Episode 44 – Believe In The Good Things Coming With Nahko Bear
Listen to this episode here!
In this episode Rachel is joined by her friend (and favorite musician!) Nahko Bear. Rachel shares the story of how she first connected to Nahko’s music and how it helped her move through the grief of her best friend’s passing, and Nahko shares what it’s like to write music that deeply impacts people all over the world. They talk about the importance of spiritual discipline and trusting that life brings you where you’re supposed to go (especially when things get really, really hard) and Nahko shares some of the hardships he is working through at the moment. They also talk about the blessings and challenges that come along with being leaders in their respective communities, the importance of activism and standing up for what you believe in and how at the end of the day, the way we care for Mother Earth is a true reflection of how we care for ourselves.
[00:00] Rachel: Hi, and welcome to another episode of From The Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl. I am so excited to introduce a super duper mega special guest on the show today. Someone I’ve been sort of badgering to join us forever … One of my all-time favorite musicians, Nahko Bear. Nahko is an artist, activist, musical prophet, and the front man of the band Nahko and Medicine for the People, and his heart expanding lyrics and incredible voice have moved the lives of people from all corners of the world. His music has been an instrumental part of my own journey and my own healing, and I’m just so incredibly happy to have him on the show. Welcome to the show, Nahko!
Nahko: Aw, aloha, thanks for having me, Rachel! So good to be here with you.
Rachel: Aloha! I’m so happy to talk to you. It’s so nice to hear your voice.
Nahko: Aw, yeah, it’s good to hear your voice too. It’s been a little while since we’ve seen each other. You’ve since brought a beautiful life into the world, and I’m so proud of you!
Rachel: Thank you! Yeah, a lot has happened, actually, yeah. Last time we saw each other was L.A., I think.
Nahko: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Rachel: Eating food somewhere, yeah.
Rachel: Feels like another lifetime. Everything since I had baby feels like, I don’t know, like a past life, somehow.
Nahko: Oh my goodness, I can only imagine, yeah.
Rachel: And it wasn’t that long ago. So, in spirit of the name of this podcast and speaking from the heart, how are you? What’s going on in your life?
Nahko: Well, I’m doing alright, you know? I think that I’ve been going through one of the hardest times of my life, to be truly honest, and it feels good to be now I’m on a two month break and taking some time to literally carry the water and chop the firewood, I guess you’d say.
[02:00] Rachel: Hmm.
Nahko: And sort take some time, some serious alone time to really navigate through my own process of saying goodbye to the old archetype that once was living and of … You know, we all go through these things, young men, young women, where you have to sort of address the inner child that potentially won’t allow the adult to fully mature and rule your life. I think that, in astrology terms people call that, like, your Saturn Return. (laugh)
Nahko: I go, well why does Saturn never leave me?
Rachel: (laugh) I’m like, isn’t that supposed to be every 28 years or something?
Nahko: Yeah. Yeah, well, but for men it’s a little different, right? For women it’s a bit earlier, and for men, we kind of go through it from like 29, 30, 31, and I’m about to be 32 in a couple weeks. So, you know, I thought when I hit 30 and I went through some pretty hard things, I was like, “Okay, I’m good! I’m good! I’m good ‘til the next, like, 12 years.”
[04:00] Nahko: Then 31 rolled around and it was like, “You’re not even close to being done, buddy!” Yeah, so big transformations. I mean, like, you know, a lot of it, I guess, has to do with the fact that I work really hard. I’ve grown into this role as an artist, as a musician, as a, I guess what my mom and I like to call a social worker through music, right? She’s a social worker here in Portland, and she’s been through so much in her life and through that experience of her life, she’s been able to transform that challenge and pain and just hard struggle into a form of teaching and been able to now share her healing through working for the state and helping under-privileged families and lower income families work through their issues.
So, I guess the way that I often have viewed what I do is, essentially, helping people connect with themselves more, and help them navigate their inner work so that their outer work reflects who they truly are, right? I guess a part of-
Rachel: It’s a good term for you, I think. Social work through music. I would say it’s pretty accurate.
[06:00] Nahko: Yeah, yeah yeah. You know, navigating all of the little [inaudible], right, and trying to identify specifically what it is I feel like I’m offering the world. Yeah, so the last year I ended up amidst a very rigorous schedule of touring. I was advocating for numerous projects that were all appropriate and also all very dear to my heart, some of which I’d been on annual campaigns with, and they’re all successful campaigns that were all supported by our Medicine Tribe, our communities across the nation and across the world. But, in doing all of that and through being in a relationship for the first time in years and having all of these things sort of happening, including, also navigating an industry, and that’s a whole ‘nother conversation to dive into of the construct of systems and the construct of, I guess, really, I mean, industry is always sort of a very similar format when you really dig into it. But, a for profit industry that really makes it difficult-
Rachel: That you have to take part of in one way or another. I mean, it’s unavoidable.
[08:00] Nahko: Yeah, yeah, you have to be … Yes, you have to take part in it in order to survive, which is such an annoying, yet … It’s a task that for someone who’s an Aquarius, who’s as a futurist is a person is who, like, in my younger years also was so anti-establishment and now have softened quite a bit in understanding the system, even though it’s quite oppressive, and it doesn’t allow this against the normal grain, riding the edge of something, potentially conscious … It doesn’t want it to survive, necessarily. That could be said for any artist or-
Rachel: I mean, any industry, any arts, yeah.
Nahko: Exactly. So, yeah-
Rachel: And I wonder if you’re not part of changing that just a little bit. Before I get into some questions so we can go a little bit deeper into that, I asked through social media a couple hours ago if anybody had any questions for you, that they could ask them, and then maybe I’d connect right now, and the overwhelming amount of messages that came in, so many were not with questions about, you know, asking you details about your life or anything like that, but it was just overwhelming amounts of gratitude, really.
Rachel: So many people wrote in and said, “I don’t have a question, I just want to thank him, because his music carried me through really difficult times in my life.” So many of those specific messages of just gratitude. So, I want to start off and pour some of that your way, just so you know, people all over the world are just in this moment really grateful for the art that you make.
Nahko: Aw. Mahalo. I’m really happy to hear that. That’s always a good feeling, to know that you’ve helped someone move through whatever that they’re going through, you know?
Rachel: Do you sometimes forget that? I mean, you’re living this life, you’re making music, changing lives, but from far away, do you sometimes feel, I don’t know, does it get lonely making music? Do you sometimes forget that, okay, this will be touching the depths of someone’s heart, but you’re not maybe present with them in that moment? I find that sometimes with my writing, sometimes people tell me, “Oh, I connected so deeply through this.” But I sometimes have a hard time deeply making that connection if I’m not in the room with a person. You know? So, what’s that like for you? Because this is what you do every day.
[10:00] Nahko: Oh, for sure, yeah. I think that, you know, when it’s … I do, it does get lonely. I think that there’s a weird connection between, like, the channel that we create from and the way that we react to it once it actually gets out there. (laugh) You know, I want to say it’s human, but I’m not sure exactly what it is.
Nahko: But, it is an odd thing, because I think that, perhaps, in the developing years of putting the music out that people have become so familiar with, that I had been so reluctant to doing it that I maybe sort of inadvertently decided in my subconscious to not take on any of the vibration or the … whatever it was that people were putting back on me, whether it was gratitude or love or joy, whatever it is. I would receive some of that, but in its magnitude I wouldn’t necessarily carry it. Also, a lot of times people would say, “How do you deal with all of these people who love you? How does that affect you? Does that how you write? Does it change you live?” And I think that, absolutely, as a young person my ego certainly took a lot of that and ran with it.
[12:00] But, in hindsight now when I look back on earlier times and how I’m translating it now, I can see that I wasn’t fully aware of myself yet. You know what I mean? To take what I was receiving and understand it, or even, like, mold it a bit, or whatever you do with it. Because I wasn’t really comfortable with myself yet. You know? When people say they love you or that they care about you, or that you’ve done something for them, it can be hard to receive that when you yourself, perhaps, don’t feel worthy of that, or understand your, you know … If you don’t have a good relationship with your self-worth, or you don’t have a great relationship with how you love yourself, I think that oftentimes it becomes a shrug of the shoulders, or a, “You’re welcome.” Kind of like, wow, and here yet again is another story of someone saying something like that to me, and then I don’t know how to necessarily, like, take that in its fullness, you know?
Rachel: Receiving is hard, man!
Nahko: Exactly, exactly, receiving’s very hard. So, no matter how big and loving that person might be, and how incredible that person is, it’s a true testament to understand the frequency of those people, you know?
Rachel: Yeah. I think actually, yeah, because I have such a personal connection to your music, and I know so many people do. I mean, all music is personal, of course, and it’s very subjective in that it becomes what we make it, sort of. So, I’m sure some of the music you put out there is perceived in thousands of different ways. But a lot of people somehow … because we met for the first time, I mean, this was 2014, we were in Costa Rica at Envision Festival. It’s the first time I ever saw you perform. And I had one of those moments. Because I love music of all different kinds, but I’m not a big concert person, and I wasn’t really a big festival person. I wasn’t … I never had like a wow intense, earth-shattering moment of live music, ever, really, in my life.
Nahko: Mm-hm, mm-hm.
[14:00] Rachel: And then I saw you perform, I was there with my best friend, and I had that first moment where my heart was really cracked open through music and through your lyrics, and of course through the community of everybody present together, you know? There’s something so … I had this little crack open there. Then I was raving the whole evening about this music, and oh my god this band! And oh my god these lyrics! And oh, I have to play this in yoga class! And holy shit, like, life changing stuff! And I never had that really before, which for me was such a strange thing.
Then, the next day … I mean, we spoke about this, I think, once or twice, but we were in this hammock, me and my best friend, and she goes, “Oh hey! There’s that music man! Your music man, he’s over there.” And you walked under us, and she touched your head, and she was like, “Hey music man! What’s up?” And we said hi, and that was that, you know?
Rachel: Then, this is such an intricate part of my story, because one of your songs, “Black as Night,” became, like, our anthem for that festival. It became our thing, our song, we sang it all the time. And then two weeks later, my best friend passed away, you know? And I had that song was like the echo of our whole experience, like our whole friendship was in those words that you wrote, connected … I mean, when you wrote them they were about something very personal to you, but to me it became this kind of survival chant that I kept repeating to myself. Like, “I believe in the good things coming.”
I shared that with the world, and I remember sometime, I mean, I had one of my worst nights early on I had, I was playing this song repeatedly, again and again and again in the night, and I tweeted you. I never in my life, like, this was the first time in my whole life that I ever reached out to someone that I didn’t know. I was never, you know, I never felt connected to … I don’t know, there was never a celebrity or an artist or a person that I was like, “Oh my god, I’m inspired.” I never had that. But I had that moment of like, “Oh my god, whoever wrote these lyrics, maybe there’s a little bit of gold, like he could help me with.” I don’t know, maybe he could help carry me through this wave of pain, of grief. And I reached out, and you wrote back, and we chatted for a little bit.
[16:00] I’ve been on the other end of that and I know … It’s such a different space, because how could receive that? I mean, you wrote that song years earlier, and it’s received in a totally different way than the intention of how you wrote the song. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the receiving that, “Okay, you helped carry me through grief, or your music helped heal a part of me,” it’s a really big thing to hold, for someone else!
Nahko: Mm-hm, mm-hm. Yeah, and also-
Rachel: So, I mean, for you, since this the outpouring you get all the time … Yeah.
Nahko: Yeah, yeah. And I think that whether it’s, I mean, I guess in relation to … Well, yeah, I was thinking about how interesting it is that music really does crack you open in a way that you could be very surprised by your actions and how it can shift your energy, of course, and how it turns into mantras, you know, and how it really does help you understand yourself better, I guess, in those circumstances. But, I was also considering the fact that, like, even that song, you know … As you were telling the story to me again, I was thinking about where I was when I wrote it, and then I was thinking about how it doesn’t, for me at least, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since I’ve played a song, or how many times I’ve played a song, more often than not I find that when I bring them back and I play them in different ways, or I bring it … or I just play it again, I find new meaning in them for each different day that I play them.
[18:00] I was thinking about how, you know, we just played for New Year’s Eve in Denver for three nights, and we brought back some older songs, and I was thinking about how people have been transformed through different stories of, you know, the music and the different songs, whether it’s “Aloha Ke Akua” or, you know, “Black as Night” with “I believe in good things coming,” and then being able to share them. Because they’re still relevant mantras for people, in that sense, and still deeper truth. And I marvel, at times, to think that something so personal, for me, can be so transformational for another person. That is truly a gift, you know? So, thanks for sharing that story again. It’s really … I remember that moment when she reached down and touched my head, and I remembered who that young boy was who was standing … who walked beneath you at that time, and I marvel at his capacity to do what he was doing then without knowing what I know now.
Rachel: Isn’t that always the case?
Nahko: Oh my goodness, it is. (laugh)
Rachel: It is, it is always the case. And I love how, you know, life will hit you with a bunch of shit, and you’re like, “oh my god I made it through this, I’m solid now. I know everything. I have learned, I have overcome.” And life is like, “Eh, just a little bit left. Here we go. Here’s some other shit for you to grow with.”
Nahko: Or also, like, the Creator will take everything away from you, and then offer you a great gift and say, “Alright, here’s your second chance,” you know?
Rachel: Beautifully, I mean-
Nahko: I’m looking out my window and speaking directly to you as if you know what I was talking about, and I was like-
Rachel: No! I deeply know what you’re talking about, actually.
[20:00] Nahko: (laugh) Yeah, yeah.
Rachel: I’m on that same couch in a different way. Something about the specifics of this, of being able to write music that helps carry people through dark times, I mean, there’s something so beautifully purposeful about that. You’re not just making music, whatever, for the sake of making music, or making music to make money or to be famous, or … I don’t know why people make music. I like to think that there’s always that spiritual component of it. But I find that there’s something really special about the way you write that’s able to touch people in those hard times. Would you want to share a little bit with us any adversity that you’ve overcome that has made you able to, in such a beautiful way, touch on that place? Because I don’t think everybody has that ability.
Nahko: Yeah. I think there’s two stories that came to mind just immediately, and one of them, I guess, is the most recent. The short story of it being that I recognize now that shadow work is real stuff, right? I kind of played that off for a long time thinking that I had any kind of major shadow work to deal with. Now, as I sit here daily working through my stuff and bringing ritual into my life more so that I can create discipline, because part of my inconsistency is having consistency for myself to become more grounded.
[22:00] I think that, as I’ve realized that I’m not exempt from any of the outer world healing, and when I say that I’m talking about the imbalance of the feminine and the masculine the world. And when we look at the most recent year of politics in our country, in America, and you look at the most recent four to six months of what was trending in the news the most, it was these men that would come forth or be accused, daily it seemed like one had to resign or whatever it was, in the media, of men who were abusing their power, right?
Rachel: The #metoo movement you’re talking about, yeah.
Nahko: Sure, yeah, yeah. I mean, I’m specifically speaking to, like, the men that were accused or found guilty, or whatever it is that they were doing. It’s just men, right? Men and their abuse of power to women.
Nahko: Obviously at the top, if you consider that the top, then obviously it speaks volumes to all men, right? That wound being so deep of what in our society has caused men to over and over again, you know, abuse that power and have this expectation (clears throat) … Excuse me … And do these things. When you look at that action and you go, “Okay, well, that’s a very easy reflection of how we treat our Mother Earth, right?
[24:00] When I’ve considered my own life of abuse of power, of letting my ego be in control and the inconsistency that I’ve had in my life towards being fully transparent, hiding from myself all along and letting the child who has, when he was a kid, you know, the trauma that I never really wanted to address of being separated from my mother and being born in this certain way, which is part two of what I was going to talk about, that I kind of always would say, “Oh yeah, I probably have abandonment issues,” but then I never really, like, went there with it and did the work with it to sort of release that, because I kind of didn’t think that was necessary, I didn’t want to make time for it.
Now that I considered all of the relationships and non-relationships that I’ve had in my life, and all the running away that I did, you know, as my mom so, at one point, she so aptly put it, and I jest when I say this, but she’s like, “Have you ever considered your own trail of tears?”
Rachel: Your own trail of tears. Oh wow.
[26:00] Nahko: And I was like, “Wow, great joke, mom.” Yeah, yeah yeah yeah. And, you know, I’m pretty hard on myself. I think that at times you have to be in order to really reconcile with your past. We all have to recognize that, you know, you’re the only person, really, that’s going to keep yourself accountable for your past, right? I think that I’ve, as an Aquarius, as a person who is like so completely air, like, I have four planets in Aquarius, I have like no Earth, I am all air. I am constantly that person that is running off the path to make my own, and then I turn around and there’s all of these people following me, and I’m like, “Why are you guys following me? I have no idea where I’m going.” And they are like, “Great! Let’s go there!” And I’m like, “Okay, I guess we’re going!”
I have to kind of bring myself down to Earth quite a bit and say, “Listen, buddy. This kind of behavior is not how they do things around here. You’ve got to consider everybody else, too, you know? So, I’ve been going through … Yeah, I’ve been going through an interesting time of looking at my wounds and how I’ve wounded other people because of my lack of caring for those wounds and healing them. It’s kind of shameful, to be honest, when I look at the work that men have to do in the world, on this planet, and in this dimension, and I consider the fact that, like, no man is exempt from feeding that beast, and I’m no better than anyone else.
Rachel: But it’s such a hard thing. I find most, at least the men in my life, and I’m having these conversations now in the wake of all of this being brought to light. I think, or at least it seems like from the man’s perspective, it’s a really hard conversation to carry, now.
Nahko: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s triggers a lot.
[28:00] Rachel: Do you have any, as someone who’s doing this work right now, I like to believe that there’s a lot of men out there who are kind of slightly uncomfortable or very uncomfortable in this conversation, who just don’t know how to carry it forward from the man’s point of view. But we can’t just talk about this as women, you know? It has to be … It’s a humanitarian thing.
Nahko: Totally. I think that there has to be … Yep, yep yep. There has to be … you know, you can have your women’s circles, you can have your men’s circles, and then you need to integrate, and I think that it’s a really tricky place to come from because you can say, well, you know, in our native cultures we often want to say, “Let’s bring our elders in, let’s have them talk.” But, you know, more often than not there is a history of misogyny in our elder circles that has not been healed yet either. So, it’s a really … And, in our traditional cultures, the way that a lot of our traditional cultures have been formatted is completely imbalanced with the masculine being completely in charge, and the women being subservient to the rule. And that makes me feel really uncomfortable, and it’s actually really a tricky place to talk about because when you look at our traditions, a lot of them have been shaped potentially quite unknowingly by the most recent generations have been shaped by Western ways. When you go farther back, you sort of start to realize that there was much more of a balance of power. Whether that’s women leading ceremonies for both men and women, or obviously more women in power back then, and then over time, it’s sort of like with the onslaught of Western ways it sort of started to shift, and now we think that is the only way that is tradition.
[30:00] So, it’s a really tricky place to speak from, especially as you’re saying, what seems to be the majority of men aren’t looking at the #metoo movement or looking at the women’s march or looking at the men coming out and having to admit to these things, they’re not looking at themselves and thinking, “Oh gosh, I guess I’m probably a part of that,” or they’re not looking at it and saying, like, “Wow, these women are right, potentially. How do we step forward in a good way with supporting our women in this re-balancing of things, starting from at home?” And I don’t have the answers for you, you know?
Rachel: No, I mean… I’m not expect-
Nahko: I think that-
Rachel: I’m not expecting you too, but I think having this conversation, as men, you know, together with women, I think it’s the only way.
Rachel: And I try to do it with my husband at home, and with friends, but it seems like it’s, at least in this moment in time, everyone is so afraid to say the wrong thing or so afraid to, you know, what kind of ghosts do I have, or what kind of skeletons do I have in my closet? Am I able to speak of this? I’m not sure. You know? But I think we have to all air all of this shit out, and continue on this conversation.
Nahko: Yeah, it’s going to be hard. And, yeah.
Rachel: It is going to be hard.
Nahko: And I think that the hardest thing right now to do is not have your feelings hurt. If you can let it roll off your shoulders and not take it personally, and then take things personally (laugh).
Rachel: It’s all personal, I mean …
[32:00] Nahko: Yeah, yeah, exactly, not that it’s directed directly at you, but to recognize it as a whole, there’s a responsibility we have to each other to see this work through. And who knows, you know? It’s like, I would like to say that for me personally it’s a daily thing in my personal life that I hope reflects in my work, forthcoming, because it is very important, and also I think it dictates how we advocate to our children and for our Great Mother, of course, as well. It really does boil down to how we treat the planet based on how we treat each other.
Rachel: Exactly. So, because you have some very strong powerful women in your life, right?
Nahko: I do, I do.
Rachel: Has this shaped, so you think, how you’re able to carry this conversation now? Are you having this conversation with your moms, for instance?
Nahko: Yeah. So, it’s interesting, because I feel like I have far more very opiniative, strong, resilient women in my life that really helped me identify my own dysfunction, you know? With my mom, like, a year ago, she’s like, “Let’s go to therapy.” And I was like, “I don’t got no problems.” (laugh)
Nahko: I was like, “I’m not going. What are you talking about mom? I’m not going to therapy.” I was like, “What are you talking about?”
Rachel: Based on what? She just … just on a whim? Or was it something specific happening?
Nahko: Well, she was going through a lot and she wanted me to go talk about those things, and she was sort of having like a relapse of trauma, and it was, you know, as trauma takes a long time sometimes to really come back around.
[34:00] Nahko: And she was going through that time. And I wasn’t around much then, and now I’ve moved back to Oregon, and I’m much more closer to her, and we spend a lot more time. I spend a lot more time with both my moms. And my birth mother and I are now, we haven’t gone yet, but we’ve scheduled our first, like, mother-son therapy session together with a counselor, and I’ve got my own counseling that I’m about to start doing.
Rachel: For anyone listening who doesn’t know, can you share, just really briefly, how you have two magical moms?
Nahko: Oh yeah, I lucked out. (laugh) So, let’s see, I was born through a human trafficking experience that my mother went through when she was 14 years old, and my grandmother was a troubled person, to say the least. Yeah, was trafficking her youngest four children. So, I was a result of that. Then my mother gave me up for adoption when I was nine months, and I was adopted by this beautiful, loving family. As uh, I’m uh, uh… Trying to explain this … Let’s see, I’m Native American, Puerto Rican, Filipino, and Chimurro, and grew up in an all white family in a very white, suburban household/neighborhood. Very Republican, conservative, Christian environment. I feel like when I say that, and I consider the story too, I think a lot of people get confused thinking that I came from a really hard childhood, which I didn’t. The family that raised me did everything in their power to create a safe and loving environment, which they did.
[36:00] As any kid would say, like, “Oh gosh, my parents this, my parents that when I was this age,” and sure I have all of those stories too, but it wasn’t because of the fact that I was adopted. It didn’t really get hard until I got into my later teens and eventually found my mother on the internet and rolled down the street about 20 minutes from where I grew up and actually met her when I was 21. So, for the last 12 years of my life I’ve spent getting to know my mom’s family, my brothers and sisters … I have two sisters, two brothers on my mom’s side, and then many nephews and nieces.
Then on my dad’s side, I did three years later discover my birth father’s family, and they had no idea that I was even a thing, so they were quite surprised to discover the eldest son. So, I spent many years getting to know them. Then, about, what was it … maybe a year or two after I’d met them … Well, when I first met them I had discovered that my birth father had passed away in 1994. It wasn’t long after that that my adopted father also passed away from cancer, so now it’s just my moms. But yeah, the lessons and the ongoing understandings that I have of both my fathers and the teachings both of them left me, in some ways, haunt me. But in other ways, you know, are really important for me to navigate the lessons, specifically just speaking of now. But yeah, so, it’s been a long journey to say the least.
[38:00] Rachel: To say the least. But it’s incredible, I think. I mean, every family has its things. Of course, your past you have more trauma that most people. But, the fact that you’re all, three of you now, talking and going to therapy and doing this work all together, I think that’s pretty epic. I mean …
Nahko: And I feel like I’m not alone. I feel like there’s a lot of folks, of course, that have pretty wild and nuts stories. But I think that the … the gift that I have to share that story through music is, in particular, brings it out, right, in a different way that’s translatable to people, and I think that the authenticity of that message and the genuine way that I write about it, I think, is really the key to how it’s been able to be translated by folks. So yeah, that’s a little bit of that story.
Rachel: Do you think it goes around, so that you make music and then your moms are able to listen to it, and then healing comes back around their way as well?
Nahko: I don’t know, you know? It’s interesting. I think my mom, like my birth mother I feel like is finally sort of in a good space with it. She wasn’t that … When we first met she was like, “Oh, that’s great, you play music.” Then as some of the songs started coming out she would, like, say, “Wow, that’s really heavy. I’m glad that you wrote that.” Then she went through a period, I think, when her trauma was kind of coming back around where she couldn’t listen to it. It was too much, you know?
[40:00] Then now she’s in a really good place with it, to the point where we’re both considering how powerful it could be for us to be, like, a fighting duo where you rarely see in the human trafficking movement, in the anti-human trafficking movement, you rarely see a survivor and a survivor’s son working together to share the healing part of the journey, you know?
Nahko: You know, I mean, it’s a huge thing. Black market sex trade, you know what I mean? It’s not something you really hear talking about that much, especially like as far as in our sector of the world.
And then my adopted mom, my mom that I grew up with, she has mellowed out a lot in the last decade. She doesn’t ask many questions, but I know that she understands me, which is a lot to say, considering where her and I both came from in the beginning of our journey together. So, I’m really proud of her. She’s very, very devoutly Christian, and I’ve learned to really appreciate her faith, and really see her for who she is, in a good way. So, we don’t talk much about my songs. She always wants to be able to read the lyrics, because she’s like, “Well, you know I’m old and I don’t understand all of the things you’re saying. You say it so fast!” (laugh)
Nahko: And I’m like, “Alright, fair enough.” So, I always try to make sure I print the lyrics off for her so she can read them, right? But, yeah, so they both have very different reactions to the music.
Rachel: How beautiful.
Nahko: I think that, you know, sharing me with the world has been an interesting journey for both of them.
Rachel: That’s a hard journey, but it’s a beautiful one.
I mean, it’s pretty clear to say that by sharing it and by doing the work, you are, collectively, everybody doing this work, we help each other. It gets lighter once it’s spoken.
[42:00] But the thing about trauma is it comes back. And I haven’t figured that out myself. I come from a past with a lot of death and depression and suicide and heavy shit. Sometimes, I don’t know, I feel like the more I talk about it, the lighter I feel. But I’m also keeping that door open a little bit. So, sometimes I’m like, can I just close the door to all of this past shit and just open up a new chapter? And then I think I have, and then something comes back and opens up again. Probably it’s just a lifetime thing, healing.
Rachel: It’s not a linear thing that you’re one day done with.
Nahko: Yeah, I think we just become more resilient, we just become more accustomed to addressing it, and we just get better at doing that, I guess.
Rachel: So, what is your, if you look back at the past year, what’s your greatest lesson of 2017? What are you taking with you that’s new and fresh into the new year?
Nahko: Well, gosh, that’s such a …
Rachel: A lot! (laugh)
Nahko: There’s so many … Yeah, there’s so many. I would say … What are the biggest lessons?
Rachel: Are you going to chop more wood? Carry more water? 2018?
Nahko: Yeah, I guess metaphorically, physically and metaphorically speaking, I am … Okay, so here’s something, to be quite frank. I was kind of talking earlier about how reluctant I had been in my past to, I guess, owning up to this responsibility I have.
[44:00] With having said that, I never really got into playing music or traveling, for that matter, to become like a business person, right? I didn’t ever want to have to crunch numbers and deal with, you know, running a small business. But I’m running a small business now. It’s a… There’s people who create with me and who work with me daily, and that’s an exciting thing to now have manifested and to step into that role of leadership.
So, as I take my personal lessons with me that are certainly reflected in songs and in the messaging and in the strategy of how we carry that with us into the world, I’m looking at my year ahead and the years to come from a much more openly vulnerable standpoint of humanness and recognizing that the more vulnerable and open I become with my journey and with my wounds, on one hand, yes, you become more open to attack and to negativity, but if you have a strong core, those things can be addressed, I guess, more appropriately.
[46:00] But, on the other hand, it does give you a really strong foundation to work from because you’ve got nothing to hide, you know? The more that you dig into your own trauma and your own wounding I feel like the more power you have.
So, in moving forward with this year, whether it’s with business and trying to just, you know, pay my bills or whatever domestic things you have to do as you continue to create your art and continue to write the stories of experience that will help shape a generation, it is, I guess, imperative (for me at least) to create ritual and discipline in my life, as I spoke of before, so that I feel a truer connection to myself and to the man within me who is growing into himself. And walking side by side with that child that does exist within me as well, rather than letting the child be leading me. So, yeah, reconciling with that child and walking hand in hand with that child, but firmly allowing the man to be in charge. That man has to also be completely open and be able to receive as well as give, and to address the wounds that the child has also inflicted. So, I don’t know, does that make any sense?
[48:00] Rachel: In terms of ritual and, you know, carrying this with you to help you ground, what does it look like in practice? Like, when you’re on the road, how do you stay sane?
Nahko: Well, I’m really inspired by this lady, her name is Yoga Girl.
Rachel: Oh! Who’s that?
Rachel: (laugh) I love this voice! Who is this voice? (laugh)
Nahko: (laugh) Oh my god, I have so many different voices that come through me sometimes, it’s so strange. That guy’s name is Frankie. Yeah, it’s Frankie, I’m just saying, I have all of these great teachers I just kind of tap into.
Nahko: But yeah, as far as like-
Rachel: Yoga on the road?
Nahko: … ritual … Yeah, it’s health and fitness and it’s like I’m a super active person whether I’m … Practicing yoga has been really helpful for me these last couple of months, specifically. Getting into a daily meditation beforehand and after, and then also working outside is my other thing I do. I love working outside, in nature. Where I live, it’s six acres here, and we’re kind of rebuilding a sweat lodge here soon, so that’s going to be something really helpful for me too, just staying in ceremony and practicing our traditional ceremonies.
Then, as far as the heart and the home, yeah, it’s like the inner work inside the house, I guess you could say, or the inner work as in meditating outside … Practicing yoga has been really helpful for me these last couple of months, specifically. Getting into a daily meditation beforehand and after, and then also working outside is my other thing I do. I love working outside, in nature. Where I live, it’s six acres here, and we’re kind of rebuilding a sweat lodge here soon, so that’s going to be something really helpful for me too, just staying in ceremony and practicing our traditional ceremonies.
[50:00] Then, as far as the heart and the home, yeah, it’s like the inner work inside the house, I guess you could say, or the inner work as in meditating outside or, you know, ingesting more text, reading more, I have a whole stack of books that I’m working through right now.
Rachel: Hmm. And how does this work when you go on the road?
Nahko: I guess, you know, it really feels … It’s pretty much the same, to be honest.
Rachel: Do you find that when you … It works the same? Did you-
Nahko: Yeah, like, my life on the road is actually way more … like, it’s very meticulous. I have this many hours free, and then I gotta go do some media stuff, or like at three o’clock I gotta go to soundcheck and then at 4:30 I eat my early dinner, and then we go to the meet and greet, and then it’s the show time, and then we eat late dinner, and then we stretch before we go to bed, or we call our loved ones. It’s very, like, sort of … It’s way more scheduled than, for say, my days at home.
Rachel: Wow, I’m so surprised to hear that. Is that because that’s the only way shit works?
Nahko: Yeah, for me at least and how we roll and our crew, that’s the only way it works, because otherwise we just feel like, “Uh, what are we doing?” (laugh)
Rachel: (laugh) You need a mom on tour!
Nahko: Yeah, well we have, yeah, we have a very awesome tour manager who’s an awesome female, and her and I are very similar. We’re kind of all pretty OCD with how we run our stuff. (laugh) Except I wouldn’t really say it’s a disorder, so I just say we’re OC. (laugh)
Rachel: I like that, OC, it’s good.
Nahko: Yeah, I’m really OC about things. (laugh)
Rachel: (laugh) Oh my god, I think I’m the same. It’s not a disorder, it’s just a personality trait. It’s a way of life.
[52:00] Nahko: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s just how we roll. But yeah, the home stuff is definitely new to me, because I’ve been so uprooted from a home for years. Even when I lived in L.A. for, like, the last three years, I didn’t have … I really wasn’t there, to be honest. I was kind of just living in my storage space.
Rachel: I find that so challenging. Right now, since I had the baby, travel of course looks completely different. But I find myself living in lives of like three month chunks of, okay, if I’m home here then I feel so grounded and so rooted. Then challenges, to me, now just looks like a blur of madness and stress and lugging a baby on the road. I don’t know, it’s a big struggle for me to continue ritual and routine and discipline while moving. It’s super, super hard.
Nahko: Yeah, and now, you know, your ritual really is your child.
Rachel: I mean, that’s the one consistent thing, yeah. Everything else is out the window.
Nahko: Yeah, I mean, that’s the sacrifice and the blessing all at once, right?
Nahko: It’s like, okay, now everything sort of revolves around the ritual of taking care of this little spirit, and that’s a big responsibility. Yeah, I can only imagine how difficult that is. I guess my only way to relate to that is the fact that I feel like I take care of nine people on the road all the time.
Rachel: (laugh) Nine babies. You have nine babies.
Nahko: They’re grown up babies! (laugh)
Rachel: But I mean in terms of astrology, so, I did a podcast episode with Trevor Hall a couple weeks ago, and he really turned me on, like for the first time really, I had my chart read completely after that, and I do readings with his astrologer now.
[54:00] Rachel: And she told me something so interesting, because she told me, so my chart is all fire. Everything is fire. But I have this baby who is a Pisces, who is like, all different, and if it wasn’t for her I would never down, and I would, like, get sick and die, basically.
Rachel: She said this baby is the only way for you to stop. So just listen to her, and I think it’s so, yeah, it’s so beautiful and so hard, oh my god, all at once.
Nahko: Don’t you just love Debra? She’s so amazing, yeah.
Rachel: So amazing.
Nahko: Yeah. I’m so happy that you got to do that. Yeah, shout out to Debra Silverman. I think that, oh my gosh, so Trevor Hall, the astrologer? Are you kidding me? This dude is, like, crushing it!
Rachel: (laugh) He is!
Nahko: I’m like, literally, like, when he started doing it I was like, “Okay, yeah, we’ll see.” You know? Then he started … he read my chart and I was just, like, jaw on the floor. (laugh)
Rachel: Oh my god, no it-
Nahko: He’s so good at it!
Rachel: So good at it, yeah. I think he should, yeah, career change, second …
Nahko: Yeah, for real. I’ll be like, alright, Trevor Hall the astrologer, call his 1-800 number right now.
Nahko: Same with me, though, when he started doing that and I started seeing how, I mean, I’d already sort of had some kind of knowledge around it, but when he started digging into it with me, I was like, “Dang! I want to know that stuff!” So, yeah, I’m signed up for her course-
Rachel: You are! Oh my god, I was thinking about doing that! Okay, okay this is so interesting!
Nahko: Yeah, yeah yeah, no, I’m in. I’m in, I’m in. Maybe we’ll get in the same class.
Rachel: You’re in deep. Oh my god, I’m going to join too. Because I never really fully believed it, and now that I’m really diving into it, it’s so, like, oh my god. Yeah, no really-
[56:00] Nahko: Yeah, well once you consider the fact that all of our traditional cultures from all around the world, our ancestors really understood our direct connection to the stars, you know? And how they relate, you know, whatever moon you’re born under, or whatever sun, that those things really have a lot to do with our makeup and how we navigate in life. Once you’re able to put aside the ideas, the structure of us, how we’ve been told since day one, and you step aside that and sort of start to learn about what seems to be actually far more natural and what actually is vibrating at your frequency, that makes way more sense to me. You begin to open up to a whole different understanding of what life is meant to be about.
Rachel: Yeah, we feel more a part of the whole. There’s something so intricately beautiful about, wait, the stars were aligned in a certain way when I was born, and it connects to everything else that moves. The whole universe conspired for me to arrive here at this moment in time. I find it just-
Nahko: It’s literally mind-boggling.
Rachel: It’s mind-boggling. I was thinking when I had the baby, she was two weeks late. Didn’t want to come out. I was going through this whole thing. She was supposed to be … What was she supposed to be? What’s before Pisces?
Nahko: Oh, uh, Aquarius.
[58:00] Rachel: Aquarius! Yeah yeah yeah. She was supposed to be an Aquarius. So, I had all of these friends in the community sent me, like, the birth stone for the Aquarius, and we had all of these gifts, because she was supposed to be an Aquarius, and then she was born two weeks late, and it came out in this whole other thing that I had planned. But it was so interesting to me, now, that this was the moment that she was supposed to arrive, and it was really life-changing, those two weeks, you know? It’s, ah, so special, so special.
Nahko: So, so meant to be.
Rachel: So, I have a final question. I kind of want to … I would love to end on a note to rally the community a little bit, because one thing we haven’t touched on in our conversation yet is the work you do as an activist in the world. I know you’re involved in so many different causes and projects, and you rally behind some truly, truly amazing and necessary stuff. But someone asked a really interesting question. So, from your eyes, what is the number one most important social issue that we all need to band together and strive to change right now?
Nahko: That’s a great question. I think last year I probably would have said climate change, because it really is the apex, right? Everything kind of meets there, whether it’s environment justice or social justice or the movement of, like, finding the balance for the masculine and feminine. Whether it’s education or healthcare, or whatever it really is, or protecting our creatures that live with us on this planet, or all the rest of life, whether it’s our forests or whatever, our oceans, all of these things that I’ve done work towards on certain levels and such, it seems as though all roads lead to the climate.
[60:00] And yet, now, the space that I’m in now, and some of the things that I’m considering, the strategies I’m considering to be advocating for in the coming years, I think that my push, I guess, is going to be more focused on, I guess, perhaps inspiring young people to become more involved in politics. Because at the core of it I wonder, okay, yeah, it seems as though … I mean, our government is shut down right now over here.
Rachel: Right, it’s-
Nahko: Still, for like two days now. Literally neither party can come to an agreement about how they’re going to fund us, right? We have, like, so many black ops programs that are taking trillions of dollars from our budget, and those things aren’t being talked about, whether it’s the secret space program or all the black ops stuff that goes on in foreign countries, the black market things that are going on. It’s like, normal taxpayer people don’t even believe those things are happening. Well then why do you think that we can’t even come up with budgets to pay for stuff that’s like basic human healthcare and basic state-funded jobs, right?
[62:00] So yeah, our spending is out of control. But I think that there is a growing movement, and there’s so many different orgs that are all run by young people who are inspired, who have now, I guess you could say, karmically come back enough times to be like 60-year-old people inside, like, 26-year-old bodies, and are far more advanced in their knowledge of how the system works than I will ever be. Far more advance in, like, coming up with solutions to our insufficiencies and our deficiencies, who are focused on dreaming our economy in a far more rapid way, and hopefully directing it away … I don’t know, this is a personal note, hopefully directing it away from further A.I. technology.
Rachel: A.I. technology?
Nahko: Like, artificial intelligence.
Rachel: Artificial intelligence technology, what does that mean?
Nahko: Like, the amount of work that’s going on in the scientific center regarding artificial intelligence is a little bit mind-blowing.
Rachel: Really? I never hear about this.
Nahko: Hollywood isn’t just- … Oh yeah.
Rachel: I mean, I never read it in the news or anything.
Nahko: I nerd out with this stuff. (laugh) I’m kind of a nerd on it. It’s just the fact that, you know, Hollywood doesn’t just come up with these idea, you know? It’s … Predictive programming is something that they practice on us, like, every day with every kind of media outlet to desensitize us to, as they begin to slowly release this stuff, and there’s a million predictions of what-
Rachel: And there’s a lot of money spent there?
[64:00] Nahko: Oh my gosh, yes, trillions. Absolutely. I mean, we have technology that’s so advanced that you would consider it alien, or back-engineered, right? If they just came out with it today, a lot of people would be like, “What the heck? Why haven’t we cured cancer? Why haven’t we solved the issue of the way that we extract oil and our dependency on oil? Why aren’t we using this new technology?” Well, it’s because it’s all part of a strategy that they’re using, that they’re working on to, of course, make more money and to have more power and control over the larger amount of people. The one-percenters definitely know what they’re doing in that sense. I think that, you know, outside of all what people might be considering theories and maybe perhaps even they might look at it as a negative thing to consider, to me it’s not even negative stuff, it’s just reality. It’s just like this is actually what’s happening.
So, what do we do? Well, we have to encourage young people to take office, and we have to get more conscious people involved who have the big picture in mind, who know that in order for us to even survive on a planet that’s rapidly becoming depleted of its resources, that we green our economy. Whether it’s, you know, whether I personally will focus on systems that are healthy, I guess you could say, or whether that’s solar or hemp, you know, focusing on stuff that will eventually turn the economy in a good way.
[66:00] I think that the consciousness of the majority of people in our nation are wanting to do that, following the suit of other countries that are taking the lead, who are committed to the Paris Agreement on climate reform, and going, “Okay, well let’s actually do this stuff.” If we wanted to actually focus on these renewables, we could be doing so much more. But, again, you look at obviously what’s happening in our government today, just the quarreling about these things, you can see we’re clearly at a standstill with the majority of people who are in office, who supposedly represent the people being in an inactive space because of their entanglement of all facets of the complex web of politics, of how this nation is run.
But, if we can’t even get resources and help people in Puerto Rico, it’s like we’re obviously not even being able to help ourselves on a very basic scale.
Rachel: Right. But how do you stay motivated, then? As a single individual, maybe a young person listening to this right now, because looking at the state of things, it can look pretty bleak, right? I mean, sometimes it really feels like we are moving in the wrong direction, and there’s just more and more messed up things taking place in the world. So how do you stay motivated and active to actually, yeah, to act?
[68:00] Nahko: Yeah. Well, I mean, for me personally, I feel as though that, what I spoke about earlier, the ritual and the discipline and what I fill my senses with, you know, you have to balance that out. So, the less time you spend on your phone, the better, right? The more time you spend interfacing with things that are real is imperative to not get sucked into the frequency of that state. Now, that’s not to say that that state isn’t real, because it is. So, the more that you become strong in yourself and your highest self and your consciousness, the more you’re able to, I feel like, address the frequency of the world with compassion and empathy. With that, I feel as though your purpose, as an individual, about what your service is becomes clearer. Does that make sense?
Rachel: Hmm. Yes, yes yes.
Nahko: Then you don’t get carried away with the fear or the … I mean, absolutely, you’ll be overcome with grief at times, and you’ll be overcome with frustration at times, but you’ll have such a strong core and you’ve built a foundation and an infrastructure that allows you to step from there and greet the chaos of the world with compassion and clarity. You still find purpose in living, because you know it’s sacred, you know what I mean?
Rachel: Right, and you need your community at your back. That’s the thing. If we feel all alone and we just take all of this stuff in on our phones every day, yeah, we’re going to go into total despair, and you know, there’s no future there. We have to connect with other human beings that believe in the same things that we do, and rally. I mean that’s why, like, the march is happening now, you know? There’s something so powerful and just brings so much life to this cause, as opposed to just sitting at home tweeting something. “Oh, I support this.” Like, you know, you’re not going to really act from that place. You need to be out there and march and move and connect and talk.
[70:00] Nahko: Yeah, and it’s good to be in conversation and in dialogue with people that don’t have your same perspective, because you get to actually practice compassion and conversation without … You might get frustrated, you might get upset, but if we don’t understand an opposing view, we don’t get to fully understand our own view. So, it’s really important that you dialogue with people who don’t believe the same things that you believe in.
Rachel: That’s true, but it’s so hard.
Nahko: I know!
Rachel: I feel like especially in the U.S. right now, there’s a lot of dinner time family conversations that took place over the holidays that were really, really, really difficult.
Nahko: Yeah, yeah yeah. I mean, you know, then at some point you just gotta put it down, right? (laugh)
Rachel: (laugh) At some point you gotta put it down. Yeah, that’s true. My brother yesterday, he said to me as like a sarcastic joke … I haven’t spoken to him, he lives in L.A., I haven’t spoken to him in like 10 days, and he sends me on Facebook an invitation to like the Facebook page “Donald J. Trump.” Like, that’s it.
Rachel: That’s his form of like, “Hey, what’s up? Fuck you!” (laugh)
Nahko: (laugh) Oh man! That’s classic.
Rachel: The fun continues.
Nahko: Just takes one like, Rachel, one like.
Rachel: Hey … (laugh) Just one like, and then I’m in, I’m there. Oh, dude, it’s been such a pleasure having you on the show. I have one final little thing to ask. Okay, you can totally say no, I asked this of Trevor, you know, anytime I have someone with music on the show, I always ask if you, only if you want to, would like to sing something for us before we say goodbye.
[72:00] Nahko: Oooo, oooooo!
Rachel: Oooo, on the spot and everything!
Nahko: Um, let me see here, what do I got?
Rachel: Let me get into the zone.
Nahko: Let me see here. Oh, yeah, I’ve got something. Ooooo!
Rachel: Oh yeah! Okay, ooo!
Nahko: Oooo have I got something for you!
Nahko: Okay. (piano chords) Can you hear this?
Rachel: Whaaaaat?! Are you kidding?!
Nahko: Can you hear that?
There is a will, there is a way
There’s no … we can make the space
It’s part of life, there comes a taste
The medicine that we were meant to take
They say there is a time or place
But I just can’t afford a longer wait
I needed a miracle, I need to say
Or an opportunity to co-create, mmm
Some kind of lesson, I don’t want to understand
Some kind of blessing, always unplanned
But I don’t take for granted the gifts from the land
Cuz the hardest earned blessing comes from Creator’s hands
Creator’s hands, yeah, the hardest learned lesson comes from Creator’s hands
[74:00] Rachel: Oh no, I’m crying! (laugh)
Nahko: (laugh) Aww.
Nahko: Some kind of blessing, I don’t understand, some kind of lesson, always unplanned. But I don’t take for granted the gifts from the land, because the hardest learned blessing comes from Creator’s hands. Ay-oh.
Rachel: Oh, thank you, I love you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Nahko: I love you, thanks for much for having me on the show. It’s been great being here!
Rachel: (laugh) It’s so great having you! Now, back to the couch and the tea. Thank you, brother, thank you thank you thank you, from my heart.
Nahko: Aw, you’re so welcome. Thank you for all the work you do. Go team.
Rachel: Go team.
Nahko: Yeah, that was fantastic, I felt really good about our conversation. I was really happy to be able to do that.
Rachel: Me too. Thank you. I’ll see you somewhere soon. You gotta hug my baby at some point too. She’s awesome.
Nahko: Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. We’ll talk soon, and, you know, take care of yourself up there, alright?
Rachel: Thank you. Bye!
Nahko: Alright, Rachel, aloha.
Rachel: Bye, aloha.
La Croix – lacroixwater.com
Tripping – tripping.com/yogagirl
Third Love – thirdlove.com/heart
Zip Recruiter – ziprecruiter.com/yoga