Selling Out vs Making A Living

I see the term selling out often used to describe some artist and their work. And most times, it's used as some sort of criticism, demeaning both the artist and their work. But I think that sometimes this criticism is misguided.

First, we need to look at what so many people think selling out means—it means doing your art for money or some other reward. But let's be real here, no one accuses the grocery clerk, or the fireman, or the school teacher, or the plumber of selling out because they get paid for what they do. That seems to be reserved for those who pursue art as a career, or at least as a serious side endeavor. Why is this? What makes art so different than any other job?

Job is why. Most people don't look at creating art as a job. They look at it as some sort of magical, spiritual, unfathomable thing. “I know you paint/dance/play music/direct films/etc. for a living, but I have to have a real job.” There's that word: real. Like being an artist is not real.

But it i…

Keeping Things Coherent

When we start out working as an artist in any sort of art form, we tend to do a lot of different things, especially copy others. Take a look at any famous artist and their early works are often derivative of others, especially the artists they admired. This is natural. We all need to get the fundamentals down and start somewhere. Emulating others is a good place to start. It takes time to find our own path.

But once an artist finds that path, they grow into their own thing. Their work takes on another dimension and they acquire their own following. And along that path, they sometimes make abrupt changes that people need time to adjust to. But these changes, if they come from within their artistic vision, are wholly coherent with who and what they are. 

Two modern musical examples are Björk and David Bowie. During long careers, they have both shifted their musical course, sometimes drastically. Björk has recorded and toured with a vocal choir, brass choir, string ensemble, electronic ins…

Faith In Ourselves, Faith In Our Art

As artists, one thing we are often told by others is to “Have faith,” both in ourselves, and in our art. But in the face of self-criticism and doubt, faith often seems like a monumental task. Self-help books are no better, as they tell us to just “keep at it” and we can work through those doubts. But these doubts are real. The self-criticism is real. And all the monkey mind monsters that our own mind projects upon us are real.

The Buddha’s teachings direct us to analyze the mode of appearance, meaning how something appears to be, and the mode of underlying reality, meaning how something actually is—its true nature.—Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, “The Path of Faith and the Path of Reasoning
The things that often keep us from having faith are both real and unreal. The self-doubt that keeps whispering in our ears is real to us. The voice is loud and persistent. So how can we just ignore it?

Rather than ignoring it, we need to look at it objectively. One way is to write down what it is saying and…

Don't Forget To Breathe

As well as we may know ourselves, we can never see our selves from the outside. This is the reason even veteran athletes work with trainers and coaches. These people can spot things the athlete is doing that they don't even realize.

The same can be said for artists. Sometimes we need a fresh perspective from another person. This happened to me. As a drummer, I was having some problems with my drumming. I just didn't feel comfortable and relaxed anymore. It took a friend to notice and tell me that I was holding my breath when I played. I never noticed that, because it had become something natural to do. But by holding my breath, I was inhibiting the natural flow of things.

If you play brass or winds, the breath is integral with making your music. You are taught how to breathe with the phrasing of the music. The same can be said for string players and other musicians. But as a drummer, no one had ever discussed breathing with me. No one. So I never gave it much thought. And as tim…

The Virtue of Paying Attention

Wake up.

Wake up and stop sleeping.

Wake up and pay attention to what you are doing, to what is going on around you. 

It's so easy to fall asleep at the wheel and wake up later, not knowing where you are or how you got there. This sort of artistic somnambulation is something we often struggle against everyday. 


Paying attention, it's just being aware of what you are doing at all times. One way to get through artist's block is to pay attention. There are messages and inspiration all around us. When we sleepwalk through life we miss connecting with them. A big part of our artistic spiritual practice is just being aware of our lives.

When you find yourself dozing, or just going through the motions, snap out of it. Be present. Be awake. We use the term practice because you have to actively practice it, and like all things, the more you do it, the more it becomes a natural part of what you do.

Teach yourself to pay attention.

~ MB

Practice Makes Practice

Walking. Just Walking.

Too often, I think that people expect anything spiritual to be amazing, larger than life. They expect it to be like being struck by lightning—some sort of big flash and then your life is changed forever. But it's rarely like that. Yes, while there can be spiritual ecstasy, most spiritual breakthroughs are rather ordinary. 

My teacher, Singal Rinpoche, has a favorite saying, “You must strive to become enlightened everyday,” because even after you attain enlightenment, that is only in that present moment. You go on with your day, live your life, and the next day it starts all over again, even the enlightenment. So some days we are enlightened, and some days we are not.

As artists, we need to realize that some days we will create great art, and on others, not so great art. We get up in the morning, go about our work, go to sleep at night, then get up and repeat it all again. Some days will be amazing. Some will be ordinary. Yet we still get up each morning. But that is the point, and, …

Working With Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a buzz word today, but like the word, meditation, it's also a much misunderstood. 

In its essence, mindfulness is paying attention. That's it. I know, it sounds simple, and it is, but it's also a lot more difficult to do than we can imagine. 

Electronic Monkey Mind

Paying attention, not wandering in your thoughts. But we live in a world of constant distraction: phones, computers, cable/satellite TV, the internet, and on and on. We are often over scheduled and underwhelmed. As much as our modern electronic world keeps us connected, it also distracts us. Think of all the concerts where people watch the show on the cell phone they hold up in front of themselves, instead of watching the actual performance. Talk about distraction. 

Or think about all the times you are involved in your practice and your phone rings or beeps. Do you stop and answer it, or do you keep going. And if you keep going, are you distracted by the thought of who that call or message might be fr…