Books, like music, have an unprecedented ability to change people overnight. For punk rock musician Miguel Chen the two publications that led him from a road paved with rock and roll stardom to one of personal peace and inner contemplation along the Buddhist path were The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and Noah Levine’s memoir Dharma Punx. Although he read them under duress he was glad he did for her discovered through them that single point of balance linking spirituality to his wild punk lifestyle. So fundamental was this turning point that he enthusiastically embarked upon a course of intense self-study and mindfulness meditation. It was at this point that he found his life starting to transform.
Peace and Raw Connection
In his book I Wanna Be Well, Chen—who is now a meditation practitioner, a yoga instructor, and the owner of Blossom Yoga Studio in Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming, shares his spiritual journey.
In addition to sharing his personal experiences he raises challenging questions related to contemporary issues he feels are important if we are going to create personal and collective happiness during our short time on this deeply troubled planet.
Buddhism has been essential to his psychological and spiritual development so quite naturally he infuses core Eastern beliefs and practices into his narrative. At the end of each chapter he includes a simple technique which the reader can employ at the same time as engaging with the book’s narrative. The first of these is based upon a basic meditation practice. Others including conscious walking, letting go, Sun salutation, yoga postures, gratefulness, breath-work, loving kindness meditation, as foundation blocks for later, more advanced spiritual techniques.
Does spirituality really need to be quite so tedious as it seems, but more specifically, does Buddhism in particular, have to be quite so disconnected from the reality of daily existence and its challenges? This often seems to be the case but in reading I Wanna Be Well one is left with the overall feeling that it is possible for a Western mind to integrate Eastern philosophies and forge a personal philosophy based upon sound ethics and a balanced approach to life and limb.
At just over 170 pages this is not a long book but it does pack one hell of a punch for all that. It reaches deep down into the underbelly of its intended target audience showing Chen can relay a similar sense of engagement with his disenfranchised readership as he undoubtedly does with his punk-rock audiences.
Written with this personalized style of communication, and yet neither talking over the heads of his readership nor patronizing, this is a work of astonishing honesty and commitment to a spiritual idea. Frankly the world needs less well-meaning, but semi-vacuous New Age preachers and more illuminated punk-rockers with the writing stature and character of Miguel Chen.