We spoke with Lukas Nelson about horse ownership, the spiritual road to self-awareness, learning to build a fire on your own, questioning mainstream wisdom and why right action leads to feeling good.
Once you internally ask the question “How am I doing?”, it begins a process in your spiritual journey that is impossible to reverse.
I’m interested in self-awareness and how people seem to have varying levels of it. You can either really get down to the bottom of what makes you tick, or have no clue where your feelings, emotions or beliefs come from. What methods do you use to understand how you feel day-to-day?
That’s a good question. First of all, I’ve been on an inner journey for a long time. When I was about 13, I read books like The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Tao Te Ching. I started studying religions, philosophies and different ways of looking at the inner world versus the outer world. That kind of began the conversation with myself, where I asked “What is my relationship to myself, inwardly? How self-aware can I be?”
Honestly, just asking the question begins a process in your spiritual journey that is impossible to reverse. Once you internally ask the question “How am I doing?”, it brings your attention there and you’re forced to continue to ask that question. Unless you decide that you don’t want to, in which case you can put it off for a long time. You can use television, cellphones, sports and things like that to distract yourself, but eventually you’ll have to look at it.
And I think it’s smarter and wiser to look at it at an early age, so that when you come to really life-changing moments like the transition point of death, losing somebody or losing your job, you’re equipped to deal with these things. You can bounce back from them rather than just feeling like the world is doing everything to you, understanding that you and the world are co-creators of this reality. You have to take 100% responsibility for what happens to you in life. That comes from inner exploration, you know? To me, it’s a matter of being prepared for what happens and understanding why certain things happen, and in reality, having more of a grasp of what life is. To have that sort of sense, you have to look inward.
I consider myself to be a self-aware human being. I’m always trying to grow and learn about myself on the inside, because I also have the time to do it. I have two hours a day where I play a show, maybe two hours where I do an interview like this, but when I’m on the road I have eight hours in the day that I have to fill up. So I’m either reading a book or working out to keep my sense of bodily health.
The irony is that the more “in your body” that you get, in terms of your physical body, if you can match that with your spiritual body, then it becomes even more powerful. If an athlete were to focus on not only their physical part but their spiritual part, they’d be the most well-rounded humans because they’ve got the outside and the inside perfected. Right now, I’m trying to get more into my body so I can perfect that part and master the outside world, which is a reflection of the inside world.
As a child, how did you comprehend that you were being brought up in a world of music, songs and performance? Did it slowly dawn on your that you were going to have this kind of life, or was it immediately understood?
It was pretty much immediately understood that music was going to be part of my life. My earliest memories are of music. For example, a fish in the ocean doesn’t necessarily understand that there’s anything else but the ocean, until he decides to jump out of the water. I had my kind of “jump out of the water” moment when I grew up and started meeting other people, seeing how other people lived. When I went to school for the first time, that’s when I became a more amphibious creature. But at one point in my life, all I knew was music, and at a very early age that was all I knew.
I don’t believe that the world is past the point of no return, because I understand that reality is essentially a dream.
I feel as though Western society is becoming more divided than ever, but also that the environment is being carelessly destroyed. I feel very emotional about the loss of ocean life in particular. What threatened aspect of the planet do you feel most moved to do something about?
My interest is in creating a system that supports education. I’m not necessarily talking about academic education, I’m talking about musical and spiritual education. We need to create some sort of system that allows our children to truly learn about themselves and the world, which is not happening right now. If we can get a system like that and start churning out thousands and thousands of citizens who, from a young age, are educated about the inner and outer world, I think that it’s almost inevitable that we can turn our world around and become a sustainable planet.
I don’t believe that we’re past the point of no return in that sense, because I understand that reality is essentially a dream. It’s a co-creation. If there’s a self-awareness, then we can create and manipulate our dream on a world scale and create a positive environment to live out this incarnation. I think that education is the most important, because that trickles down into action. If somebody’s educated about the world, the planet, their inner selves and their connection to other human beings, it’s inevitable that policies will be put in place by intelligent individuals that protect the environment and our planet. It all comes from creating a system of education. To me, that’s the most important part.
How would you describe yourself as a guitar player in comparison with your brother, Micah? Does he know anything you don’t, or vice versa? What have you learned from him as an artist?
Micah is an incredible musician who plays so many different instruments. I think the difference is that I chose guitar as my main instrument, whereas he decided to play many different instruments and became a virtuoso at all of those. There’s a lot that I know about the intricacies of the guitar based on putting countless more hours than he has, but I think that he’s also an extremely fast learner and he studied different things. So there might be other things he can tell me about the guitar that I don’t even know about, because he’s taken a different journey in his study of the guitar. He’s writing a lot of great songs and we have a lot to learn from each other.
My brother’s also a visual artist. I think he even says that he’s less a musician in the true sense of the word than a visual artist who uses the medium of music to express that art, whereas music is my primary mode of expression.
Please describe your relationships with these three forms of life: animal life, plant life and oceanic life. Do you have a story to go with any of those, or does any memory come to mind?
I like to surf, and I feel like surfing is a direct relationship with the ocean. You’re literally having to fall into the rhythm of the earth to catch a wave, and I think there’s a certain peace you gain from that.
As far as plant life, I used to sit under trees and read and I feel a kinship with them, trees and plants. I feel their aliveness and I have a communication in my own way with the plant world.
In terms of animals, I’ve always been a dog lover. I love animals. We have fifty horses in Austin that we rescued, and we have 700 acres that they run around on. We have a bunch of animals, and we have a great relationship with them.
In my mind, we’re becoming as divided from our surroundings as we are from other people. This also includes practical knowledge. I’m sure you know someone who’d rather throw up their hands and call someone to fix a household problem rather than flex their brain for a solution. Is there any handy trade or craft you’re interested in learning, beyond music?
Sure. I’ve always felt like it’s smart to learn how to work on a car, how to fix an engine. There are engineering skills that I’d love to know, like electrical engineering. I think it’s important to know how to survive in the wilderness and in the wild on your own. It’s important to know how to fashion tools from your surroundings, build a fire on your own, hunt game and figure out which plants are safe to eat. I think survival is an important skill. So are martial arts and knowing self-defense. I’m rudimentarily familiar with all of these, but there’s always more you can learn.
Can you think of any ancient, antiquated or lost society, language or culture you’d like to learn from? What secrets do you think have been lost to history? Can we reclaim them?
I’m very interested in the Sumerians and pre-Sumerian cultures. I’ve done a lot of studying and reading about the first languages. I’m also into societies that predate those. I think that humans have been on the planet a lot longer than conventional science says, and they even admit they’ve been here. They’re still discovering older and older fossilized remains of humanoids. I think there have also been other celestial beings that have come down here and influenced our culture as well. I think it’s more plausible scientifically than any other creation stories that cultures have come up with.
I think it makes a lot of sense that certain genetic engineering has been used on humankind and pre-humankind. There’s a certain missing link between the caveman and the modern human and I think a lot of that has to do with intervention by cultures from other planets. I’m really interested in studying how we became self-aware human beings. At what point of evolution did this spark occur? There’s a lot of different theories on that, and it’s not necessarily extraterrestrial influence. A lot of it has to do with psychedelic influence. It could be that certain Neanderthal humans found a diet in some areas of psychedelic mushrooms that activated certain parts of the primal brain and pushed them to create tools.
I like to study truth. I don’t think that conventional, mainstream wisdom explains everything perfectly. It explains a lot, but I don’t think it explains everything, so I like to look at alternative sources of information sometimes even though it’s a dangerous road to go down. There’s so much misinformation and so many conspiracy theories. So I try and sift through all of that and ask myself “What makes the most logical sense, truly?” And it’s not always what makes the most conventional sense, but what makes logical sense.
Finally, how would you describe yourself, your personality and demeanor to someone who’s never met you? How would you like to be remembered as a human being, regardless of music?
These types of questions are hard for me to answer, and the only reason is because I’m trying my hardest to not think about that. How am I going to be remembered, or how would I describe myself? I’m a complex human being. I have many, many, many sides to myself, but I’m also very simple. I’m just trying to exist.
On an extremely surface level, I’d want to be remembered as a kind human being who tried his best to treat those around him with love and respect. I’d want to be remembered as someone who made people feel happy every time I spoke to them or I was around them. I want people to have generally positive feelings about me and themselves when they interact with me. That’s kind of the long and short of it.
I made a choice at a young age that positivity is the wisest choice. It’s the smartest choice. I’m not worried about being a bad person because I think I’ll be punished in some sort of existential hell. I’m worried about being a bad person because I don’t want to be miserable. I know that goodness feels good, and badness feels bad. I’m very in touch with how I feel every day. And I don’t like feeling bad, so I make decisions that will make me feel good.
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Phone
Published: October 16, 2017
Total questions: 8
Word count: 2087
Reading time: Seven minutes
acre, age, amphibious, complex, creature, Dan Millman, death, dogs, dreams, Eckhart Tolle, fire, game, guitar, horses, instrument, intelligence, life, love, Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson, neanderthal, Neil Young, ocean, psychedelia, reality, respect, return, self-awareness, surfing, Tao Te Ching, Terrence McKenna, Tibetan Book of the Dead, virtuosity, wilderness, wisdom, world
About the curator
Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.
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