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Is it important to have a particular place to practice?

When I practiced the Lord’s Prayer I simply went down on my knees, so you can pray anywhere, but there are psychological benefits when you have a shrine in a quiet place in your house where it is comfortable to sit. You can cry your heart out there and it is private. The fact is that you have to have your quiet place in your house, your Buddha shrine. It is not private at church where you have to listen to the priest. At your place, you are focusing on something your person and your mind needs.

In your view, how often do people need to practice?

Some people have to practice a lot—morning, middle of the day, evening. Some people can practice once a day. Traditionally, when you’re starting out, you practice twice a day—when rising in the morning and before retiring in the evening. When I was having the hardest time of my life, I was practicing for four hours a day. And I saw how it was working. My reactions were spot on and I knew that was because of my practice, because my normal reactions weren’t that way.

Why do you consider it important to have a CD that combines Buddhist and Christian prayers?

The answer to this question is unity. Years ago, when I was on tour in New Zealand, I was given a purple book that I couldn’t stand the color of, but somehow I kept it and opened it after my tour. It explained that God is within us and it doesn’t matter what your religion is. Whatever words you use, the results are the same. If you are in another country and you go to their meditation area to pray with them and you do your own prayer and they do theirs, that’s fine.

The CD Beyond is to remind people or to educate people that God is inside them. How you tap into God is your decision. Whether you meditate or whether you become a Christian, it’s up to you. Beyond is an invitation to open the heart for all religions and to become united.

How did you get involved with Beyond?

I was invited to get involved in the project by Regula Curti, born Christian in Switzerland, and Dechen Shak-Dagsay, born Buddhist in Tibet. I thought it was a good idea because I was already on the journey of unity, of thinking about how there are religious wars and how someone has to help people know that God is to be found within, so that peace and harmony will evolve.

Regula and Dechen and I started to chant together and we discovered unity on a deeper level, more energetically and spiritually. The thought of unity in prayer became, for all three of us, a field to explore musically. We hope that everybody realizes that the system—the system of God, of contacting God, of being a better person, and of correcting your life conditions—is within you. What we are trying to say is that it doesn’t matter what holy words you chant, what matters is that you do it with all your involvement—physical, mental, spiritual. It doesn’t matter if Regula sings Ave Maria and Dechen sings the prayer for Tara and I sing the Lotus Sutra. Prayer is prayer. What’s important is doing it and not worrying about how others are praying.

On Beyond you say, “When you go beyond that’s where you find true love.” What does that mean to you? What is true love?

There are many different forms of love, but true love is something that transcends doubt, something that is not judgmental, something that is openhearted and accepting. We are not talking about passionate love, sexual love. We are talking about a love of human beings, of the planet—the love of seeing a little flower growing out of the earth at a certain time of the year.

If you have the capacity to find love in beauty, that is the door opener of true love. True love comes from looking at a beautiful day and the feeling that comes from that. Perhaps you don’t have the words for it, but you just feel, “Ah, gosh, what a wonderful day,” and that particular moment makes you happy. You see beauty and you embrace it—that is love.

What or where is this “beyond” that you refer to?

Oh, that’s a deep question. Let’s start with meditation. There is a stage in practice where you don’t faint, you don’t black out, but you are in a space. In this space you are able to stop the conscious mind, the one that constantly talks and gives you all kinds of information from your eyes, your ears, your nose. When you’re able to get into that space, that is “beyond.” That’s where you find truth. In this stage of my life, I personally believe that you get truth from your subconscious mind and by meditating you get into the subconscious mind. Meditation opens the space I call “beyond.”

What does it mean for you as a rock singer that your newest album is about prayer?

It means that people who work in the arts need prayer as much as anyone else. I don’t separate my work as a rock singer from prayer. When I went on stage to make a living, I made people happy with my work. The feedback was always that I inspired people to get out and help themselves to go forward, to practice Buddhism. Everything has been very positive and that’s because of my spiritual practice.

I feel alone now—my mother is gone, my sister is gone. But I have two sons, I have my relationship with my partner, Erwin, and I have my practice. I feel that I have help. The practice takes care of me. If you practice, you will see that this is exactly what it does.

From the September 2011 issue of the Shambhala Sun. Click here to browse the entire issue online.

Photo by Alberto Venzago.

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