Individual desire can be deadly.
Longing can lash all of our roots.
Today, let my writing be a subtle question.
A musician might tell you of the following ambitions: they want to be the best in their genre, play X or Y music festival and be released on Z label, or be on A playlist.
This musician, let’s say a DJ for the sake of letters on a keyboard, hasn’t played a prime slot at a club in his home city yet. Other people are playing all the good slots with the main promotion groups. This DJ feels that it’s a competition, and they must beat others to grow worthy of playing at a club.
This DJ is in a state of judgment as often “becoming the best” invites.
Judgment comes from Ego. Esteemed psychologist Carl Jung refers to the ego as the conscious mind itself – our emotions, moods, and thoughts. He viewed it as a centerpiece of identity.
The DJ’s ego has projected a vision and uncovered the obstacles it believes are in its way.
The DJ is going into the club on a Friday night, listening to the opening acts and looking around the room: “I’m better than them; I could easily pull more people in here than them.” They do not see the room at all, only a flickering image of a certain future.
Does this mindset help or hurt mental well-being?
Isn’t the dance floor a place where the ego, pursuing to formulate continuity within its existence, forgets about itself?
We’re back in the club – to judge someone in this space is to turn off the music and shutter all the lights except for one. A single dim spotlight would be left on, shining down only at the person who is the object of the judgment.
That faint trail of light is not the picture we’ve dreamt of. When the lights are off, we can lose our sense of direction and gain distrust, skepticism, paranoia, doubt, and loneliness.
In the shadows of extended future projection lies anxiety, mood swings, potential poor habits, depression, a host of compelling options for the mental state. The ego has now altered subjects in front of it. Now, that DJ might end up interacting with others through the lens of this poor ego state in a way that hurts others.
The ego of the DJ now impacts the ego of another. Judgment can be a wrecking ball to the mental wellbeing of a human, for both the judged and the one casting judgment.
Does that sound healthy for our minds, or does it sound taxing and exhausting?
Egos triggering egos form questions of identity that rip apart previous answers that gave us peace of mind. But, if we turn down our future projections, the volume comes up on the present’s song that sings of appreciation.
One of my favorite quotes of the late Ram Dass comes to mind:
“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
Appreciation comes with being present and not deep within the ego state.
The lights come back, and we see that the dancefloor is like a garden bed. It is a place where all of these living, breathing, fascinating beings sway with the wind of the sound waves; how fascinating!
Through appreciation, respect, and awareness, safe spaces are born.
What is an easy way to be of the here and now?
Box Breathing is a simple exercise that you can do just about anywhere to come back to the present.
All it is is breathing in for four seconds through the nose, holding for four seconds, then breathing out for four seconds through the mouth, ending with another four-second hold of our breath. Doing this over a series of minutes brings back our awareness to the present – it is calming, nurturing, and relaxing.
The breath helps us ask ourselves where we are.
Being present is vital for good mental health.
You can be supported and support others when you are present.
Future visions are healthy; we only need to remember to come back to the present once we understand what we are working to acquire.
You might discover that the people around you that you previously judged may very well be guides to realizing your dreams.
If we find ourselves judging, let’s check in on ourselves with our breath and ask – Am I present?
Your mental health will thank you for asking.
Daoism points toward a state like water flowing within existence. We do not find friction if we flow like water with the world.
So, let us be like water.
Water helps all flowers grow, as a rising tide can raise all ships.
About the author
A dance music producer, singer, and songwriter, Alex Wagner (known by his music project ASW), was called an emerging artist to watch by DJ Mag in September of 2021. Currently signed to Tommie Sunshine’s Brooklyn Fire Records, he has also had multiple releases on Atlantic Records, remixing artists such as Galantis.
As a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line and certified peer counselor with the state of Washington, he has organized multiple mental health awareness events leveraging the power of music and the arts. He is launching his company Grooving for Good this year. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on Instagram at @asinglewave.