“Have you ever had a feeling, even when things are going well, that the fun is just beginning?”
For musician Tazdeen Rashid (DJ Taz Rashid), this feeling is a constant occurrence. Back in 2011, Tazdeen was working a corporate job, and came to the realization that he was not spiritually fulfilled. Deep within him was this desire to create and share music with others. He dug deep—and began to ask himself to find his purpose, to consider opportunities as they relate to overall passions. Taking a leap of faith, he embarked on a creative, spiritual journey that would allow him not only to offer guidance to others, but would also allow him to continue to learn about himself.
DJ Taz is now a world-renowned yoga musician, touring mindfulness festivals around the globe—and finds himself constantly inspired to create. “A lot of my recent music came out of inspiration garnered from projects where at the time I wasn’t sure what the final result would be,” he says. “Was it worth it? Absolutely! As a result, today, I’m on the cusp of releasing two new albums with fresh new uplifting sounds.”
This past fall equinox, he released a new album titled Gospel Nomad. The project emerged unexpectedly, and has a downtempo, bluesy, melodic sound that expresses sentiments of love, spirit, and unity. He offers this album as a gift, along with a special playlist just for you, writing, “may it serve to elevate and inspire you to live in alignment with your heart’s desires.”
We sat down with DJ Taz to learn more about his process and his flow. Again, catch him in O’ahu, or better yet—purchase a Passport and see DJ Taz all over the world in 2019.
Wanderlust (WL): How did you come to music?
DJ Taz Rashid (TR): I’ve been a musician since the fifth grade; playing concert piano, guitar, flute and hand drum. Initially I followed a path that I thought was what I had to do, which was working in the corporate world. In 2011, I left my job and entered into the creative scene. I realized that I needed to connect with my deeper purpose, and felt this desire to serve humanity with music—specifically inciting experiences of awakening within people.
In the past seven years, I’ve come to work primarily with mindfulness festivals and events, which offer the space so that people can make those shifts in their lives. I feel so honored that I can serve my purpose in these spaces. It’s been a real journey for me. As a creative, there’s never this feeling of total security, so we either have to fight it, or be the victim of it. For me it’s all about understanding that this is the nature of the path I’ve chosen, and trusting that things will fall into place.
WL: How did you begin working in the field of mindfulness festivals and events?
TR: When I was playing music in the mid-2000s, it was more of a hobby for me. I was in a rock band in Chicago at the time, playing bass guitar and singing. The lifestyle we were leading was very “un-mindful”—you know, it was the typical late-night scene with drugs and alcohol, the whole gamut. At the time, that’s how we were seeking fulfillment, even though there really was no fulfillment there. It was like a false dream. So when I started waking up to these experiences of un-fulfillment within my body, I began to ask myself, “what is the meaning of this and why am I doing this?” I wanted to find a deeper connection with music.
That’s when I really got into guided meditations. This calming of the mind and the chance to look inward really started the journey for me, and yoga was a natural part of that. I learned that there was a whole world of this out there, and that got me connected to things like Wanderlust, Yoga Journal, and other festivals that were happening. I saw that there was this great opportunity to create music for these communities of people. I began to go deeper not just into my musical growth, but also with my own mindfulness. It became not only my profession, but a way of life. It felt like a complete alignment. I used to joke that I created a world where I was hooked on my own supply.
WL: You mentioned this sense of groundlessness, because you don’t have the same kind of structure in your field as with other endeavors (working in the corporate world, for example), but you foster this trust that it’s going to keep working out. That has a lot to do with your passion and desire to create grounding experiences for others, but also it has to do with this practice that you’ve cultivated in your own life. How has mindfulness allowed you to find this grounding within yourself?
TR: Around 2011, I really discovered that what I was passionate about was serving humanity with music. With that being my north star, when an opportunity came my way, I would just see if there was a connection with that purpose. If there was, I went towards it, and if there wasn’t, I went away from it. When I was starting this entrepreneurial journey with mindfulness and music, I did a lot of things that I wouldn’t do now, but I needed the work. Over the years, I was able to start saying no to a lot of things that didn’t fit where I was heading.
WL: How do you align your opportunities or responsibilities with your passion, and how did you build the confidence to start saying no to opportunities that don’t align with your path?
TR: Interestingly enough, over time my intentions started to align with my opportunities. All of the opportunities that I wouldn’t take anyway stopped knocking on the door, and all of the type of opportunities that I would take started coming towards me. But that’s not to say that those opportunities were always abundant and financially substantial. So they may have been good but I really had to question whether it would be worth it later. For me, a project was worthwhile if I knew that it may provide training or experience that I needed to grow personally.
In the mindfulness industry, knowing when to say “no” is a really valuable skill. It’s also about learning how to ask for more, learning how to ask for what you feel would work—all of these are training processes for most people. So there’s a lot of confidence-building opportunities in this line of work, because you are both your own business and your own marketing team. For me, I just keep connecting back to my goals to see if this is what I want to achieve or move toward. For example, over the last few years, I’ve realized that while I want to create for teachers and my audience, I also want to connect it to media, film, documentary, and video. When I made this decision about 2 years ago, my purpose became more focused around pursuing this goal. One thing I can say about this process is that just when you think you’ve mastered something, you come across a new level where you’re back to beginner mode. I’m constantly learning.
WL: How do you balance taking on these projects and gigs with your creative process? Specifically, when you are starting a new album, do you take time away from performing to write?
TR: I wish I had the time to go away on a retreat and create, but with my family it’s just not realistic. For me, the creative process is non-stop. No matter what is happening or where I am, and because I’m always working on multiple projects at once, I find myself in the creative zone all the time. So I may just be finishing up one project, but I am simultaneously working on another one at the same time.
This is where the notion of the muse comes in. Many people think that creative energy can be turned off, or blocked. I am a believer that it actually doesn’t shut off—rather that creative energy is always there for us. We can sometimes get into a funk, of course, and this is why we must cultivate techniques to keep making sure that the flow is constantly there. Alternatively, sometimes you may not plan for the creative flow to come to you at a specific time, but then all of a sudden there is this creative rush. I think this is a really good thing, and if possible, take every opportunity to hone in on it. It’s important to honor the muse and just get it all out. Because sometimes that same flow may not come. If it comes, let it flow out of you. Just harness it and edit it later.
WL: Traditionally we think of a muse as a specific point of inspiration, but the way you speak about it seems highly ephemeral, like a spirit flows through you. How would you define the muse, in terms of your own work?
TR: Typically the muse can be thought of as this relationship between an artist and another person. For me, I think of the muse as this Shakti energy within us. It is our connection to our personal god or energy source within ourselves. For me, it definitely is a more ethereal or spiritual thing. I personally think of it as this energetic experience that’s trying to come through us. A lot of times we are actually programmed to block this energy from coming out. We have these personal resistances that can block our muse being able to fully gift us.
WL: What are some of your techniques for keeping the flow moving through you?
TR: I used to joke around and say “I’m going into business with my personal divine.” In my opinion, we have to show up to our work. If we do, anything is possible. We could win the lottery, but it’s not likely. So effort is extremely important.
Showing up to our craft on a daily basis, for me, is of utmost importance. When this character of the muse sees how we are really showing up to our craft, or personal offering, we will be granted with creative energy and flow. It’s all about relentless persistence. There’s this natural exchange that just kind of happens. For me, if I know I’m giving it 100 percent, that gives me the confidence to stick with it.
Other than that, there are actual physical things that I do to keep the creative energy flowing. Exercise is super important to me. It gets the energy flowing. I like to sweat, so I do a lot of yoga, running, spinning, just getting a lot of oxygen in my lungs and in my body. Food is also very important—I try to eat a lot of vegetables and protein, and less heavy carbs or chemical products that will slow down my energy, such as alcohol.
I try to surround my stimuli with inspiration. One of the easiest ways to get inspiration is by listening to others and seeing what they’re working on. Reading is important too. A lot of times I’ll go to a bookstore and look at the names of books for inspiration. Sometimes I’ll even go into a teenage section and just look at the titles of books to get inspiration for ideas for songs. There’s just so many different ways to keep our stimuli going. It’s all about what we surround ourselves with. It’s also equally important to step away from a work once you’ve done it. For me, I like to get away from it and come back to it with fresh eyes.
Listening to people who have mastered the craft I’m working on, and finding teachers and people of inspiration, whether it’s YouTube videos or training modules, is really important. I’m constantly taking classes and doing courses online. I feel there is an abundance of support in that way. Having a teacher is something that seems so old school—but you need to find someone who will teach you something. In our crafts, it’s great to work with others so that you don’t have to recreate the wheel from scratch.
Jillian Billard is a poet, yoga teacher, cellist and avid wanderer. A native New Yorker, she is often caught daydreaming of sprawling green fields and mountains. She trained and received her ashtanga yoga teacher’s certification in Goa, India and works at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in Brooklyn. You can often find her with her head buried in a book, doused in lavender. Follow her on her (very newly developed) Instagram page for class schedules and updates at @jillboyoga