Michael Nouri meditates on Siddhartha and peace of mind

Hollywood actor Michael Nouri plays the English-speaking narrator alongside an Italian company in Siddhartha, The Musical. He explains the importance of peace and meditation, key messages in the musical, in his own life.


Michael Nouri as Old Siddhartha at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

I wanted to come back onstage to do this production. I saw the concert workshop of Siddhartha, The Musical in Los Angeles and loved it. In school, the Herman Hesse novel was one of my favourite books. It was on the required reading list along with The Catcher in the Rye, Steinbeck and Hemingway. I remember being very moved by it.


It would be presumptuous for me to say I’m a Buddhist because I have not practiced Buddhism per se. I have, however, been on my own spiritual journey in my life. Forty-three years ago, I was on Broadway, just starting out in my career, and everything was going my way – and yet I was experiencing some kind of existential itch, a feeling of discontent that didn’t make sense.


My younger brother, who was 16 at the time but much smarter than I was, had begun his own spiritual pursuit. He invited my mother and me to hear a teacher named Maharaji at Hunter College in New York. I didn’t care who was delivering it, the message completely grabbed my attention. Maharaji said, “I don’t promise to fix the problems in your life, your finances, your relationships, any of that. I do promise that, if what you want is peace of mind, I can show you how to have it. And it won’t cost you a penny. I can’t charge you for something you already have within you.”


I was shown techniques of meditation that were very simple. It was a Eureka moment. Though it was already within me, it was no wonder I couldn’t find this peace on my own. It isn’t anything new, it is completely familiar, but it’s too subtle and too obvious.


It’s really a process of remembering. All spirituality, consciousness, awareness, are about is remembering. It’s not about attaining something outside ourselves or reaching some higher level of anything. It’s about remembering who we are. That’s why children – when they’re not being annoying! – are so special to be around. They remind you what it’s like to see life and the world afresh, through innocent eyes.


There is something so beautiful inside of you, and there is a very palpable feeling that precedes any specific techniques or practices. Forgive me if I become poetic about it, but it’s about a fertile soil. We all have a longing, a thirst in our heart and we hope to find something that slakes that thirst. My concern when I first started meditating was that I would be disappointed. But I’m here to tell you, there is something very real that will satisfy that longing. And it’s in you, it’s in me, it’s been in me all the time.


It’s like you’re driving in a car with the radio on, and it’s completely up to you which station you choose to listen to: you can listen to AM which has static, you can listen to FM, you can listen to news, sports, religion, you name it. It’s the exact same thing with your consciousness, where you choose to put your thoughts. Every station has it’s own vibration. If you listen to news, the events going on in the world, it will create upset and stress. If you listen to classical music, it creates calm. Of course, we still have to live our lives and do what we have to do each day, but how wonderful just to know that we can choose another channel when we want to.


I still meditate everyday. It is a great pleasure. It started out as a discipline and now it is an absolute gift.


Siddhartha, The Musical is at Assembly Rooms, 31 July to 25 August 2014 at 18:10 (runs 1 hour 10 minutes).

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