Lessons from Rick Astley

Sometimes inspiration and important lessons come from the most unlikely sources. Like Rick Astley. Yup, you heard me. Rick Astley.

My primary focus of late has been deepening my practice. As in, turning my attention strongly back to Taoism, and as significantly, to watching my thoughts. For over a month, as I’ve been gradually trying to return to my essence of inner truth, I’ve become aware of my thoughts…a lot. Let’s just say it’s been arduous. With all this watching and with frequent consultations with the Tao Te Ching and the I-Ching, an enormous amount of information has arisen. Information about how strong a hold my ego has on my mind, information about how it trips me up, information about how to see through its tantalizing veils and adopt more positive thoughts and perspectives, and information about how very, very much I still have to learn.

It has both been a task in deep humility, and increasingly one of great learning and a much-needed return to my inner voice. Which brings me back to Rick Astley. In the spirit of humility and vulnerability, I will admit to feeling a somewhat condescending irony when I accepted the invitation to go to his concert. Just to clarify, I am not proud of this.

When Rick Astley came on the scene in the 80’s, I was too cool for him. (I wasn’t too cool for anything, but there you have it). I was into alternative music, New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Natalie Merchant…you get the idea. So here’s this super mainstream, Top 40 artist appearing on the scene, that everyone seems to like but pretends not to. Not having a mind of my own at the time, I naturally adopted the same attitude. A negative, limiting attitude that I only just realized has been with me for over 30 years.

If you know me well, you’ll know that I can be judgmental about some things. I am judgmental about people that are judgmental about things they know nothing about. I think it is idiotic to judge something about which you have little or no knowledge, nor direct experience. For me, it’s just too close-minded.

Well, colour me gobsmacked when I realized I was doing exactly that. More than thirty years after unconsciously adopting a close-minded attitude – about Rick Astley!! What did he ever do to me?! – I stand, most humbly, corrected. Rick Astley was awesome! He was funny, self-deprecating, generous and he and his band totally rocked the packed house. It was an amazing concert.

Being on high alert to my thoughts and attitudes, I vow to henceforth try to notice similar ignorantly judgmental thoughts as they arise, so I can rid myself of the negativity of having a) a bad attitude and b) thoughts that are pure hypocrisy, considering my aforementioned judgement of those that judge something of which they have no experience or knowledge.

Obviously, that’s the lesson. A good one, I think. But the inspiration! That was a whole other, unexpected thing! The inspiration came not only a lesson, but also a massive blessing. As I mentioned, this whole “watching, evaluating and consciously trying to change negative habits of thinking” has been hard. Fucking brutal, to be perfectly  honest. Yes, rewards, but brutal.

So, my friend and I gradually make our way closer to the stage and I’m dancing and just enjoying the vibe. I knew all of 2 Rick Astley songs before last night, and this song comes on that I’ve never heard before. Rick introduces it, saying something about angels and devils, and it catches my attention, as I’ve recently, frequently had the image of an angel (my inner self) on one shoulder and a devil (my ego) on the other, arguing for dominance.

The song gets going and I’m dancing and suddenly I find myself – shocker – noticing my thoughts. But there are no thoughts. I was just rockin’ out. Having a great time in every way. A huge, genuine smile on my face, full of bliss and gratitude and joy for life. Hallelujah! I WAS BACK. There I was, fully present, having a blast, not a care in the world. I knew, then, that I was so very lucky, so very blessed, and that regardless of the sometimes seemingly impossible task that I’ve undertaken, I was actually starting to embody the lessons toward greater inner freedom that I’ve been oh-so-busily learning.

Rick Astley, I sincerely apologize for the error of my ways. I loved your show. My mind is blown. New lessons have been learned. The angel seems to be winning. Thank you.




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