In-Q is a national poetry slam champion, multi-platinum songwriter and jaw-dropping performer with an incredible talent for weaving sound, rhythm, and insight. In this episode, In-Q offers spiritual lessons with hip hop grit in turns of phrase that incite tears, laughter, and epiphany.
Jeff: Thank you for being here.
IN-Q: My pleasure, man. Thank you for having me.
Jeff: Yes. In Q, and we've improvised. We've looked within and I'd love for you to tell us how you came to this place, how you discovered poetry as your means of expression.
IN-Q: So, I was born and raised in Santa Monica, California, and I was raised by my mom who was a school teacher and my father was not around and when I was 13-years-old, I fell in love with hip hop. And I just loved the expression of it, and immediately was drawn to everything they were talking about, but the emotion behind it as well. So I started free-styling by myself and with my friends, and I would say that that was my first form of meditation because when you're free-styling, you can't think about anything else but the next word. And so, it drops you into the moment.
IN-Q: So, that was an unconscious practice that I was doing, and it was also an outlet for me, for all of the unresolved thoughts and emotions that I had no other avenue to get out of my system. And so, I kept doing it and I just absolutely loved writing and I loved sharing and I was in battles and all sorts of stuff like that. And then when I was 19-years-old, I wound up at an open mic for poets in Los Angeles called the Poetry Lounge.
IN-Q: And it turned out to be the biggest open mic for poets in the country it was only rivaled in a positive way by the New Eurekan in New York. So we would get 250 to 350 people every single week who would show up at the Greenway Court Theater and watch people who signed up on a list, get up and share their words. And I immediately fell in love and I felt at home because it was the first time I saw people being celebrated for vulnerability.
IN-Q: So they would get on stage and they would spit a poem and if it was true and it was real, the audience would snap and clap and cheer and it was like alchemy in real time. And that community became a family. We were all on HBO's Def Poetry Jam together. We won the National Poetry Slam Championships together and one day I woke up and I realized I was more of a poet than an MC, and that was the beginning of the journey.
Jeff: Wow. So, you had a venue and a supportive community to essentially cut your teeth?
IN-Q: Yeah, which was necessary, by the way, because, as I said, my mom's a school teacher I very much respect the art of teaching but no one can teach you what your voice is as an artist. Your voice comes from your experience. They could teach you techniques, and techniques are extremely valuable as you explore your art, but you'll only know your voice from doing it. And so, this was the environment that allowed me the space to do it and to watch other people that were doing it. So, they were frentors, they were my friends and my mentors.
Jeff: Did you find your unique fingerprint voice or were you sponging in sort of the cultural voices of the time? I mean, did you have influences or was your own experience your biggest influence?
IN-Q: I would say both. It's like what's more important, nature or nurture?
IN-Q: I mean, it's the same conversation, really. For me, I always used my thoughts and my emotions and my experiences. Even now, I mean, how I write is I pay attention to when something inspires me or moves me or annoys me, and I make time and space to explore that through a poem and if I create that time and space, the rest of the poem will almost write itself. But I was and still am influenced by my life, by the things that I go and choose to do, by the artists that I surround myself with and the artists that I look up to that I have never met. And it doesn't matter what genre they're in.
Jeff: Were there specific MCs that were like, "Okay, wow. Yeah."
IN-Q: I mean, yeah but I never attempted to be like them.
IN-Q: I just used the inspiration that I saw in them as the spark to go back to my writing and to get better. But for poetry specifically, I don't freestyle. I'm very, very careful and very, very conscious about every word and every sentence and where the poem is going because I feel like I'm the vehicle and the obstacle to my art in the creation of it and in the sharing of it. So there'll be times when I write something that I think is really, really dope, but it's more about my ego. It's not actually what the poem wants to say and so, I have to remove myself to be a steward of the thing that's coming through me.
Jeff: And is there a relationship because I've seen you perform dozens of times and you're such a present and connected performer, just a brilliant performer.
Jeff: Is there a relationship that you have with the audience where you can sense a reaction, you can sense a connection to something that you say, a turn of phrase or an idea that you utter that you're like, I nailed it with that. And then you bring that back into your lab. I mean, I guess is there an iterative approach to your writing or is it kind of like, I'm just in my lab, I'm kind of dah, dah, dah, and then I'm just out there?
IN-Q: Well, I mean when you're performing pieces for at least the first few times it's an experiment because you really don't know how people are going to respond to it. But when I'm creating it, if I just slow down and just make sure that I want to follow the next sentence, it's an intuitive guide towards making something that feels right and feels true. And what my experience has been is if it feels right and feels true to me, it will feel right and true to many other people. Not everybody, and that's a whole other thing because I mean I could very easily focus on the people that I perceive that don't like it or don't get it but once again, that's my ego. And so, it's presumptuous for me to need everyone in the audience to relate to everything that I'm saying.
IN-Q: And if I focus my energy there, I actually am not focusing my energy on the people that are being moved by it. So I actually learned that a while back is I don't focus on the things that aren't working when I'm performing, I focus on the things that are, and then the last thing I would say is that yeah, I definitely take external things that are happening and I come back to them later as I'm preparing whatever my next set is, but a lot of it is internal. A lot of it is what my experience is on stage.
Jeff: Someone told me once, I don't remember who it was that before you move other people, you have to move yourself.
Jeff: And that is a good compass. It's a good gauge because if you're hiking through the woods and you're composing and you start to cry, you're like, that's probably going to work, it's probably going to mean something for someone else, that someone else will be able to see that story in this one.
IN-Q: For sure. I don't strategize my inspiration. I think strategizing inspiration is one step away from manipulation. And if you're manipulating the audience, you're inherently manipulating yourself first. So I am the first person in my audience. I'm the person that I'm speaking to.
Jeff: That's beautiful. So how old are you?
Jeff: 41. So for 41 years, the only way for the rest of humanity to enjoy your work with either on the stage or in some of your really just absolutely transcended fantastic YouTube videos, which I've watched a lot, but now you've codified that work in a book. And I'll tell you, I have a little ritual at home because I've generally been an insomniac, I'm actually way better now.
IN-Q: Me too.
IN-Q: Many years.
Jeff: And my wife, God bless her, I've been with her for 32 years, has had to put up with that and generally every night reads to me.
IN-Q: That's beautiful.
Jeff: Often from the New Yorker, which has these interminable articles and certainly by page three, I'm asleep so she can read the same article for like a month and then she has to go back the next night, it's for my brain to catch back up. But last week when I got a copy of your book, we kind of assumed our positions in the bed, she rumples out the old New Yorker, ready to go? I'm like, "No honey, it's my turn to read to you."
Jeff: And I'd read a couple of the poems in the book that I felt were just really moving and so I read her a poem, I read her the Father Time poem because I in a kind of very different way, just had a very emotional resonance with that poem.
IN-Q: Do you know why, what was brought up for you when you heard it?
Jeff: Well, I sort of had the opposite experience in some ways and I don't want to read too much into the verite of it, but I grew up with my dad ...
Jeff: ... and my dad and I had a very close, have a very close relationship. In retrospect, I kind of sort of see it as somewhat codependent at some times, but because I had that relationship with my dad and we leaned so heavily on each other, when I read your poem, I sort of had a lot of gratitude for my dad.
IN-Q: Oh that's beautiful man. Thank you for saying that to me.
IN-Q: That means a lot.
Jeff: And sorry.
IN-Q: No, please man. It's all good. It's all good. Makes me feel closer to you.
Jeff: Yeah, it does.
IN-Q: Yeah. Cool.
Jeff: So I was reading that to Skylab and I got kind of emotional as I'm getting emotional right now, it's classic. And so, actually I'd read her a couple other poems first and then I read her that one because I kind of felt like I had to warm up to that one because she knows the deal with me and my dad. And by the end I was sort of choking up and crying and then I turned to her and I was like, what do you think? She was dead asleep. And so, there I was having this experience that I felt was very connected with her but it was actually just my own experience, which was great.
IN-Q: Well I think both of those things are the best compliment I could receive. That you got emotional and she fell asleep. That's great. That's really the purpose of all of my poetry.
Jeff: It's highly utilitarian in that sense.
IN-Q: Yes. Yes. Tthis piece is called Father Time. I'm staring at the number wondering if I should call. I can hear the tick-tock from the clock on the wall as it meshes with the thump beat of my heart. Sometimes getting something started is the hardest part. I didn't meet my dad until I was 15. I'd seen his photograph, but his image was sickening. A coward with a dick but no balls to back it up. See, when he left me as a kid, I had cause for acting up. The funny thing about hate is the person you hate doesn't feel that hate. You feel that hate, but wait, the weight can be too much for a person to take and personally, I was hurt so I just locked it away. I was angry all the time and I didn't know why. I couldn't handle my own rage, so I would hide it inside, pretending everything was fine, became a daily pass time.
IN-Q: Time passed and I started to believe in my lies. I took it out on my mom because she raised me alone. The rage I couldn't own had left me totally numb. It was like landmines in my mind that I didn't understand, so when the boy inside cried, the young man outside yelled. I think I learned about my masculinity from TV. The people weren't real, so I knew they couldn't leave me. I would sit there for hours right in front of the tube. The images that I saw were my depiction of truth. It was manhood in a box and I bought into it. The censorship of anything inside of me that's sensitive, the sentence is a lifetime of tears suppressed in a stone face, an overblown ego they've distracted to a paper chase.
IN-Q: Back when I was nine I imagined in my mind that my father was a spy working for the FBI and that's why he couldn't stop by, write or drop a line. He was off saving our lives from the bad guys, but that was just a lie that I used to get by so that you wouldn't see the tears welling up in my eyes. When you're rejected by the person that you're created by, you secretly feel like you don't have a right to your life. I thought if I confronted him, then it would make it all right, but since I couldn't forgive him, it just recycled my spite. I remember meeting him for the first time. Every time a person passed by, I would ask, mom is that him? I look a little like him, right? No? Oh, what about that guy?
IN-Q: And that was what it was like to meet the man that gave me my life. To shake his hand and look into his eyes. We talked till he apologized, then said our goodbyes. I walked away on my own then I began to cry. Now for years after that, I acted like it was all resolved. I'd told him what I thought so I figured problem solved, but it just revolved. My insecurities were eating at my mental health. I took it out on the world because I hated myself. That's when I finally decided I needed some help. I opened up. I started writing and sharing about my past. I got honest with myself and I started chipping at my mask. I looked into the mirror and confronted what I saw, accepting the reflection by embracing every flaw, then directing the connection into breaking down the walls by reflecting the perfection of the God inside us all.
IN-Q: I stopped focusing on everything that I had been hateful for and I started focusing on everything I could be grateful for and personally there is a lot I can be thankful for. If pain is dragging you down, just cut the ankle cord. That's when the weight lifted and I really started living. That's when my hate shifted and I really started giving. It's when my feet twisted. It was like an ego exorcism. Your mind state can be the most powerful of prisons.
IN-Q: My father never played catch with me or gave advice, but if nothing else, that man gave me my life and that's enough for me. If that is all he can ever give, because I'm appreciative for everyday I get to live and even though I don't need my dad to validate me, I thought that I should write this poem to thank him for creating me, because every moment that we are alive is like a gift. And if that's not enough to forgive, then what is? I'm staring at the number wondering if I should call. I can hear the tick-tock from the clock on the wall as it meshes with the thump, thump beat of my heart. Sometimes getting something started is the hardest part. I picked the phone up, the dial tone begins to sing, I punch his number into it and it begins to ring, ring, ring. Hello Mike. Hey man, it's Adam, your son.
Jeff: Thank you.
IN-Q: Thanks for listening, man.
Jeff: Everyone listening has gone through some sort of experience in their life that would make us cry.
IN-Q: Yeah. It's the human experience. Even if the circumstances are different, the circumstances really don't matter it's the mirror of what we are all going through while we're here, which is the ups and the downs.
Jeff: And in experiencing that resentment, that hatred, that anger, that provided
Jeff: It provided a twisted comfort for me.
Jeff: The point that you make here, which is you may feel that resentment, you might be holding this ember, looking around and waiting to throw it at someone, but who's getting burned in that time?
IN-Q: Yeah, well said.
Jeff: That notion is very connected to something that you talked about later in the poem, forgiveness, which in some ways, in many ways, it's a gift that you can give someone else, but in a lot of ways, it's a gift that you give yourself or you drop that ember. It doesn't make someone unaccountable for their actions.
IN-Q: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and it doesn't mean you have to have them in your life anymore. I'd give everyone the room to change, but not necessarily with me. Sometimes, too much happens, but you don't want to walk around with that hate.
Jeff: Yeah, I think the other thing in the poem that really speaks to me is the... your... the way that you received your notions of what archetypal masculinity should be through the media, through watching TV, and, I wonder, how did you become aware of that programming? We talked a little bit about it before the podcast about how we all carry this imprint that then tells us what we're supposed to be, like I got to be this image of success, driving a fancy car or living... or whatever it is.
Jeff: Was there a moment for you where you woke up and be like, "No?"
IN-Q: I would say that part of the reason that I became observant about my life and my environment and other people and part of the reason that I'm curious, which is where IN-Q comes from, it's in question, but, originally, it was inquiry, I was always asking people things about not only the surface layer, but the deeper thing, and that came from me feeling like I didn't belong, so what a gift my father gave me.
IN-Q: I would not be who I am without that experience. I would be someone else, and I'm not saying I wouldn't have a different life with different lessons and different great things that I had created, but I wouldn't have this life. In my household, in my school, in my neighborhood, it was always like who am I supposed to be, and I didn't trust who I was to emerge, and I would say that the outlet of rhymes and poetry was the first time I started to connect to that true voice. And I would say in many ways that's one of the reasons that I wrote this book and that I called it Inquire Within, because I had to inquire within myself to create it, people have to inquire within the book and look through the pages, and then they have to inquire within themselves.
IN-Q: To anybody that's listening to this, if you have something that's going on right now that you can't figure out find some time to just be by yourself, to sit in nature and to allow all of the other stimulus of this modern life that we're living to drop away so that you can hear your own internal voice because that is the thing to the brand of Wanderlust that's going to give you your true north, your passion, your purpose, your enthusiasm, and, if you follow the path, the path will lead the way, so I hope that this book, Inquire Within, is basically a window into people hearing their own true voice.
Jeff: Yeah, it certainly will be, just from my own experience of reading it. There was another moment in the book that struck me, also related to a personal story. I have three daughters, and my youngest one, Micah, is... She's still diminutive in size. She's a little nugget. She's 10, but I can still kind of own her a little bit like... the other one is like, "Don't hug me so much, dad," and I'm a hugger, and so I'm... but, the little one, she's cool, so I'll take her, and sometimes I'll read to her a lot in bed. It sounds like my whole life happens in bed, but it's... and reading. That's it, but that's actually... It is a big part of my life right now, and it was her birthday and close to Christmas, and so that was a time where I'm fulfilling a lot of wishes and things like that for her, and she has a modicum of gratitude for that. At 10, I mean, how much can you... so she asks me, "Dad, what's your wish? You know? Do you have any wishes?" and I was like pretty stumped.
Jeff: I was like, "God." I'm like, "Micah, my life is good. I want you guys to be happy." She was like, "No, come on, daddy. You must have some kind of wish," and I had to think about it for a minute, and this might seem like not cruel, but an odd thing to say to a 10-year-old, but it just spontaneously came into my head, and I said, "I wish that your mom and I will die on the same day," and she was like, "That's weird, dad. Why?" and I was like, "Because I don't want either of us to grieve the other's absence," and, on some level, she got it. It was cool just to see. But I... When I read 85, that triggered that memory a little bit or that thought of... I won't color it anymore, but if you wouldn't mind sharing that poem?
IN-Q: Yeah, and thank you for sharing that story, man. That's something I can relate to in my own way. I mean, I'm only two years in with my girlfriend, not 32, so we have a ways to go, but I feel that eternal love, and, when I wrote this, I didn't have it in my life. It was a manifestation at that point, and I actually wrote this piece, 85, because I used to live in this little backhouse, and I don't know if I ever told you this story, but, the woman that owned the main house, her mom moved in at a certain point. Her name is Delores, and she was in her 80's, and we shared a kitchen together, so I would go in and make coffee, and we would talk about life and love and happiness, and, at the time, I would complain about my ex-girlfriends or whatever was going on. Oftentimes, it's not only kids that we don't respect their wisdom, it's the elderly, because they remind us of our own mortality, so people just avoid going there when they have so much to teach us.
Jeff: Yeah. I just read that, too, go on this book, and that's changed so much because modern allopathic western medicine can keep people limping along forever in life, and there are a lot of old people now and we... Because there are so many, we almost just think of them as a burden in some ways sometimes, but, in the olden days, to live to 85 was a rarity, and, if you did, that means you held a certain kind of eternal, ancient wisdom, and then younger people would look to that, to the elderly for wisdom, for guidance, but that's not really true anymore.
IN-Q: It's not really the case anymore, but I looked to her for that, and I also liked her very much. I mean, I ended up loving her, but I just liked her. I thought she was awesome. She had like a great personality and we talked shit to each other, and it was just playful.
Jeff: Yeah, sweet.
IN-Q: Anyways, so one night I wake up. It's like, whatever, she's been there for six months or a year, I don't really remember, but I had this big window, and it was three in the morning, and I basically look through my blinds and I see the ambulance lights, and she's getting taken away on a stretcher, and she's still alive, I come to find out, but she's having major health complications, so I went and I visited her in the hospital, and she had tubes in and out of her system and she had a high fever. She didn't recognize me. Her granddaughter was there for part of it, and the doctors I guess we're not giving a great diagnosis, and I basically just said my goodbyes to her because I felt like this was probably her time and I didn't want her to suffer anymore, but, of course, she ends up getting better, and they move her to a retirement community, and she's in the retirement community for about a month before I went and visited her, and I see her.
IN-Q: We end up walking out to this little garden in the back, and we're sitting there, and she's in a good mood, and I was like, "Dolores, why are you in such a good mood?" She leans in, and she goes, "I met a guy," and I'm like, "What do you mean you met a guy?" and she said, "I met a guy. There's a guy that I met when I moved in, and we like each other, so we've been dating," and I just thought that was so beautiful because, here, I thought that her life was over, and not only did she get better, but she got excited about something again. She was able to be surprised by life.
IN-Q: For anyone who's listening to this, it doesn't matter how old you are, if you're not willing to be surprised by life or excited by life, you're not really living, and anything can be around the next corner, a miracle or love, so I ended up writing this piece, 85.
IN-Q: I want to fall in love at 85, go on shuffleboard dates and dance to hip-hop from '95. We would also listen to the song Staying Alive, but only for the message. Otherwise, we'd keep away from disco. It's depressing. We'd rock matching tracksuits and rope gold chains. We'd look like Run DMC, but in their old age. We'd take aerobics classes and wear bifocal glasses and eat at I-HOP and hold hands at Sunday masses and, when it comes to the bedroom, nothing much would happen in the bedroom because we're 85, but we would still be down to take a walk or take a drive, or sit and talk and have a drink, watch the passersby, ask each other why and how and who and where and when, and then we'd laugh and cry again about the people we had been, and I would touch her withered skin and comment on how thin it is to keep in something infinite, and she would smile sweet and blush, then tell me that I think too much. She's right. I think too much. It's always been a problem, but then, again, that's how I made my green like the goblin.
IN-Q: When I was in my 20's, I was eating Top Ramen, counting up my pennies, saving up to go food shopping, but now I'm 85 and, somehow, I feel more alive. I turn my hearing aid up and bump Jurassic 5. I read the sports page while she peruses classifieds. We like antique stores, garage sales and barter buys, and when it comes to the bedroom? Hopefully. Every once in a while, she lets me knock her boots into the floral patterns of our bedpost then hold her head close like death isn't chasing us, planning on erasing us and replacing us with better versions of us, re-shaping us, re-making us, then re-creating us with new identities so we can make new memories. Hush, little baby, learn to walk and talk and think and lie and feel and fight and love and die and never get the answers why.
IN-Q: She dips a joint of grass in wheatgrass and we get high. Her hair is silver as the moon in the Miami sky. We still pop pills, but it's not Mali anymore. Whenever we can't sleep, we listen to the ocean floor. She got a Sound of the Sea CD for me from the Brookstone Store, and, ever since, I've been snoring like a really good metaphor for snoring. Sorry, I go blank sometimes. What? I'm 85. I'm not complaining. I'm just happy that I'm still alive and happy that I have my better half by my side super fly. She doesn't look a day over 75. When I first saw her, I was totally in awe. She was classical, so I was like Yo-Yo Ma, and that was all it took, a single look, and I was shook. I fell for her like some loose shingles from a Spanish roof, and I'm going to love her till she loses every last root and has to glue dentures to her gums to chew solid food.
IN-Q: Ooh, now, that's real love, dude. That's some push-comes-to-shove love, not when-it's-convenient love, hospital-bed love, feed-her-ice-chips love, never-leave-the-room love, sleeping-in-the-chair love, pray-to-up-above love, have-to-pull-the-plug love, miss-her-in-my-bones love, everything-about-her love, die-within-a-month love, can't-live-without-her love. Love, the only reason that we are alive, and none of us should have to wait until we're 85.
Jeff: The book is called Inquire Within, and we've talked a little bit about this in the past, but you have a practice. Can you tell me a little bit about what your personal practice is, and maybe you can connect it to some of your work?
IN-Q: Yeah. I mean, I definitely have been meditating for over four years and, actually, Emily Fletcher, who's an amazing teacher and had her book release here at Wanderlust, taught me originally, and it was during a very tumultuous period of my life where I think I needed some sort of an anchor, and, for me, that's been an incredible practice. It's been a game-changer. I describe meditation as like a gym for letting go, and your whole entire life is about letting go. I mean, everything that you create, everyone that you know, your identity, your body, in the end of it, you have to let go of all of it, and the only thing really left is how you impact the people that you love and the world at large.
IN-Q: I think that this is a way to practice that so that... When you're meditating, you're just basically over and over again letting go of your thoughts and your emotions and returning to the moment, and, for me, that's been really helpful because I've built up my muscles that way so that, when I'm in a situation and I get triggered, I don't always bring some unresolved shit from the past into a new moment and then I'm dealing with a projection and not dealing with reality, and so, now, when I get triggered, I have much more of an ability to just let go of my thought, let go of my emotion and return to what's actually happening so that I can respond from what's here.
Jeff: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, for me, it's been the cultivation of the ability to be the witness of the situation where I was locked in a locker when I was in seventh grade, like a little school locker. It felt like I was in there for hours. I was probably in there for two minutes, three minutes, but it was...
IN-Q: It's traumatic.
Jeff: ... insane, traumatic, and that brought forth this claustrophobia into my adult life, and it's one of my Achilles' heels, and, now... This has happened recently.
Jeff: Think I was in Vancouver and I got into the elevator and I was the only one in the elevator, but there was a cop. I was kind of on the top floor and there was a conference and it just, every floor, it would stop.
IN-Q: Oh God. Right.
Jeff: And all of a sudden, like I was in the very, very corner of this elevator, overstuffed with people. It was a little [inaudible 00:44:20] conference. So it wasn't that bad.
IN-Q: He didn't mind the company.
Jeff: Yeah, the company was lovely but that, actually, but my own psychosis and phobias somehow transcended all of the Lycra-clad lovely women that were in the elevator. And, and I started feeling that welling up of fear and then I was like, no, no, wait a minute. Just watch the fear. You aren't the fear, you're feeling the fear but you aren't it, the emotion. You are the home. You're the house. This emotion is not invited but it's here and it will leave. And breathe and be here and just be okay. You know, don't take that traumatic event of the past of being locked in that locker and project that into the future, like you are going to freak out the way that you freaked out then.
IN-Q: And I think you did the process of integration, which is really what people should be doing. Definitely, I believe in the law of attraction. You know, as we talked about earlier, everything is just vibrating energy. So of course if you change your frequency, you will change what you're attracted to and what you're attracting. And this is all just a sea of consciousness, basically, that we're swimming in. But I'm not a proponent of "Everything's all right, all the time."
IN-Q: "I feel great all the time. Everything's great." And then you feel something that's, you perceive is negative, sadness, anger, jealousy and you just suppress it, stuff it down, pretend that it's not there, argue yourself out of it. All of those things just basically finds another way out. Whether it's through traffic or whether it becomes a disease or anything like that. So, I think what you have to do, is what you did. And that's what I'm trying to remind myself of on a daily basis. When I have those thoughts and emotions, to own them and to accept them and to love them, because at a certain point they were part of a survival mechanism.
Jeff: That's it.
IN-Q: And when you love them and you can integrate them and you decide to create from them rather than destroy from them, then you're actually living alchemy.
Jeff: Yes. Yeah. I absolutely, totally, 100% agree with you. Just give you one last little story about my youth and some of the reaction that I had to it. And then some of the lessons that are more recently learned, which is I was a super chubby kid. I was moving around to country after country, not knowing the language, with my parents at that juncture, before they split up. And my whole life was geared around fitting in. And so I was always assimilating. I was always changing. I had no problem changing who I authentically was, in order to fit in. And, I essentially brought that forward into my adult life and just based my identity very much through the eyes of other people and constantly seeking approval. And as I became aware of that more and more, I started to see that as a defect.
Jeff: And then I spoke to this guy, Gabor Maté, brilliant guy. And he's like, "You know, Jeff, you can't see that as a defect. You were using that at the time as a survival technique and play that forward. How did that work out? How did that work out for you?".
Jeff: And he's like, "What have you done with your life?" And I'm like, "Well, I've created a lot of community." And he's like, "Yeah, right". And he's like, "Because you appreciated, from a very young age, the importance of connection and belonging. Now you saw it as, because you were a child, as fitting in." And there's a difference between fitting in and belonging, but a-
IN-Q: It's a good distinction.
Jeff: Yeah. That belonging is essentially not having to compromise who you authentically really are to be accepted.
IN-Q: Right. I mean, if you're not willing not to be liked, then you can never truly be loved.
Jeff: Yeah. Right. Yeah. And so I think, in a way you said, rings true with me, is that at that time, that was a survival technique that I needed to use in order to exist. And that led to essentially me devoting a lot of my life to helping foster community and belonging.
IN-Q: I think we all have a choice to make. And you know, whoever is listening to this, I don't know specifically what you've gone through and I'm not going to compare and contrast. I don't think that we should compare and contrast traumas, but everyone has gone through things, and it doesn't matter whether or not you understand them, or whether or not they make sense. Ultimately, after you go through the necessary grieving period, you have a decision to make of are you going to be a victim to this or are you going to be empowered by it? And, in terms of what you said about these strengths that you built, it's once again, your kryptonite is also your superpower. And I think that it's important to have a distinction in a transition period of your life of, what brought me here won't get me there.
IN-Q: And so these things that brought you to this certain place in your life, they were necessary as a fuel source. You know, when you first fall in love with it. However, whatever it is you do, I could take hip hop or I can take poetry. It's pure, there's nothing else co-opting it. You fall in love, period. And then of course, validation..
Jeff: Ego, yeah.
IN-Q: Success, you know, money, whatever it is, it starts to get in there, right? And you can't tell the difference. And, I would say that I used a lot that was co-opted, in terms of a fuel source, to get to a certain place in my life. But then I realized that fuel source was unsustainable. And that's when I kind of shifted, very specifically and consciously, how I was going to move forward as an artist, as a writer and performer, and ultimately as a man.
IN-Q: And, this is a bit of a departure, but I talk about this in the book too. There was this time where I was going through a pretty bad breakup and I literally was like, I'm going to write a breakup poem. And I went back home and I'm sitting there, I'm about to write my breakup poem. And then I was like, let me just look through all of my old breakup poems first. And there was nine of them. Which I'm embarrassed to admit. Not nine different relationships, I want to make that clear.
Jeff: Yeah, fair enough.
IN-Q: Some of them were doubled up.
Jeff: Thanks for that distinction.
IN-Q: Yeah. But there were nine poems, which is almost 30 minutes of material, dude. So I sit there, I read all of these poems about relationships that hadn't worked out, in a row. And at the end of it I was like, okay, I don't need to write a new breakup poem, because all of my old breakup poems are applicable to my current breakup.
IN-Q: So, instead I need to figure out why I'm continuing to create the same lesson in a different disguise over and over and over again. And that was when I started to think about the unsustainable fuel source, that maybe I used that obsession and that need for validation, co-opted with the love, to get me to a place where I had my outlier hours and more. And all of that was necessary for me to learn all of these tools of my art. But it wasn't going to get me where I needed to go because now I was actually perpetuating some of those old stories. And so I really decided at that moment that from then on I was going to always end in hope. And I was always going to wind up giving that to myself and to my audience. And that I wanted people to leave a room, or leave the book, or leave the audio book, feeling ultimately empowered. That they have control over what they have control over, and they can make their life as good as they want to make it.
Jeff: Beautiful. Can you give us one more?
IN-Q: Yeah, sure. This is called "Learned Fear".
IN-Q: Learned fear can be overcome when you realize the voice inside your head is not yours.
IN-Q: It's an imitation of the voices from before, repeating on a loop inside your quiet core, receiving since your youth, when your choices weren't even yours, perceiving was the proof, but reality has many doors, so why are we still fighting other people's wars?
IN-Q: Learned fear can be overcome when you realize the voice inside your head is not yours. It's an imitation of the voices from before repeating, repeating, repeating on a loop inside your quiet core, and you can't tell the difference, because it sounds the same, but trust me when I tell you, most of what you think is from somebody else's brain.
IN-Q: They have us trained, shackled by imaginary chains, imaginary rules for imaginary games. But they don't know the reasons either. So where should we place the blame? And who is they anyway, when we're all the same.
IN-Q: Our parents had parents and their parents had parents. Apparently it hurts to see, so I'll be transparent. The world is so much bigger than your insecurities.
IN-Q: They don't speak on your behalf without your soul's authority. The world is so much bigger than your culture or community and they don't speak on your behalf without your soul's authority. Because if it's all a story, then nobody else can tell it for me. Since I'm always transforming, I defy a category. When you do the same thing the same way, it's habit forming, but nothing in this land of woman and men is mandatory. It's all just transitory. Our worlds are laboratory. Experimenting on today can change tomorrow morning.
IN-Q: And since matter is mostly empty space, we're in a sea of consciousness, where the boundaries are erased. So I stared at my reflection until I couldn't see my face. Then I picked myself and put the flowers in an empty vase. If you came for validation, then you're in the wrong place. The only certain satisfaction is becoming what you've chased, and there's no running from the inner voice. So it's important that you choose, but it's more important that you know you have a choice.
IN-Q: You have a choice. Are you living someone else's life? You have a voice. Does it haunt you in the dead of night? Would you fly if you weren't convinced to be afraid of heights. And who convinced you anyway, they had no fucking right.
IN-Q: No one can dim your light. You shine within so bright, that you could blind the sun from sight and scare him back into the night.
IN-Q: No one can dim your light. I said it twice because you're greater than the circumstances that surround your perfect life. You're not your nature or your nurture. You're a prototype, and if you hone it right, eventually you'll hack your satellite.
IN-Q: At first, it's nothing. Then nothing turns into a whisper. Turn the dial and it gets crisper in your transistor. Wait a while, and the whisper turns into a scream. It overwhelms your system and you won't know what it means, but pump the volume up, and it can tell you all your dreams. Till pretty soon, it's the only voice you'll ever need. Now you have to do is listen, when you want to lead.
IN-Q: Your fear disintegrates when you decide to stop and breathe, it's your authentic voice. No matter where you go, it never leaves. And that's God, no matter what religion you believe. I'm starting my own religion and everyone is welcome, but nobody can join. If you did, you'd miss the point.
Jeff: And I want everyone who's listening to also know, since this is an audio format, that you're not reading these.
IN-Q: Yeah. Yeah.
Jeff: I mean, I think I would say it's a disservice to say that you've memorized them, because it feels like it's something more than memorizing.
IN-Q: It's definitely cellular. You know, people will come up to me, cause I'll do hour long shows but, just even thinking about the audio book, man, it's two and a half hours. And, I love the book, Inquire Within, because it has 60 illustrations and you know, we work with this amazing guy in London named [inaudible 00:58:47] who created this almost Shel Silverstein experience where people get to dive deeper with the images. And I love that. And then I love the audio book. And they're two very different ways to consume it, because in the audio book you certainly get to hear my rhythms and my emotions and the different voices that I use, because sometimes I go into characters and I'm so, so proud of the audio book.
IN-Q: We really took the time to make sure that we did justice to the pieces. But it's two and a half hours, man. And I literally know the whole thing by heart.
IN-Q: And if you looked at all MCs, they all have the same muscle. You know, Nas, who you mentioned earlier, I think you mentioned Biggie, if he was still here, rest in peace. Think of Nas, right? Nas could take all of his rhymes and if he just cut out the music and he cut out the chorus and he just tied them together, he could go for hours and hours and hours, man. I mean, these people are all certified geniuses and, they're the poetic prophets of our time. And for whatever reason, people don't always recognize them as such. But you know, those are the people that I learned from. And, and this is a muscle that I learned from doing it.
Jeff: Have the prophets ever been recognized in their time?
IN-Q: No. That's such a good point, man.
Jeff: I'm super grateful to be here with you, but I'm even more grateful to have this book.
IN-Q: Thanks, man.
Jeff: Just getting it even a short time ago, I feel, like really, not just connected to it, but it's also helping me kind of just process things in my own life.
Jeff: And it has this side benefit of putting my wife to sleep.
Jeff: And I'm really happy for you to, to have, you know... I've changed my tune around the material and the spiritual being separate. That there are manifestations of the spiritual in the material. When those things are unique and serve a sacred and human purpose. If you're Charles Eisenstein, I stole that from him. And I feel like this is one of those things. I can hold it in my hand and feel like there's God in it.
IN-Q: Dude, that means the world to me, man. Thank you for saying that, dude. Really, I appreciate you, man.
Jeff: Yeah, of course.
IN-Q: When I started making it, that was certainly the goal, is I wanted to do justice and to be of service to the pieces. And I of course acknowledge that I would love it to be a best seller and I would love to be able to build a foundation of poetry on top of it, and all of these things. But the higher purpose was just to put something out that allowed people to mirror back their own humanity. And, as I said, I don't want to manipulate my audience. So whatever it is that they need to get from the book, I hope that that's what they get. And I'm just like, really grateful and feel really humbled that I can finally give it away. Because I feel that it has a separate life from me now. It's not me. You know? I have a line in the book where I say the art is more important than the artist is. And I just feel that and I just want to give this away and allow it to do whatever it's supposed to do.
Jeff: Yeah. Thank you man.
IN-Q: No problem.
Jeff: Thank you. Appreciate you being here with you. And yeah, you're going to be busy.
IN-Q: Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Lots of love.
Jeff: Lots of love to you.