As we explored this magical, mystical island, we would occasionally meet a local and explain that we were visiting to attend a Van Morrison concert in Northern Ireland. The response was usually the same: “Why would you come all this way to see him? He certainly isn’t known for his friendliness and he doesn’t interact with his audiences at all!” Always relating to this highly sensitive being, I found myself defending him by explaining that he is just an introvert and it is all about the music for him. The story I tell myself is that he goes so deep inside that he is able to access a creative force and soulful place that most people can’t imagine, and this explains the source of his five decades of iconic music.
Sir Van has been known for closing his eyes or facing his back to the audience for an entire concert -- no encores and screaming at his band members. I saw him in 2008 when he played Astral Weeks in Chicago (considered by many as his masterpiece and still makes the “best albums lists” of all time). He began the concert before the scheduled concert time. There were still hundreds of fans on the sidewalk outside when he started playing.
The bucket list concert itself was indeed a dream come true, with an intimate of crowd of less than 400 people. There was one point during the concert when I had a revelation. Van is known for his chanting, incantations, and nuances of the voice like mercurial musings. On this particular evening he was “ranting.” He ranted on and on about some person trying to ride on his coattails and asking, “Where were THEY when I needed THEM?” The concert was part of his 70th birthday celebration, and I realized he sounded like a grumpy, old man. He may gain the respect and honor as someone who has mastered his craft, but what is the point if you aren’t able to relate to people?
It was a reminder of why I practice yoga. It is not to master some showy poses or to become a famous, celebrity yoga teacher, or for the famed yoga butt. I practice so that I am able to have intimate, meaningful relationships. The fruits of the practice are the real litmus test to determine the success of your yoga. If yoga students are becoming more patient and kind, better listeners, more present and loving, than I think this it a worthwhile practice. Recently, I had someone tell me that students at Cascade Yoga were gracious and warm. I don’t know if this type of student is attracted to the studio or if the style of yoga we teach helps to foster this kind of person. I hope it is a little of both.
I hate to be too hard on Van the Man. For the thousands of hours of musical enjoyment, I am truly grateful. I mean, “He is just a man, trying to do the best he can. Don’t you understand, I just want some peace of mind.” *
I can’t help but wonder if he spent less time perfecting his music skills and more time practicing yoga, would he be a little nicer? I would be happy to teach him.
*Some Peace of Mind, Van Morrison