By Autumn Feldmeier
If you're like me, your adolescence was influenced by lyrics like these:
"Well I got to keep it going keep it going full steam/ Too sweet to be sour too nice to be mean/ On the tough guy style I'm not too keen/ To try to change the world I will plot and scheme"
It wasn't until I moved to SF and found yoga that I realized these lyrics had a deeper message, those of MCA (aka Adam Yauch from Beastie Boys. MCA found Buddhism around '92 and became a Tibetan Buddhist in 1996. Without knowing it, I was being influenced by Adam Yauch's journey, which is probably why I was drawn to Larry Schultz when I moved to San Francisco and found yoga. Old school hip-hop influenced me more than I realized.
MC YOGI has the same impact. As a hip-hop artist, musician, yogi and (now) author MC Yogi (Nicholas Giacomini) has the same reach and street cred to influence a wide audience. From recovering addicts to Wanderlust attendees, his reach is wide. Nicholas and and his artist wife Amanda Giacomini, founder of of Ten Thousand Buddhas have taught over 1/2 million yogis.
And, like MCA, MC YOGI stays grounded in his spirituality. A yogi who considers his meditation his 'favorite' practice, yet still busts out hits that draw thousands, MC YOGI (in my opinion) is the artist who will create the bridge that will draw youth (especially troubled) into the practice.
I feel blessed to have spent time talking to (and learning from) Nicholas. It started as many spiritual discussions do, talking about Macklemore...
Nicholas, I found an interview where you mention Macklemore as someone you'd like to hang out with. This surprised me. Can you elaborate?
I'm inspired by Macklemore, especially when he spoke out against homophobia. Growing up, 'faggot' was the most derogatory term you could say, the worst put-down. But, I grew up with a gay dad. When Macklemore spoke out against homophobia, he caught a lot of flack, but I thought it was bold and awesome. We are all looking for connection and respect and that transcends sexual orientation.
On being a nerd....
A few voices have suggested I should be more angry and take a more 'traditional' role in the cliche of rap but I'm kind of a nerd at heart; I love comic books and animation. My friends thought I was weird but I never tried to chase trends.
A little background, Nicholas grew up in Santa Cruz and found spirituality while in a group home for at-risk youth and became inspired by rap songs like Bodhisattva Vow by the Beastie Boys. He then practiced with SF legend Larry Schultz and found his path.
What is your opinion on how yoga can affect today's troubled youth?
I'd love to see more kids discovering a practice that can help steer them in a positive direction. I lost a lot of my friends growing up. But, there's a danger and a risk in yoga growing in popularity. While it can benefit more people, it has become disconnected from it's lineage and it's purpose can be forgotten. When it becomes more about vanity, it can lead to dangerous outcomes.
How do you stay grounded?
It's a difficult path being human!! My wife and my friends check in with me all of the time to keep me grounded. So, any techniques to ease the suffering, to point towards peace and stillness, I'm a huge supporter of.
Can you tell us about the book 'Spiritual Graffiti' coming out September 19, 2017?
I didn't plan on writing a book, but I was approached to do it. I was actually more interested in making a new record. But, it was cool to look back and see how yoga transformed my life, to follow the arc I began at 14/15 years of age. I was on a journey that led me from darkness into light. It was cool to remember how many teachers guided me along the way. We are going on tour to smaller yoga studios, visiting roughly fifty to sixty cities in the fall. We want to connect on a grassroots level and the cities we visit will reflect that objective. Look for us!