An interview with Folk Singer and Wake Up Friend Joe Holtaway
There are many ways to come to Plum Village. People from all walks of life get in touch with Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching. As music is an important part of our tradition, one of the ways to come here, is through music, as shown by Joe Holtaway. He is a gifted folk singer who became interested in Plum Village through his involvement in the musical scene and the creation of an album for Wake Up London.
How did you get involved into Wake Up?
After reading one of Thay’s books, True Love, which I really loved it, I went to a Day of Mindfulness in London that some of Thay’s monastics were on tour leading. I was really impressed, and that’s when I first went to the Wake Up London Sangha. I’ve been involved ever since.
In those early days, I remember that we had some picnics in Hyde Park, where we meditated, hung out and played some music. As my parents were folk musicians, it felt familiar. I play an instrument myself, so I took my guitar along and sang some songs.
And then I talked to Elina Pen (one of the founders of Wake Up London). She had the idea of writing a Wake Up song together for Thich Nhat Hanh’s visit to London the following year. So we did and from there, other musicians got involved. In the course of six months leading up to the visit, we created the album Peace Sounds. And that is how I got into Plum Village.
(You can find the entire album here)
How did you like creating this album?
It was lovely to meet and get to know other Peace Sounds musicians. I really believe in music, in coming together and singing as a good way of communicating between people. The project came together very naturally. I met a lot of new people who shared a similar vision of peace.
It is lovely to see how music is really a part of the Plum Village tradition. The Plum Village songs are lovely. I visited the monastery last year with a singer friend called Meg (we biked all the way down there from England!). And I felt really at home there, singing and playing. I feel that is my contribution to the movement, to offer myself as a singer…singing for peace!
I really believe in music as a good way of communicating between people.
What impact does mindfulness have on your life?
I have always been aware of meditation, read books about it and tried it growing up. What has changed though, since I got involved into Wake Up, is that now I have a daily meditation practice. And this makes me feel that I am part of something very beautiful, of a movement, knowing that other people around the world are sitting at well, looking at life, and looking at ways to develop compassion, love and action.