Guest Blog: Chimaira Frontman Mark Hunter, “Breathe”

Photo by Alex Morgan

Mark Hunter is the vocalist and founding member of Cleveland metal act Chimaira. For more than a decade, Chimaira has been imposing its gravity on the metal community by continually touring the globe and selling more than a million albums worldwide. Their brand of heavy music has evolved and transcended both itself and the trends while maintaining its persistent, bludgeoning force. The band will release Crown of Phantoms on July 30th. Watch the video for the new song “No Mercy” at the bottom of this post.

breathe |brēð|

“No breathe, no life.”
–Mr. Miyagi

Summer, 2006. We had just finished headlining the “Sounds of the Underground” European tour when I took the first step towards what would become a major life transformation. The catalyst was an interest in weight training. That year, I was terribly out of shape, often sick with colds and bronchitis. I needed to improve my health. I hated feeling like crap on tour, and I didn’t want to burn out. Something had to change.

A big influence on me was our drummer at the time, Andols Herrick. He was all about fitness and used science, data, and logic to back up his advice. He was ahead of the curve in many aspects, and to this day I follow a good amount of what he recommended. He taught me the basics of weight training and nutrition, as well as recommended websites and experts to follow. After I hit the gym hard for a few months, his advice started to work, and I started to take an interest in the science of it all.

Weight training led me to nutrition. At first I used food as “fuel” to put on size, but years later I discovered that understanding the foods we eat could help with disease, stress management, and overall self-improvement. Not only for me, but those close to me. This process has not been easy by any means. We live in an era of disinformation, trendy diets, and Netflix documentaries confusing people with propaganda. What do we really know about food?

I am far from an example of perfect health, and I’m the furthest thing from an expert on wellness, fitness, or nutrition, but for being a band guy, who are stereotypically known as out of shape alcoholics, I can honestly say that I’m pretty darn healthy. I rarely get colds anymore, I have no sign of disease, and my blood work is phenomenal. How much of this can be attributed to diet and exercise? A good chunk, but there is much more to the equation. One rather interesting aspect that tends to be overlooked is the basic function of life: breathing.

It’s amazing how much breathing plays a role in overall self-improvement, and it can be utilized in several different ways. With singing, I had to learn to breathe properly. During my FarmClub performance in the year 2000, you see a guy that’s out of breath at the end of the song. While I certainly put my all into it, and was definitely out of shape, I didn’t know how to breathe correctly. With weight lifting, I had to learn how to breathe in a completely different manner so I could build up stamina as well as increase my gains. Stress management, controlling my brain, enhancing creativity, all different outlets that I used breathing to improve. Right now, to remain focused and calm while writing this, I am concentrating on my breath.

I started to practice meditation in 2011. I became heavily involved with self-exploration and learning to operate my brain. Shutting off for 10-30 minutes a day, sitting outside with my eyes closed, breathing. Concentrating on every breath. If you’ve ever tried Yoga or watched a Yoga video, I breathe in a similar fashion. Slowly breathing in for 8-10 seconds, holding for 8-10 seconds, then exhaling for 8-10 seconds. No, I don’t wear Yoga pants. I was blown away by how much breathing helped me improve my skills, confidence, and health.

Now before you get the image of me sitting lotus-style with incense burning and Buddhist tapestries all over the wall, I assure you that you don’t need any of that to meditate. Although I have participated in the above-mentioned way, it was mainly for a laugh, and did nothing to enhance the experience. No magic minerals or crystals are necessary. You can meditate anywhere, anytime. It’s all about shutting down your brain and breathing. Stop thinking about whatever it is you are thinking about, and shift all focus to your breath. Think about nothing. Try it next time you feel on edge.

At first it’s a bit difficult because it seems as though every single thought you could have wants to rush in and flood your mind all at once. The trick is not to follow any of those thoughts and keep the focus on your breath. I find ambient music or the sounds of nature are the best to help with this. There are a few clips on YouTube that offer music to guide you. I like the spacey, ethereal stuff or sitar music from India. I’d love to make a relaxation album like this, and just might. It would be quite the opposite of what you’re used to from Chimaira.

Stress management has been an area of interest of mine for many years. I used to be extremely uptight, worrisome, and ornery. I never knew how to calm down. I had panic attacks in my teens, and a few more in my 20s and early 30s. Stress is a silent killer. I started to see how methods of Zen mixed with exercise, and a good diet, was making me feel better than ever.

Angry? Breathe. Sad? Breathe. Anxiety? Breathe. Happy? BREATHE! People are always looking for a panacea, or a “cure-all”–this certainly is a candidate, and it’s FREE! The more you practice the better you get. The more you mediate the deeper you go. The deeper you go the more you realize. The more you realize the more you improve. The more you improve the better you will feel and perform…and so on and so on.

Fans always thank me for lyrical content, which they say, helps them through their day or certain emotions. While diet, exercise, and meditation are common sense things, it’s amazing how often we disregard them, forget about them, or neglect them. Then we wonder why we feel like crap. Maybe besides lyrical content, this blog can help you to remember how to feel great. Just breathe.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget our new album, Crown of Phantoms, hits stores July 30th!

Below are a few references if you are interested in learning more about the benefits of meditation.

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/meditation
http://nccam.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm
http://www.cdc.gov/features/meditation/
http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-breathing-exercises-for-relaxation
http://blog.ted.com/2013/01/11/4-scientific-studies-on-how-meditation-can-affect-your-heart-brain-and-creativity/
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-to-meditate
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-training/SM00028/NSECTIONGROUP=2
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=60918

And if you really want to go far into the depths of your mind, check this out!

http://mindhacks.com/2008/11/17/ganzfeld-hallucinations/

 

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  • Brutal Brandy

    I find it difficult to discern if i find your writing phenomenal because it IS or because i am your fan, why not both? I read a ton of musicians writings but yours and Robb Flynn’s always blow me away with the amount of honesty and personality you two put into them.
    I have recently starting reading a book called “The Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman. There is a quote that came to mind as i read your post, “The breath is a bridge between mind and body,felling and doing. Balanced natural breathing brings you back to the present moment.” I was already getting interested in mediation and proper breathing technique and well… this post has solidified my interest.