Who am I...

 

 

I am a musician, a writer, an artist, a father, a traveller, a nature lover, a dog owner, a seeker, a landscaper, a poet, a student of Zen and an adventurer.

 

   My path has never been one of straight lines or traditional steps. From the very beginning of my life, I have been guided by intuition much more than reason or logic. My heart sang a song that overpowered all other input. Sometimes this song brought about magic and inspiration, other times it created darkness which I was forced to claw my way out of. Nothing ever came to me easily but regardless of the quality of experience, my heart was always teaching me. 

 

   When I was young I found myself being drawn to the arts as well as the spiritual side of life. The two seemed to go hand in hand with each other and as my interest developed in one, the other would inevitably follow. The first stage of this symbiosis began with punk rock music and Christianity. Though these two worlds might seem in conflict with each other in the external sense, my internal experience with them was quite harmonious. Something about the raw, aggressive sounds of punk music seemed to mesh well with my frantic, undeveloped spiritual practice. My only true understanding of spirituality came from suffering and the need to process it, so the presence of loud, fast and uncomplicated music was like a colander which filtered out my angst and exposed my deeper yearnings. This was especially relevant during my early teens when I found myself in a good deal of trouble. Because of the burning desire to understand what life was about, I was often driven by the forces of passion. This energy, though revelatory and benevolent, often came out rather destructive when it wasn’t channelled through the medium of creativity. 

 

   When I entered my twenties and began questioning who I was told to be, I left behind the simplicities of adolescence and went off in search of direct experience. I packed a bag, grabbed an instrument and began hitchhiking across the country. My only real goal was to cover some ground and to discover what life had to offer me. This simple quest wound up consuming the next 4 years of my life and took me all over the U.S. as well as Canada, Mexico and Central America. The majority of this adventure was done on foot and was funded solely by my music and my art. On top of playing guitar and making jewelry, I also taught myself how to play the banjo and wrote countless songs that reflected my lifestyle. 

 

   In the midst of this wild adventure, I was also exposed to various forms of spiritual practice which included Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, Hinduism and different kinds of Shamanism from around the world. Though all of these traditions appealed to me in some way, it was ultimately Buddhism and the practice of meditation that stole my heart. Even though my effort wasn’t very strong in those days, the seed was planted and the roots of my practice were beginning to extend. 

 

   After several years of hard travel and living on the streets, I received a vision while on a beach in Nicaragua that told me it was time for a change. The exact details were somewhat vague by I was eventually led toward going back to school and dedicating myself to growth and expression. This vision ultimately brought me to Naropa; a Buddhist inspired university in Boulder, Colorado. While in attendance, I focused on many interesting subjects including Tibetan Buddhism, Tai Chi, Music, Writing and Permaculture. Even though I wound up leaving after only two years, the inspiration I received from my time at Naropa was incredibly valuable and wound up nudging me into the next important phase of my journey. 

 

   After leaving Naropa and moving into the mountains, I wound up co-founding an experimental bluegrass band called Gipsy Moon. The musicians that I got to create this music with were all incredibly talented and they helped me to develop my musical skills to a level I had never know before. The practice of my music became a daily ritual for me and as an accompaniment, my meditation began to stabilize as well. Along with being inspired to write countless songs, I also got the opportunity to record and tour as a professional musician. My time with Gipsy Moon was beautiful beyond words and even though it ended somewhat painfully, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. What I gained from those 3 years of performance, travel and interpersonal relations taught me more than I could ever put into words. 

 

   Right around the time that Gipsy Moon was getting started, another incredible element also entered my life. I met and fell in love with my partner Jen. Our relationship was unlike any other I had ever been in before. The bond that we shared was like an energetic wave that rippled throughout the universe. There was something in our connection that felt like it had always been there; like we had done this before. It’s the kind of feeling you can only understand if you have been there but the one thing that allowed us to express this magic was through the birth of our daughter. 

 

   Zara Rain was born on October 23rd, 2013 and with her came an entirely new chapter in the story of my life. Her birth transformed me in ways I couldn’t possibly describe In words. She provided me with a sort of tenderness and an openness that can only be found through the initiation of fatherhood. Zara’s presence brought with it many changes but some of the most significant ones came in the form of my departure from the band as well as our exodus from Colorado. It was an extremely confusing and challenging time for us but it also bore the inimitable signs of transformation. Even though it was difficult for us to uproot and leave our amazing community behind, something told us that this was the right move and that good things were coming. 

 

   After a few months spent making money in Michigan, we eventually made our way down to North Carolina. There was no real reason for our heading in that direction, we were just pulled there. The wind in the trees and the moon in the evening sky seemed to whisper the instructions. We were told to head toward the Appalachian mountains and to find our place among those ancient peaks. 

 

   Our first year in North Carolina was spent in almost total isolation. Except for the presence of horses and the occasional strolling neighbor, we found ourselves living in a world of silent reflection and deep contemplation. Because we had no family in the area and found few opportunities to make friends in the backwoods area where we were living, I spent the majority of my days making art, writing music and deepening my meditation practice. Somehow, In the jumble of our move and the reshuffling of our lives, I had spontaneously received an insight into the true nature of practice. I suddenly realized that my feelings about the connection between creativity and spiritual growth were intimately linked through the bond of practice. I understood the essence of what so many teachers have been saying for centuries, that practice itself is awakening.  

 

"To practice zazen here and now is to practice the true teaching of the Buddha. There are no degrees or steps, zazen itself is satori, here and now we are Buddha."

-Taisen Deshimaru Roshi

 

“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” 
― Dōgen

   

   I saw that the process of development, from its humble beginnings all the way up to the glory of mastery, is fully encapsulated in a single moment of authentic practice. Just to sit is to begin the unfurling of satori. Just to pick up an instrument is to commence the composition of a masterpiece. If practice is looked upon as a sacred act and if our goals and ambitions are focused to a single point, then true expression becomes possible. Creativity begins to merge with the light of our true nature and everything we touch becomes infused with significance. 

 

   When I realized this connection and began to focus on this kind of practice, everything changed for me. Along with gaining the confidence and the inspiration to express myself through various mediums, I also picked up the elusive thread of illumination that the mystics and seers have been so intimately connected to throughout the ages. I began to understand myself as well as my connection to the universe in ways I had never thought possible. Life itself became my spiritual path and creativity became my gospel. 

 

   Now, after 2 years in North Carolina and many creative endeavors, it has become my mission to share this practice with anyone who is interested. I am attempting to share it through my music, which has really come alive through the formation of my new band Life Like Water. I am trying to share it through this website and the accompanying blog posts and podcasts. I am even trying to share it through a book that I am writing and will be releasing in the not so distant future.

 

   My practice has become a lobor of love that I regularly tap into as a source of inspiration. I have no intention of being a guru or a rock star or an evangelist of any type. My only aim is to inspire people and to assist them in the creative process. I believe that creativity is the most powerful asset that human beings have.

 

   With creativity, I believe we can brighten the world around us and usher in the spirits of peace and reconciliation. To express ourselves is to assist others in self-expression. To be inspired is to set off a chain reaction of inspiration. To wake up is to set an alarm for anyone who wishes to do the same. I believe the world needs this now more than ever before. The world needs artists and dreamers and innovators and healers of all types. I feel that a new phase of the human experience is upon us and I believe that creativity will be the main catalyst for our transformation. 

Nothing to book at the moment
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© 2019 by Jennifer Shapiro & David Matters