FOREIGNER and ex-DOKKEN bassist Jeff Pilson went on the "Side Jams" podcast this week to discuss his love for meditation with host Bryan Reesman. Pilson says he has been actively practicing meditation since the 1980s, and it has helped keep him focused and not go off the rails during the platinum heyday of DOKKEN and after. He also spoke about the time that FOREIGNER opened for LED ZEPPELIN in 2007 for their London reunion show.
When he began meditating:
"I got into yoga exercises — the postures, the stretching first — in the late '70s. And the reason I got into it is I was staying at a friend's and doing some kind of exercising. I fell on the floor for hours, and I was only 20 years old. My back — I couldn't even move, I was paralyzed. And after that, I said to myself, I've got to do something and somebody recommended yoga. So I got books, started doing it, and was hooked immediately. I got associated with a guy by the name of Richard Hittleman who had workshops. Richard's no longer with us. He died in 1991. I started going to the workshops in the '80s. So I've been into meditation since somewhere in the mid to late-'80s. I don't think I could do it without to be honest with you. You get sleep on the road, but it's not always restful sleep. It helps you in performing and staying focused, it helps you just your overall health. I think it just set me up for a nice run on the road without killing myself. And I partied in the '80s, man. I was doing a lot of drugs and alcohol.”
How it affects his mental health:
"I've always flirted with mild depression. The meditation has helped keep that way in check. Part of the reason I got into meditation as well is I was a pretty neurotic guy, pretty up and down, angry. I was very hard on myself a lot. I noticed that once I started even getting into the postures, but especially with meditation, that all just backed off. And I wouldn't say it went away. But now my perspective on it is way different. When those dark thoughts come in, I say, 'Oh, yeah, that's just the dark thought floating by, you know.' It doesn't paralyze me like it did when I was younger."
How it altered his view of life:
"As much as I love meditation, I'm not what you'd call a naturally chill kind of guy. I think it's kind of given me this other perspective. It even kind of ties into mortality. I feel like I understand mortality in a better way now, which is an odd thing to say. It makes me see – wow, when the end comes, it's okay. It's inevitable. And it's alright. I can't explain it beyond that, other than I just feel one notch more accepting of mortality. And that feels good to me."
Does he ever get into a meditative state on stage?
"A great performance kind of has that aspect to it, where it just feels like it's flowing. It just kind of flows. A great show does that for both the audience and the performer. But because I'm a performer and because I do it so often, I'm very aware when it's in that place. It's not exactly like meditation, but it is a similar state in that you're kind of selfless at that point. You're just flowing, what's happening is coming naturally. And that's a beautiful state. And again, that gives you the kind of bliss that meditation does as well.”
What has been his most transcendent moment on stage?
"In 2007, FOREIGNER got to open up for LED ZEPPELIN when they did their reunion show [at the O2]. We played right before ZEPPELIN. I wouldn't say I was stressed out necessarily, but I sort of wrote off the gig. 'God, this is 22,000 people that just want to see LED ZEPPELIN. They're not gonna give a crap about us up there.' And we ended up getting up there and the people were so into it, it was the most shocked I've ever been at a show. They were just so gracious and into it."
Jeff teaches meditation every Monday at 5 p.m. Pacific / 8 p.m. Eastern at www.hotforyogascv.com.