Bassist Miguel Chen of Teenage Bottlerocket is now an author with the publication of his new book, I Wanna Be Well: How a Punk Found Peace and You Can Too, from Wisdom Publications. Part meditation and yoga instructional, part self-help book, part autobiography, Chen’s book was co-written with Rod Meade Sperry, the editor of A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation and deputy editor of Lion’s Roar magazine.
Strangely, the nearest thing I can compare it to is Alice Cooper’s autobiography and golf manual, Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock ‘n’ Roller’s Life and 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict. Much as that book alternated stories of Cooper’s life with music and the various people he met along the way with advice on how to improve one’s golf game, so does Chen’s book, but with punk rock, family, and yoga.
I Wanna Be Well is a little less rigid than most yoga or meditation instruction I’ve read over the years. While I am by no means an avowed practitioner of either discipline, many of the books have a methodology to which they want you to adhere. It’s this grand lifestyle plan which has frequently led to me giving up on most yoga regimens; they ask you to not just focus on body work in terms of stretching, but push mindfulness, diet, and all manner of lifestyle changes.
It’s like, I just wanted to be able to bend over to put on my shoes without accidentally throwing out my back, not achieve enlightenment, you know? Thankfully, Chen offers up both lengthy explanations of the mindfulness necessary for those who choose to make deeper explorations, but also shorter, end-of-chapter TL;DR synopses for the people who just need to get a little more flexible, both mentally and physically.
The part of I Wanna Be Well I most appreciated was the idea that maybe you aren’t a sober vegan, and the possibly you might want tacos (who doesn’t want tacos?) or pizza, and that doesn’t mean that you can’t sit there and appreciate the moment, in a sort of “I am smelling this taco; I am biting into this taco; I appreciate this taco; I am being fed by this taco” bit of mindfulness.
Fuck. I want tacos. That’s distracting. However, thanks to Chen’s book, I’ve gotten better at living in the moment and appreciating things right now, rather than constantly working toward a future point in time where I’ll be able to relax or something like that. So, right now, I am writing this review and concentrating on it as best I can, and focusing on this task, rather than being distracted by delicious, delicious tacos.
I am writing this review. I am thinking about I Wanna Be Well, and how Chen’s sense of humor and honest acknowledgement of his own own struggles to remain mindful and present render the book a relateable read which — despite some concepts which he admits are a trifle “woo-woo” — -seems like it could be something to which I might not necessarily adhere to 100%, but have definitely begun utilizing in the more stressful aspects of my own life.
I Wanna Be Well: How a Punk Found Peace and You Can Too might not grant you perfect peace, but it will certainly help take those mile-a-minute thought patterns and repeated distractions in your life and tone them down a bit. And, hell, you might be a little more flexible after, as well.
I Wanna Be Well is out now from Wisdom Publications.