Acting But Not Doing

Recently in a weekend class sandwiched between yoga teacher training weeks, Daniel paraphrased something very interesting from a book called the Second Book of Tao:

“Without the concept of an ‘Other’, there is no separate ‘Me’. Without the sense of a ‘Me’, there is nothing that can be ‘Other’. There is some force that determines life, but I can’t know what it may be. It doesn’t have any substance or form, it acts without doing, and it keeps the entire universe in orderly movement, seemingly functioning perfectly without me intervening.”

This idea of acting without doing really made me think, and shifted my outlook, especially because he shared this when we were in a challenging asana and pouring sweat – amazingly, this can be the best time for me to hear mind-expanding ideas or shift my perspective, which seems to be why Daniel’s yoga classes are so satisfying for me.

It is amazing to think that this entire globe we call Earth moves and works as one being, a single intricate system, effortless and yet full of movement.

In the Patanjali Yoga Sutra we learn about the concept of Stirham, Sukham, and Asanam, which means that each pose needs to be steady, and strong and effortful, but also gentle and smooth.

So as I learn yoga, I try to get to this feeling of “acting but not doing” – I work to relax while also giving each asana my full effort. It seems this quality of being can offer us entry into interconnectedness, a way to get to living from an authentic place in ourselves, and to connect to our deepest creativity.

As someone relatively new to yoga I am just discovering its power to help me open up – not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. It seems to offer a doorway into living on the edge of my growth while also surrendering and “going with the flow.”

What does “Going with the flow” even mean? Is it another way to say acting without doing? As a perfectionist of the Type-A variety, being surrendered in the flow of life can be challenging, but I imagine that for some people, the best way to grow is to work on taking action in life. I see yoga as offering both types an entry point into finding the balance between effort and surrender, activity and stillness, that can also be a guide us in our lives off the mat.

David Deida said something like, “Surrendering is letting go of your resistance to the complete openness that you are. It is letting go of the tension of the vortex of intensity you think you are and discovering the profound truth of the ocean that is the real you… past whatever limiting idea of self you still possess.”

My goal, then, is to be this ocean!

If you bought the debut album by NRBQ when it was released on Columbia Records in 1969, you might have been thrown off guard. It was representative of a musical approach that thought nothing of introducing Eddie Cochran to Sun Ra, nodding over to Chuck Willis, contributing unique original songwriting, and just stomping all over the joint. Were they a revival band? A jazz fusion band? Was this rockabilly? Power pop before it was named? Americana before that was named? NRBQ were behind and ahead of the curve from the start, and thats where theyve remained over the past five decades, amassing a discography that is way overdue for a complete reappraisal and gathering an audience for whom the word loyal is far less than adequate.There really is no other band that does what NRBQ does, something thats beyond category, as Duke Ellington would say about his music, something that could never be pinpointed as rock, exactly, although thats as good a description as any. Much has been made over the years of the bands eclectic nature, but it has its roots in a very solid tradition of taking diverse musical strains and incorporating them into an all-encompassing vision. Elvis Presley was doing hillbilly music, blues, Rodgers & Hart right from the beginning. The Beatles covered Motown, Sun, and The Music Man. Who ever said music needed to be one thing only?The original New Rhythm and Blues Quartet was born in Louisville, Kentucky in the second half of the 1960s, when Terry Adams (keyboards) and Steve Ferguson (guitar) came together in the Adams family home and agreed on just what kind of band they wanted to have. No rules, no boundaries, no fear. NRBQ went through a number of line-ups from 66 to 68, after which Adams and Ferguson met up with Frank Gadler (vocals), Tom Staley (drums), and Joey Spampinato aka Jody St. Nicholas (bass) in Florida, and formed the Quintet that became the first recorded NRBQ. They were signed to Columbia Records, and recorded two albums NRBQ and Boppin The Blues (a partial collaboration with rockabilly legend Carl Perkins) before parting ways with the label.After their Columbia tenure, Ferguson left and Adams, Spampinato, Gadler and Staley were joined by guitarist Al Anderson for the first of two much-loved Kama Sutra albums, 1972s Scraps. A year later, minus Gadler, the now-quartet recorded Workshop. The label possibly thought it had another Lovin Spoonful on its hands. You know, wacky-eccentric, with a big dose of pop exuberance. The Kama Sutra albums are the ones that began to define the bands personality for real, and they started to really hit their stride with their first indie release on their own Red Rooster label, All Hopped Up, which featured one of their most durable songs, Andersons Ridin In My Car. All Hopped Up also saw the departure of Staley and the arrival of drummer Tom Ardolino. It was this line-up Adams, Anderson, Spampinato and Ardolino, along with the Whole Wheat Horns (Terrys brother Donn who originally came up with the bands name on trombone and Keith Spring on saxophone) that remained intact for two decades, releasing albums and touring incessantly, building a devoted following along the way. The band spent most of the rest of the 20th century playing 200+ shows a year in the U.S. and Europe, and releasing albums on Red Rooster/Rounder with stopovers at a few major labels: Mercury (At Yankee Stadium), Bearsville/Warner Bros. (Grooves In Orbit), Virgin (Wild Weekend), and Rhino (Message for the Mess-Age). There were live albums, and collaborations with Skeeter Davis and Captain Lou Albano, and compilations, and reissues. Along the way, Al Anderson left the group (1994), replaced by Joeys brother Johnny Spampinato. And the band kept bouncing along on the road, including regular tours of Japan, before finally taking a break in 2004.That year, SpiritHouse Records released The Q People: A Tribute To NRBQ, an album where artists paid homage to the lasting impact of the band. You can see, in the list of people who jumped on board this project, how wide-ranging the influence of NRBQ has been; along with longtime fan Bonnie Raitt (who not only recorded the Adams-Spampinato song Green Lights as the title song for one of her albums and Adamss Me And The Boys as well, but calls NRBQ the greatest rock n roll band in the world), Q People brought together Steve Earle, jam band Widespread Panic, alt-rockers Yo La Tengo, J. Mascis, Mike Mills (from R.E.M.), singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, and Spongebob SquarePants.NRBQ has always been blessed with wonderful songwriters Adams, Joey Spampinato, Anderson, Ferguson, Ligon, McDonough have all written great songs, making the NRBQ songbook a one-of-a-kind treasure trove. Although none of the songs were hits Me And The Boys (with the real-life line Futures no problem cause we dont care, wherever were going well soon get there), Little Floater, The One And Only, I Want You Bad (covered by Dave Edmunds, Freedy Johnston, Dan Baird, and the Long Ryders), Ridin In My Car, (covered by She and Him), Spampinatos Christmas Wish (covered by Darlene Love) to name a few they are all, in any way that matters, classic. And the list of illustrious Q fans not only includes the likes of Raitt and Edmunds (whos also cut Me And The Boys and Green Lights) but also Elvis Costello (whos called their debut one of the 500 Albums You Need), Keith Richards, the residents of Springfield (NRBQ were the unofficial house band of The Simpsons they not only appeared as animated characters in a Season 11 episode, but appeared as themselves in the same episode, playing Adamss arrangement of The Simpsons theme as the end credits rolled), Harry Shearer, Drew Carey, Paul McCartney, Penn Jillette, Ian McLagan, and even a NASA astronaut, who flew a copy of Grooves In Orbit into space in 2009.In 2005, Joey and Johnny Spampinato left NRBQ to form their own band. From 2005-2008, Adams released archival NRBQ projects, live recordings with Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra (Ten By Two), a collaboration with his original musical partner Steve Ferguson (Louisville Sluggers) and new music under his own name (Rhythm Spell, recorded with T-Bone Wolk and Tom Ardolino and Holy Tweet, recorded with Scott Ligon and Tom Ardolino).In 2007, Adams and Ligon (guitar) recruited Pete Donnelly (bass) and Conrad Choucroun (drums) and hit the road as The Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet. I found musicians who not only understand NRBQs past and traditions but who are open to future impossibilities, said Adams. Its important that their reason for being musicians in the first place is real.Three years of touring and one live CD (Crazy 8s) followed and the band recorded a new studio album in 2010-11. The spirit of NRBQ was alive and well. In the spring of 2011, Adams announced the release of a new NRBQ album Keep This Love Goin, said, I didnt want to call the band NRBQ right away because I didnt want Scott, Pete, and Conrad subjected to unfair comparisons. It was clear in the spring of 2009 that we had it onstage, but I wanted to wait until we had more road experience and a new studio album with new songs that we wrote and recorded together.Tom Ardolino was one of the loudest champions of the new NRBQ line-up "Its time to welcome to the world the latest version of NRBQ. Terry, Conrad, Scott, and Pete are playing true music, which is what NRBQ is all about. All you have to do is listen to this band and you will feel what theyre putting down. If you cant feel it, I feel sorry for you. NRBQ is back!" (Ardolino appeared with the band on stage as a second drummer as often as he could during 2007-11, until his untimely death in early 2012.)In a review of Keep This Love Goin, critic Bill Bentley said that Adams has proven that its the passion inside a sound that matters as much as who is playing the instruments . . . When the songs are flowing and Adams and his musical buddies are rolling, they let the pride in one of Americas all-time great bands fly high.Keep This Love Goin was followed by the live recording We Travel the Spaceways in 2011, and then by another new studio album in 2014, Brass Tacks, recorded with Adams, Ligon, Choucroun, and new bassist Casey McDonough. The Los Angeles Daily Times gushed, Brass Tacks is as accomplished and as spirited an album as the band has ever made The unalloyed joy that flows through a trio of breezy, heartfelt love songs Waitin on My Sweetie Pie, Sit In My Lap and Cant Wait To Kiss You will stop even the most jaded listener dead in his tracks. Pop music this elemental and non-ironically exuberant needs to be treasured as the rare resource it is Brass Tacks is a terrific addition to the bands catalog, one that might even act as a gateway drug to NRBQs long and rewarding back history.What comes through, seeing NRBQ live in 2015, is the same spirit and vision that has always been there. At the center, the guiding force of NRBQ is, as it has been, Adamss sensibility, his idea of what a rock and roll band can encompass. Everything about the band, its unusual combination of wackiness and dead-serious musicianship, its ability but more than that, its willingness to move from genre to genre, to deliver the unexpected, has been, as one fan put it, an extension of Terrys personality.NRBQ has been, since its origins close to 50 years ago, about the band and the audience going on a ride together, without a musical map. Still touring with the Whole Wheat Horns, an important element of NRBQs sound (the section has included original members Donn Adams & Keith Spring, as well as Gary Windo, Sun Ra musicians Pat Patrick, Tyrone Hill, Dave Gordon, and Knoel Scott, Jim Hoke, and today Klem Klimek and Carl Q), the band still performs with no set list. Adams calls the songs as he feels them, the live show goes where it goes, and thats why the Q in concert is never what youd expect but always a joy to witness. NRBQ music is made fresh and in the moment, every performance is authentic and true. And the musicians in the band are up to the task, and the legacy. I bring out the best in them, Adams once said of the players who have been members of NRBQ, and they bring out the best in me.Today, the sound and spirit of NRBQ is soaring. Dont miss them.