Jewel Kilcher, A Hidden Treasure

Jewel Kilcher, A Hidden Treasure

“The most precious jewels are not made of stone, but of flesh”
Robert Ludlum

I was listening to the song Grateful recently and was mesmerized – to the point where I decided to write a blog article about Jewel Kilcher – the American singer-songwriter who went from rock-bottom to rock-star.  Her music career started with gigs in biker bars and clubs but progressed to performances at the White House and even the Vatican.  Singing is not Jewel’s only talent she is a hidden treasure and has found time, in between albums, to become a bestselling author, an actor, and a philanthropist.

Singer-songwriter Jewel Kilcher. (Photo Credit: Fred Greissing)

Jewel comes from a family of pioneers; her grandfather was a Swiss national who sailed from Germany – his then home – to the territory of Alaska when he heard free land was being given away to anyone willing to settle there.  Living conditions in Alaska in those early days were tough, there was no heating and no running water, but there was plenty of music all around. Her dad is a musician, her mum an artist. Jewel’s after school activities were spent with her dad singing in various bars and clubs around the region.  Music has always been a big part of her family life (her brothers are musicians) but despite this, her family dynamic was complicated and not happy.

As a teenager, her life journey was a roller-coaster ride. At 15 she left home; a year later she won a scholarship to Michigan’s Interlochen Center for the Arts and then, aged just 18, she moved to San Diego to try to pursue her music career, but had to take a day job at a computer warehouse to make a living.  After she was fired from her day job for refusing her boss’ not so decent advances, she became homeless living out of a battered van, shoplifting for clothing and food.

At the age of 19 she was discovered and signed a record deal with Atlantic Records; her debut album was an instant hit and she spent the next few years on tour, steadily climbing up the fame ladder. At the age of 23, Jewel was on the cover of Times Magazine.

Jewel’s life was anything but ordinary, there are numerous articles already written about her life but the reason I have decided to write a blog article about her is because she is a very rare gem, a hidden treasure with exceptional lucidity and self-awareness; when she speaks it is like listening to pearls of wisdom.

Never Underestimate the Power of Philosophy

From an early age Jewel had a passion for philosophy; she spent a lot of time reading Greek philosophy and was fascinated by its wisdom. Little did she know that the lessons she learned from those philosophy books would literally save her life further down the line.  

Jewel reached rock bottom in San Diego when she found herself unemployed and homeless, living on the streets alone with only her thoughts to her name. Every day was a survival exercise punctuated by bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. In the depths of her despair she knew she had to change her circumstances dramatically, failing which she would end up either dead or in jail. Whilst pondering her bleak future, she had an illuminating thought as she remembered a quote by Buddha:

“Happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you have. It depends on what you think.”

The quote inspired Jewel to make the conscious decision to change her life one thought at a time. On occasions her anxiety was so overwhelming that even thinking was difficult, so she focused on her hands believing her hands to be servants of her mind – her hands were putting her thoughts into action. Jewel started journaling the things her hands did; finding the process to be therapeutic, after only 2 weeks she found that her anxiety and panic attacks had disappeared.

Observing Your Thoughts Opens Your Mind

Jewel noticed the more she observed her thoughts, the more her fear and anxiety subsided. Her mantra, “I observe what I think. Therefore, I am,” an adaptation of René Descartes’ famous quote changed her mindset; it created a magical chamber that she could step inside and be less of a slave to her thoughts. It opened her mind.

The practice of observing her hands and writing about it helped her focus her mind. Journaling about what her hands were doing became an effective therapy; she became the silent witness of her own life and was able to observe, take notes, and then take action for the better.

One of Jewel’s hit songs is called ‘Hands’, this song tells the story of a girl who refuses to be made useless, who will not be idled with despair, a girl that is never broken.

Hands By Jewel

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all ok
And not to worry because worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I will not be made useless
I won’t be idled with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken

Poverty stole your golden shoes
But it didn’t steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But i knew it wasn’t ever after

We will fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they…

There were two changes that Jewel made to lift herself up after hitting rock-bottom. The first was observing her hands in order to focus on her thinking and realized in that process that she was addicted to negativity. The second was practicing gratitude, which removed her negativity and also released her anxiety in the process.

Gratitude Is the Remedy

When it felt like her life was crashing down around her, Jewel noticed that she operated under two states of being, either a feeling of being dilated or contracted. She realized that every thought and action led to one of those two states. When she felt anxious, she forced herself to think or take an action that dilated her;  the best way to do this was through gratitude. She first practiced gratitude living in a pretty hostile environment, homeless on the streets of San Diego. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of her life, she made a conscious effort to stay positive by forcing herself to notice little things that made her happy, like seeing the sunlight through the palm trees and feeling the sun on her skin. Feeling grateful for all the little things around her was an effective remedy for her anxiety.

Jewel’s latest single ‘Grateful;’ is a tribute to that part of her life where gratitude lifted her up from the streets to stardom.

Grateful By Jewel

When everything’s wrong,
When I can’t find my song,
When darkness is all I see,
There is a remedy.

It’s all the little things that make the world go round,
It’s all the little things that are almost powerful,
There’s no politician, no sky too dark,
No one, no one can take the love from my heart.

The sun gonna shine,
And in this heart of mine,
The sun gonna shine,
And in this heart of mine,
The sun gonna shine, ooh ooh, it’s true,
‘Cause I can always be grateful.

When the loudest sound,
Is your own life crashing down,
And when your friends, when your friends, they don’t come around,
There’s one true thing I’ve found.

It’s all the little things, the bells that ring,
The green green grass and the birds that sing,
I’m gonna choose the bright side to see,
And no one, no one, no one can…

Do You Have What It takes?

The moral of Jewel’s story is that change happens from within. You can find your own hidden treasure and change your life one thought at a time; the question is, do you have what it takes?

Do you have what it takes?

Do you have what it takes?
A mind of your own,
And the ability to get in the zone?

Do you have clear vision,
Can you master your intuition?
And use it as ammunition.

Do you have what it takes?
To be able to stand still,
to start anew,
While chaos swirls around?

To find happiness,
Can you focus your mind,
And change your life,
One thought at a time?

Do you have what it takes?
To survive and thrive,
And not feel contrive.

Joanne Reed

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