Mike D from the Beastie Boys on Loving-kindness

Ten Percent Happier
May 25, 2023
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In a candid interview between Dan and Mike D of the Beastie Boys on the 10% Happier podcast, the musician opened up about loss, grief, and the power of meditation in helping him stay open to life’s ups and downs. 

Few people would have guessed that the punk rock band turned brash rap group the Beastie Boys would become a source of spiritual inspiration. But in the mid-1990s Adam Yauch (aka MCA) became interested in Buddhism, studying with many well-known and revered teachers. Bandmates were happy to let the eclectic Yauch incorporate Buddhist lyrics and Tibetan monks chanting into songs, though they didn’t necessarily follow him into developing a meditation habit at the time.   

Things changed for bandmate Mike D with the sudden cancer diagnosis and death of his close friend and creative partner, and the subsequent dissolution of the group. "It was a tumultuous time. I wasn’t only losing a friend—he was beyond a friend. He really was like an older brother….We sort of ceased being, because we just felt like, how can we be without Yauch?"

As he navigated his grief, he turned to meditation as a means of finding solace and regaining balance. "I just started every day with 20 minutes of meditation, and I started to see how—especially as a parent—having a regular meditation practice gives me an infusion of patience and equanimity….Not that I still don’t have my moments of losing my sh*t, but you can ask both my teenagers, they are becoming more and more rare as time goes on.” 

Mike jokingly refers to himself as a “billboard” for loving-kindness meditation because of the way it’s changed his life. Loving-kindness, or metta, is a type of mindfulness practice that involves consciously developing feelings of goodwill towards oneself and others, and it’s been proven to increase positive emotions and reduce negative ones. While Mike also praises the virtues of talk therapy, he credits his meditation practice with helping him take perspective and build better relationships with the people in his life.

One of the most profound healing experiences for Mike has been connecting with nature, particularly through surfing. For him, being on the water puts things in perspective. "We're so much smaller than this vast ocean, and we are literally so not in control." He encourages everyone to get out in the elements, even for a short walk outside, because it can rapidly shift your mood and perspective. "It takes you totally out of your self-judgmental thinking brain and into this really profound place of appreciation very quickly,” he says. 

Dan’s conversation with Mike D is a powerful reminder that we all have struggles, and that it’s possible to find strength because—not in spite–of them.

With the Ten Percent Happier app, you’ll access practical teachings alongside guided meditations to make mindfulness into a habit you carry everywhere.

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