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“Tupac Lives” by John Bartmann | freemusicarchive.org
Today, I’m talking with Inaiah Lujan, a multifaceted and prolific creator.
Music is at the heart of his work. In fact, he might be most widely known for his time with a folk band he co-founded, The Haunted Windchimes. The Chimes had a strong 10-year run that eventually gave out. And we’ll talk about what happened with that.
More recently, Inaiah wrapped up his first season of a web series called “Hanging Out with Inaiah Lujan.” The finale episode included a short-film premiere and the release of a new album of rare and previously unreleased recordings: “American Dreamer, Vol. 1.” You can check the show notes on our website for those links.
Inaiah also recently finished the first season of his new podcast, Cast the Line, an interview series about creative process and wellness. So … he’s no stranger to having deep, meaningful conversations, like the one you’re about to listen to here.
I love this conversation with Inaiah for many reasons. … There’s a lot of wisdom born of lived experience and honest self-reflection in what he shares, things that we can take to heart in how we look at — and love — ourselves. Things that are helpful to us in our processes as creators and, probably most importantly, as humans.
We talk about his growing up on the Navajo Nation in Arizona as part of a non-Navajo family. We talk about impostor syndrome, authenticity, rebellion and Inaiah’s experiences with sweat lodge ceremonies.
Inaiah also defines success and dispels the myth about being a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” He shares about band breakups and getting divorced.
And he shines light on mental health, overcoming shame, practices of loving oneself … and the act of living as nothing short of magic.
Ultimately, I feel like Inaiah offers us so many gems that you’ll want to write them down and tape them to your bathroom mirror or to the dashboard in your car … or to wherever you’ll be reminded of what’s really what in this life … and that it’s more than OK to be who you are.
… Here’s my conversation with Inaiah Lujan.
Adam (00:02:12) Inaiah Lujan, welcome to Humanitou. How’s it going?
Inaiah (00:02:15): It’s going great, Adam. So good to be here.
Adam (00:02:18): You had a premier only two days ago for “American Dreamer.” It was your finale of “Hangin Out with Inaiah Lujan,” your web series. I watched it. My wife watched it. How did you feel like it went? Was it a relief? Exciting? What’s your take?
Inaiah (00:02:35): You know, it’s interesting. I’m working on something that consumes your entire being in life and kind of building up towards this ultimate, I guess, peak, or just kind of this, this ending.
And, you know, to be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever, like, hit a point where I, I received what I was expecting and I think that that’s the strange thing about expectations is like nothing in this life is ever quite what you expect.
I thought it went well. It ended up being a lot more of an intimate crowd than I would have hoped for. And by that, I mean, just the turnout, that just the sheer people that tuned in, you know. I always have these grandiose sort of ideas of, “Oh yeah, this is going to be huge,” or whatever. But it ended up being a pretty intimate crowd of kind of my closest peeps.
And, you know what, that ended up feeling appropriate in the end. It ended up feeling very, very, like much like the people who’ve really been intimately connected with me, and kind of on this journey with me, all got to kind of share in those moments.
And I felt like we, we kind of got to grieve together because, you know, the episode was really about me coming to terms with the fact that the last 15 years of my life, a chapter of that, of my life has really come to a close and looking forward to this next chapter in my life. That’s kind of where this season wraps up.
Adam (00:04:03): You mentioned 15 years, I know that you started in music. One of the many areas that you create in and share, put things out there publicly. You’ve got a lot of years of creating in the various forms, and I’m kind of curious what you have figured out about the ebbs and flows, and the work of living a creative life.
Inaiah (00:04:25): What I’ve figured out is it’s so unpredictable. What I’ve discovered is that, for me, the best thing I can do for my creativity is kind of just approach it moment to moment and day by day.
You know, I think it’s okay for me to have kind of long-term goals. I think that that just kinda keeps me moving forward. And those long-term goals look like an album release show or maybe setting up a tour, or maybe, you know, even this premiere for hanging out. The season finale was a goal.
So I think it’s really good for me to set dates, because that just kinda helps me to work towards something. But everything, everything in between hitting those dates for me is really just about kind of following the creativity where it wants to go and not being so concerned about having a lot of control over it. ’Cause it’s very inconsistent.
And also just the response I get from people is pretty inconsistent as well, living in this social media age, you know. Some things do really well. Some things just kind of, you know, it’s crickets, and I’ve learned to not take that so personally, and to really discover why it is I create.
It helps me to understand that I create because I have a desire to, and I have a passion to, and I have a — it’s, it’s something that kind of won’t let me rest until I do it. And so, as long as I keep that in perspective, creativity is kind of like this everlasting sense of discovery, which is incredible for me.
Adam (00:06:09): I’m still working on how to, I guess, deal with the crickets, deal with, the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows of the responses.
And also feeling like what, at least, what I heard in something you said there was this pull to create it. It’s who we are. It’s how we express what we do. And I am still sorting out a lot of that myself.
I don’t think overreaching here to say you’ve been making a living with your various forms of creating throughout your adult life, right? I mean, you have been in successful bands and so on. And we’ll get into some of that in more detail, but it’s not just that this is passion and a must from a spiritual perspective. I mean, this is your livelihood, is that correct?
Inaiah (00:07:03) It is. It absolutely has been for the last 15 years. And so that does add an extra element of pressure and weight to the process. But, I think the weight and pressure that it adds, if I kind of give myself to that being the motivator, it never really goes well for me.
So I’ve learned to kind of check those feelings that I get, and to remind myself that, you know, I’d rather be starving and homeless than really give to the fear of not being able to create the way I want to create.
Adam (00:07:40): I regard you as a prolific creator with many talents. And so there’s, I would say, volume in terms of just how much you’re creating. And it’s done so well. And so creatively. All the skills that you mix together, and doing these things like your web series, like your podcast, “Cast the Line, which we’ll also probably get to talking a little bit about.
I mean, well, let me, let me just list some of this, the forms and talents, and then you add in what I’m missing. There’s music, graphic, design videos, short-filmmaking, photography, songwriting, podcasting, and surely I’m missing something. So what is that fire in you and how do you blend all of that?
Inaiah (00:08:30): Well, thank you for knowing my work and doing your research. I really appreciate that. It makes me feel good to just know that people are listening. Sometimes it’s really easy to think, it’s like you’re saying, you struggle with the crickets aspects of things, you know?
Well, sometimes I feel like when I’m creating a vacuum and then I’m sending it out into the void. So it’s always nice to get a little response back from that point and like, “Hey, we’re listening, we’re paying attention.”
The fire, where it comes from,you know, I don’t necessarily know the answer to that. I just know that it’s always been there. It’s been a motivator of mine since I can remember. I mean, my first memories areof creating something, of being drawn towards music, of wanting to just take things apart and put them back together, and to figure out how things work.
(00:09:24) And I’ve always kind of had that passion. You know, I think everything you’ve mentioned are all the different avenues that I’ve explored. And a part of that really has come from my impatience. I’ve never been very good at waiting around for other people to assist me in certain ways. So I’ve always just kind of taken this attitude of, I’ll figure it out myself.
So partly in my impatience and my rebellion from needing something, having a need and not waiting for somebody or some outside resource to fulfill that need, I’ve kind of taken it upon myself to learn things, you know, starting with graphic design. Well, obviously starting with music, music was my first love.
But then I needed a way to promote myself. So I got into graphic design. I needed a way to show people what I was doing. So I got into filmmaking and so basically the things that I’ve gotten into outside of music wer to fulfill a need that I couldn’t really outsource, if that makes sense.
Adam (00:10:29): Yeah, absolutely. In fact, it reminds me of something you said in the fifth episode of your web series about how to be creative, and how you were talking about tools and sometimes how that can inspire work that you’re doing. And also I think of limitations we have and how under certain constraints, which can be financial ones, how do those influence us?
So for me, I have sometimes developed probably a limited range of skill set with like graphic design or some other things simply because, well, I can’t outsource this. I can’t pay someone else to do it.
Most of my career has been in writing and photography as the core aspects. And when you do not focus on just one thing, there’s an argument to be said that you’re not as good A Jack of all trades master of none, right?
How do you look at that when you are developing so many skills, you’re using so many skills, and how do you see that balance of, well, I have all these potentials? I’m a multipotentialite. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that word, but that means I’m not specializing and maybe developing this one aspect as far as I could take it. How do you look at that kind of balance of things?
Inaiah (00:11:54): A great question. And I think that it’s easy to fall into that fear of being a master of none, you know, and I think that the answer for me is to master oneself.
It really is to understand that what makes me, that who I am, is so multifaceted. I’m not just one thing and I’m never going to be one thing. As a matter of fact, when I focus on one thing, it creates more imbalance in my life than anything.
I’m sure that a lot of people who’ve seen success in their lives, perhaps they see that success from really turning on the blinders and having a sort of tunnel vision way in which they produce. And I think that that works for a lot of people and it could be the road to success. Well, I wouldn’t know because I really can’t.
(00:12:39) I really can’t operate that way. I’m interested in so many things. So for me, the ultimate goal is for me to master myself, as the master of my mind, to master my emotions, and realizing that I have many different tools to help me to arrive at different conclusions in my life.
And that nothing static really with growing, like, things hopefully evolve and change with you, you know, and getting back to what you were mentioning about my episode five about discovering creativity. Well, creativity doesn’t really even need to be in the room unless there’s a problem to solve.
So if we’re just constantly given all of our resources, if we kind of have everything we need, creativity doesn’t even really need to be in the room. It’s when we have problems to solve that creativity really thrives. And when we could really access that, it’s like you saying, not having a graphic designer or not being able to outsource that. Well, now creativity gets invited into the room and we really get to exercise that. So for me, being a Jack of all trades is really about constantly putting myself in situations where I’m uncomfortable enough to learn something about myself, and to invite creativity into the room to help me solve something.
Adam (00:13:58): I love that there are a number of nuggets, gems within what you just said. So yeah, thanks for this. This is going to be stuff for me to ponder for a while.
You know, I read a number of Steven Pressfield’s books, including the one that most probably know of, The War of Art, a few months ago. I don’t know if you’re familiar with those, but in it, one of the key threads is resistance. And I often think of that as capital-R resistance.
It’s that thing that comes typically from within, but also the externals of, like, let’s say you apply for a grant or a job or a contract of some kind with somebody, an opportunity. And they say, no, well that’s resistance, but it’s also all day long when we’re creators. And let’s say the procrastination or whatever, a voice you’re listening to that kind of tells you, “Oh no, don’t, don’t put that out there.”
(00:14:52) It’s those things that keep us from just releasing ourselves into the world. I would put imposter syndrome in that category as well. I’m curious how you manage those things.
And I tie that to the question I asked before being, well, if we’re trying to juggle so many things, you know, if I feel less developed as a graphic designer than I do as a photographer, I feel resistance. I feel imposter syndrome because I’m comparing myself to others.
How do you manage that process? Because again, I look at you as a prolific creator, who does amazing things, has many years of doing amazing things. Somebody might look at me that way, but I can look at others and be like, ah, I’ve got a long way to go.
Inaiah (00:15:39): Wow. Yeah. I deal with it all the time. Imposter syndrome is real. And honestly, I don’t believe for a second that anybody is free of those feelings. You know?
I had that just right after I had this premiere, as a matter of fact. I’m always pretty drained after I do something big like that. You know, I had my season finale, same thing happened when I did my album release, which had to be virtual because of quarantine. Same thing happens when I put on a big show. I always kind of have this inevitable crash.
And as a matter of fact, me avoiding the inevitable crash is usually what makes me start things like web series and podcasts, because I’m kind of avoiding the inevitable, which is like, “Wow, I’m going to have a gaping hole and void where what I was pouring my entire life into used to occupy.” You know what I’m saying?
(00:16:28) So I have to sit with that a little bit. I’m choosing to sit with that a little now. It’s like, well, should I be so quick to fill that hole with stuff? And in the act of filling that hole with stuff, is that really how my creativity thrives? Is that really where I draw my inspiration from? So I’m sitting with that question right now currently, but to answer your question about imposter syndrome and comparing yourself, I totally get that.
You know, one little voice, call it whatever you want. Call it guide or call it my conscience. I don’t know. I’ve been hearing a tiny voice lately where the big voice is that “you’re not good enough, you’re a hack. Nobody nobody’s watching your stuff.” You know, that’s the big voice. That’s the voice in my head that everybody feels is their inner critic, right?
(00:17:17) Well, I’ve been hearing another voice lately and it’s a lot quieter and it’s a lot more calm. And this voice told me recently that, “Where you’re at right now is somebody else’s mountain top.” Oh, wow, you know? And where that person’s at is somebody else’s mountain top. And to just be okay with where you’re at, that’s the only place you can be.
It’s okay to look. It’s okay to look down and see the other peaks that you have to climb, but acknowledge the one you just climbed and acknowledge that there are other people at the bottom of that peak waiting to climb up it, and acknowledge that there are people who are on peaks way further than you could even see. And that’s okay.
I think when we compare ourselves to others, we’re really missing an opportunity to get to know ourselves, because we’re not other people.
(00:18:09) And what really allows us the opportunity to do something in this world is to share our individuality, is to share our uniquenesses, to share our perspective. That’s the only thing we’re really required to do as creators is to be authentically ourselves. And the more we can do that and the less we compare, the more success we ultimately have because success is not about numbers. It’s not about likes. It’s not about money. It’s about how authentic we can be and how honest we could be with ourselves. That’s at least what I’ve discovered.
Adam (00:18:45): I think it can be such a challenge to hear that voice of authenticity within ourselves, at least in part, because we’ve all been conditioned and socialized to believe such things, whether that was, you know, childhood with parents and family and teachers, and then it might be with jobs and bosses and coworkers, and just in general with social cues around us, those things that try to put organization on us that don’t want us to necessarily stand out in our authenticity.
So to be able to quiet all that noise and hear, well, “This is what I really want to do. This is what I can confidently put out in the world.” You know, that can be really difficult
Inaiah (00:19:27): One hundred percent. I mean, it’s not the way of capitalism to create individuals. You know what I mean? Unfortunately, we’re still under this sort of dream and idea of capitalism as a nation. And that doesn’t do well to create, to empower people, to be authentic. It does a lot better to empower people to be more herd-like, and more factory worker-like, you know.
But we’re seeing a major shift from that. I believe I’ve seen a major shift from that just in my time. And I think we’re moving even further into this sense of really being empowered by things like authenticity and uniqueness, by honesty. And once we value those things more than we value income, a total shift will happen. And I think that, at least from my vantage point, we’re heading towards that moment.
Adam (00:20:25): I hope so. You know, the vulnerability in our sharing … I would say if we’re on a scale of vulnerability when you are sharing things like you’re unscripted monologue at the beginning of a podcast episode, or maybe when you’re recording for video and things, and you have said, I’ve seen and heard multiple times, you hit record and then go, you don’t have this script of what it is you want to say or read.
And that is something that I especially struggle with. I’ll go ahead and tell you that I keep circling around this idea of having as part of the Humanitou podcast, my own voice in terms of essay, monologue-type things, my own perspective, my own vulnerability. And going back to the imposter syndrome or the fear part about sharing something so vulnerable of yourself, I’m curious how you get over that hump of what is okay for me to put myself out here and to say all these things, and that I’m going to do it without a script that makes me feel a little safer.
Inaiah (00:21:40): That’s an amazing observation. And thank you for noticing, first of all.
For me, it just kind of comes out of my own rebellion. I fell into skateboard and punk rock culture pretty early as a teenager. And that whole scene is more or less about nonconformity, you know, and so for me, it’s just about kind of getting back to that place.
I spent a large chunk of the last 10 years kind of falling into the trap of trying to be the person I felt like I was supposed to be, if that makes sense. You know, playing music in The Haunted Windchimes, there was this sort of expectation, this ideal that you represent as a member of the folk community, which is more or less on the wholesome side. It’s more buttoned up and, you know, at least that was my idea.
(00:22:37) I’m not saying that the full community as a whole expects those things for me. What I’m saying is that as a young person, I kind of got caught up in the trap of what I thought I needed to be and what other people expected of me.
There’s a lot of assumption in that. And there’s just a lot of speculation on my part, which I recognize, which only time has really given me any sort of awareness about.
But getting back to being vulnerable and authentic, this is my way of combating that, that fear that I had against being my authentic self. I’ve had to kind of go to extremes. And some of those extremes are putting myself in uncomfortable situations, like hitting record and going and doing a monologue. Cast the Line to me, it’s really just about my intention.
(00:23:29) I set an intention early on with my podcast that this is going to be free form. This is going to be unedited. This is going to be unscripted. And I realize that my first episode was pretty scripted. I really had something to kind of state, but I also recognize that that was me just kind of laying out the framework, the groundwork for what I wanted the podcast to be.
And once I kind of laid that intention down, I realized the next time I went to record a monologue that, “Hey, bud, this doesn’t have to be scripted.” You’ve kind of let your audience and yourself know how this is going to go down. So I remember just having that a-ha moment when I was recording my second dialogue, like, “Why are you doing multiple takes right now?” Just hit record and go.
(00:24:11) And then that just kind of became the norm for me, because I realized I was just really working myself up over trying to get these perfect takes and really articulate what I was trying to say. And most times I didn’t even really know what I was trying to say to begin with. So to be able to perfect at something, and you don’t really know what you’re trying to do in the first place, it kind of became this, I’m chasing my tail sort of scenario.
So instead of trying to perfect something, I didn’t really know what I was doing instead. I just kind of trusted that I could hit record, I could open my mouth and whatever the thought of the day was, it could kind of guide, it can guide the theme or the topic. And, and it’s really just been an experiment.
And it’s also been kind of getting back to that rebellion of like, I’m rebelling against the part of myself that feels like I need to conform to what the audience needs from me. Please understand that those are all my ideas, my speculations of what I think people need from me. That’s, again, just that loud voice in my head. That’s a critic, you know. It’s not real. This is all me trying to dispel some illusion.
Adam (00:25:20): Yeah. Well, we censor ourselves based on what we speculate others might censor about us. And so yeah, yeah. There’s freedom in letting that go. And I think it’s a hurdle that I’m still working on.
I want to step back now to your childhood. You grew up, in part, on Navajo Nation. But your family is not Navajo. And I’m curious about that experience and how your family even came to be there. And then what that experience was like for you as a child where you were not Navajo yourself.
Inaiah (00:26:05) That’s definitely a can of worms for sure, but I’m happy to talk about it. So my family traditionally comes from the Four Corners area going back 300 to 400 years. My blood, my relatives have been in the Northern New Mexico, Southern Colorado region. So when we say we’re Colorado natives, it’s like, you know, two, three, 400 years, Colorado natives.
I was born in Southern Colorado, pretty much right on the border of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. And kind of all the way up until moving to Pueblo when I was 16, I’ve lived in pretty small towns, rural places with the exception of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where there’s a little detour there. I think between ’88 to ’89, we lived in Albuquerque for a time while my dad was, um, my dad felt very called to write, and he quit his job.
(00:27:04) My mom was supporting our family and he just kind of followed this intuition and this voice he had to write. He had never written before. And wow. That’s my father for you. I mean, that’s just a little window into my dad. My dad moved us around a lot because he was following his own voice, his own intuition, his own spirit and his own heart.
And so that journey kind of let us move arround quite a bit until we settled in Ganado, Arizona, which is on the Navajo Nation. He kind of fell in with that. It was him just kind of chasing one rabbit hole after the next, you know. My dad is a Vietnam vet and he came back home from Vietnam kind of spiritually awakened, and kind of saw what was going on over there firsthand.
(00:27:53) It led to his spiritual awakening and he fell in with communities in the late Sixties, early Seventies that were definitely more on a mystical path. And he found a teacher out in Crestone (Colo.) area who gave him a foundation spiritually. He had just kind of learned to trust his instincts and intuition, something he had developed at a very young age and, and now kind of continued down that path as more of an adult.
And now he’s having children and, you know, he was feeling very drawn and called to the Native way of life, or the Red Path as it’s called, and ceremony, but also, you know, total side story, he’s always been an athlete. And in particular he’d always been very interested in running and long-distance running.
(00:28:49) So he started out being an assistant coach in Bloomfield, New Mexico, and he kind of chased work, both being an educator, a teacher, and a cross-country coach. So that led to some different opportunities. And some of those opportunities came up on the Navajo reservation. I think first it was Red Mesa and then eventually Ganado.
He basically found work being an educator and eventually being a head coach for cross-country and track. And this kind of coincided with his exploration of Native American culture and getting into the ceremony lifestyle, meeting shaman and medicine men, and learning the way of the tipi and sweat lodge. He simultaneously got to dive deeper into his spiritual path.
So he’s, you know, set as far as his goals and then us as children we got to have our childhood in a very different sort of environment, which, you know, it’s only in retrospect that I really can look back upon that time and think that there was anything kind of different about my childhood versus somebody else’s.
(00:30:11) I know that I was different. I was not seen as a Native. I’m somebody with dark skin. I’m mostly Spanish and I do have some Jicarilla Apache Indian. But amongst the Navajo, they knew right away that I wasn’t Navajo, and I was actually called bilagáana, which basically is derogatory for being called a white person.
Adam (00:30:35): Even though you have darker skin.
Inaiah (00:30:37) Yeah. Well, because they knew I wasn’t Navajo. I mean, to them, if you’re not Navajo and you’re not black, then you’re white, you know? So I had my struggles early on, but I eventually got adopted into that community and I found my people, and I had a best friend that I lived next door to who ended up being kind of my adventure buddy.
We got into music together. We smoked pot for the first time together. We got in trouble. So I found my community and my people and, for me, my childhood was incredible, you know, but it was only kind of looking back on that life where I was like, “Wow, that was a really different way to grow up.”
Adam (00:31:18): I actually have had a brush with your timeline there, in that I passed through Ganado in 2006. As I was headed West from town, an older man who I’m actually gonna say now, I probably assumed he was Navajo, because I don’t think he said maybe even a word to me.
He was hitchhiking and he needed to get to Chinle. I was willing to turn and take him all the way there. But he wanted me to let him out, maybe only, you know, however many miles — a few, a handful of miles — West down the road to that intersection, because he just knew he’d get a ride, that someone else would pick him up. He didn’t need me to go out of my way, but what are the odds there? There were a few minutes of my life that passed through where your life also intersected.
Inaiah (00:32:13): Oh my gosh, I love that. And Chinle is so close to where Ganado is. And there’s, god, there’s an amazing ruins out there. Canyon de Chelly is out there. And the white house ruins with where the Anasazi are believed to be the ancestors of so many Native American groups and populations. The Anasazi are just like, that’s another wormhole we could go down, but it’s just, like, that is a very sacred land out there in Chinle. So you being in that part of the country is pretty incredible and special. Like, I don’t take it for granted, either, being able to grow up around the Navajo.
(00:33:04) I wrapped up the first season of my Cast the Line podcast with a two-part podcast with my sister Chela. And in that podcast, I really get to honor her and respect and appreciate the fact that she was the one who really absorbed a lot of that culture. She’s the one who was really into the ceremony and the sweat lodge, and in the tipi.
And that is something that she’s continued on into her adult life, and something that she reflects back to me and reminds me of often. Whereas I’ve always kind of been on my own little adventure. And that’s fine. That’s something that we really appreciate, that I really appreciate about my family is the journey and the adventure is really respected, because we’re all a family. We’re all very much alike, but we’re all very much different. And I’m very thankful to have grown up in a family that honors that as opposed to trying to conform us or make us think the same.
Adam (00:33:55): I enjoyed that episode with Chela and definitely would recommend for people who are interested in understanding more of the things that we’re touching on here with that upbringing, go check that out.
I love the interplay between the siblings and the fact that you guys had different memories of things, and sweat lodge ceremonies was something that I particularly perked up at. I’ve only had a couple of opportunities to be around them and did not participate in them.
And I’m gonna say they weren’t probably led by people that would give me the true sacred meaning of what those really are. So if you have knowledge of that or memory of that, I’d be interested in learning about sweat lodge ceremonies and what those were like in your experience as a kid.
Inaiah (00:34:45) For me, it was a little different than my sister where I think she saw the discipline and the respect aspects of it long before I did. I kind of saw it as an inconvenience, an intrusion in my life, like, “Who are all these strangers and why are they at our house?”
I didn’t have an immediate appreciation for it. I wouldn’t sweat all the time. My dad didn’t make those sorts of things a requirement in our household. Another thing I’m very grateful for, he always allowed us to kind of figure out our own path, and our own spirituality and mysticism, but he invited us to be a part of it. We were always invited, but it wasn’t required, you know?
(00:35:30) But every once in a while, when I would sweat, I would really feel that connection with people. I would come out of that sweat lodge, not seeing the people I just sweated with his strangers anymore. There is a real sense of community and family there.
My experience with the sweat lodge is definitely through the lens of an adult. Now, I can’t really recall how it made me feel then, but now just having the knowledge that I know about it, I realized that I was reentering the womb and I was going into a place.
To me, the sweat lodge is about returning to the womb. And it’s about doing a lot of mental and spiritual work in that realm of reconnecting with not only your being and your, sort of, I guess your personal family and connection with that sort of mother energy, but also connecting you deeper with your ancestry and with your family.
(00:36:33) And that’s serious stuff, you know? I could tend to get a little judgmental, which I have to check sometimes. You know, when I see other people doing things like sweat lodges and peyote ceremonies and these things, and they’re not led by a Native person, or they’re not done in a traditional way,iIt’s really easy for me to look down my nose at it or kind of judge it.
I have to remind myself that it’s not really for me to judge. But the one thing that I do know is it’s serious. This is not anything that should be taken lightly, but at the same time, it’s hard to explain. It’s like there’s a respect and a seriousness to it, but there’s also a lightheartedness to it as well. It’s both things. It’s very difficult to explain.
Adam (00:37:30) Okay. What size of space are you talking about? Maybe that’s in terms of how many people are there together in that close community. And how long would you or would a group typically spend in that space with that ceremony?
Inaiah (00:37:48): Well, it depends on who’s running the meeting. Generally, there’s a sponsor and that sponsor is the person that the meeting is ran for, and the medicine man will decide the proceedings and how that’s going to go. And some of these things, please realize that I haven’t internalized this the way, like,my sister has.
I’m not an expert on any of this. I’m just going based off of my own personal experience and memory, obviously. The sweat lodge is traditionally a little on the smaller side. It’s not like a tipi where you can fit a lot of people in the sweat lodge. It’s probably more like maybe eight to 12 people max. And I could be wrong but, essentially, we go in a circle. We enter and we go clockwise.
(00:38:43) The medicine man will usually do four rounds depending on the person who’s running the meeting. But four rounds seems to stick out in my head. And those four rounds are representative of the four directions.
Each round will bring in more rocks. The rocks are these lava rocks that are being heated in a fire. And then they’re brought into the sweat lodge and put into a pit, and we pour water on it. Generally, the more rocks, the hotter the sweat gets. So if you could imagine, the further we go into the rounds, the hotter the sweat becomes.
(00:39:40) And so the way my dad ran meetings and the way another medicine man ran meetings that I was with, it just depends on who’s running the meeting, but some people who run meetings, they’re really about getting it super hot in there. They’re really about it almost being this sort of suffering in a way.
Whereas the meetings that I went to weren’t really about the suffering, it wasn’t about how hot can we get it? How hot can we stand? It was more or less about the prayer. It was about praying. And it was about community. It was about being together, about being in a space where the intention was focused and fixed, and that focus and fixed intention was on the sponsor.
The sponsor is the person you’re praying for, whether that’s a sick relative or somebody who just had a graduation, or somebody who’s just starting a marriage or somebody who’s just had a baby. Like, that is the person that you’re praying for. Maybe a little later in the rounds, you can pray for yourself or you can pray for your family, but basically you’re in there intentionally praying about something specific.
And that goes to the power of intention and really stating what the meeting is for. So to have a meeting in the first place, there should be an intention and there should be a reason for that. And like I said, I’m not an expert on any of these things. This is just from my experience.
Adam (00:40:53): Understood. Thanks for sharing that.
I’m wondering about the connection of spirituality and mysticism with your creative expression, and this creative life that you live.
Inaiah: In what regard?
Adam: Do you see what you express, how you express things that you live in a creative life or as a creative being as linked with spirituality and who you are as a spiritual being? Does that inform the creativity? How is that woven into your essence, I guess, your being as a person?
Inaiah (00:41:36): First of all, I love the question. Thank you so much for asking it.
Yes. To me, music, creativity — it is completely my religion. It is my mysticism. They’re so interwoven and interconnected. I really don’t know where one begins and the other ends. I mean, to answer your question.Tto me, it’s all one in the same. It’s alchemy.
It’s like being a creator in this world is much like being, you know, I think of — I talk about tarot a lot in my podcast. I talk about tarot a lot, just like in my daily life, you know. That’s just something, it’s a language that I’ve been becoming more fluent in. And I just think about the magician, you know.
The magician in the tarot, to me, is kind of what we do when we’re creating. We’re calling upon all of these elements, you know. In the magician’s case, he has access to swords, to fire, to wands and to pinnacles.
(00:42:35) And with these elements we kind of materialize a personality and identity on this plane of existence. So the act of living is magic. The act of being here, present amongst one another is a form of alchemy. I’m convinced. For me, it’s like, how could anything not be mystical? How could anything not be spiritual?
And, you know, and I recognize that’s my own perspective and that’s the way I choose to see things. But yeah, it’s all interconnected. I think that music is, to me, just like the highest form of worship that I can muster. And I try to sit at the altar of it daily.
And as a matter of fact, Cast the Line, where I got the name for Cast the Line, it has to do with that. To cast something, to cast the demon out, to cast a line, to cast a spell. There’s magical properties in the word “cast,” and I chose that very intentionally.
(00:43:34) And so for me, I think about my creativity as a body of water that I return to. Water is represented by cups in the tarot. It’s also where we access our emotions. And so I always think about this body of water and that I’m just a fisherman. I’m a fisherman who goes to this body of water, and I cast my line in that water.
And sometimes I catch a fish. You know, a fish could be a song. It could be an idea for a video. It can be a painting. It can literally be anything, in terms of materializing something from that well, from that body of water. But here’s the thing. I don’t care if I catch anything or not. To me, it’s not about catching something. To me, it’s just about casting my line. It’s about making that a daily practice.
(00:44:21) It’s about sitting at the altar of that and devoting myself to it. Having a result from it or expecting anything from that is, that’s more or less a humanistic quality, I believe. That’s just kind of wanting something for our efforts. But to me, the end result, the finished product is never anything that satisfies me. As a matter of fact, I’m often very disappointed by it, because that’s where my critic comes in. That’s where that imposter syndrome kicks in.
What I’m really interested in is the process of creating. I believe that that is when I’m 100% present. And to me being 100% present is the reason why we have things like spirituality, is the reason we have things like mysticism. All those things are calling us to be here now. And for me, that is the highest form of existence that I can participate in is just being present. I am never more present than when I’m creating.
Adam (00:45:19): That’s an ongoing practice for me. I think it’s part of our cultural thing. It’s our egoic identification with this conditioning around us that we’re always striving to grow. Just like, you know, we’ve mentioned capitalism and the idea that we’re always supposed to earn more than the year before. As a business, we’re always supposed to bring in more revenue than the year before.
We’re taught to look at these metrics and measure our success in those ways, as opposed to the internal, the spiritual, that connection that we feel when we’re making something, that bliss that we can feel. And so, for me, it’s an ongoing practice to trust in all of that aspect of life and in existence.
Inaiah (00:46:08): It is, and it changes. I mean your situation is different than mine, you know. You have a family, you know, and I think that people who are trying to take care of other people … I recognize that I’m a very privileged creator for one, like, I really get to just kind of focus on myself and my own creativity.
So what drives me is a little different than others. And I recognize that. You’re absolutely right, though, society does put us in a position to kind of put our material needs first. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about those sort of things. The thing about it is that the more we have and the more responsibilities we have, the more we need to kind of maintain a quality of life, the less we can really focus on ourselves. At least, that’s my experience.
(00:47:00) So if our basic needs aren’t met, those basic needs of like: do we have shelter? Do we have food? Do we have decent healthcare? Do we have money in the bank? Like, if we’re constantly worried about those sort of things room for spirituality is, is definitely, it’s not as present, I believe.
Whereas, when we do have those things, room for spirituality becomes almost an essential part of our lives. So it almost feels like to me, societally, those things are in reverse. Like, to me, if we create the space for spirituality and for devotion and for practice, the material things actually come as a result to that.
So for me, a lot of my journey has been kind of reconditioning my brain to think differently, is to practice working on myself, practice my spiritual devotion, and understand that the material things will kind of come with me, trusting that, you know, life is really just a matter of co-creating with the universe.
(00:48:05) And that may be a very woo way of looking at life, but it’s something that I’m experimenting with. And here’s the thing is, like, I’ve also just been opening. I’ve just been open to changing my mind.
I’ve realized that I used to think that I had to plant my feet firmly on the ground and make a decision. This is what I believe. This is who I am. This is, these are my morals. Well, you know, I’m definitely more open-minded to being wrong nowadays.
I’m definitely more open minded to my ideas evolving, and when new information and new data is available to me, I would hope that I would, I would discard my old ways of thinking in exchange for better ways of thinking
Adam (00:48:45): You have experienced what many would call success as a musician? We’ve hardly mentioned The Haunted Windchimes, which is a band, one of the bands, you’ve been part of, but a band you’ve toured with, you’ve created and performed.
It was for 10 years. And I would say being featured a couple of times on a “Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor, to a sizable audience is a measure of success. And I know that you’ve since moved on from the Chimes, but I’m curious about success while we’re already sort of in that vein and what that looks like.
I think the definition has probably changed over time and you’ve had that type of success, and now you’re in a different place in your life. And I’m curious about that road and that concept of success.
Inaiah (00:49:45): Yeah. I think success is such an elusive thing to chase, you know. I think that The Haunted Windchimes had incredible success, you know, on the one hand. Like, if you look at it from completely external, from an outside perspective, the Haunted Windchimes were incredibly successful.
If you look at it from an internal side where we’re kind of navigating personalities, very big personalities, navigating our own egos, navigating our own fear, and, basically, just like our immaturity and having no clue what we were doing with it, it was a total failure. So it’s really just a matter of your perspective on it.
And also success, in general, you know. Success isn’t something that you just magically feel when you have five million people tuning into you on a Prairie Home Companion or you have two million streams on Spotify. You don’t just feel successful all of a sudden, like, it’s not a light switch that you turn on.
(00:50:44) The feeling of success comes from allowing yourself to feel successful. That’s the only place it comes from. I honestly believe that. I have never felt worthy of any sort of praise from anybody until I allowed myself to feel a certain way.
And that is something that I’ve really recognized about myself, is that I’ve always kind of been in search of these accolades or these praises from people. I just needed people to tell me I was good. I needed people to tell me that I perform well, that I’m creative, like, and I’ve realized that, you know, if I got off the stage and felt like I played a terrible show, it didn’t matter if a million people lined up to tell me that was the best show they ever saw. I would not believe it. You know what I’m saying?
So success is not, it’s this thing that I think that so many people are chasing, but I honestly believe that until you recognize, at least in my experience, until I recognized that success was a matter of allowing myself to feel successful, you’re really never going to achieve it.
(00:51:49) I don’t think success is something that you just, “Oh, well, all right, I made it, I made it. And so what do we do now?” I think this idea of making it is, it’s so elusive. And I think that if that’s a motivator for you to continue to grow, I think that that’s awesome, but I think it’s really important to recognize that you are never going to be satisfied. You’re just not.
And it’s not that I take those sort of things for granted. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the success that The Haunted Windchimes had. I’m just telling you that there was never a defining moment where I felt like, “yep, this is it. We definitely did it. “
Adam (00:52:26): Yeah. Well, it totally makes sense. As soon as you said a number like that, and you say, when we reach this goal, that’s the thing. It never is, because then you’re always setting the next mark and the next mark or–
Inaiah (00:52:39): It’s the mountains again, man. You’re just, once you climb one peak, all you see are the millions of mountains ahead of you, you know, and you just have to decide, am I going to, am I going to climb another mountain?
For me, it’s yes. It’s always, yes. For me, it’s like, no matter what peak I get to, I’m going to start back at the bottom of another peak. And that’s where humility comes. And that’s where humble comes, because you got to come down that mountain sometime, man. And if you want to just hang out on that mountain, you can too, but it’s not a very happy place.
Adam (00:53:10): You described something too that I occasionally think about. Whereas, from the outside that looked like success, from the inside — and I’ll add in the daily living of it — it could look like failure, if that’s the perspective that was taken.
And I think that we often look at biographies of people. Maybe it’s an actual book biography. Maybe it’s a life story when someone, some famous person has died and you’re reading about it in the New York Times, and they hit all the highlights. And it’s easy to look through romantic lenses at something like that, somebody else’s story and say, “wow, they really achieved.”
They had all the– even if they, you know, they were human and they had mistakes in their life, but “wow, it’s just, it’s such a sexy story.” And then you look at the daily ins and outs, and the minutiae of your own life. And you’re thinking, “I’m just spinning wheels. I’m not getting anywhere. My life is not amazing.” And I think that that’s back to the comparison thing.
Inaiah (00:54:07): Well, yeah, I think we take stake in other people’s success. And I think that that’s good, you know, like we should– like, you know, when the Chimes succeeded, I think that a lot of people took stake in that. I think that it made a lot of people feel like they succeeded, which I recognize. And I think that is a beautiful thing, you know.
Like, a lot of people were with us for that whole ride and they saw us, you know, start out in the bars in Manitou (Colo.) to getting somewhere where, in their eyes, looked very much like success. Well, you know, for me, success was less about, you know, how big our audience got, and more about things like, you know, I got to meet Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. I got to meet Arlo Guthrie.
I got to kind of share in some of this lineage, this folk lineage, because of this journey that we were on. There were mile markers in my life, for sure, that had less to do with being a performer and more to do with being a fan of music.
(00:55:02) So to me, some of the more successful stories that I really think about fondly are more or less like who I got to be in the presence of because of my personal journey. It’s like, “wow, I really, I get to meet some of these people who are longtime heroes of mine.”
And, you know, it wasn’t so much about mile markers I made, “well, you know, we sold X amount of albums or we played in Red Rocks,” or whatever it was, you know. Those all felt really good and like achieving moments, but there were definitely moments that far, far exceeded those even, because it was just like, “wow, the magic of my life that led me to meeting Ramblin’ Jack Elliot.”
It’s incredible, you know, considering that on my very first Haunted Windchimes tour ever, when it was just my ex-wife Desi and I, we were gifted a bunch of music. And one of those albums within that pile of music after we left Bloomington, Indiana, that’s where we received this pile of music, was the “Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack Elliot,” which is the soundtrack for the documentary that Ramblin’ Jack’s daughter made.
(00:56:14) And this is the first time I’d ever even heard of Ramblin Jack Elliot. And I was like, how did I miss this? Like being such a fan of Bob Dylan and being such a fan of Woody Guthrie, how did I miss Ramblin’ Jack Elliot? And I felt like I was just discovering something for the first time.
So from that being our very first tour as the Haunted Windchimes, when it was just a duo, to me getting to meet Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, basically saying, “Hey, I really love the Haunted Windchimes’ stuff.” And you know, “I know you guys are supposed to open for me, but I would rather open up for you guys,” Like, mind-blowing situation for me.
And so, to me, that was like, those are the moments that I remember where I’m just like, “wow, what that’s 100% magic.” And those are things that kind of happen behind the scenes. A lot of things that people don’t even really know about, you know, because how do you even tell that story?
Adam (00:57:04): You just did. I’m glad to hear it.
You know, you mentioned that your now ex-wife, Desirae Garcia, was part of that band. So was Chela, who we’ve mentioned. Your sister and you talked about in that podcast episode on your podcast with her, about her weeks-old baby girl, your niece, and all of you being in this together.
And I think of bands touring, and you think of the sex drugs, rock and roll, you know, swigging whiskey from the bottle late at night, trashing hotel rooms, right? That, that’s the kind of the image we have of crazy, huge wild rock stars. And here you really had this family closeness with a brand new baby along on the ride. And I’m curious what that experience was like, that closeness of family in that time and that experience of being musicians, touring.
Inaiah (00:57:59): Yeah. And this is a little bit of what I’m talking about. Yes, we had that and there is a very wholesome family dynamic to our band, but that’s exactly what I’m talking about. That’s like the image that we really projected out into the world.
And I think a lot of people saw us that way too, but little did they know, like, all of the things going on under the hood, you know, a lot of internal struggles happening, and a lot of things like that.
But to not focus on the negative for a moment, yeah, we definitely were a family band, you know, and I think that we felt very, I felt very strongly about really exuding that image out into the world. And that went from everything to, like, making sure that our shows were family-friendly, making sure that we played all-ages shows.
(00:58:45): I really wanted to push us in more of that family friendly direction. ’Cause, you know, I realized pretty early on with the Chimes, how young ones responded to our music. And that always really fascinated me and kind of blew me away that we had so many young Haunted Windchimes fans, you know, kind of younger than the age of 10.
I took that very seriously. I took that as a responsibility, but that then also adds a level of pressure that I can’t even explain to you, to be able to, basically, not feel like you can really be vulnerable or not really show the darker sides of your marriage, or the darker sides of being in a band, because you have to maintain this image of wholesomeness that, basically, everything’s fine. Everything’s put together, everything is great, you know when that wasn’t always the case.
(00:59:35) And I think that that’s where a lot of the pressures of being in a band like The Haunted Windchimes got to a lot of us, because we then felt like, you know– and this isn’t the audience’s fault. This is totally our own doing, of feeling like we had to kind of keep secrets from our audience, because we weren’t willing to, like, show real parts of ourselves.
And that’s when I really feel like I, personally, and the band kind of lost their way once we stopped kind of being honest. ’Cause I think that what drew people to the Haunted Windchimes in the first place was honesty, was authenticity, was rawness. And I think somewhere along the way, because of our own, call it whatever you want, but I think it was our own shame that we weren’t the perfect, wholesome, All-American band.
(01:00:25) We started kind of hiding from it and we started kind of hiding from ourselves. And I think that that’s my experience of it. But then we have these shining moments of, like, there’s a birth in the Chimes and there’s a birth in the family, and little things like that, you know, put a little more fuel in the tank.
Like, there was always these little things where it’s like, “Man, this, this could be the end of the band,” and then something would happen that would kind of push us a little further along. And, you know, but honestly we did that for about five years where it could have always, it could have been the end at any moment for five years, and living with that pressure and living with that sort of uncertainty was devastating.
Adam (01:01:02): I can only imagine. Yeah. And last year, so 2019, ultimately, that did bring the end. You and Desi did get divorced. Is that also the same time that the Chimes went their own way? Each of the players went their own way, the band was done?
Inaiah (01:01:33): Not quite. So, basically the way this all shook out is that, you know, it all kind of started with departing, um, with our former bass player, Sean Fanning, you know. In 2012, we went on a massive tour. This was to promote our album “Out With The Crow.”
And I think we all started butting heads with Sean in that first tour, because he, you know, he was very particular about who should drive, who shouldn’t drive. Basically, he should be the driver at all the times. And like, so there, basically, became a group dynamic that was not healthy. And I think me being the age that I was, and me having such little experience, I didn’t really know how to communicate my feelings, my boundaries. And he was the eldest of our group, but also, you know, he was the bass player in the group, too.
(01:02:22) You know, I’ve never really talked about any of this, but that was a, that was a huge shift, is that we kind of had a member of the band who was, in his own way, kind of controlling things. Um, and, and me not really knowing what to do with that. And then having a band that was kind of looking to me as their leader to handle things.
And I didn’t really know how to have that confrontation, but eventually, you know, two or three years later, I ended up having to fire him from the band and we kind of, you know, we, we then felt like we had this liberation and then like, you know, okay, we got this figured out now we’re going to proceed down and do what we need to do. Well, those are internal struggles. It didn’t go away with firing the bass player. You know what I mean? My, our, our friend, Sean Fanning, at the time, and more internal struggle started happening.
(01:03:10) So basically we were just stripping away and stripping away. Um … Desi and I, you know, had our own sort of problems with The Haunted Windchimes, and felt like it was really stifling on our creativity and, and, and really kind of coming from this place of like, “Oh, well this was our band, you know.”
Desi and I started this band as a couple and what did it become? And, you know, and, and dealing with our own internal struggles of that. And so we started a side project called in/Plains that was kind of supposed to give us refuge from having to do group-minded things, and kind of focus on our own creativity and it, eventually, you know, so, then again, we’re stripping away.
(01:03:53) We’re, we’re, we’re trying to remove things that we feel are problems in our lives, you know? And so eventually it came to the point where we wanted to focus on in/Planes a little more full time. So we decided that we were going to give Haunted Windchimes, um, a rest and take some time off. And I don’t know where this is in the timeline. I would say, this is probably, like, shortly after Desi and I got married. So maybe 2017.
And, you know, and, and, and one regret that I have is we kind of wrapped it up in this idea that we were taking time off, because Chela was pregnant and she was going to have a baby, you know, that was kind of the, that was kind of the way we were presenting it to people. And that, that feels really unfair in retrospect, because that was not Chela’s decision.
(01:04:33) And Chela, if Chela had her way, the Haunted Windchimes would still be playing music together. And so that, but that was one of those situations where we just, we don’t know how to have this confrontation. This is, in part, me not knowing how to deal with confrontation. And, and how, how do you in the public eye basically have a breakup and not really want to talk about it?
And so Desi and I kind of go on our own way and start doing something else. And basically now her and I have stripped everything out of our life. We’ve stripped out the bass player that we thought was problematic. We, we stripped out the band that we thought was problematic, and now we’ve just got each other. And now we’re like, well, what do we do now? Because we’re still having problems, you know?
(01:05:15) And so, and so we strip everything down to basically her and I, and then, you know, that all eventually ends up in divorce. And so I think you can put two and two together that, you know, it was never really the band. It was never really the bass player. It was basically, you know, I think that it’s interesting, it’s interesting how we can kind of hide out in the problems of, of what we perceive to be an external thing when, when the problems are, are not necessarily outside of us, you know?
And so it’s, it’s hard to really convey what I’m trying to say, um, without going into grave detail, but, you know, the, the, the gist is, is that, you know, I think that, I think that the Haunted Windchimes started out being a me-and-Desi thing. And, um, it eventually became this band that– we really didn’t know.
We really didn’t know where this band was going to take us. We never had any ideas, any plans as to what this was or what it could be. And we were just kind of along for the ride. And I’m so grateful for that, right. I’m so grateful where it took us and I could have never imagined where it was going to take us. But I think that ,ultimately, you know, there was just this unsatisfied feeling in our, our marriage and our relationship that we couldn’t quite put our finger on until we stripped everything away.
Adam (01:06:38): Do you listen to that music at all now? I don’t know if you ever listened to your own music, but is that, are you, or is there a grieving process going on here, where that also represents just an emotional challenge and you need more time?
Inaiah (01:06:53): It just depends on the day, really. It depends on the day, it depends on the mood. Sometimes, sometimes it’ll come on on a shuffle or something like that. And I can really just like, appreciate it for what it is. I could really appreciate it for the era, for the time.
And some days, some days it’ll pop on. And I just like, I can’t, I can’t, it brings up way too much. And, you know, I, I’m only reminded of the sort of trauma that I experienced being in a band that, you know, there’s a lot of sadness wrapped up in that band for me, you know. There’s a lot of jubilant times and a lot of success, and a lot of very beautiful things that I, I hope to always acknowledge and to, and to always honor and appreciate it for what it was.
But at the same time, there was a lot, there was a lot happening behind the scenes that I think a lot of people don’t, don’t recognize and, you know, and that’s, again, I think that’s of our own doing, that’s of my own doing, like, I think the reason why I’m so transparent and so vulnerable nowadays is because I really don’t ever want to put myself in another situation where I feel like I need to hide, where I feel like I’m so ashamed to be who I am.
(01:08:00) I feel like I, I would have really benefited from the bandwidth, and our audience would have really benefited from us, just kind of being a little more transparent. But I just don’t think we had the tools or the skills to do that, you know, and then there’s a lot of schools of thoughts where, well, some things should just be kept private and, like, don’t air out your dirty laundry.
There’s a lot of societal things that we’re taught to kind of not address publicly, you know, which I totally get. But at the same time, I’m in a place now where no, I, I’m not going to buy into that. Like, if people don’t want to hear what I have to say, they can, you know, they can do whatever they need to do to remove me from their life, but I’m not going to censor myself.
And I’m not going to go back to a place where I feel like I can’t be honest and transparent. So ultimately I think that what came out of that experience has been very positive for me and for the people around me. Unfortunately, you know, it has put a strain on those relationships, and Chela’s the only person I still communicate with from that band.
Adam (01:09:07): Okay. Well, you mentioned trauma, shame. There are more of the emotions and the things that we hide away that, societally, we are taught to hide away. And this brings up mental health.
You have described experience with, or at least mentioned, referred to before, experience with depression and that there were mental health matters with your parents. This is a recurring topic with Humanitou conversations. Every now and then it’ll come up. And I think it’s a really important topic because of what you just said, society tends to hide it away. So I like for us to be able to shine light on this.
And I’m curious about, well, and let me also mention, I guess, real quick that you have a song called “I’m Away,” which speaks to mental health, and it’s with an upbeat flow, not, not like a down and heavy kind of beat. So just, yeah, just tell me about whatever comes to mind with that, but mental health with you, your family, that song.
Inaiah (01:10:16): Yeah. Mental health is very important to me. And, and for all the reasons you just mentioned, and I think that having a conversation about it, talking about it as much as we can, is just going to dispel some of that shame. I think there’s a lot of shame wrapped up in mental health.
And, and unfortunately I think a lot of what we’re experiencing as a country, as an economy, even dare I say, a world, has a lot to do with mental health, more to do with mental health than people could even acknowledge at this point.
I think that the amount of shame that we feel on a day-to-day basis, to transparency and politics, to transparency in the media, like a lot of what we’re experiencing is the sense that we don’t really know what the facts are, which leads to paranoia, which leads to a very toxic mental health situation.
(01:11:07) I don’t think that mental health awareness is just for people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or maybe manic depression, or maybe just anxiety. I think that mental health should be an issue every single person considers no matter where they feel that they land in the spectrum.
And so I think in order to really bring some awareness and some positivity to the idea of mental health, it’s not a bad word. I think people, as soon as people hear the word “mental health,” I think there’s this association with it, they think of looney bins, or they think of, they think of, you know, um, they think of whatever homeless person or like, you know what I’m saying? It’s like, absolutely to me, I think that mental health should be a word that when we say it, we think of things like self care.
(01:11:58) We think of things like self-love, we think of things like transparency, openness, love, acceptance, understanding, like, that’s the conversation. I really want to change the conversation and I’m going to do anything I can to, to bring some awareness to that.
So my song “I’m Away,” um, I read an article about Scott Hutchinson, who was from this band, Frightened Rabbit. It was a Rolling Stone article. He had gone missing for days on a tour overseas. And, you know, he, um, apparently committed suicide, and he left, um, he had tweeted a bunch of just kind of mysterious tweets, some of which were just like, “love the people, love the people around you.”
And like, and you know, one of his last tweets ever before he left this earthly plane was “I’m okay, I’m away now, I’m away.” And I was just so, just like, chilled to the bone about his story, and started thinking about my own struggle with, with, um, my mental health and my own moments of darkness, of thoughts of suicide.
(01:13:01) And then it made me think of other friends of mine and made me think of family members. And in that moment, I wanted to, I wanted to be a voice to that. And I didn’t want to sit down and write an anthem for, for, for people who are like that. I didn’t want to sit down and make a bunch of presumptuous, um, sort of remarks about mental health. Instead, I, I just, I kind of did what I do, which is I just, I use that as a backup for a song I wanted to write. I knew that the chorus was going to be “I’m away,” because it was just kind of immortalizing his words, like his last words in this life, where like, basically my only way out of this feeling that I have is to go away.
(01:13:49) And that really struck a chord with me because I know that feeling of desperation. I know what that feels like. And so when I wrote this song, “I’m Away,” I really wanted to just give people a window into that mindset. I didn’t want to sugar coat it. I didn’t want to say this is a, you know, this is the positive side of things, I wanted to leave it kind of unresolved.
And, and it is, it’s a song that is unresolved. It’s a very heavy and intense song, to be honest with you. And I think that the reason why I contrast it with such a lighthearted sort of hip hop beat, um, dance beat, it’s ’cause that was my way of showing how we ignore it. Conceptually, I wanted to wrap it up in this sort of beat-heavy pop song, because I wanted to say almost a, it was a commentary of like, “This is the only way you’re going to be able to digest the heaviness of what I’m saying,” is by packaging it, by putting it in this little package and tying a ribbon on it, you know? So it was also somewhat of a social commentary in that regard of saying like, “Here’s your pop song about something,” you know?
Adam: Yeah, yeah.
Inaiah (01:14:55): So that’s just the approach I took. And then, and then I decided that, you know, any money that I raised from, from selling that song, I was gonna, I was going to hand over to the “Hi, how are you foundation,” which was founded by Daniel Johnston, a known manic depressive, and somebody who is incredible in the music community. Huge influencer of me, huge inspiration to me.
He passed away in 2019. And it was devastating to me, but his foundation, “Hi, how are you?” you know, they’re advocates for changing this conversation. They’re advocates. They have, “Hi, how are you?” day, which is literally just asking people, like, on a daily basis, like how many times do we ask somebody how they’re doing, and do we genuinely want to know? That’s something we should ask ourselves? Do we genuinely want to know how somebody is doing well?
(01:15:38) This asks us to ask that question and, and be genuine about wanting to know. And so, um, yeah. And then, you know, and as you mentioned before, my mom has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My dad has PTSD. I have suffered with anxiety and depression my entire life. And the only thing that I have found to be a relief from, from that whole world is to, is to remove the shame from that, which I feel is, and how I’ve been able to do that, is to slowly start this process of being honest with myself first and foremost.
And to being honest with other people where I’m just saying out loud, this is where I’m at, and being okay with that, you know. And that has given me more relief than anything, than any medication, than any sort of thing. But, you know, I also see a therapist. I’ve also turned to professionals in the sense of like, this is not something I can do on my own and nobody should do it on their own.
Everybody should realize that there are endless amounts of resources available to you to do this. And we don’t have to do things alone. That’s one area where I realize, I recognize that I do need help. And this isn’t something I can tackle on my own.
Adam (01:17:01): You’ve been working on self-care and self-love and exploring, you know, who you really are this year, or for the past several months, since last year, in particular, with those turning points — divorce and so on. And so I’m curious to know how that’s going for you, what you’re figuring out as you, you learn to care and love for yourself.
Inaiah (01:17:34): What I’m figuring out is that god I’m hard on myself. I’m so hard on myself, man. I, I have this idea of what I need to be, and that really stifled this idea of who I am.
I think that the biggest shift that I’ve made in self-care is to love and accept the person I am in each moment. And that ,that is constantly changing. So if I’m, if I’m experiencing those feelings of self-deprecation, or if I’m getting critical of myself, I’m being really hard on myself, to basically just be able to take a deep breath and to shift that energy into really loving myself.
I’ve recognized that a lot of, um, my expectations on myself also just kind of bled over into what I expected from other people from relationships. You know, I had this fantasy that, you know, being in a relationship, whether it was a marriage or having a girlfriend or whatever the case may be was this magic elixir.
(01:18:45) That was just going to make me feel worthy of love. That was going to make me happy. That was going to help me to be all these things. You know, I was constantly trying to fill the void of love with other things, whether it was relationships or music, or into the more darker things like alcohol and pill addiction. And, um, you name it.
I’ve, I’ve been trying to fill this gaping hole in me for so long with so many things. And what I’ve discovered about self-love is that I can fill that hole, and I could recognize that you hold the key to your own happiness. You all, you hold the key to your, to fill that void, um, on my own that I, that, you know, it’s incredibly empowering to your own healing. You hold the key to the way in which you respond and react to the forces that are out of your control.
(01:19:39) And to me, that is really the basis of what self-love and self-care is. And I’ve noticed that since I’ve been on this path, I’m not on any medication. I’m not currently self-medicating with other things like booze or even cannabis. I don’t, you know, I’m an advocate for cannabis, especially in a medical sense, but I have taken a break from all mind-altering things, just so I can sit with myself for a little while and figure out where, where home is, you know.
And I’ve also realized that getting sober, um, abstaining from booze and, and cannabis and all these things, it didn’t, it didn’t magically cure me. It didn’t make me, it didn’t rid me of, of emotions and of sadness. It just made me recognize that emotions are beautiful. There’s something to be celebrated and something to be felt fully, not something to hide, hide from, not something to try to numb via various forms of self-medication or even actual medication.
(01:20:44) Now, I’m not advocating that people who are, um, on pharmaceutical medication, for whatever, whatever ailments they may have, especially in mental health, I’m not advocating that people should get off pills or get off anything like that. But for me, my own personal journey, I had to really get back to a home base.
And, and for me that was eliminating everything from my life and, and, and kind of starting over from scratch and rebuilding. And, um, that’s been this whole journey of self care and it, you know, and it was, it was inspired for sure by divorce, which was devastating for me. But honestly, I had started to work on that sort of stuff.
Since I, I started taking more of a proactive approach in my life, I started seeing a therapist. I started being more present in my life and that was even pre my divorce. So I have been dedicating myself to this way of, of life for at least two years, which is nothing.
And I have to recognize, too, that I’m also an infant in that. I’m also just learning who I am really for the first time. And that, that takes time and it takes practice and it takes care and it takes me sucking at it for a while that I’m, you know, I’m just trying to be better from terrible, is how I usually say it.
Adam (01:21:58): You know, all those external things, the drugs and alcohol, and even just eating excess amounts of, uh, ice cream to fill in voids, right? Those are all temporary, temporary things. And it brings to mind, Brene Brown talking about how you can’t numb selectively. You can’t just take in those things to numb out the parts you’re trying to escape and avoid, but maintain the good things in your life. You’re numbing it all.
Inaiah (01:22:34): Yeah, it’s either you feel, you either feel that or you don’t. There’s like, there’s not really an in-between and, and not feeling leads to apathy, really. It leads to a sense of like, I don’t care, I’m unmotivated. I mean, that’s essentially what, what I think can put somebody in a situation to take their life, you know, and, and, and if we’re not given the tools to deal with our emotions in a healthy way, then we’re going to deal with them in an unhealthy way, that those are the options.
And, you know, obviously I get things aren’t so black and white, but I mean, if we’re in extremes, dealing with our emotions in a healthy way is acknowledging that whatever we’re feeling is valid, whatever we’re feeling is warranted and that we would do a lot better, just, just allowing the emotion in and letting it run its course, than we would trying to save it for later, because that shit just piles up and you eventually gotta pay the bill, man.
Adam (01:23:25): I think there’s an extra layer here for us as well with being men, and what expectations of masculinity are. Did you have a role model at all from a male who showed you tenderness that it’s okay to be soft, to cry, to share these feelings, to use the word “love,” rather than just stifle and be, like, you know, concrete to the world?
Inaiah (01:23:50): Absolutely. My, my father is a beacon of compassion and nurture, you know what I mean? But he’s also, you know, he grew up military. He grew up in a different era. He was born in 1949. So there’s another part of him that’s very conditioned and very masculine, and very, very much, you know, this is what a man’s supposed to be and, and this is what a man’s not supposed to be. He’s got that side of himself, too, you know.
He’s, he’s a flawed human, we all are. But for the most part, I would say my father definitely approaches our relationship, and all relationships, with compassion, with nurturing. And I can say the same thing for my big brother, Ravi. You know, he’s, he’s kind of your, your idea of what a man is, you know, he’s fit, he’s athletic, he’s, um, but at the same time, he’s got such a tenderness to himself. He’s also a poet. He’s also a musician. He’s also so multifaceted.
(01:24:40) But if, I mean, if you, if you were had your judgmental eye on and you saw my older brother in the street, you would just think right away, “Oh, well, that’s just like some athletic bodybuilder jock sort of type,” perhaps, you know what I mean? I’m, I’m just speaking completely extreme and judgmental, and you would completely miss an opportunity to know somebody who is so sensitive and multifaceted.
Well, what I have to learn from that is that you just shouldn’t judge people, you know, everybody is multifaceted. And another thing that I’ve learned from tarot and from my own personal journey is that, you know, I’m both female and male. I have both of those qualities. You know what I mean?
I, I exude both male and female qualities for sure. And getting in touch with my femininity has allowed me to, um, remove some of the shame that I feel when I’m not being a quote-unquote, man, you know. And getting in touch with my masculinity allows me to set boundaries that I, that I don’t necessarily set when I’m only acting from my emotions.
(01:25:43) So those, those two parts, male and female, I think when exercised in a healthy way, give us all the tools we need to, to be the best humans we can really be because we need to access both things. We need to access our compassion, but we also need to be firm. You know, we need to act, we need to be soft at times, but we also, we need to stand our ground.
So it’s, I think of the yin and yang, you know, there, there’s, there’s the little dot of black in yin, and there’s the little dot of white in yang. It’s about finding a balance. And I think that if, if we exercise qualities that are both male and female, we, we, we get towards, you know– and that’s, that’s why I’m really, I’m really proud of, of the leaps and bounds we’ve made in the, in, in the trans community.
(01:26:33) And in, in, in the, you know, more the lesbian, gay, queer community. I think that we have a long ways to go in terms of, like, fully embracing that, but I love what it stands for. And I think that gender neutrality is, is a really beautiful thing. And I think more conceptually and spiritually, for me, it’s about acknowledging that we have a gender neutrality as men, as women, that we can access both those parts of ourselves, that they exist in us in a really beautiful way.
And that, um, anything that inches us towards more accepting and understanding of, of who we are as people. And it’s definitely understanding it’s not so bipartisan, it’s not so black and white, it’s not you’re this or you’re that. You can be so many things, you know, I think that it’s so easy for society to just say, well, you’re either this or that. You’re either Republican or you’re a Democrat. You’re either gay or you’re straight. You’re either a man or you’re a woman.
Well, I’m sorry, but life is not like that. Nature is not like that. There is nothing about our experience that is like that. And I would really love to get as far away from that as we can.
Adam (01:27:44): I think we’re making slow progress. Yeah. Uh, but progress. Yeah, absolutely. So let’s boil all this down. This is going to be the final question. The one that I ask at the end of every episode. And this whole conversation has, is filled tremendously with humanness and creativity. But now with this sort of a summary idea at the heart, what do you consider to be your most essential manifestation or expression of humanness and creativity? What’s at the essence of humanness and creativity in your view?
Inaiah (01:28:22): I think that for me, humanness and creativity just comes from, it comes from one, knowing yourself. So know thyself, that’s a big one for me. And I think when you really know yourself, you can then begin the, um, terrifying task of presenting yourself to the world as you are.
And I think that you can then allow other people to present themselves to the world as they are. And I think that it’s wrapped up in this acceptance of, of, of just self love. I think if you have the foundation of one, knowing who you are, to loving who that person is, and constantly working on that, in other words, not just climbing up that one peak and just camping out there, but recognizing that we’re going to have so many peaks and valleys ahead of us, I call that evolution or progress, whatever you want to call it.
If we’re ever moving towards improvement, I think that that’s going to make leaps and bounds and changes in this world, but it all starts with one. It all starts with yourself, with self-love. And I think it always kind of comes back to that for me.
(01:29:25) Oftentimes I feel powerless in this world because I can’t, I can’t control anything. I can’t, you know, I can’t control the spread of coronavirus. I can’t control all the, uh, all the warring and, and, and things in this world, and in the poverty and just the famine. And there’s just so much out of my control, but I can come back to a place of what is in my control, and what is in my control is how I respond to external forces.
And if I have the tools available to me to respond to those external forces in a healthy way, then I can create a foundation that is love. And ultimately, I believe that everything comes from love, whether that’s our creativity, whether that’s our, our relationship with the world.
(01:30:20) If we have a relationship with ourself that’s based in love, then we can really, really start to love other people. And I think it’s only when we really love ourselves that we’re capable of loving others. And I think as a human, it is my duty and my responsibility to love myself. And I think that that’s the most revolutionary thing that I can do, that that’s the most thing I can, that’s the thing I can do for humanity that actually can create some good, that can have a ripple effect.
And, and, you know, and I think that if you feel moved to do charity drives, if you feel moved to help people out in an external way, good for you. You know, like I think a large part of our contribution to this world is following our intuition, following, seeing a need and fulfilling that need. Everybody’s going to feel a different call, but he’s going to fill a different pool to do that, which they need to do in this world.
(01:31:19) And it’s only in that quiet space of knowing who we are and of self love that we really hear those calls, and whatever that call may be for you. If it’s done in a good way, if it’s done with peace in mind, if it’s done with love and mind, I don’t think you can go wrong. I think that you’re just, you’re doing that which you need to do to make this world a better place. And everybody’s going to be a little different.
That’s why it’s so important to exercise that, because your perspective you have to offer, Adam, the perspective that I have to offer, the perspective that the person next door to you, your neighbors, the homeless person, it doesn’t matter. Every single one of them has something to offer this world. And if we’re allowed to be that which we are, and then we love that person that we are, man, we can just, there’s nothing we can’t do. I honestly believe that.
And it’s all wrapped up in our creativity. It’s all wrapped up in our music. It’s all wrapped up in, in the way we see things. And so that’s, um, that’s what I try to practice on a daily basis, you know. And I’m terrible at it. I’m terrible at it.
I lose my way often. I forget, I get frustrated. I get offended. I’m so afflicted and hurt by the way people treat each other. I’m so afflicted and hurt by the way that I’m treated. And I feel entitled to something. Well, you know, that’s gonna come with the territory until we feel worthy of love. We’re going to miss it every time. And I think that love starts with the self and then we can spread it out to the rest of the world.
Adam (01:32:00): Man, you have said so many, um, notable, amazing things. And this is a tremendous conversation. I’m so glad to have been able to talk with you for Humanitou, Inaiah. Thank you for being here, man.
Inaiah: Thank you, Adam. Thank you for this opportunity. I appreciate you listening to that call, man, and doing what you feel like you need to do in this world. The world is better for it, and I appreciate you, brother.
Adam (01:33:20): That’s it for now with Inaiah Lujan … in today’s Humanitou conversation of humanness and creativity. You can learn more about Inaiah in the show notes published on our website, at humanitou.com.
And you know, it’s said that we have the power to create the world we wish to live in. That’s part of why Humanitou exists. If you’d like to have more of the good stuff that Humanitou offers in the world, then I invite you to post reviews on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Stitcher and other players …
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If you have feedback on this conversation or the Humanitou Podcast series, you can send me an email at adam @ humanitou.com or reach me by Instagram DM @humanitou.
And now, the question I ask you after every episode: How are you living humanness and creativity in your life?
I’m Adam Williams, creator and host of the Humanitou Podcast. Thanks for being here.