Mick Rock is a self-proclaimed “alternative junkie.”
Indeed, the British photographer—famous for rawly capturing rockstars from David Bowie to The Sex Pistols to, more recently, The Strokes—has a unique perspective on wellness: He first became aware of the link between food and health in the late 1960s, around the time he also discovered LSD and first picked up a camera. Since then, even during hard partying times, he has maintained a steady practice of meditation and yoga and an openness that’s kept him feeling balanced and free.
Here, Rock explains how his ten-minute morning headstand helps him see the world in clearer focus:
Live The Process: Have you always been health-conscious?
Mick Rock: Not growing up. It was a typical old school British diet with no consciousness of the relationship between health and diet. My awareness was stimulated when I was a student at Cambridge University in the U.K. in the late 60s and was exploring alternative lifestyles and attitudes.
I haven't eaten any meat or fowl since 1970. And, for 20 years, I didn't eat fish, although I have done so since 1990. In the autumn of 1970, I started studying Hatha yoga under the teachers of BKS Iyengar. In 1998, I started studying Kundalini yoga under the teachers of Yogi Bhajan. My personal practice incorporates both strains of yoga. I also got my Transcendental Meditation mantra in 1969, which I still use. I discovered Light and Sound brain machines in 1992 and have been using them ever since.
LTP: What inspired your openness to alternative health and spirituality?
MR: Taking LSD opened my mind to all kinds of different possibilities, as, of course, it did for many other young people from my generation. It was about more than just health and spirituality. It opened my mind to so many different new possibilities, including learning to really see and picking up a camera for the very first time.
LTP: What's been the biggest obstacle on your wellness path, and how have you worked to overcome it?
MR: I did have 20 years of cocaine and nicotine addiction from 1976 to 1996. I had a quadruple bypass surgery operation in December of 1996 and, other than modest intake of marijuana (endorsed by my cardiologist) and judicious caffeine consumption, I've not touched any other stimulant to this day.
But, even during the years of my addiction, I continued to do Hatha yoga and use my TM mantra. It made my heart muscle very powerful and probably saved my life when I had a couple of heart attacks. I never drank, did heroin (I had two friends die from overdoses at age 19 when I was a student, so I always stayed away from it) or had any serious interest in downers. Nothing tempts me anymore. Nothing at all. I'm totally disciplined and do my routines every single day wherever I am in the world.
I also chant every day and get massages on average four times a week, plus regular acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. I sometimes call myself an “alternative junkie.” I love it all! I'm a very focused person.
LTP: What advice would you offer people who aspire to live more holistic lives?
MR: That's a hard one. I am not by nature a proselytizer, although I'm happy to talk about my situation if anyone inquires. But I believe the first step is a regular diet of whatever kind of yoga grabs you. I believe they all work in their different ways. If you're serious about it and practice regularly (preferably every day!), everything else will gradually fall in line. It will stimulate your glands and your organs, open your third eye (your pineal gland) and you will find yourself becoming more aware of what's going on in your mind, body, spirit and environment.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
MR: My wife, my daughter, my Maine Coon cats and my friends. And the freedom of spirit in all senses that my photography career and my disciplines have brought to my table.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process," and how do you do that every day?
MR: I don't think about it. I just do it. It's part of me. It's drilled into my being. First thing I do every day, and have done for many years, is a 10-minute headstand and drop back. That certainly helps to kick it in!!