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Notes From The Monastery

Phase II of album preparation complete: building mastery over the mind through meditation. (If you missed Phase I: The Plan, it’s here.)

Two years ago, I attended a Vipassana meditation course. Students spend 10 days without speaking and sit in meditation for 12 hours each day. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it inspired a lifelong, life-changing practice of introspection, non-attachment, and gratitude. If you’re reading this and you’re curious, do drop me a line–I highly recommend it, and it’s free.

Don’t take my word for it: Macklemore is a big fan of Vipassana and has attended multiple courses. That’s our teacher sampled at the beginning.

This time, I returned to serve a 10 day course, so I was part of the team that ran the kitchen. (Workers are allowed to talk.) We had a dream-team of servers–kind, bright, warmhearted people with fascinating stories from Nepal, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, and Wales, all of whom have been practicing for longer than I have. We also had World Poetry Slam champion Buddy Wakefield, who toured with my hero Ani DiFranco.


Our team

I helped prep food, but most of my time was spent washing dishes. My experiment: determine which angles of dish-holding result in being sprayed directly in the face.

Preliminary results: most angles.

Preliminary results: most angles.

Server Schedule


We generally worked five hours and meditated five hours each day. I think that the mix of working and meditating will help me integrate the practice into everyday life.



So you know how songs get stuck in your head? I’ve noticed that I have a self-soothing tendency to sing songs (aloud or in my head) when I’m stressed. It’s not unlike other self-soothing tics I’ve observed in autistic kids I’ve worked with. So when left to meditate for hours on end, the songs just kept coming.

The following songs got at least 20 plays in Ethan-brain, often just a single verse or chorus on repeat. It’s not always a pleasurable experience.

  • Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
  • The Last Resort – The Eagles
  • Camptown Races – Traditional (This was a song on a Disney cassette tape I listened to on repeat at age three)
  • Die Young – Ke$ha (This one was stuck in my head when, in sitting, I gained perception of my pulse in my lips and fingertips, because the chorus is, “I feel your heart beat to the beat of the drum”)
  • Only – Nicki Minaj (Filthy)
  • Chip and Dale, Rescue Rangers (Theme song)
  • Girl – Caroline Henderson
  • Don’t Want You Back – Jessica Doles
  • Silver Bells – Traditional Christmas song
  • Little Drummer Boy – The Worst Christmas Song

Epiphany (one of several)

Guess who

On day three, my solo-artist name and persona came to me. Stay tuned!

Next steps

So I returned to civilization with a more focused mind, recommitted to my meditation practice, and I’ve got a good feeling that that clarity will help me through the challenging album work ahead. Thus far, I’m 5 for 7 on meditating for an hour in the morning. This past week, I’ve spent around 40 hours in the studio with Tiger Tiger, Accici, and Wes Swing . . . some amazing music in the works. And on July 22nd, I depart for Mexico and work on my album begins in earnest.

Thanks for following along with my summer journey!

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