Life Lessons In Following the Path and Learning To Trust Ones Steps

If you’ve read a few of these blogs you may already be familiar with non-interference. Simply put, non-interference is a life practice (sometimes referred to as Wu Wei, Chinese for “non-doing”) that recommends letting go of the reigns, suggesting life is capable of drawing us down our highest path if only we’d get out of the way and let it. My last record, Tennessee Night, was about more than just music to me, as I'd chosen to make the entire process an experiment in living according to principles of non-interference. For my part, that entailed actively trusting circumstances, honing my deeper instincts, getting honest with myself, and stepping off a few cliffs under the assumption that a path would appear beneath my feet. I’m still walking, and I have no plans to terminate the experiment at this point ... only I no longer consider it an experiment ... now it's just how I live my life. 


My experiment officially ended at the close of my 5/19 release show at Johnny’s Speakeasy in Ann Arbor. At the end of that night I felt like something of a free man, having worked very hard on an independent project, one that I’d committed to following to a conclusion rather than “steering”. It was scary at times, and life definitely threw some uppercuts: 24 hours before live tracking started a critical member of the band had to drop out for personal reasons, additionally, my company called the next morning to say my project had been shut down and half of my team had been shown the door. At that point it wasn’t clear if there’d be a position for me upon my return. “Ok, so … not exactly fired … let’s make a record!”

Little by little, I’d been growing used to roadblocks such as those I faced in the studio. Since fully embracing my non-interference experiment I routinely found myself vacillating between epic highs and tumultuous moments of discomfort, lived way outside of my comfort zone. I was “practicing” living in a very different and non-obvious way, and life seemed interested in testing my medal on that score with regularity.

I liken this way of living to captaining a ship in a sea filled with ice bergs. Every once in a while it seems the vessel is going to run right into the side of one, yet, somehow the path clears, each and every time. The icebergs gets a little bigger each time, but the captain is also getting braver, gutsier. 

By the time I got to Grand Rapids to track Tennessee Night, the icebergs had increased their size by an order of magnitude, no question. I was learning, however. The lesson was not that I was imbued with some special power or intelligence to navigate around life’s barriers, but rather, these experiences taught me I didn’t have to. In other words, I wasn’t learning to overestimate my place in life, but to differently estimate it in the light of a new paradigm, and certainly to take life less seriously. As crisis moments arrived I typically viewed them as tests: life’s opportunities to practice trusting in a new way of being in the world.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
— Lao Tzu

Once life had thrown out its curveballs, tracking started and finished as scheduled. Due to the last minute lineup change there was a new guy in the room, one whom I hadn't met before; his presence took things in a different and ultimately good direction. It was the kind of thing I hadn’t been smart enough (or perhaps patient enough) to orchestrate myself. But life shuffled the pieces on my behalf, shall we say, and to wonderful effect. Even though I was getting used to living in such fashion by then, the studio was a real test. It was also an important lesson, one that illustrated just how quickly an iceberg can turn into something beneficial. 

The promise of a release show loomed in the future, and I knew I wanted to approximately represent the record, meaning I’d have to form a band. A Good American Life my first album, and I consciously chose to play shows in support of that record solo acoustic. The reason for this was simple: I was practicing the art of stagecraft (interacting with crowds, etc.), and wanted some time to do that all by my lonesome; to make sure I had my oxygen mask securely fixed before inviting others onto the plane, if you will.

I wanted to learn to manage "my own circle," as I sometimes refer to it: to exact a high-level of control over my performance regardless of what else might be happening in the room. I figured if I could learn to do that, then no matter how the scenery changed around me, I'd be good to go. However, the time was soon coming when I'd have to evolve into someone who performed live with others, and it wasn't clear whom those people might be or what form that might take.

I’d have my friend, the talented Rob Avsharian, playing drums, but beyond that I had no ideas on how to proceed. Yet, this too is arranged itself along the way. Honestly, between the day job and the many tasks associated with making a record/seriously engaging with the music industry, I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to handle all the things that needed to come together. I had to concentrate on what I could do in the time I had and simply let the rest arrange itself, and that's just what happened.  With Rob’s advice and a little time, a band begin to take shape. Not just any band, but one made up of humble folks, egos in check, and gifted with plenty of talent.

And so it was that on 5/19/2017 I found myself on stage at Johnny's Speakeasy for my Ann Arbor release show, surrounded by a group of musicians (including my lovely and talented friend, Judy Banker). Together we played for a wonderful, engaged, sellout crowd, and the event was a true celebration for me, as well as a personal milestone. Just being on that stage and performing those songs represented the culmination of a big journey and, ultimately, my experiment in non-interference.

Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.
— Theodore Roethke

The following week I got in my truck and headed south-west. I was way overdue for a vacation, and I’d been feeling an inner-pull to travel west for a long while - almost two years - I simply hadn't had the time. There was a family wedding to attend in South Texas, but beyond that my only plan was to make no plans. I was just going to drive wherever I felt pulled to go, by that point I knew I could trust life enough to do that.

A little over a week later, in what I considered at the time to be a “moment of lucidity”, I lifted my head to look around me. Taking stock of my surroundings I checked in with myself, my rational-side making a quick note regarding my present situation and how strange it was: I was one of four people face down in the dirt within a large Native American medicine wheel. My three companions were women: one an Ojibwa healer, and the other two professed “intuitives” visiting from Australia. I quizzically wondered what exactly I was doing with these women face down in the hot Arizona desert ... how did I even get myself into this situation? As I retraced the steps that led me to that moment I had to laugh: there was no plan, no strategies or reservations, just a curious mind and a habit of being open to things as they crossed my path. Yet, even by my standards, it was a strange situation and a strange trip ...  an incredibly healing one as well. More to come. Till next time!

Americana Singer Songwriter Ed Dupas’ lived-in melodies unwind with reflective lyrics that speak to the current state of the human condition. Soothing where possible, agitating where necessary, and calling for change where appropriate. Ed Dupas creates and shares well worn wide awake music.

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