment! That is the nature of the Rebel, to become free from what the rebel thinks is containing it or trying to define it. That is what I teach people to do – to change their interface from the ego-interface or I, me, mine, syndrome to the other-interface which is the pure awareness that we all have within us. The brain can actually be taught to do this.
The Zen of Rock ‘n Roll is about these two aspects of Lynyrd Skynyrd, or any great rock band: the seed potential they reached collectively when the members were in sync and the outer and inner authoritarian spirit that they portrayed in their music, lifestyle, and lyrics. The Freebird flies free as long as their Zen spirit lives in our hearts and minds. As I was writing this, my daughter walked in the room and asked me what I was doing. “I am writing about the Zen of Rock ‘n Roll.” And she replies,
“That reminds me, I am doing a project on 70′s rock groups, Dad can you name two of them?”
“Yes!” I said.
“Who?” she asked.
“There you go, there’s two of them” I replied.