Wellness Wednesday: Chance York on the importance of self-knowledge

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Chance York.
Chance York. (via the artist on Facebook)
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Every Wednesday morning at 8:30 CST, our Morning Show connects with experts and local personalities for some real talk about keeping our minds and bodies healthy — from staying safe in the music scene, to exercising during a pandemic, to voting and civic engagement. Looking for more resources and support? Visit our friends at Call to Mind, MPR's initiative to foster new conversations about mental health.

Today, Sean McPherson — stepping in for Jill Riley — speaks with Chance York, who The Current listeners know as a local rapper. In their conversation, the artist talks about his work in wellness.

Now, Chance, I've known you personally as a very, very talented emcee for years and years in the Twin Cities. Thanks to social media, I was aware you were involved in the wide world of wellness. I remember seeing Big Zach and you doing yoga in a video at some point, but to be honest I had not thought deeply about that part of your career. I did a little bit of research, and I see that wellness, yoga, and more are kind of at the center of your life — both for yourself, and also with work you're doing at the YMCA for the George Wellbeing Program. That's wonderful. Is that at the center of what you've been up to right now?

I would definitely agree with that. My days are a combination of doing different site visits for the George Wellbeing Program: bringing mindfulness to children who are five years old to eleven years old. Then I also offer meditations via their Facebook page, livestreaming, and we also have a partnership with the Fridley School District where I help the teachers and the administrators with meditation and mindfulness. Life coaching, wellness coaching, however you put it, where I help people construct actionable plans on how to reach their goals.

That is beautiful. The phrase "life coaching"...I had this feeling where I kind of thought life coaching was for CEOs in turtlenecks in large offices who have people bring them coffee every 15 minutes, and that was a mistake. I watched a video with you on your Facebook page, talking about how universal the struggles we face are, and also, almost more importantly, how similar the solutions can be for so many different people. One of the reasons I reached out to you for Wellness Wednesday on The Current was to kind of get an idea of what might be some more productive ways for people to improve their path, their presence, their well-being in a more sustainable and positive way during this time of the year?

The two main pillars of what I teach revolve around meditation — understanding a journey within, seeing what's there, looking deeper, and clearing time in your schedule and prioritizing doing so — and then also reflective journaling, where you really just ask questions that might be overlooked or might be simple, that you might believe you have the answer to and then once you search, you don't have the answer to.

The shame cycle, I believe, is pretty common. It's nurtured in our society to want to keep up with someone else or compete with others; that's just kind of the world we live in. The setbacks of that are a lot of hollowness — or feeling unsatisfied, no matter what we do, because I believe comparison is the beginning of suffering, or at least a major influencer of suffering.

Things you can do: reflect more often. Really looking in and clearing out that time to check in on how your body feels, how your mind is operating, and also that reflective journaling where you ask yourself some deep questions, like what is it that I want to achieve? What do I believe is holding me back, and how can I go about moving forward?

Habits seem to be something you home in on a lot: recognizing that life is in a lot of ways a collection of habits, and then it's managing those. So when you are working with clients, when you're working with young people...when folks are trying to change their habits, or folks are trying to alter whatever habits make up their life, how do you start that journey?

I believe [in] clarity: identifying what habits are problematic, what outcomes are problematic. What is it that you're trying to change? Then, [people] can get into through self-reflection, what are the causes of that repeated cycle?

In the start of your journey, did you get a lot of eyes rolled from your community...like, yoga, wellness? We're supposed to be rapping! Did you sense a lot of people being confused about this being part of your path?

Yes, definitely...and no, because at least what I tried to portray as a rapper was somebody that was at least attempting to be conscious of my existence, of my consciousness. So I don't think yoga and meditation are too far-fetched from the image that I've believed and I've projected in my music. But especially with yoga and with being the Black man that I am, I don't think a lot of people make that association. So I definitely find that my identity in this realm of work is needed; just kind of representation, or being a role model that somebody can point to, like, he does yoga!

Yega, meditation, is for everybody, but for whatever reason — marketing or society or stigma or whatever — not a lot of people think of it as something for everybody. There's kind of a demographic that people think of when it's yoga. I think breaking that stigma has been a very fulfilling part of my journey.

What are some good first steps for someone who's ready to start this journey toward wellness?

Everybody's different — just like our learning styles are different, and our histories and our preferences. Just exploring videos or livestreams of people teaching meditation: that's a good start, just understanding how the breath and the body works, understanding how your physiology and your [mind] work together. There's apps and there's videos and there's livestreams and there's books. I began learning yoga from the book, literally Yoga for Dummies, pocket edition.

So anyone can start anywhere. Self-discovery is less about the method and more about the practice. Just doing what helps you feel more centered or understand yourself more.

Before I let you go...I've loved a lot of your songs. I've loved a lot of your catalog, both solo work and things you've done with the Crunchy Kids, but you've got a song that dropped a couple years ago with Big Cats called "I Don't Care." This is a tune that I swear to you, I come back to at least maybe every two months. Just you and the beat together is so spectacular, and that's the song I want to play for everyone that's listening this morning, but I wanted to ask you, what is going on in your world musically? Are you up to anything? Are you all in on wellness at the moment, or there still some music yet to come?

I always keep my toes in the pool of music. I've been making songs. I have a couple in the vault with a producer named Travis Gorman. I don't have any certainty about what I'm going to release or when. I will be doing a live performance via TPT which airs this month. It's kind of a porch music series where they visit the homes of different artists. That's going to be airing this month. Otherwise, yeah, definitely always making music.


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