Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

All about music, guitar, spirituality, personal development and being happy


The Rope, the Snake, and a Happy Ending for this April Fool

April 1, 2010

Greets friends…I am cruising at about 30K feet on the first leg of my journey to the UK to play the Oxford Jazz Festival, Liverpool Philharmonic and more.

I have a happy ending to tell you about. I’d like to talk about perception, and also discuss reading personal meaning into impersonal events.

It’s quite easy to read about spiritual and psychological principles and nod one’s head and say “I understand that”, but when the rubber hits the road and we feel uncomfortable, and have a mini inner disturbance or crisis – we see what we are made of, and hopefully learn. 🙂

One of my favorite teachers, Lester Levenson, uses the following example. Imagine that you see a poisonous snake in a dimly lit room, curled up waiting to attack. You feel fear, panic, you go into survival mode and freak out. You turn the light on and then find a coiled up rope, which you thought was a snake. The whole panic, fear and mental ride you went on was your creation.

How often at work, with family, at school do we have “panic attacks” over the coiled up ropes of life that we think are snakes? Fortunately I am getting mellower and mellower but I certainly have experienced this feeling and have to laugh at myself when I see the “rope”. It’s like panic over lost keys which you find in your back pocket after tearing up the house for 15 minutes.

Now, dear reader, here’s a slightly different topic which will have a tie-in, I promise. The Buddha taught not to feel one way or the other regarding praise or criticism, and this is a tough one for me much of the time. It’s not that effort is employed to “not let” criticism pull one down, but when you are grounded in a more real, quiet, ego-less state – you see that there is no “you” in the first place who can receive praise or blame.

And now here is the priceless April Fools story which involves the tie-in of each of these ideas.

I received an email from a customer a few weeks ago because he ordered a DVD and 2 CDs – and one CD was missing from the package. He was from Germany – which is where I tour most these days. I love the German folk, and one quality I admire in the culture is a “conversational directness”…they often say what’s on their mind with no buffer and little humor.

The email stated the following. “Dear Adam, Just to let you know, the Gratitude CD was missing from the order. The Stevie Wonder Guitar DVD is wonderful, and your Chameleon CD is awful. ”

Huh? Did he really just say that? What?

I reacted internally. I emailed friends. Stomach acid. No, I am not yet always above praise or criticism.

I decided then that it was my duty re-record and re-release my CD’s because I feel that I have improved, as has my recording technique. I composed (but did not send) a letter of apology to him, saying yes, the micing of the guitar could be better, the performance could be better,and that I’ve learned a lot since recording that CD. I offered a complete refund if he was dis-satisfied. I chose not to send the email though. I clarified my thoughts, and that was fine.

I felt truly awful. I did my best, and really disappointed someone with this artistic effort. How could these words affect me so?

And I thought – if he had the nerve to actually say it, how many people simply bottled this sentiment up and were too kind to tell me? Maybe he’s the only one of thousands who has the nerve to speak his mind. Like the guy with the bad toupe whom no one says anything to, but everyone knows it’s a bad toupe…and one man calls out the bad rug.

Eventually I got over it as I had to carry on with touring and a career. The CD is done, no turning back.

Last night in Munich my buddy Zane and I did a 2 guitar gig for a small, intimate audience. I couldn’t help but notice a young couple grooving and enjoying the music and humor. From the stage, I made lots of eye contact with them and enjoyed their vibe very much.

On the break the fellow from this nice couple comes up and says “Hi Adam, I’m Stefan. Man you sound great!!! By the way I still haven’t received the Gratitude CD. Oh – and I am so sorry about the email. I meant to say the Chameleon CD is AWESOME, not awful – and I didn’t realize the language mistake until afterwards. Ha ha ha!” He then hands me the Chameleon CD to get it autographed.

Well, we had some great laughs. I informed him that he almost put me in the mental hospital, and that I was happy to meet him. I announced him from the stage and told the story, and I promised him and the audience that the next CD would be even more….awful!! 🙂

Of course my little ego, my separate self heaved a sigh of relief. But the big SELF, looked at this entire story and knows that a hipper, happier place would be to be grounded in a peaceful, higher zone where I wouldn’t have felt bad in the first place. That’s the real place to be.

The only place I have found this rest, this relaxation and pause from ego is in and from meditation and mindfulness. Going within and going quiet is the only place I have find peace. You really do catch glimpses that there is no separate you and you (I) see the idiocy of the ego. But, it takes practice to stay on top of it all.

So while it’s nice to be loved and have this fellow think the CD is awesome – that’s not the cure, it’s just a band aid for a situation.

The cure is in knowing through and through that you, I and him are not separate beings no more than waves in the ocean being separate from the water itself. The cure is to know the big SELF, not the little self.

Tommy Emmanuel, in his infinite wisdom once told me “what other people think of you is none of your business”. This is deeper than it initially sounds…

Enjoy life, and until next time keep swingin’