Dave Stringer – “Maybe I should let go of trying to find an answer.”
Who is Dave Stringer? Well, that’s an essential question my art and yoga have always been trying to answer. One of the reasons I find yoga so compelling is that it’s a process of inquiry, and not a belief system. Yoga philosophy says that my experience and my questions are the path I need to travel. But the irony is that it also says that I should let go of trying to find an answer, or to ever arrive anywhere.
This is quite a different approach compared to a lot of other spiritual paths. Yoga empowers me to actually be comfortable with uncertainty and teaches me to be present in the midst of a messy process. It teaches me to use everything in my path. Going deeper into my dilemmas can actually be the first step in escaping from them. Even my doubts and resistances can in the end help me to move forward.
The only thing that I can say truthfully is that I AM. When I start to attach any condition onto it, any identity to it, then things get murky. Dave Stringer is a collection of experiences and stories and perspectives. He feels real, but I’m not certain that his identity, as an individual, is as supported by the facts and evidence as my brain persists in telling me.
I started asking spiritual questions as a little boy, and I still remember a painful experience with my father that started the process. We were out in the backyard, and my father was trying to teach me how to catch a baseball. I was five. My father was an athlete and he was frustrated that I wasn’t good enough.
The more balls he threw at me, the more fearful and frozen I became. One of the balls hit me right at my third eye and I fell down crying. I remember my father– who I actually really love quite a lot, and now have a great relationship with– turned away dismissively, leaving me lying on the ground crying with a bloody nose.
In that searing moment some childhood innocence was shattered. My sense of what my relationship to, for lack of a better word, God, or any force of love, was irrevocably changed. A force that I thought was loving me and protecting me actually hurt me. But as the Radiance Sutras say, “Wound becomes portal. Brokenness surrenders to brilliance of Being.”
For the first time I remember questioning, “What is my purpose?” “What is my soul?” “What is love itself?” These are perhaps unusual questions for a five year old to ask, but they were there present for me right from the beginning. “How do we reconcile a universe that supposedly created us with all of its love and force and then puts us in situations that annihilate us again and again?”
It was like my father was Shiva Himself, delivering a thunderbolt to my third eye. It shifted my way of thinking about things. It shifted my relationship to love itself. From that point forward, I started playing music.
I began to be fairly obsessive about using music as a means of communicating with what seemed to extend beyond myself– whatever that was. From the beginning, music was an intensely personal and direct way of communicating with the essence of things. It was both ecstatic expression, but also a confessional. I turned to music when I felt fearful or tired and it was also a place that I went when I felt joyful. It was a place I went when I felt alone.
We had a piano in our home, so I started there, although I never really liked piano lessons. The tunes I was supposed to learn were awful! I also didn’t like the idea that you should play a particular song in a particular way. I had my own ideas about how I wanted to interpret them.
I think from the beginning I already wanted to write and compose, but I wasn’t really supported in doing that. I quit the piano after a couple of years and picked up the guitar, which was more portable and private and freed me in many ways. I learned how to play all kinds of things by ear, which turned out to be a good skill.
When I was twelve, on the day after school let out for the summer, I was hit by a motorcycle while riding my bike. I broke my left arm, which made it impossible for me to play guitar. Upset over the injury, summer plans ruined, and driven by my obsession to be musical, I sat down at the piano again.
My thumb on my left hand was sticking out of the cast, and I used it to play bass notes. I painstakingly taught my right hand the chords on the piano that my left hand already knew from playing the guitar. In this way, I developed a sort of one handed, backward style of playing keyboard. Many years later, I found myself in India where I encountered a harmonium for the first time. It made tremendous sense because I used the left arm to pump the harmonium and my right arm to play it!
Growing up, I studied classically and operatically. I sang in a lot of choirs, a lot of musical theater, and things like that. I was a fairly normal mid-western child. I did normal things, you know, like skiing, being on the swim team.
I had no idea that there was any yoga in my future, but looking back, I can see how from the beginning, I had been learning to use obstacles and resistances in order to progress. Yoga wasn’t something outer or alien that had to be taken in. It was already present in me from the start, awaiting to be discovered, and refined.
To be continued…
1st part of the Dave Stringer interview series with Jack Greene in Los Angeles, CA.
Read more about Bhakti Without Borders
Check out some of Dave’s other albums from 2015:
Photos courtesy of: Dave Stringer
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