Tina Turner on the Lessons We Learn Overcoming Adversity
"It’s what we make of our challenges that ultimately determines our success and happiness."
Musical icon Tina Turner’s Happiness Becomes You, billed as a guide to “changing your life for good,” is available now.
Lit Hub: Are there any specific lessons from your spiritual practice that you’ve drawn on in this year of unusual adversity?
Tina Turner: Yes, there are many. After I started chanting decades ago, I had a realization that has helped me through all kinds of tribulations. That is, there are always going to be external situations and forces I cannot change or control. But what I can control is how I respond to those circumstances. Another important lesson I’ve learned is that we can find value in everything if we look close enough, even in adversity. It’s what we make of our challenges, how we use them to shape ourselves and our futures, that ultimately determines our success and happiness. I explore these lessons and other uplifting methods to navigate adversity in Happiness Becomes You. I hope that, during this difficult time, my book will help everyone who reads it to feel a greater sense of peace, joy, and gratitude for each day of life.
LH: How has your Baptist upbringing shaped your experiences with Buddhism?
TT: My Baptist roots taught me to be a good person and treat others as I wish to be treated. In other words, what goes around comes around, which overlaps with the Buddhist principles of karma, and cause and effect. Baptist teachings encouraged me to work toward attaining entry into a heavenly paradise, while Buddhism inspires me to reveal an everlasting, enlightened state called Buddhahood within my life right now. The goals may sound different, but both paths focus on developing oneself positively and experiencing eternal happiness. It’s important to me to celebrate both, to find unity in diversity, which is what my Buddhist practice guides me to do.
LH: What does your daily spiritual practice look like?
TT: My morning and evening prayers consist of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to my heart’s content, and also reciting portions of the Lotus Sutra. My prayers focus on increasing happiness and positivity in my life and for all living beings, with the ultimate goal of creating a peaceful world.
LH: You’ve compared chanting to singing. Do any of your songs reflect the spirit of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?
TT: I actually dabbled in writing songs about Buddhist concepts in the late 1970s, but I didn’t finish them. Later, some of my songs in the 1980s and 1990s were based on Buddhist themes. Terry Britten, who wrote some of my biggest hits, told me he wrote the song “Something Beautiful Remains” for me based on inspiration he gained from the Buddhist view of life. And when I recorded “Stronger than the Wind,” songwriter Essra Mohawk said she based it on the Buddhist teaching of “The Eight Winds,” which is about creating a state of life so resilient that no hardship or obstacle can bend us out of shape.
LH: Any chance you’ve been working on new music during the pandemic?
TT: Not at all! [Laughs.] I’m happily retired from performing and recording now, but Kygo did a great remix of my song “What’s Love Got to Do with It” earlier this year, which made it a hit around the world again.
LH: What are some books you’ve recently enjoyed/who are your favorite authors?
TT: Some of my recent favorites are A Baptist Preacher’s Buddhist Teacher by Lawrence E. Carter Sr., Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death by Daisaku Ikeda, Living Wabi Sabi by Taro Gold, and What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey. I’ve always enjoyed a wide range of genres, from world history and ancient cultures to art and fashion, science, philosophy, and beyond.
LH: What insights about music have you learned from your involvement in the interfaith project Beyond Music?
TT: It has reaffirmed for me that music is a universal bridge between “you” and “me,” “us” and “them.” Music is an invitation to open our hearts to others, beyond belief systems, and find our common ground. The experience of singing together in multicultural unity allows us to connect on a deeply emotional level. It can take us to a place of compassion and respect where worldly differences fade. As I speak about in Happiness Becomes You, I feel strongly that it’s time for the world to move past divisions and into greater connections. We must work together to collectively solve the global problems we face, and music can help open and enrich the path. I’m hopeful that humanity will come together to heal the world.
Happiness Becomes You by Tina Turner is available now from Atria Books.