What inspired you to write And I Breathed?
I wanted to write a book that could be a friend for everyone who was walking (or running!) on the treadmill of life looking for fulfillment. I’ve learned so much on my own journey that I thought sharing it and allowing the reader to find themselves in my story was something that might bring comfort and peace to a lot of people like me.
Could you give us a quick high-level summary of your background?
I didn’t take the traditional route to corporate America. While I was in high school I got a weekend job parking cars at the local flea market. What began as a part-time job to make some extra money became my life’s version of business school. The flea market was buzzing with commerce – entrepreneurs everywhere, selling everything from vegetables and fruit to garage sale items. Over time, I worked my way up to overseeing the entire business and, as fate would have it, I built a small stage on the beer patio and began booking local bands to play while our customers took a break from buying and selling … that was the beginning of my concert promoter career.
From there, I founded a Spanish-language concert company with a partner (I had learned Spanish while working at the flea market). We worked for a while in obscurity until getting lucky and landing the first concert dates of Enrique Iglesias. Those shows put us on the map and got the attention of the large English-language promoters. Eventually I was offered a job at Clear Channel Entertainment (which later became Live Nation.) There I met my former boss and mentor, Michael Rapino, who mentored me as he rose through the leadership ranks. It was Michael’s vision that created Live Nation — he became CEO and put me in charge of the global concert division.
It’s really amazing as I look back on it. I never would have guessed that booking bands at the flea market would have led to this wonderful adventure!
Delving into your book now, who would benefit most from your book?
I wrote the book And I Breathed with the intention of sharing my story in a very open and honest way. I write about my childhood, about being the child of divorce, about my own divorces, raising my two children as a single father, being an entrepreneur, sitting in therapy, the death of my mom from stomach cancer and then learning to create a life of wellness for myself by studying with great teachers of body, mind and spirit. I really feel that there is a story for everyone. It’s my story but in many ways it’s a story about the human experience.
What makes your book different from other books that cover this same topic?
My book is a tell-all about my rags to riches story and what was going on inside me. There are a lot of self-help books out there. I didn’t want to write a book telling people what to do – which usually looks like an author saying, “Do it my way.” Instead I set out to share openly about my fears and insecurities as I rose in business and how I ultimately found peace and fulfillment. In that regard it’s more of a self-love book – how I learned to love myself.
What are the most important elements, messages, or takeaways of your book that you’d like readers to know they will benefit from?
I spent my life working for what I believed mattered in life – money, power, prestige, buying things, etc.– all of the physical possessions that we value in our society. That’s the “matter.” What I discovered through the death of my mom and my subsequent journey is that what really “matters” … what’s really important in life – is learning to love ourselves and others.
It’s not a matter of running away from the material world. But I think we can, I know I needed to, find a better balance between work and play, intellectual thought and opening our hearts and caring for ourselves as much as we care for our stuff.
That word “balance” is one that people use a lot. But not many people give you useful tools to find and experience balance. That makes it really tough because when we’re learning and working balance is a really difficult thing to maintain, because we’re always diving into new experiences.
What I’ve found really helpful in my life is to develop a daily practice of caring for myself that I do every day, regardless of what new business or learning opportunity I’m engaged with in the moment. This is a really important experience for me because it says that my feelings matter too. Just like a school or work deadline is important so is the health of my body, mind and spirit.
I begin each day by stretching into the day with yoga. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s really just a chance to stretch my body and open myself up to the experience of the day. My teacher is Guru Singh, you can find him online at GuruSingh.com. But there are many wonderful yoga teachers who videos and books you can find. And when all else fails just sit and stretch the way you were taught in sports or PE. Touch your toes, let the blood flow to your head. Reach for the heavens and create space for your internal organs. Move side to side and loosen up the hips and shoulders. It doesn’t have to be complicated – remember this is a time to love yourself.
After stretching I sit quietly in meditation. This is another activity that society tends to make very rigid rules about. But for me that’s not what it’s about. Meditation, for me, is the practice of learning to love myself. That means it’s okay to have thoughts in your head, it’s okay to feel jumpy, and it’s okay to be human and be yourself. Sitting in meditation is simply a time that I dedicate to being present with myself … it’s an “I love you” to my inner being. Again there are many great teachers in this space – Guru Singh who I mentioned above. Another of my favorite teachers is Sharon Salzberg (SharonSalzberg.com) who has many, many free videos online and a lot of wonderful books. Those resources are great, and if you don’t have time for that right now just take a walk, breathe and be present to yourself … that is as great a mediation as any special posture or technique.
The third part of my daily practice is loving my cells by eating nutrient-dense foods. This means getting a lot of leafy green vegetables into my body, along with Chinese herbs and other supplements. The easiest way I have found to do this is by drinking green juice made from fresh vegetables and fruit. You can make it at home or buy a juice from the many juice bars that are opening around the country. As far as Chinese herbs go, I get all of mine from DragonHerbs.com which is owned by my teacher, Ron Teeguarden who took me to China to the Shaolin Temple. Again though, nutrition is about loving your cells. So make it joyful. Find fresh, organic, foods and supplements you like and each time you consume them send a message of love and care to your body.
This, for me, is what really matters – a life of material success combined with love and care for myself and others.
What are the major sections of your book?
The book is a series of essays about my life. Each one is a self-contained story of an experience in my life and what I learned about myself. It starts off with me selling gum on the school yard to make lunch money, goes through my time working with rock stars and ends with me sitting cross-legged with a Guru!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard or given to someone just starting out in mindfulness meditation?
Sharon Salzberg taught me that meditation is really the practice of loving ourselves. I’ll never forget hearing her for the first time in Maui at a retreat with Ram Dass. We were beginning a meditation and she said, “In meditation, like life, we get lost some times and we spin out and then, at some point, we catch ourselves. That moment of realizing you’ve gotten lost and coming back is the most important part of mediation. It’s an invitation to begin again. We have the opportunity to create a new relationship with ourselves and say, ‘Welcome back, I love you.” That idea that meditation is about me beginning again and again as I learn to love myself is a very powerful guiding force for me in my practice and life.
Give us an interesting fun fact about your book or the research you conducted for your book.
In many ways the process of writing my book was therapy for me. I relived so many moments of my life – joyful times, painful times and funny times. After each chapter I would sit in bed with my wife and read it to her and we would laugh and cry together. She now knows all the characters from my life by the stories about them in my book. So when she meets an old friend of mine she always relates back to what I wrote about them in my book.
Where can people find out more about you and/or your book?
My website is: www.jasongarner.com.
Would you like to leave our readers with any last advice?
I think one takeaway I want to leave is that we don’t have to check out of life or runaway to the mountains to find peace. We have the opportunity … the invitation … to find peace right where we are. We can truly change our lives and the world from our desks as easily as a guru can from an ashram. The starting line is self-love and the magic unfolds from there.
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