Meditating With Miguel and ‘Transcending The Limitations We Choose to Acknowledge’

Amy Harris / Invision / AP
– Miguel
Miguel performs during Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., April 14.

Four hours before he’s set to step onstage at L.A.’s Greek Theatre this week for the latest stop on “The Ascension Tour,” Miguel is deep in the catacombs of the fabled venue in what’s identified as the “Women’s Chorus Dressing Room,” a large space with a checkerboard floor.
The occasion is a pre-show session with a dozen lucky fans who’ve paid a couple hundred bucks apiece for the privilege – along with several specially invited media ringers. 
This is not your traditional meet-and-greet/grip-and-grin selfie-and-a-hug routine. Instead, call it a “congregate and meditate,” as the slightly built superstar fires up his iPhone and a portable blue tooth speaker and dials up Vishken Lakhiani’s 6-Phase Guided Meditation on YouTube.  
Eschewing the use of a plush chair fronting a low-slung coffee table with 12 flickering candles in glasses, Miguel prefers instead to be one of the group, greeting everybody individually by looking us straight in the eye, then explaining this is a daily ritual which allows him to “quiet the noise” and help him focus on the two-hour-plus performance ahead.
“It’s about connecting with purpose, being on the same page, setting a mentality for the show,” he explains an hour later, after he’s tirelessly posed for photos with a couple of hundred fans and signed poster.  

– Miguel
As for including fans in the process, Miguel says, “To be completely honest, I didn’t want to give that part of my day up, so this was a way of ensuring it happens every night.  Sure, it’s a little selfish, but with good intentions. What it’s evolved into is me educating others about the benefits of meditation, what it means for me and how it’s part of the process. One of the major rewards has been seeing people doing this for the first time or participating with others.”
The themes of the meditation, which involve relaxation and breathing techniques, with nods to love and compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, visualizing the future and imagining a perfect day, as well as a final blessing to a higher power, are all tied in to Miguel’s current tour, which he describes as “transcending the limitations that we choose to acknowledge.”
Miguel is the perfect American rock star antidote to Trump-era xenophobia, the San Pedro, CA-born son of a Mexican father from the Michoacan region and an African-American mother. The concert itself is a Dante-sque narrative that takes our hero from “Going to Hell” through the temptations of sex (“Come Through and Chill”), “Drugs,” female oppression (“Arch & Point”) and self-deception (“:So I Lie” to the “Pineapple Skies” and final “Skywalker” uplift, in which he ascends up the backdrop of a moving staircase). 
Along the way, the dazzling performer evokes the dance moves of Michael Jackson, Prince’s keening falsetto, the sexual healing of Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley’s dread-waving uplift and the social consciousness of Curtis Mayfield. Makes you wonder why he hasn’t stepped up to the arena status of The Weeknd or Bruno Mars since beginning his career at Jive Records as a 22-year-old in 2007.
The pre-show session helps set the mood for the spiritual aspect of his physically demanding set.  Miguel, who’s only been meditating a few years, was originally inspired by reading about The Beatles’ trip to visit the Maharishi in India and its influence on recording Sgt. Pepper’s though he laughs in agreement when it’s mentioned the Fab Four’s disillusionment when the guru began hitting on Mia Farrow’s sister – which resulted in the White Album’s “Sexy Sadie” 
“I knew it was part of their evolution because they were coming off of years of touring and trying to figure out what to do next,’ he says. “Sgt. Pepper’s was definitely influenced by meditation and it inspired me just as I was looking for a way to focus.”
Miguel explains that his three RCA albums released over the past give years – 2012’s Kaleidoscope Dream, 2015’s Wildheart and 2017’s War & Leisure – “communicate with each other and speak to my belief system.  I really do believe we’re here to reach our highest potential spiritually.  And the more we can focus our minds on what it is we really want in this life and get in tune with our intuition, the more likely we are to make decisions that push and propel us in a direction that helps us level up.  Meditation is one of those tools that helps us get that centering.  It’s about quieting the noise and hearing myself so I know what direction I need to go.”
The actual meditation lasts about 20 minutes, though the silence is broken by the sound of a large fan or air conditioner whirring in the background.  Miguel’s road manager admits that it’s often difficult to find a place within arenas appropriate for such an intimate gathering. 
After the session, Miguel opens the floor for conversation, with one couple gushing they played one of his songs at their wedding, as the performer says how honored that makes him feel.  Of course, your undercover reporter managed to wonder if he chants a mantra (“Not yet, still looking for one”) and whether meditation improves his creativity.
“I meditate at different times for different things,” he says. “Some days, I have a great deal of creative momentum, and some days I have nothing, so I need to figure out where I am or what’s going on, and that’s where mediation comes in.”
And while Miguel’s meditation seems quite altruistic and giving, on the other, more cynical, hand, it’s just another way to tack on some extra added value to the idea of a VIP ticket. When I mention this to him later, he tackles the subject without hesitation.
“Of course, they pay because they are fans of mine and want some insight into my process,” he admits. “What they don’t realize is they’re also getting something more, something they can take away and use on their own. What they’re paying for is time to hang out, and I get to use that for my own reasons, too.  But we’re making a connection that’s not only meaningful for them, but me as well.”
Some six hours later, Miguel is taking on Donald Trump himself, showing that spiritual growth and political fervor are not mutually exclusive in a stirring “Now,” a song from War & Leisure. “CEO of the free world now/Build your walls up high and wide/Make it rain to keep them out/That won’t change what we are inside… Is that the look of freedom, now?/Is that the sound of freedom, now?”  It was the perfect way to end the most holy of Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur.
Miguel is ready for his “Ascension.”  Are you?