Rapper and musician Born I shares the inspiration behind his new album, In This Moment.
For practically as long as I’ve been at Lion’s Roar, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen about the music of Born I (previously known as Born Infinite, and Born I Music) — rapper and producer, meditation and mindfulness teacher, all around good human being whose work is infused with dharma. His latest album, In This Moment, is more great hip-hop — and perhaps his most personal and clearly Buddhism-informed.
So I asked the ever-relatable Born (nee Ofosu Jones-Quartey) to tell us all about his new music and its message, which is meant for all of us, not least of all Born himself: “You Are Enough.” —Rod Meade Sperry
Meditation can be a powerful mirror, reflecting the truth of our lives back to us. By taking time day after day to look inward and witness what’s there, we experience the full range of human thoughts, sensations, mental states and emotions. The creative process can serve as a mirror as well, bearing witness and giving us insight into our own joy, pain, anxiety, love, hope, fear and so on.
In my life, my greatest fear has been centered around my not being “enough.” Not good enough, smart enough, likeable enough, attractive enough, even Black enough. The list of not-enoughness is endless. For a long time, I even felt that I was unworthy of love and ultimately that the world would be better off without me. Living with pervasive anxiety, intrusive thoughts, sexual trauma, and the danger that comes with being a Black man in America hasn’t been easy.
I’ve tried so many ways to avoid walking the difficult landscape of my inner world: indulging in drugs, alcohol, sex, partying, and creating music that projected a facade instead of truth. Realizing repeatedly that those indulgences only compounded my suffering, I’ve also tried to work with my heart and mind directly: through meditation, therapy, connecting with family and creating authentic music. Simply put, the latter path has saved my life.
Every day, I sit and observe my mind. Sometimes I experience terrible thoughts and emotions. I try to meet them with compassion and see them as they are. There are times when I feel the burning sensation of anxiety in my chest… I watch as those anxious flames rise, then I reach out to hold them with the hands of my own awareness. I hold them with love. I know this pain inside me is my inner child, still scared, confused and feeling unresolved. It cries out in darkness, but my loving awareness is the inner adult, reaching out to see, hear and hold that child with love. To be present with myself, with love. In this Moment.
Through this process of meeting my anxiety with loving awareness, I begin to see the truth. Right here, in this moment, I am okay. In this moment, there is nothing to fear. In this moment, there is just this breath, this body, this mind, this awareness, this love. This moment will pass and turn into something else, and that’s okay. I can be present with love for the next moments as well. This is how meditation has helped me heal and understand myself. It continues to be a process and a practice.
I am the pain that I didn’t take care of /
that turned into all of the things that I’m scared of /
What do I notice is none of it lasts /
same as the lightning and thunder that crash /
All of the thoughts and the feelings and fears /
stay for a moment and then disappear /
Everything in me is naturally free /
all that’s required is I let it be.
—from the song, “In This Moment.”
(Read more about the song here.)
When I wrote the song “In This Moment,” I felt I had expressed everything I ever wanted to say in a record. It’s a song about suffering and finding a path out of suffering. Writing “In This Moment” was like holding up a mirror to my life, a meditation in the form of a song.
It turns out that I had more to say. The process of writing “In This Moment” the song opened a gateway for me to write more songs about my life and my practice, and thus the album In This Moment was born.
Every day I experience anxiety, obsessive thoughts, fear and despair. Every day I do my best to watch those thoughts and feelings with as much loving awareness as I can as they arise, stay for a moment and pass. When I’m able to be present with kindness, I’m closer to the truth of myself and life itself. I still struggle. I still suffer. But I have a path and a practice that helps me, and that’s what I want to share with you. As an artist, I hope my album can be a companion to you on your journey.
No matter what’s going on, be present with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. In This Moment, You Are Enough.
You can listen to In This Moment here: http://sng.to/born-i/in-this-moment/