My song, Who Am I, is a very personal song that tells the story about my inward journey to enlightenment. In the song, I reveal what it is like to sit down and meditate for the first time and how the mind revolts when you try to tame that mischievous little monkey. In the song, I also take you to a place that is almost never talked about, which is the moment of awakening—what it is like before, during, and after. Enlightenment is not something you can attain, nor is it something you can seek and find. Seeking enlightenment is like a dog that is chasing its tail. Once the chasing stops, the tail is realized as having always been there. It is just a tail. Very unique indeed, but nothing special.

What inspired me to seek enlightenment was a strong yearning to take a deeper look at life, especially my own life. I was raised in a Christian household, and at the age of 13 I gave my life to Christ. As beautiful as it was in the moment, in the long run that experience left me with a lot of unanswered questions, which lead to me feeling unsettled inside. I love Jesus, but Christianity as a religion, was what caused my doubts to surface. Feeling dubious about my Christian faith, I began to look into other religions, and I am glad I did. Being raised with only one doctrine can really limit one’s understanding of the world, other people, and other religions. There is more than one way to know God. No religion has cornered the market on God. I knew this in my heart, so I set out to learn, discover, and experience other religions.

The first stop on my new religious journey was Buddhism. This religion had fascinated me ever since I saw the movie, Kung Fu in 1972, while I was in my second year of college. The story is about a half Chinese, half American boy named Kwai Chang Caine, who had lost his parents when he was 10 years of age. Now, as an orphan he had nowhere to go, so he chose to sit out front of the Shaolin Temple in hopes of being given the opportunity to be invited in and learn how to become a Shaolin Priest.

It was a long shot, but after weeks of sitting outside amongst other young boys with the same dream, he and a small group of boys were finally invited in to meet the Master. Once inside the boys were given tea. All of the boys began sipping their tea except Kwai Chang, who waited for the Master to take a sip first. Because he waited, he was allowed to remain, while the other boys were asked to leave. Because of his patience and perseverance, Kwai Chang was granted permission to study to become a priest at the temple.

Kwai Chang soon discovered that life at the temple was simple, basic, and very disciplined. One of the disciplines was to meditate daily. Seeing the Master, Kwai Chang, and various young monks meditating fascinated me because I had never seen anything like that before. No one at the church I was raised in every sat on the floor cross legged, just sitting there with their eyes closed for 30 minutes or longer. Why are they just sitting there in silence, I asked myself? The next day I decided to see what it felt like to sit with my legs crossed, eyes closed, in complete silence. My roommate was in class, so I was in my dorm room alone. I hopped up on my bed, crossed my legs, closed my eyes and just sat there in complete silence. This was something I had never done before, or even thought of attempting. I was taught to always be doing something. It never occurred to me to do absolutely nothing from time to time.

So there I was, just sitting. One minute of sitting in silence seemed like an hour! My mind would not slow down. It was like a Ping Pong match was going on inside my head. Songs were playing, images were flying in and out, visions of hot chicks appeared in my mind, and I felt anything but peaceful. I describe this experience in my song Who Am I as follows:

I try to be quiet

My mind starts a riot

It revolts like a glue-sniffin’ monkey

Feelin’ alone

I crave for my phone

My brain is a thought-seekin’ junkie

After sitting in silence for about five minutes, I tapped out. I couldn’t take it anymore. Ironically, that experience touched something deep inside of me that wanted more of “doing nothing.” Sitting in silence felt right to me, even though my mind wanted me to believe otherwise. Your own mind is the reason you travel through life on an imaginary journey, instead of living in the present moment, lost in reality. It is your own mind that sidetracks you from real life. Your mind focuses on the future or dwells on the past, neither of which are real. Your own mind can also lead you down the wrong paths in life. You can’t blame your friends, enemies, or anyone else for your submission to temptation. It is your own mind that is leading you astray every time.

I meditated off and on from 1972 through 1979. In 1980, a friend introduced me to Zen Buddhism, and I began to study that religious practice intensely. I was extremely fascinated because Zen is so simple, so basic, so peaceful. I read a book on Zen Buddhism entitled, The Three Pillars of Zen, which lit a fire under me. Ironically, that fire didn’t have me running around in excitement, instead it had me sitting more and more in utter silence.

Meditation was helping me end all those mind games that had haunted me for most of my life. Prior to discovering meditation, I was a hyperactive child. My mom called me a wiggle tail because I had trouble sitting still. My mind would not rest. It would not slow down. My own mind kept me in motion, doing, thinking, not resting.

Up until 1980, I really had no idea that my mind was just a fantasy land that had nothing to do with reality. My mind (and all its thoughts) wasn’t good nor was it bad. It just was not reality. It was my imaginary roadblock to the present moment. Meditation begins when thinking ends. Meditation ends when thinking begins. It is that simple. Meditation is not something you do. Meditation is simply the absence of thought, even for a few brief moments.

Most of the time we are thinking, daydreaming, imagining. Very little time is spent not thinking, lost in the present moment (reality). In the present moment, there is no time. But your mind can’t exist without thought, so it prompts you to keep on thinking, keep on moving about like a little monkey, getting into everything it can think of! Meditation, when practiced regularly and consistently, calms that little monkey, thus leaving you with peace of mind.

Enlightenment is a foreign concept to most Americans. It was for me until I watched the movie Kung Fu in 1972. Even then it seemed mystical and elusive. Enlightenment always seems elusive but only when you “think” about it. Enlightenment is nothing more than a state of consciousness that is realized when a person becomes free of thought for an extended period of time at the exact moment you are willing to let go of everything.

Enlightenment erases the subconscious beliefs that get programmed into us when we are just kids—primarily between ages 1-6. It does not erase memories, nor does it erase primal information that allows us to survive, but it does erase the beliefs that create the illusion that we are somebody with oodles of labels (i.e. fat, skinny, smart, dumb, fast, slow, good at math, poor at math, rich, poor, clumsy, coordinated, happy, sad, successful, or a loser). Enlightenment wipes the slate clean and you are suddenly nobody, yet somebody, but somebody with not a single attachment. You are free.

A few moments of quiet can give you a glimpse of reality. A long period of silence at the right moment in time can cause your entire subconscious mind to reset itself. The closest way to describe enlightenment is to think back to a night you were asleep and were having a bad dream. In the dream, it seemed so real, until suddenly you woke up to realize you were asleep and dreaming. Right now, you are dreaming, which I call unconscious daydreaming. By practicing meditation, at the right moment you could wake up from this daydream, just like when you woke up from that bad dream to realized it was all just a dream. It seemed so real until you woke up.

A Koan is a Zen riddle that has no logical answer. Its purpose is to confuse the mind into giving up. Once the mind taps out, the answer is obvious. An example of a Zen Koan is the question, “What is the sound of one hand clapping.” Another is, “Who Am I?” I have used both of those Koans on my journey within. “Who Am I” was the Koan that helped opened the trap door so I could disappear.

My inward journey began in 1972 and ended on a rainy afternoon in 1981. My journey really didn’t begin or end. Instead, I actually spent nine years of my life chasing my tail, only to discover the tail I was chasing was an illusion.

Below are the lyrics to Who Am I. Keep in mind, after listening to my song you, too, may “Feel like a stranger, a celestial park ranger, a nomad who hitchhikes within.”

Peace and love

The G.O.P.

 

WHO AM I?
By The G.O.P.

Sittin’ in my backyard
Meditatin’ real hard
Quiet against my own will
Feelin’ kinda low and lost
Rather have my salad tossed
My mind won’t relax and be chill

Gotta go faster
Need a Zen master
My brain wants to run for the hills
This is insanity
Pure mental vanity
My mind is always seekin’ new thrills

CHORUS

My oh my, who am I?
My oh my, who am I?

I feel like a stranger
A celestial park ranger
A nomad who hitchhikes within
A one-man game changer
The appointed lone ranger
Wanting nothing but to have peace again

My oh my, who am I?
My oh my, who am I?

I try to be quiet
My mind starts a riot
It revolts like a glue-sniffin’ monkey
Feeling alone
I crave for my phone
My brain is a thought-seekin’ junkie

Breathing is very light
Mind’s on an astral flight

Can’t seem to go with the flow
Feeling uneasy
Not light and not breezy
My heart says, “I just want to know.”

 

CHORUS

My oh my, who am I?
My oh my, who am I?

I feel like a stranger
A celestial park ranger
A nomad who hitchhikes within
A one-man game changer
The appointed lone ranger
Wanting nothing but to have peace again

My oh my, who am I?
My oh my, who am I?

Light is fading into night
Everything is feelin’ right
Lifting all my fears and distress
Lightning streaks a blackened sky
Still reciting who am I
I vanish into pure emptiness

All those years of sittin’
Never swerving never quittin’
Like a kid in a candy store
Was all in my head
So I put “me” to bed
Now the “I” has become nevermore

My oh my, who am I?
My oh my, who am I?
My oh my, who am I?
My oh my, who am I?

I am awake.