“People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about.” Joseph Campbell on The Power of Myth
The cold breeze in November at 4 am does more than wake you up, as I ride a few kilometers to pick a friend up for our early morning Kenpo classes. This was a daily routine, been going on for over two years to train with a rather eccentric and rather combat oriented Sensei (teacher). I would return home at about 7:30 am to my frenzied mom who would make sure I am not late to school, and was our daily ritual for her to ask me “what teenage boy goes to bed at 9 so he can wake up to train at 4 am? what is this madness, what is this fascination with the martial arts, its not going to be profession you know- you are going to either become a doctor or work on growing the family business.” I would hurriedly gobble my breakfast down with a glass of milk and rush to school, and then to repeat the same process day in and out. Fast forward a few years and the same cycle goes on with my training in Aiki under Sastri Sensei, and I remember that Christmas day clearly in 1996 when Ma’am ( as we referred to Sensei’s wife Terri) just looked at us and told Sastri Sensei “dont you want the boys to go home and celebrate the holiday.” and Sensei said “well they are here to train and I am going to teach them.”
Not many people understand this fascination, not many understand this passion, to many it seems madness and yet this is the path the individual must take in order to find healing, wholeness and give meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence. However following the impulses that are generated and informed through your body proper is not an easy task, staying true to what emerges and informs you is an even taller order and yet the greatest blessing if you choose to stay true to them. Many disciplines teach you how to get in touch with them, however the hard part is staying true to what emerges. If you wish you explore these mediums I personally would based on my personal study recommend Mythic Body Work, Theatre, 5 Rhythms Dancing and The warrior ways.
These impulses have a way of leading you towards what one needs, they are more or less “postcards from the unconscious” waiting to become/made conscious through ones awareness of the body proper. They also open up new realms and worlds and create what Martin Heidegger once called “throwness.” Let me share another small story here to show how this works. The training with Sastri Sensei continued 6 days a week for 3 years non stop, Sastri Sensei had left his comfortable life in New York City and come to Bangalore, and my path crossed his as I was getting ready to head out to Australia. I cancelled my plans of Australia and stayed to study with Sensei who had repeatedly said a few times to us “I am giving you three years of my life, the rest you have to do.” A small group (3 of us, of which I am the only one teaching today) worked with him almost 6 days a week while most others showed up 2-4 times a week. After that Sensei returned to the USA, and as life would have it, I found myself in school right in the same town, about 5 miles from Sensei and my training with him continued, and was introduced to Henri Robert Vilaire Shihan – with whom I have studied since 1998. During this time in the early 1990’s Sastri Sensei also introduced the small group to a whole body of knowledge including the works of Napoleon Hill, Anthony Robbins, Earl Nightingale among others.
While going through the Unlimited Power seminar tapes on Sensei’s and Ma’am’s recommendation, I got fascinated with a new subject – Neuro Linguistic Programming. The magic of rapport, the power of modeling, the structure of the subjective experience, the chaos of grammar & the grammar of chaos soon opened whole new worlds. What followed was a furious learning and seminar attendance around the world to learn about the human mind, the power of discipline, the structure of subjective experience and the ability to learn rapidly. My teachers ranged from world renown trainers to absolutely secluded teachers who had shunned public limelight. This path continued to marvel and fascinate me. In 2003-2004 along with Sergey Berezin we started the Stanford NLP Club at Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA. At the Stanford NLP club I met with Arman Darini. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and great collaboration. Around 2006 the three of us got together again on University Avenue over a cup of coffee. I was working for a large software company, Sergey was designing systems and Arman was laying the foundation of his training business. Over coffee based on an impulse I threw out an idea of the three of us collaborating to bring about a new kind of service to the world – 3 perspectives on some of the topics of transformation, with NLP being the common language which we needed, as I was a Strategist (economics, business and martial arts as majors), Sergey was a scientist (Physics and systems science) and Arman was an entrepreneur (Artificial intelligence and Math major) .
Following this impulse we started the Radical Change Group (RCG)with a simple idea of transformation as a gift to all, no advertising or marketing, and a deep dive into topics that touch us deeply. This has from the humble beginnings in 2006 has bought us in touch with such path breakers and pioneers as Paul Rebillot, Richard Roberts, Gabriella Roth, Kathy Altman, Paul Kordis, Antero Alli, Marshall Thurber, David Neenan to name a few. This also got us access to the Nobel Laureate Buckminster Fullers lost tapes, Joseph Campbell's private recordings and the Advaitha vedanta of Arnauld Desjardin. RCG aslo then worked with Sastri Sensei and Henri Robert Vilaire to bring about the first recordings of the obscure art i practiced and teach Kaze Arashi Ryu to the world in their own words for the first and only time. The results to the date are nothing short of stunning for me – over 210 published recordings, over 1 million downloads from 100 plus countries. That one impulse to study NLP and following it opened a whole new world of learning, that one impulse followed honestly of starting NLP created deep lasting friendships and some unprecedented contributions. This IMHO is the power of following ones impulses honestly, especially when the world does not understand it, and will want you to “get real” or “follow the path/system”
Fast forward a few years, on a Shugyo in the Sequoia Mountains where the redwood trees kiss the heavens, a student asked me “Sensei I am fascinated by so many things, if i followed them all I wont have time to do anything, how do i know which one is the most productive?” I laughed as i remembered having the same question many years ago and no one seemed to be able to help me with it then. I looked at him with both a mischief and some compassion in my eyes and asked “ what brings you ALIVE?” he looked at me more puzzled than ever, and I let him sit with the confusion and silence, which he started to fill with a 100 different things except answering what bought him alive. After a lil while, as he had exhausted himself of all answers from his mind, and noticing an emptying I continued “ there is a difference between curiosity and fascination – when you are truly fascinated by something, you lose track of time/space and there is a union/fusion that happens. The subject (you), the object and the process of relating/knowing between them become one. There comes about a certain lightness in the being, and doors that were once closed suddenly open up, as though they were always waiting for you to wake up, to become Alive".
“Alive ?? Am I not alive right now??” he asked. “well aliveness is a quality that when you dial in, the world also comes alive. I think most people in the past have seen this as a rather chance happening, or luck. However I will tell you that this is an analogue dance – meaning you can track what happens in the body proper in a specific syntax and if you follow the strategy you will find the same result. Let me be a little more clear – this aliveness is a State of Consciousness and has a method/strategy to access it. By studying modeling you learn how to replicate a behavior in the other, however what we want is to model ourselves in this state of aliveness, in this state of absolute flow, in this state of you being your best. Once you model this, you now know you a strategy and syntax to get to that state of aliveness. Bingo you are there, as simple as that.”
This analogue dance is what the Sufis pursue when they dance into ecstacy, this state is what elite sports persons dial into to arrive at their best performance, this state is what the Gnostics/Tantrics/Heretics/Magickians have called the “God Code.” In the past this has remained an accidental state for most, however it need not be. Much like The Swan in Rilke’s great poem, one can condescend to glide majestically. The study of NLP helped me learn how not to just model this, but also amplify this state greatly. All one has to do is follow simple steps
Find the state where everything for you has been possible, where you have been totally alive
Model the syntax of how you arrive there – in simple words what has to happen in the body for you to arrive there
Follow the syntax/sequence with precision
Now run through the sequence over and over again, till you can form a circuit with it
Anchor it, and keep dialing into this state of BEING ALIVE”
“as simple as that eh Sensei? Then why does not everyone do it?” asked the student with a smug on his face. I have been used to this and have long given up trying to convince people. “Well simple does not mean easy, nor does it mean everyone does it. All it means is that its simple, it is elegant that's it. Now I have my theory on why everyone does not do it but that's not relevant, what's relevant is that most people are not alive, so why do what most do? obviously the answer is elsewhere. Aliveness is an individual phenomena, its a creative act, and every truly creative act is also an act of rebellion – a rebellion against the mass hypnosis that society puts on all its members. This kind of aliveness is considered dangerous as it brings forth the true kind of creative acts – acts that change the structure of what is. I have told you guys many a times that I am only interested in making maps that change the territory. This is that realm. Guys I have told you of this other story, when I was training with Henri Robert Vilaire Sensei this one time, and he was quite sick. I was doubtful whether we would be able to train, esp. since I had flown over a 1000 miles to study with him. He slowly walked put on his gi and as he got on the mat he transformed. He proceeded to throw me around like a rag doll for the rest of the day. This IMHO or rather in my languaging is him dialing into his Aliveness, and the warrior ways are his way. This is not an accidental phenomena, this is a possible state of consciousness available to all who will learn to pay attention to themselves in a new way. Perhaps this is the true meaning of the old adage Man, know thyself”
If we do not get to know that which is within us and proceeds to act through us, there remains very little chance for us to know truly know anything else. The mystics have always understood this well, esp. the Sufis’.Their poetry always gives a clue or points the finger to the moon so to say. Lets look at these two examples that say so much about this same quality of following your fascinations and that state of aliveness. The first one is by Rumi “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strong pull of what you truly love.” and the second is by the Pakistani Poet Sir Allama Iqbal
|Pila dey mujhay woh mey pardah soz Key aati nahee fasl-e-gul roz roz Woh mey jis say roshan zameer-e-hayat Who mey jis say hai masti-e-kainat||Pour me the wine which burns the veil For the season of the rose does not come everyday That wine which reveals the essence of life That wine which intoxicates the universe|
“This Maasti-e-Kainat is what we are after my friends, the passion that intoxicates the universe and brings all of it alive. This is the radical creative act, an illogical one, and yet the only wise choice. For within each one of us, there is a very unique template, a very unique experiment of nature itself, waiting to see itself expressed. She speaks to us – sometimes in dreams, sometimes in impulses, sometimes in intuition, sometimes through chance meetings – yet it brings about the same effect when its a true impulse – radical aliveness. So I say pay attention to your whole body and the impulses that emerge from it, then follow it – this is what I mean by following your fascinations to where ever it will lead you. As I have mentioned what started as being fascinated with martial arts, opened new worlds, bought some of my best friends into life, got me to travel the world as though magically. Life suddenly goes from being disjoined to coherence, wholeness and consilence.”
The student continued to listen to me with complete attention, and I could see something inside him had shifted, and he moved a little lighter. We continued driving through the redwood forests of Sequoia National Park for our training. We reached the bottom of the Morro Rock and we decided to race to the top of it. I slowly climbed up with one other student who was not in his best shape on that day. On reaching the top we had unprecedented views of the mountains and this student said to me “I feel I can see my homeland Mexico from here.” We laughed and sat down to enjoy the beauty. The student asked again “Sensei what else should i remember about this aliveness.” I paused a little, as though in deep thought, its amazing what the power of the pause can do, and the students waited on. I finally said “Where your attention goes so does your life, put your attention on what brings you alive. Its usually your fascinations that will bring you totally alive, and lead to what will seem like a magickal life, so put your attention over and over again on coming alive.”
The sunset was in progress and the sky came alive with a fiery shades of orange and red – it seemed like a painting. We were filled with joy and gratitude to be able to see this from over 9000 feet away from the madness of the city and reconnect with nature. As it got dark and we started climbing down slowly I remembered the Joseph Campbell quote and recited it for the students “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be." I told them again, like I have numerous times before STUDY CAMPBELL, and if you don't have time to study him at least read this one book Reflections on The Art of Living. The students and I walked down and got into the car and were ready to drive back home, which is about 300 miles away now. As we drove away the question I always get when talking about following your fascinations finally showed by “but this is risky, there is no guarantee of success, I have responsibilities, what will society say, what if this does not work out?” I remembered asking this exact same question to quite a few people including Paul Rebillot and Osho.
“Mahipal – Betrayal of the heart leads to decay, following it leads to a Heroic Journey. Life will always call you on an adventure, you have to follow it, if you dont – YOU SIMPLY ROT & DIE, your existence was wasted. So do not betray your heart. As my friend Alan Watts told once – better a short life in the direction of your heart than a long one being consumed inside out. So my child dont betray your heart, follow it. Dont fear the unknown, get curious about it. Leave the life you have to go to the life that is waiting for you to answer the call of adventure.”
Osho who always had a flair for jolting you into awakeness said something similar beautifully. “Never follow anybody else's idea -- that is very dangerous because you will become imitative. Always follow your own nature, self-nature; only then will you attain to freedom. It is better to die following one's nature than to live following somebody's else's nature, because that will be a pseudo life. To die following one's nature is beautiful, because that death too will be authentic.” Those words of both Rebillot and Osho rung true deep inside me,and I shared them with the students and also my struggle when I betrayed the path. I recounted the 6 odd years when I had not heeded to the voice from deep within, and it wreak a havoc in my life, to the point where I was ready to kill myself (that story another time) and the way out of the madness around me was to wake up to the aliveness and path again, and for me this was returning to my martial ways, the way of the warrior. As I aligned myself back to it, magic happened again. I found myself training hard, Found Vilaire Sensei in California living with our dojo, RCG came into being, and I moved towards getting my Menkyo/license and dojos being set up in CA, South Dakota, Texas and Mexico City.
It was now time to drive back home after a heavy Mexican dinner in Three Rivers at the base of the redwood Forests, the three students were quite, two fell asleep while I was driving back home. It was well past 11 pm, and I had to be at work at 5 am the next day. In the silence of the night the same student finally said “you know Sensei, this makes a lot of sense, its like what Bruce Lee said - Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it - its something like that yea?” A complete circle, back to martial arts, I laughed and remembered the times back in the day when I devoured everything Bruce did and said “something like that, something like that- forget what he said or what I say – listen to what your impulses say and come alive man, come alive the way only you can, that the best gift and legacy you can give yourself and to the world.”
I reached home at a little past 2 am, and took a short nap, and at 5 am it was time to be at work. After what seemed like a long day, wrapped up and it was time to be back at the dojo. A handful students including the two who spend the weekend training with me in the redwood forest showed up and as I got on the grass to teach and workout, all the tiredness was gone, and the aliveness returned, once again refreshed and ready to take on what shows up. Finished with the dojo and on the drive back home found myself humming these lines I had written not too long ago
Ya Mere Khuda / My lord, my highest self
Sunn Le Dil Ki Iltaaja /Listen to my hearts deepest desire
Bande pe diwanigi aisi barsa / Grant me the kind of passion
Jeete jeete ho jaye fanna /That burns me like fire with every breath
And my wish to you is may you find that aliveness, that passion that burns deep inside!
- stream of consciousness writing to explain the guiding philosophy of Mt View Aiki Kai by Mahipal Lunia Sensei. These are his own personal views and do not represent the art or system or teacher/s