Guest Blog: Chimaira Frontman Mark Hunter, "Gratitude"
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 released its newest album, Crown of Phantoms, last year. Watch the video for “Wrapped in Violence” at the bottom of this post.
“Gratitude is one of the least articulate of the emotions, especially when it is deep.” –Felix Frankfurter
Until recently the word "gratitude" was not part of my daily vocabulary. Other than singing along to a Beastie Boys song, I barely expressed it. I’m not sure why exactly, because deep down I certainly felt it.
Between projects, deadlines, and touring, it’s easy to lose track of time and get caught up in everything but gratitude.
It’s also common for artists to be picky and see flaws. Darkness makes great product.
But I’d go a little too far down the rabbit hole becoming irritable and unbearable.
Nothing seemed to be good enough. How could I be grateful if I felt I hadn’t succeeded?
We can also include that musicians lead a life that tends to be on the spoiled side. We are flown around the world, paid to do so and fed well. We are put on a pedestal of sorts and praised in a way Kings were in ancient times. When I come home, I’m just some dude. When I was younger, it was hard to see that reality and understand that paradigm.
When Chimaira went through the darkest of times, it was brought to my attention by bandmates that I didn’t seem as though I appreciated things. As this couldn’t be further from the truth, I definitely didn’t know how to articulate it and I’m thankful it was brought to my attention. I also spent a lot of time looking at our failures and unfortunately, it’s all I saw.
When the lineup started to fall apart things got real dark.
The past couple years have been drastically different. Chimaira are doing well--better than in a long while. I’ve started a coaching career that’s picking up. Those closest to me are in the best health they’ve been since I’ve known them. I have a lot to be grateful for. The biggest change is that I’m more cognizant of my surroundings and emotions. I’m more aware.
At the start of 2014, I started to document the things I am grateful for on a daily basis. It’s part of my routine. I start and end my days writing about gratitude. There are no rules.
One day I was grateful that I was able to find Police Squad episodes on YouTube. Ridiculous.
What I’ve noticed from this hack is an ability to see the bigger picture much faster, and I’m able to appreciate in real time instead of way after the fact. I also notice an overall consistent positive mood throughout the day. Calmness increased. Dealing with extremely stressful situations is straightforward.
An expert in the field of gratitude and my source of inspiration is UJ Ramdas, a hypnotherapist that co-authored the book The Five Minute Journal. I discovered UJ on the Bulletproof Podcast and was inspired by the conversation. By keeping track and answering the questions in the journal, you have an advantage to take charge of your emotions like never before.
Along with gratitude The Five Minute Journal puts an emphasis on daily goals and how you can approach them. The reward that comes along with achieving short term goals is highly beneficial. You raise dopamine in the body, and that makes you feel awesome. Party.
I’m not a P.M.A. preacher, or a book salesmen, and I find a healthy dose of pessimism to be beneficial, but there is scientific evidence that shows positive thinking can increase longevity, reduce depression, and lower stress. While there’s no rhyme or reason to it, the fact of the matter is positivity works.
It might sound a tad hippie but focusing on gratitude has had a profound effect on my personal life, strengthened my relationships, and helped my businesses grow. It’s not a magic wand, but it does help make each day more enjoyable. Writing it down is key.
Here is an excerpt from one of my days in Mexico earlier this year-
3 Amazing things that happened today:
1. Climbed an ancient pyramid
2. Met interesting fans that made killer artwork
3. Stayed in an epic hotel and got to make food for the band
The next day in Guadalajara we were robbed. Yin-Yang I suppose. Finding anything “amazing” that day was rather difficult, but I made it happen.
1. We are safe
2. We bonded and came together despite thieving fuckery
3. Thankful for my life at home and supportive family
Taking the time to bring in positivity helped me stay sane in an otherwise insane moment. I’m extremely grateful I was with a group of people who supported one another. We wound up playing the show that night. The show would have been number 4 on the list. The fans certainly brought the band’s spirit up, albeit temporarily.
I find travel brings out a deeper appreciation for life. After Mexico, I was thankful beyond words for having been raised in a safe environment. Some of those folks down there have it rough. It’s extremely humbling if you allow it be.
The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha, traveled outside the comforts of his palace to witness suffering for the first time. I understand the philosophy behind this aspect of his enlightenment.
Coming from a comfortable suburb, walking the streets of an extremely poor country definitely changes you.
It’s easy to focus on the negative. So easy that it becomes boring. Try your best not to let it consume you. While noticing it is okay, it’s what you do with it that matters.
Take a minute and reflect.
What are you grateful for?
TL;DR: Spoiled musician sees the error in his ways through gratitude.
Thanks for reading.