Mark speaks with Simon Drew, an Australian philosopher, poet, musician, and host of The Walled Garden podcast. Simon is currently pursuing his Masters in Divinity to study the intersection of art and the divine.
Today, Commander Divine speaks with Simon Drew, a multi-talented philosopher, poet, pianist, podcaster, and didgeridoo player. In his latest book, The Poet and the Sage, Simon digs deep into philosophy, mysticism, and metaphor. In this episode, Simon discusses his creative process, how philosophy and art are intertwined, and how to achieve enlightenment by playing the didgeridoo.
“There’s always a prophetic message in art, I believe… it’s a message being channeled through, you know, you might think the artist is the radio. The message is the signal coming through. And if the artist is in the right place at the right time in the right mindset, willing and open to being that radio… the signal will be received and it will come down onto the page.”
“We need to start asking better questions. We need to start living the examined life, [but] we also need to approach this with a degree of humility in the face of this task. To say, you know, it’s really, really difficult to actually be completely honest and open in our questioning, honest as in, are we willing to hear the answers when we ask the questions?”
“To anybody who is embarking on any sort of philosophical path towards the examined life or a spiritual path… take heart, because you’re going to have to lose a lot of who you thought you were, in service of finding who you really are.”
“There is a certain perfection to this scheme, this game of life… there is a certain perfection to you and your body and your soul. But nonetheless, we are called to take that beauty and turn it into something even better. And I think that we have that gift as human beings. And I think that we all recognize from time to time that we could be so much more than what we are if we would truly take life seriously.”
“If we can pause, reflect and seek deep gratitude in this moment, just by looking around at what is here right now… It’s almost like that is a gateway through into the realm of healing, personal healing and personal growth.”
“I’ve never spent time trying to come up with anything. I don’t want to sound pretentious here. But the artistic experience is something that many people just do not necessarily have access to. Because not everybody is built as an artist.”
“I tend to want to build a relationship with the instrument, truly love this instrument, you know, and really engage in that experience of pouring that love through the fingers onto the instrument and seeing what happens. And often it sounds terrible. And sometimes you find little moments of gardens in the middle of the desert.”
“I play music because the music says something that my poetry can never say. And I write poetry because my poetry says something that my music and my philosophy can never possibly say. And I speak on the podcast, because speaking directly to people heart to heart, whether it’s through interviews, or just solo episodes, I can say things there that perhaps my poetry and my music can’t get across to people.”
“The stoic definition of wisdom is a knowledge of things human and divine… we are kind of these strange beings stretched between the heights and the depths… that’s what we are. And perhaps there’s a calling in that… of, how good could things be for you and the people around you? How much could you truly contribute in life if you became highly skilled at living between those two worlds?”
Coming up on the Mark Divine Show…
Simon Drew 1:50
Prophetic in true art. I believe it’s a message being channeled through, you know you might think the artist is the radio. The message is the signal coming through. And if the artist is in the right place at the right time in the right mindset, willing and open to being that radio… the signal will be received and it will come down onto the page.
Mark Divine 2:24
Welcome to the Mark Divine Show, let’s cover, dive in and discuss what makes the world’s most inspirational, resilient and compassionate leaders so courageous. I talk in depth to epeople from all walks of life: poets and martial arts grandmasters, monks and CEOs, military special operators, philosophers, survivors, and more. In every episode, I endeavor to turn that guest’s life experiences and insight into actionable intelligence for you to learn from to follow and use to lead a life filled with compassion and courage yourself.
Today I’m going to be talking about mysticism, poetry, philosophy, wisdom, how deep insights of the conscious can be brought to light to find the answers to the most fundamental questions. And to learn how to ask those questions. We’re going to learn about the impact of music and words and thoughts on creativity and learning about the meaning of life. My guest today is Simon Drew, an Australian poet, author, musician, philosophical mentor, founder of the Walled Garden podcast, and author of The Poet and the Sage, released in November 2021, a book of poetry and prose that uses deep symbolism and archetypal metaphor to explore humans’ ability to participate in and commune with that which is most divine.
Simon, thanks for joining me today. Before I get into things I just want to read something that really kind of struck me, which is about you, your statement about who you are. “I’m a philosopher by heart a poet by calling, a musician in my being. I wander in lofty woodlands I sit upon high mountaintops and dance on the vines of eternity, I eat the ancient fruit I reflect the light of the sun, I search for an evening mouse, and commune with a sage as we drink from the fountain hidden within the distant hills. I feel deeply, I am broken, I am healed. I seek not to heal others, but rather I allow my own heart to be healed. And I see cures for the illness which has so firmly taken hold of my soul which yearns to be free. Time and fate will tell if such a pursuit will be a benefit to either myself or others, as such let us no wander these darken ancient forests together even that we might increase our chances of survival in this game. And even that we might follow the straight and narrow path of alignment strengthen in our resolve by those with whom we are traveling.” Wow. You say a lot there. What’s the game to you?
Simon Drew 4:46
Well, you could say it’s life. I guess. Firstly, I just want to say that I’m honored that you found that piece on the site and you took enough from it to say I want to start by reading this because when you write a piece like that, and when you put that front and center on the website to describe who you are, you kind of think, is anybody gonna get anything from this? Does this help people understand what I’m doing. But when you say the game when I write the game, I think what I’m talking about is the, it sounds cheesy, but yeah, the game of life. But when I say the game of life, I mean, do we truly take this thing called life with the degree of seriousness with which it deserves to be taken? And do we truly step back from time to time and say, What the hell are we all doing here? Really? What are we doing here? What am I doing here? What am I doing in this moment in this time in this place? And so when I refer to the game, or this game of life, I’m trying to call people to see it as, well…. There is a game that we’re playing here, and perhaps there is an objective. And do we even know what that objective is? Do we even know how to seek that objective? Do we even know how to ask the question of what that objective is? So for me, it’s about strengthening that questioning ability, you know, in our lives and trying to face life with a degree of seriousness with which it deserves to be taken.
Mark Divine 6:17
Well, I think that’s awesome. And learning to ask questions, is the root of self inquiry, which leads to self awareness. And I think a lot of people just succumb to nihilism or existential crisis, because they’re not asking the right questions. They’re just telling themselves, what they’ve been told, or telling themselves that the negative message that they’re just bombarded with is reality. And it doesn’t have to be our reality. Right? It’s a reality. It’s a co-created abysmal reality. But it doesn’t have to be either our individual reality or the collective reality. Do you agree with that?
Simon Drew 6:58
Yeah, well, I think we all have a certain amount of agency over the sorts of questions that we ask in life, even, you know, how we perhaps develop our characters, our souls. I was thinking about this the other day, Mark. And I think as much as we can say, we need to start asking better questions, we need to, you know, start living the examined life, we also need to approach this with a degree of humility in the face of this task, to say, you know, it’s really, really difficult to actually be completely honest and open in our questioning. Honest as in, are we willing to hear the answers when we ask the questions?
I’ve been thinking about this, personally, for the past many years. And, you know, when you start stripping away the layers of yourself trying to find that inner truth, you might say, or that inner temple from where you can receive true insight that would guide you forward in life, it’s really difficult to know whether or not you’re being honest with yourself, because there’s all sorts of motivations that are flowing in, and you’ve been trained from a young age with all sorts of, you know, preconceived ideas and notions of who you are, what you are what you’re supposed to be doing with your life. To strip that stuff away. And to find out, how can I gain true insight about myself and my direction in my life, is just so difficult, and to anybody who is embarking on any sort of philosophical path towards the examined life or a spiritual path… It’s like, you know, take heart, because you’re going to have to lose a lot of who you thought you were, in service of finding who you really are. And so it’s not easy. And I think I speak about this now, because it’s so much the part of my life that I’m currently going through is, if you read something like The Poet and the Sage, you know, that’s the kind of book that I couldn’t remain the same person that I was before I wrote it, after I had written it.
Mark Divine 9:07
I love that about writing, you change through the process of writing a book like that, especially poetry. I saw that you’re getting your Master’s in Divinity. So I’m going to ask this question because it speaks to what you’re talking about. Because there’s two kinds of views of life. One is that we are broken, and that we need to be healed through therapy and spiritual rejuvenation, or whatever. And the other is that we’re perfect the way we are. All we have to do is recognize our perfection. The first obviously, representing kind of Western psychotherapy and the other kind of Eastern Buddhism and other Eastern traditions. What are your views on this? Or is it a both and?
Simon Drew 9:50
I lean towards that, but perhaps only because I don’t have the courage to have a definite answer in this moment to a question like that. So maybe we can play around with this a little bit. I’m gonna go back to my own work because you know, now you’re reminding me of a few things that I actually wrote in this book. And a recurring theme that keeps on coming throughout my poetry is that we are built upon virtue. You know, virtue pervades every part of us as human beings. One of the reasons you might think about that is when you put an apple into your body, and you don’t have to do anything, the apple gets digested into your body and it feeds your body, it becomes you, right? Now you’re not thinking, okay, apple, go into my body and do this and become this, you know, it’s happening because we are built upon this extremely complex but virtuous system that simply is.
How do you find virtue?
There’s a perfection. There’s an absolute perfection to the processes of our bodies to the structure of the universe. I was talking with David Fidler the other day, he just recently wrote a book called Breakfast with Seneca. And he shared with me that the original definition if you take the etymology back far far far, of Cosmos, right. So Cosmos actually means beautiful order. Right? So you look up at the stars, you look at how perfect everything has to be for us to even be here in this place, in this time talking, you know, there’s a beautiful order to everything.
And so in that way, there’s a certain virtue that pervades everything and a certain perfection. But nonetheless, I think you can probably see something in this Mark, that if we inquire within, I think that most of us would say that we can recognize that we’re not everything that we could be, there’s a certain distance that we have yet to travel. And I think I would say that the recognition of both of those elements, that there is a certain perfection to this scheme, this game of life, there is a certain perfection to you and your body and your soul. But nonetheless, we are called to take that beauty and turn it into something even better. And I think that we have that gift as human beings. And I think that we all recognize from time to time that we could be so much more than what we are if we would truly take life seriously. I don’t know, what do you think about that?
Mark Divine 12:25
I’m torn between this idea that we can be better, this has a sense of like, I’m not doing well enough, when essential to my growth has just been recognizing that I am enough, and that God is in me, right? Or moves through me. Right? It’s the spirit that moves through all things, or the holy, the Holy Spirit or, you know, whatever language we want to use. And so I’ve come to kind of drop the needing to fix phase in my life. And moving to the recognition of the wholeness that already exists, it’s similar to the meditative concept of kind of lifting the veil that obscures you from experiencing the perfection. Yeah, so that doesn’t mean that I’m broken, it just means that I don’t recognize my wholeness. Yeah, then the flip side of this is what’s preventing me from recognizing the wholeness is a lifetime of flawed conditioning, and false ideas and negative thinking. And so it’s those things that need to be dropped. So in that sense, there is some fixing of the temporal rational, so that you can appreciate the eternal, which is already there. Yeah, it is kind of a both and, I guess, to me.
Simon Drew 13:40
Yeah, I want to keep on going on what you’re saying there because, you know, I think that it’s important and profound, that there’s something about the recognition of the extravagant beauty of this moment, this time, this place where you are, with all of your imperfections. There’s something about the recognition of that wholeness, and the gratitude for that, that is able to pull us into a deeper relationship with the divine, you might say. I wonder if I might read you something. Is that okay?
Mark Divine 14:14
Yeah, please. I’m wanting to hear more of your poetry. And I’ve got some other pieces that I want to read as well.
Simon Drew 14:20
Well, I just thought it was appropriate for this particular moment, I wrote a piece recently called On Joy. And it just goes like this.
“There’s great joy to be found in the realization that this moment, this time, this place, this scene, this person, is perfect, and more than enough to bedazzle the eager mind of a true poet and seer.”
So to me, I think that speaks to what you’re trying to say is that if we can pause, reflect and seek deep gratitude in this moment, just by looking around at what is here right now… It’s almost like that is a gateway through into the realm of healing, personal healing and personal growth that does not involve finger pointing, does not involve saying, “Well, I’m imperfect. I’m not enough. I’m not this, I’m not that.” No no no. Just pause and reflect on how much is here, kind of an abundance sort of mentality. And there’s a certain healing there. So, yeah, I don’t know, I think that what you said, was in line with that, you know.
Mark Divine 15:32
Yeah, what’s coming to me now is the idea of kind of effort and surrender. It takes effort to do acts of goodness, right, or, like the commandments, you know, to treat my neighbor as myself, that takes effort. And there’s action involved. And then there’s a point in time where surrender is what’s required. And surrender doesn’t require action, it requires inaction, or absence of action, like surrendering to the Divine, in a moment of grace or a sunset or when your baby’s born, and some people have those experiences automatically. But when we can learn to surrender, to balance out the action, then we have more harmony in our lives.
Back to this idea of asking questions, which, you know, leads to contemplation, I imagine writing poetry is really an act of asking a question and then contemplating and then allowing, you know, surrendering to see what comes out of you. You know what I mean? I’m sure there’s more to it than that, you probably spend days trying to come up with two really good lines.
Simon Drew 16:37
It’s funny. Yes, and no, I’ve never spent time trying to come up with anything. I don’t want to sound pretentious here. But the artistic experience is something that many people just do not necessarily have access to. Because not everybody is built as an artist. I think that the religious experience of being moved deeply is something that is kind of a human universal. But, you know, when I’m writing poetry, it’s funny, even coming up with the questions is not necessarily something that I’m always trying to figure out. I’ve often found that when I write poetry, you know, I’ll have like a routine, it might be okay. Like, at eight o’clock at night, I start writing poetry. And the question might come to me, in the two minutes before I start writing poetry, and it’s not something that I was thinking about. It’s something that just, Oh, so that’s what I’m writing about tonight. Okay. And I’ve told this to people as well, I often find that some of my best poems, and I think that, well, The Poet and the Sage is one large poem that had this experience through but there’s a few poems in The Poet and the Sage where I didn’t know what the poem was truly about until the last two or three lines, you know, and then everything came together.
Mark Divine 17:56
Do you feel like you’re channeling, or the information is coming through you or do you feel like it’s a product of your brain, your own brain?
Simon Drew 18:04
Okay, let me put it like this. I was recently on another show with another poet from Australia. He sent me something to listen to of his before I went on his show, and I listened and all of the same sort of symbolism and archetypes used in his poetry that you see in mine, it’s very strange, the tree of life, or this sort of stuff, and the vine and the fig. And I knew that he was somebody who really understood me deeply as a person, because he was writing from the same place.
But when I was on the show, I read him a poem. And he’s much more educated than I am in the world of poetry, archetypes, metaphor, symbolism, religion, all this sort of stuff. And he said to me, “Do you know why you wrote about the fig in the vine in that poem?” And I said, “I have no idea.” Deeply, I know, deep down within me, there’s something that knows why I put that in the poem. And it speaks to me in a certain way, but I haven’t been able to articulate it. And he said, well, the fig actually represents fertility and birth. And then the vine actually represents the traveling between the highest of the tree of life right down to the roots and the information traveling up and down. And he’s saying this and I’m thinking, Oh, okay. So I go back to something that my auntie actually said, Isn’t this the funniest thing? A struggling poet talking about how his auntie talked about his poetry. And it’s like, it’s so sad, right? But what you said was true, what she said was true. She said, you know, Simon, you’re a poet, but you’re not a trained poet. And that’s exactly how it should be. Right? Meaning I’m not trying to get a message down on the page. What’s happening is, I’ve been forced into this in a way, you know, I didn’t know I was a poet until I wrote The Poet and the Sage. And the funny thing is Mark, my dad is a beautiful poet, but I never read poetry. I never paid attention. You know, like, he’s a beautiful wordsmith. And so I know that that’s in me.
But to your question, is it being channeled or Is it just coming from the brain? I mean, I don’t know if there’s necessarily a difference. But to me, it’s more of that truly artistic experience. And there’s always something prophetic in true art, I believe… it’s a message being channeled through, you know, you might think the artist is the radio, the message is the signal coming through. And if the artist is in the right place at the right time, in the right mindset, willing and open to being that radio, the signal will be received, and it will come down onto the page.
Mark Divine 20:44
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There is a distinct difference between being passionate and open to receive versus kind of like the efforting of thinking about this concept relating to that concept and, you know, trying to put it together in words that would sound poetic.
Simon Drew 23:56
And I just can’t do that. I’m not an academic. I’m a pretty bad student, I’ll even say because all I ever want to do is… I just want to do what I do.
Mark Divine 24:06
Right? Well, it’s like the musician, you know, just putting on paper without any thought, you know, Beethoven’s Ninth or whatever. You know, it’s like that channeling, I believe that’s real and can happen. Not to say you can’t also create brilliant works, you know, through the thinking process. You’re a musician as well, do you write words for your music? Because that’s also a form of poetry, right?
Simon Drew 24:31
I haven’t started doing that yet. But people have commented to me that they can tell that I’m a musician when they read the poetry because it is, there is a real rhythm to a lot of the stuff that I write and it naturally comes out. I just haven’t bridged the two yet. I sing a lot of jazz standards, is what I usually do at gigs, but in my own personal creativity… I spend a lot of time on piano, I’m picking up the didgeridoo at the moment, which is an absolute joy. That was actually my first instrument, by the way, but I left it for 20 years. And I never really learned it when I was young. But I was obsessed with it, I was obsessed with Aboriginal culture. And then I kind of just dropped away from that. But now I’m starting to revisit these instruments that were my original first loves.
And so I think with my music, it’s much more of a kind of Dionesian experience, you might say, of letting go and allowing the experience of true creativity to kind of pour out through the instrument through a love of the instrument. And I think, I think this actually goes back to what we were talking about earlier, in terms of the way that you approach things, the way that I’ve started to approach my music is not from this kind of, well, I’m going to sit down, I’m going to write this piece, and I’m going to put this here, I’m going to put that there. I tend to want to build a relationship with the instrument, truly love this instrument, you know, and really engage in that experience of pouring that love through the fingers onto the instrument and seeing what happens. And often it sounds terrible. And sometimes you find little moments of gardens in the middle of the desert, you know, and that’s kind of how I’m approaching my music at the moment.
Mark Divine 26:15
You think that your music informs your poetry or vice versa?
Simon Drew 26:20
Absolutely, yeah. If people go on YouTube, they can find my first piano album. I recorded that about eight months after I started really picking up the piano. So it’s a piano album, it’s got my vocals on it as well. And it’s set to the backdrop of these beautiful nature scenes up here in the hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast. So it’s real, like Spirit work in the natural scenes that I grew up in. And it’s a very strange kind of mystic album. And I think that what people will get is if they listen to the music, I play music because the music says something that my poetry can never say. And I write poetry because my poetry says something that my music and my philosophy can never possibly say. And I speak on the podcast, because speaking directly to people heart to heart, whether it’s through interviews, or just solo episodes, I can say things there that perhaps my poetry and my music can’t get across to people. And so the music absolutely is an integral part of what I’m doing as well.
Mark Divine 27:27
Yeah. I can see, as a one man show, you weaving poetry and music and explication, or just channeling dialogue. That would be a fascinating, kind of hybrid medium for expression. You probably already do that on your podcast.
Simon Drew 27:45
In a way, I’m trying to figure out how to do that. You’re right, I’ve got the same vision, you know, I’ve got that same vision of how do I bring these art forms together in a way that explores all of these ideas, effectively, so that people can get what they need to get out of the music and out of the poetry and out of the philosophy. And so that’s my ultimate challenge. You can think, Okay, well pick a side. How are you going to teach people, but I just know that that’s not going to work for me, because when I pick a side, all I want to do is the thing that I haven’t chosen.
Mark Divine 28:19
Well, I imagined that just like what you described about your writing, you just need to just do it. Yeah, surrender to it, and just do it and see what happens.
Simon Drew 28:27
I will say that with The Poet and the Sage, something I’ve been procrastinating terribly is putting together the audio book. But I have recorded the first three poems in The Poet and the Sage. And the way I recorded them was actually, I sat down and I sang the poems improvised. And then I went back, and I recorded another level of me singing with a harmony but not planned, but like trying to listen to the previous voicing, and to respond to it, and then add another layer and then add another layer. So it’s very, very strange. So what I’m hoping to put together with the audiobook for The Poet and the Sage, is perhaps in the same style that they would have used to read their poetry back in ancient Greece, which was a lot of it was sung, it was meant to be sung. So that’s in the works, although I understand that that may be here in about 20 years with all that I’m trying to do at the moment, so.
Mark Divine 29:24
That’s awesome. I don’t know a ton about music. But it’s fascinating to think about these ancient instruments like the didgeridoo. Do you think they would work to merge or combine an instrument like didgeridoo into a modern jazz piece or setting?
Simon Drew 29:40
I’m almost certain that people have done that. I would say so. It’s such an incredible instrument. And it’s so much more versatile than people give it credit for as well. There’s so much that you can do with this instrument. And for me, I think what I want to do with it is when we move to the United States…. My wife is from Texas. So we’re currently in that process of trying to get over there. But
Mark Divine 30:04
Are you going to move to Austin like everyone else?
Simon Drew 30:06
No, I don’t think so. I think we’re actually going to be closer to you, we’re going to be heading over to California. I want to bring over a couple of leather bags full of just some clothes, a couple of books, and I want to bring my didgeridoo. I want to try and get rid of as much as possible before I head over there. I would love to just go around and even just go busking on the street, you know, with this didgeridoo and you know, just have that experience of sitting there in a city that I don’t know, responding to the city with this extremely versatile instrument on its own, because a lot of the time you see the didgeridoo played as an accompaniment to other instruments or to the guitar or to singing and stuff like that. And so it’s kind of just a drone, you’ve just got this drone. But if you just get it by itself, and if you really listen to what’s going on… It’s profound. You know, how many strange weird sounds you can get out of this tree. You’re essentially playing a tree. That’s it? Yeah, so it’s a cool instrument. Yeah.
Mark Divine 31:07
I’m gonna be a little self-serving now. And I hate to put you on the spot. But do you have the instrument handy?
Simon Drew 31:12
I do yeah.
Mark Divine 31:13
Would you be open to just strumming a few things? To see what it sounds like?
Simon Drew 31:18
I’ll do it. I can’t guarantee it’s gonna sound great through the
Mark Divine 31:20
Okay. Well, no guarantees, and we won’t hold you to it.
Simon Drew 31:24
Yes. Okay. It’s a work in progress. I’ll put this microphone down here.
Mark Divine 32:00
That is wild. And it was amazing. The, you know, the fluctuation of the pressure in your cheeks and mouth as you’re manipulating the air through it. Is it difficult?
Simon Drew 32:12
Yes. And no, look, I’m actually a trumpeter first, okay, that’s what I got my degree in, trumpet and singing. So my mouth is kind of very flexible, and, you know, has the ability to kind of do a whole bunch of weird little things. And so that helps with the instrument, you know, and I think that being a trumpet, uh, that helps me because I’ve had that experience of, you know, that sort of stuff. But I think it’s also an instrument that if people give it the time, the biggest thing that you’re going to have to overcome is the circular breathing. But also, like, I find, I love this instrument, because it really allows for just extreme creativity in the process and improvisation in the moment. And so, it’s a profound instrument, I have to tell you this too Mark, two days after I bought this, I went into this beautiful didgeridoo store up in Cannes, and it was exactly like walking into the wand store in Harry Potter. You know, it’s like the wand chooses you, you know, like, so I’m going around and playing all of these different, not this one. This is the one, you know, like, and I found it and that was my instrument.
Two days later, we were up in Port Douglas. And I walk into this Aboriginal art store. And there was this guy there, his name is Trevor. This stunning Aboriginal artist and elder from up in Cannes. And we had this three hour conversation that day, talking about the mythology of the Aboriginal people, talking about the tradition of the instrument. And you know, why it is that only men are allowed to play the didgeridoo and women play the rhythm sticks here. We just talked for so long. We’re talking about how the mythology of the dreamtime stories matches up with the story of the Garden of Eden. And he’s just dropping all of this wisdom on me. And I’m just thinking, you know, there is such a stunning, rich tradition in Aboriginal culture, of music making and spiritual enlightenment and enlightenment with the land as well.
So I think that when you start to play an instrument like this, it helps you to have a foundation like that, knowing that this is, there’s so much to this instrument. And there’s so much to this tradition. And to me, you know, when people read The Poet and the Sage, they’ll see all the symbolism of the tree and all of these deep archetypal metaphors and stuff like that said to me, when I’m playing the didgeridoo, it’s like, man, I’m playing a tree. And I’m going back to just my absolute roots, you know, it can be a profoundly enlightening instrument for people as well.
Mark Divine 34:39
You’re playing Mother Earth, and I wonder if some of the vibrational quality is like that 480 hertz, which is the earth’s, you know, vibration that actually kind of resonates like that.
Simon Drew 34:51
They believe that, to the Aboriginal people, it’s extremely… and I say to the Aboriginal people, because perhaps we need to understand how they get to that experience of it being a deeply spiritual instrument, one that can enlighten the individual. And so when I say to the Aboriginal people, I’m not saying only to them. My conversation with Trevor up in Queensland, he gave me every indication that he was extremely happy about me taking on this instrument with a degree of seriousness.
And even think about this. I mean, when you learn to circulate breathe, I was doing these meditations when I was first learning it a few months ago, and I was playing and then if something came to my mind, I’d write it down. And one of the things that I wrote down and brings you into this kind of strange place where you recognize this almost like this snake like part of you, where if you’re circular breathing, it’s like, you become the same thing with the instrument, because the air is coming in through your nose, going through your body, and then out through the instrument. It’s one tube, that’s just, that’s like, and it’s just so interesting to think that, you know, you can get into this circular breathing. And you think about what that’s going to do after like an hour of circular breathing, you know, just in out, in, out, in out. And it’s just profound. So I don’t pretend to know everything about it and I still have so much to learn about the culture and tradition.
Mark Divine 36:17
The Vedic tradition in yoga, you know, puts a huge emphasis on pranayama, breath control, as well as sound, vibratory quality of the sound. And so you’re combining two deep spiritual practices there with the circular breathing and the sound of the didgeridoo. So it’s not surprising to me at all that an extended period of time on that, both in a single session would create a higher state of consciousness, but also over time that you’re elevating your consciousness because you’re doing spiritual practice. You’re the music. That’s really cool.
Simon Drew 36:51
There’s one thing that I really, really want to do with this instrument. And I want to know what you think would happen in this circumstance. But I want to get a person right in front of me. And I want to get this didgeridoo. I want to stand there. I want to ask them a few questions about their life. And then I want to stare right into their eyes directly into their soul as I improvise a piece on the didgeridoo looking at them. I want to know if we could even lock eyes for longer than 10 seconds in something like that, you know, but I wonder what would happen. If we build a quick connection, look into their eyes and just start playing? You know, it’s yeah, that’s my goal. So if anybody wants to do that, when I come over to America.
Mark Divine 37:32
When you come over here, let’s do that. I think it would induce a resonance, you know, yeah, a harmonic resonance between the two humans that could then open up a channel for information. Yeah, I’m marking that on my to do list right now.
Simon Drew 37:46
Yeah, please do.
Mark Divine 37:49
You wrote a piece called Have a Think. And I wanted to read some of these because, you know, talk about asking good questions. And another practice, you know, that I really appreciate in my own life, and I recommend my clients do is to journal as part of their contemplative practice. By just choosing a good question… I thought these questions are just so awesome for people to write down and to use them as objects of contemplation for their own life, which is probably why you wrote the poem. I’m just imagining, you know, we want people to think about these things because they would be valuable to you.
It goes like this: Have a think about these things. What do you do? Why do you do it? Do you do it? Or does it do you? That’s an interesting one. I love that. What is of great worth, what is desirable, what is undesirable? What helps what hinders? What gives, what’s given, what takes? What’s taken? Have a think about these things. What is wisdom? What is truth? What is it to discern? What is it to be humble? What is it to be aware? What is it to be? What is it to become? What is it to be one? What is it to be not? Wow, every one of those would be…
Simon Drew 38:57
A lifetime pursuit.
Mark Divine 39:00
Right, I was gonna say something like that. Could take you down a rabbit hole. Yeah, each one of them is like a different gateway into your own reality to discern truth. That’s cool.
Simon Drew 39:11
Yes, each one of those perhaps deserves a lifetime of true seeking. I think the one that I’ve dedicated most of my time to is, you know, what is wisdom? What is it to have wisdom? You know, there’s that passage in the Bible. In John, I believe, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that waver if there’s like a wave upon the seed room with the wind and tossed.” What that verse does is shows you, Do you even know what it means to ask the question, can I have wisdom? And would you even recognize it, like are you that in the game that you would actually receive it? I don’t think most of us modern humans are, but what I wanted to say was my mentor Sharon LaBelle, who I highly recommend that you get on the podcast. She’s the wisest individual I know by far, oh my gosh, she told me this beautiful principle, it actually comes from Edward de Bono, who is a writer on logic. It’s this idea called Po. And so he got this word from things like suppose, ponder, these sorts of words, the idea is posit the question, but then do not seek to say yes or no, do not seek the answer immediately, but just po, sit with the idea, sit with the question. And so I think when I write a poem like that, what I’m hoping, if I’m hoping anything when I’m writing something like that, is that when people read it, they will perhaps not jump to assume that they know the answer to any of those questions, but that they will Po… not yes, not no, no answer other than let’s just sit with this question. Let it seep into your mind and soul and body and just see what happens when that question is posited. What comes to mind, you know, just allow a little bit of space there.
Mark Divine 41:08
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Talking about spiritual truths you know, it’s impossible to articulate with words and concepts, you know, trying to or articulating a definition or you know, what you perceive to be truth is actually then contracting it into something less than is. That’s fascinating. I love that. Oh, and I love that po is also the root of positive. So if you’re positing something, that’s positive. One more question, and then I’ll let you go. Why are wildflowers so inspiring to you?
Simon Drew 44:22
Oh, man, I love that question. Because nobody ever asked me that question. But I’m obsessed with wildflowers. There’s a few answers to that. And then there’s a bunch of answers that I probably can’t even give because I don’t know how to articulate them. So I’ve been climbing the mountains here on the Sunshine Coast since I was maybe 12, 13. I’ve been hiking through the forests as well and spending a lot of time. But there came a point. I think it was about mid 2020. It’s kind of a standard point along the path, you might say, the spiritual path. Some might disagree. Whatever. To me, it seems as though that’s it. When I was walking in nature, I started to notice more, like really notice more, and really pay attention, not necessarily to the whole landscape, but to the very specific little details of things. I started taking pictures of these beautiful, tiny little spider webs that I’d find, these crazy patterns and, you know, I’d find these, I think it was about the just finding these little pockets within the places that I was hiking, where if you just walked past them, you would never know that they were there. But if you stop and look, and I think that the wildflowers, I never understood how many stunning wildflowers there are here on the Sunshine Coast until I started to actually pay attention and look. And when I started looking, they were everywhere. So many varieties and the way that they burst forth, you know, just, it’s horrifying beauty. You know, you look at it, like, I mean that, you know, you look at it, you think, oh my gosh, you know, that’s something that a human being can never create, we can never make something that beautiful. And so I fell in love with these wildflowers. And every moment that I could get outside of this room doing everything I’m doing here is like out to the fields, you know, out to the plains, out to the mountains, getting pictures of them.
There’s also this analogy that kind of guides me in my approach to my philosophy. And it might be helpful for some people. I’ll try and articulate it. It’s a strange one. But the rugged mountain wildflower is something that comes out in my poetry every so often. You know, I call Seneca the Younger the philosopher, I call him a rugged mountain wildflower, because it’s in this arid landscape. And you have this little seed of this plant that digs its roots into the rocky earth below into the depths and then it reaches its little branches up. And out comes this stunning outburst of beauty and color. And it seems like we can do that with our lives. If we use this wildflowers analogy for our lives. We are in a rough landscape here. You know, life’s tough, it’s really tough. There’s no doubt about that. When we dig our roots, the analogy of the digging roots, to me seems like actually digging your own roots back into the past, taking a look at the dark, murky waters of our history, the great philosophers who came before us, the great spiritual leaders who came before us, these brilliant people who stood out as examples of what humanity can achieve if we truly live our lives to the highest possible good.
So when we dig our roots, we’re looking for those people. And that’s the living waters, you know, you dig your roots deep into your dark, murky history in your past and you find the living waters, they’re the things that are going to show you how you can have the true experience in this life now. And we reach our branches up by utilizing those living waters, utilizing what we’ve learned from our dark, murky past into a more Perfected Human Being now, you know, and the way that we live our lives, we’re growing our branches up into eternity essentially, because you know, we’re trying to live our lives for some future that isn’t here yet. But you know, we’re reaching up.
And on top of that, our lives can be a picture of beauty, as in the wildflowers that grow from our branches. You know, it’s hard to articulate this analogy, because I haven’t thought about it enough to think how to actually get this across to people. But it’s about, you know, you are this little seed in a very arid landscape. Now you can dig your roots deep and you can reach your branches up and you can bear those fruits of beauty in that wildflower bloom in the way that you live your life and the fruits of your life. And so that’s something that inspires me when I think about that. And when I look at these wildflowers, they speak to a sort of transcendent beauty that cannot be explained with words. No matter how hard I’m trying right now.
Mark Divine 49:00
No, I love it. I think what’s really cool, from my perspective is whereas the wildflower is beholden to the grace of the rain and the sunshine, the human being has choice, and can choose the freshwater of poetry and music and sages, you know, advice or stoic philosophy, and the sunshine of positive thoughts and happy, helpful, healing people to be around you, and that nourishes you so that you can sprout and grow and flourish in the world. And one thing that’s unique about humans, I think, is that we can have our feet on the ground in the material animal world with our hands, slash flowers in the sky reaching for God. Which is a very precious and sacred place that we occupy as a human.
Simon Drew 49:56
It’s funny, you know, the stoic definition of wisdom is a knowledge of things human and divine. It certainly speaks to what you’re saying there that we are kind of these strange beings stretched betwixt the heights and the depths, you know that that’s what we are. And perhaps there’s a calling in that there’s a calling of, How good could things be for you and the people around you? How much could you truly contribute in life? If you became highly skilled at living between those two worlds? So yeah, I think that’s beautiful. I think that’s a beautiful thought that you give us there.
Mark Divine 50:32
Awesome. I think that’s a great place to put a pin in this because we’ve gone for a while, and I’ll let you go. But um, your book The Poet and the Sage, would you like people to find that at your website?
Simon Drew 50:42
People can go to thewalledgarden.com. And if they click on the store link there, then they can go into the store, and they can check it out there. I should mention to people as well, you can read The Poet and the Sage on the website. I’ve got it in digital format there. And I’ve got it with beautiful images and everything. But the great thing about the hardcover is, I really put a lot of work into designing it so that it’s something that you love holding in your hand. It’s a beautiful material bound, hardcover, gold etched, it’s got my photography in there, it’s got my drawings and some artwork, and there’s poetry there that you won’t get anywhere else but the hardcover book as well. So I’ve really tried to make the book an experience in itself. I want people to take this book, I want them to go sit by a mountain waterfall or sit under a tree, sit by the ocean, somewhere in nature somewhere beautiful, where you feel inspired. And I want people to sit there and po, po with this book, and allow it to do its work. So I hope that people do that. I know that if they get that hard cover, you know, it’s something that they will hold on to, it’s not the kind of book that you just chuck on your shelf and never look at.
Mark Divine 51:54
I agree poetry is meant to be experienced. Not just read. Yeah. And there’s something so beautiful about an actual book that you can, like you said cozy up with. And yeah, you can’t get that by reading digitally. On a website. All right, Simon. It’s been a total honor having this conversation with you. So thank you very much for your time.
Simon Drew 52:16
Seriously, the honor has been mine, Mark. This has been so beautiful. Thank you. And thank you for your insightful questions as well, really. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this. It’s been a great conversation.
Mark Divine 52:26
Yeah. And then let me know when you haul that didgeridoo over here and you can blast me with it. Let’s see what happens.
Simon Drew 52:32
Only if you put it on your social media.
Mark Divine 52:35
I will do that. We’ll post it all over. That’s awesome. All right. All right, Simon. Thanks again. Take care now.
Simon Drew 52:41
Thanks, Mark, talk soon.
Mark Divine 52:46
What a great show that was with Simon Drew, amazing guy, very spiritual, heartfelt interview. Simon is a poet and musician, even played the didgeridoo for us. It’s amazing. Really, really cool. We learned about how to express love through words and through instruments, discussed the idea of po, which is just sitting and being with words in poetry instead of reading it for the sake of getting through it. We discussed how poetry can inform music and the opposite, how music can inform poetry, and how philosophy, poetry and music are all intertwined. What a fascinating conversation.
The show notes and transcripts are on the site at Mark Divine.com on Twitter at Mark Divine and on Instagram and Facebook at real Mark Divine. I want to plug my new newsletter, Divine Inspiration, which has exclusive content for subscribers. So if you want to get information from me every week about habits or ideas or people or products that come across that are worthy, then go to Mark Divine.com to subscribe. Shout out to my amazing team, Amy Jurkowitz, Geoff Haskell, Jeff Torres, Jason Sanderson and Melinda Hershey, who help me produce this amazing show and find incredible guests like Simon and bring it out to you every week. It’s very helpful if you review and rate the show, at iTunes, or wherever you listen. And also just share it just by forwarding it or referring it to your friends.
The world’s in a challenging place, war, climate change, political disruption, all sorts of things happening on and around this planet. And the other side of that is, I believe, a beautiful world that we can all be proud to live in. But it’s going to require that we all uplevel our consciousness, learn to be positive, learn to open our hearts and be inclusive, and end the cycle of violence. So it’s on us to do our part. And then to do our part, by bringing ourselves our whole selves into our families and our communities to change consciousness at scale, globally. I know it can be done, but it starts with you. You cultivate these qualities in yourself first, so that you can become a light for others. So thank you for doing the work by supporting this podcast and by being passionate about your own growth. Til next week, this is Mark Divine and this is The Mark Divine Show. Hoo-yah.