Migros - September 2011
"What's Love Got to Do With It?
She's the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll. An unwanted child. A believer in the power of love. A longtime Buddhist. ANDREA MILLER talks to Tina Turner.
Tina Turner—I'll never forget my first glimpse of her. It was when I was ten years old and watched Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. She had killer legs, impressively large shoulder pads (even by eighties standards), and the most incredible raspy, sexy voice I'd ever heard. What happened to me is what, at that point, had been happening to audiences for more than two decades, and now has been happening for more than half a century: I was awed.
The Queen of Rock 'n' Roll is not just a powerhouse on stage. She is also a longtime Buddhist, having begun her practice in the 1970s while struggling to end an abusive relationship with musician Ike Turner. Soka Gakkai, the tradition to which Tina Turner adheres, is like other schools and subschools of Nichiren Buddhism; it focuses on the Lotus Sutra and teaches that chanting its title in Japanese—Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—ultimately enables chanters to embrace the entirety of the text and uncover their buddhanature.
Turner chanting the Lotus Sutra is featured on Beyond, a CD available through New Earth Records that weaves together Buddhist and Christian prayers, and also features the singers Dechen Shak-Dagsay and Regula Curti. "Bringing together corresponding pieces from Christian and Tibetan Buddhist traditions as has been done here," writes the Dalai Lama in the liner notes, "will allow listeners to share in these prayers, stirring thoughts of deeper respect and peace in their lives." All revenue from the CD goes to foundations dedicated to spiritual education or helping children and mothers in need.
In this interview, Turner speaks about Beyond, the power of song and practice, and the meaning of love.
All religions speak about love, and it sounds easy to be loving. But people so frequently fail to love. Why is loving so difficult?
TT: Some people are born into a loving family. For example, everyone in the family greets everyone else in the morning, they sit at breakfast together, they give each other a kiss when they leave. There is harmony and love in the house. When you are born with that, you take it with you.
But some people are born into situations where they’re exposed to everything but love. The world is full of people that are born into such situations, and they are traveling through life in the dark. No one has ever explained to them that they need to find love, and they have no education for love except for falling in love with another person, for sexual love. I believe that the problem with the world today is that we have too many people who are not in touch with true love.
What helped you to become loving?
TT: When you don’t come from your mother with love, you might have the gift to be surrounded by other people or situations that are loving and you learn to love in that way.
My mother didn’t want a child, so I experienced being unwanted. But I found love when I was with myself. I would go into nature, into gardens and eat fruit. I would climb trees. I looked to nature and found love because love is in nature. If you go there, hurt and angry, it can transform you. I went with nature, with animals, and I found love and harmony. I would come home at the end of the day—braids pulled out, my dress torn—and of course I got asked, "Where have you been all day!?" But I had been in a world of love and happiness.
I am very happy that I discovered love in nature because later I was in a relationship without love and I still found a way to find love. You can find love when you are of love.
Did singing help you?
TT: I was singing almost from the moment I was born. Ever since I was big enough, I’ve been singing. When I was a little girl my mother would put me on a chair and I would sing for the shop ladies. So I was born with a voice to sing and I have been singing all my life. It might be that being a singer helped me. Maybe singing on stage helped. Maybe it was a release.
In what way is singing a spiritual practice?
TT: "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" is a song. In the Soka Gakkai tradition we are taught how to sing it. It is a sound and a rhythm and it touches a place inside you. That place we try to reach is the subconscious mind. I believe that it is the highest place and, if you communicate with it, that is when you receive information on what to do. Singing a song can make you cry. Singing a song can make you happy. That’s spirit—the spirit inside of you. If you look up "spiritual" in a dictionary, you will find that it is your nature, it is the person you are. When you walk into a room, a person might say, "Oh, she’s got great spirit." Or you can walk into a room and someone will say that you don’t have spirit because it’s not visible. You’re kind of off or negative. Meditation and praying change your spirit into something positive. If it is already positive, it makes it better. I think that is the best answer I can give you right now.
On Beyond, you say, "Sing—singing takes you beyond."
TT: The singing that I am referring to on the CD is one that comes out of you when you hum. It’s not necessarily a song, rather it’s that moment when you find yourself making sounds from within—from your heart, from your spirit. Each person has a musical song from their bodies. That is something I learned over time. You can play the tune of your name and this is the hum from inside of you that can give you peace when you are really down. My grandmother had a hum, never a song. She would hum sitting in a rocking chair and I would listen. As a singer, I wanted to know what my grandmother was singing. But it was the song of her soul. This song I am referring to is about singing, being happy, enjoying music, and even when you’re depressed, still singing. You must try to find that sound or song within you. You might find that it is just a "huuuaa" or a "hum" or something in falsetto. But it is a sound, which comes out of you that gives you peace.
In what ways has your practice changed you?
TT: I feel that chanting for thirty-five years has opened a door inside me, and that even if I never chanted again, that door would still be there. I feel at peace with myself. I feel happier than I have ever been, and it is not from material things. Material things make me happy, but I am already happy before I acquire these things. I have a nature within myself now that’s happy. Practicing the words "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" for so long has put me in another frame of mind, so that when I don’t practice for a day or a week, I still feel happy. But I do practice.
Since I have been practicing Buddhism, I have to say I don’t experience the feeling of guilt anymore. Practice clears the way. Chanting "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" makes you comfortable because it removes uncomfortable mental attitudes. It doesn’t just buy you a car or a house—it takes care of you.
Bilanz - 16 Dec. 2011
"My success is the proof!
Rocklegend ans Buddhist Tina Turner and the Christian and former headhunter Regula Curti talk about the power of spirituality and why more managers do yoga.
Bilanz: TT you are a buddhist. Why?
TT: The short answer is: because it helps me to think positive and to be happy.
Bilanz: And the longer answer?
TT: It was in the seventies. I was a young singer and my ex husband was the only bridge to the world. I only was in venues and in recording studios. During recording sessions people from the studio talked to me about my sadness and loneliness and they urged me to take control of my own life. The first step to finding myself was to sing mantra’s and pray.
Bilanz: A good advice?
TT: I forgot it, but the sadness stayed. One day my youngest son came home with a wooden necklace for prayer and he told me very cheerfully that it would give strength and could make wishes come true. I was amazed. First the studio people and then my son and everything said to me: you have to do something, go your own way. Then I took the step in the unknown and, after 16 years, I left my husband. In the most difficult time of my life, when everything around me fell apart, I started with Buddhism for 4 hours every day. I read, I sang mantra’s and I did ok despite the difficult time. I had nothing, yet everything.
Bilanz: In the USA you were raised as a baptist. Was this a complete break with the past?
TT: When I was young we went to church every Sunday. Praying and having respect for each other was normal. Also the singing was always important. I was raised with a profound faith. I always was spiritual, and even more when my parents divorced each other.
Bilanz: Is it now over with the Christian Faith?
TT: No, I still pray the Our Father. The Buddism just was a new dimension in my spiritual life. It touched new places in myself, in my inner self, in my subconscious.
Bilanz: Regula Curti, how did you meet TT?
RC: I was at one of her concert in the eighties. In the Zürcher Hallenstadion. Her power and her radiation touched me very deeply. In 1997, when Tina moved to Küsnacht, she got in touch with my husband. She wanted to get to know him, while he had lived in the house that she wanted to rent. At a dinner we spoke about spirituality.
Bilanz: You were first lieutenant in the army and headhunter. Now you teach managers to do yoga. A long way?
RC: For 5 years I worked at Korn/Ferry International, that searched for kader mediators for the industry etc. One day in our firm a wellknown Yogi from India, Selvarajan Yesudian, gave lessons. I heard strange music coming from his studio. And what I noticed was that his visitors left the building with a positive radiation and very confident.
Bilanz: And you wanted to go there too with the candidates you searched for the jobs?
RC: I had the task to search for managers with charisma, passion and who were sociable.
They knew everything about targets etc., but my goal was to give them a job in a place where they could develop and show their potential.
Bilanz: And yoga is a way to do this?
RC: Nowadays everything is very hectic and busy and by doing yoga you can find an island of reflexion, inner peace. Yoga is the bridge between body and mind. And the person that takes from that source, takes from a deep source of wisdom.
And on top of that I was very connected with music. I found out, that business people, that played the saxophon in the weekend or went for salsa dancing or did some other musical activities were more balanced and more sensitive. And I wanted to use that too.
Bilanz: Do you have more success because of spirituality?
TT: Look at my biography. When I started developing myself I had the power to break free from a destructive marriage. I discovered who I was, what my strong points were and I was able to become balanced and could make good decisions. For me Buddhism is more a help in life than just a religion.
I noticed how my body and subconsciousness became united and benefitted from each other.
My success is just the proof of that.
Bilanz: Do spiritual managers have more success?
RC: What is spiritual? For me a spiritual person has both feet firm on the ground. He has a clear mind and is connected with people and wants to do good for all living beings. Those are really valuable qualities for a manager.
Bilanz: Are yoga and Buddism not really trendy activities? After the fitness trend now comes the yoga trend?
RC: No that isn’t true. This world demands a lot of the people. I see that in my daily life with the managers. They have cramped necks, pain in their backs, difficulty breathing, nervous issues, trouble sleeping and are depressed. The pressure of reaching their goals is enormous.
In the old days people went to yogastudios and nowadays people do that again. Companies like Google have rooms for meditations and give the possibility to follow a yoga course.
Bilanz: What will come of it?
RC: My father was a research chef at Hoffman-La Roche. I am the daughter of a scientist and I find it important to find the proof for how meditation works on the nerv system. I studied the work of Tania Singer, a neuroscientist. She was then a professor at the university of Zürich and at the moment she is the director of the Max Plank Institute in Leipzig. She prooved that if you train the mind on a regular bases by meditating on love and compassion, the part of your brain that belongs to that will develop. Because this world is so focussed on gaining profit for yourself only, it is very important to develop qualities like compassion and consideration.
Bilanz: To what extent?
RC: Some managers have lost the ground beneath their feet in recent years. What counted was a possibly bigger bonus. It is urgent to move away from these materialistic incentives and to incorporate different aspects in the center. Matter and mind must be balanced. More company culture, team spirit, work-life balance, participatory leadership and moderation – this way we improve the success of a firm much more than through excessive bonuses, which will always lead to more catastrophes.
TT: Also for me, it is about the balance between body and mind. The contact with Buddhism has changed my life completely. I’m proud, that I took this road. That it brought me further and helped me to rise above my deepest wounds by going deeper into Buddhist practices: that is my experience. These days, I devote five to seven minutes daily to reciting prayers, the so-called chants. I noticed early on, that I was less stressed – waiting for red lights, on the streets, in recording studios.
Bilanz: How has Buddhism influenced your career as a singer?
TT: When I broke with my past, chanting was a big help. Even though I left everything behind, my husband, children, my house, I had the feeling that I wasn’t missing anything. I felt incredibly strong. I still get goosebumps when I talk about it these days. When I had a discussion with my ex-husband it became clear: I had changed, and he couldn’t comprehend it. I felt wiser, more peaceful, more open. I could leave all the stress behind, among which a shooting in my own house. I didn’t need gold, diamonds, a roof above my head. It wasn’t easy: my ex-husband put enormous pressure on me: he needed me to remain big in the music industry.
Bilanz: At that time, you were approximately 30 years old, a few days ago you turned 72. Did you stay with Buddhism the whole time?
TT: Always. It took forty years to become such a happy, relaxed, light person. (Laughing)
Bilanz: Did you leave your shows and concert tours behind you forever?
TT: I have outgrown my career. I did several world tours, enjoyed worldwide success, but in the end I noticed that it wasn’t my ambition anymore, to be on stage as Tina until the end of my life. Frankly: that part started to bore me. Life as Tina was exhausting, I have to recharge my batteries.
Bilanz: Do you have a special room for meditation in your house?
TT: In the USA, I used to meditate in my living room, but I longed for a separate room. When I came to Switzerland and rented a house, I realized my dream. I bought a four meter high Buddha statue, which I once bought in India and had stored somewhere, and I put it in the attic of the guest house. In the living house, I have a small room, overlooking the garden. In the morning, I retreat there and find my peace. My morning ritual consists since 35 years of reading prayers and singing the mantra ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’ from Nichirin-Buddhism from Japan.
Bilanz: Miss Curti, do you also advise managers to meditate for contemplation?
RC: A good manager is also characterized through clarity of mind and balancing of feelings. Everyone must find their own way, how to become a conscious, responsible example. All ancient cultures have developed their practices of meditation, yoga, contemplation and singing or reciting, during thousands of years. Through these methods, you can decrease negative emotions, insecurity and stress.
Bilanz: Is the demand from managers for contemplation rising?
RC: Definitely. In the last years, the participation of men in yoga and meditation classes has risen sharply. An example is Anton Gunzinger, Professor at ETH and owner of the firm Supercomputing Systems. He is known as an innovator and pioneer around the world. Since the establishment of my yoga center, he practices meditation, yoga, and chanting, together with other entrepreneurs. Whole innovation and design teams from renowned furniture, jewelry and advice companies combine yoga with creativity processes at our center. When you meet entrepreneurs from Asia or the Arabian world, they tell about their spiritual practices in a very natural way. For many of them, contemplation and meditation are part of their morning rituals, like taking a shower or brushing your teeth. It is not just about spirituality from the Far East. As a practicing Christian, I know successful managers who read the Bible on a daily basis.
Bilanz: Steve Jobs practiced Buddhism and for that reason travelled through India and Japan. Do you see the influence of this practice on his career?
RC: The estheticism and slickness of his products remind me of the structure of Zen gardens, which he was fascinated by. The simplicity and elegance of an iPhone or an iPad are expression of his inner clarity. His corporation belongs to one of the most valuable in the world these days. This is not just the fantasy of a yoga instructor: Walter Isaacson, who wrote Job’s biography, also points to this connection. In the ‘Think Different’ advertisement campaign of Apple, Jobs didn’t just incorporate the portraits of John Lennon and Bob Dylan, but also of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Bilanz: Miss Turner: you have retreated from the music business, but despite of this, you have joined the Beyond project. A comeback?
TT: No. When I was on tour in New Zealand a few years ago, a fan gave me the book Unity, that has a strong purple colored cover. I held on to it, because the central message fascinated me: you carry God, the higher power, within you. Whatever religion you take, whatever you pray, it always leads back to one – to yourself. Beyond is a music project for peace and tolerance. Regula introduced it to me. Beyond is an invitation, to be open towards prayers from different religions.
Bilanz: The New York Times has named you the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Until now, nobody has linked you with spiritual music?
TT: Like I said, already as a little girl I was praying, also later, as rock star, the spiritual was important to me. When some people discover me now in a new light, I can only say: it was always a part of me. This part took me out of the dark into the light. For the new CD Children Beyond, we sang with children. My message to them was: be yourself. And don’t forget: you have a positive and a negative power within you. Meditation or singing helps you to find and reach the positive."
Sometimes you've got to let everything go -- purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything . . . whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you'll find that when you're free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.
I never said "Well, I don't have this and I don't have that." I said, I don't have this yet, but I'm going to get it.
I will never give in to old age until I become old. And I'm not old yet!
I didn't have anybody, really, no foundation in life, so I had to make my own way. Always, from the start. I had to go out in the world and become strong, to discover my mission in life.