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Sastri Sensei

Rules For Giving Great Martial Arts Demos & Blast from the Past

Rules For Giving Great Martial Arts Demos & Blast from the Past

I found this old video (early 90s) and saved a few minutes of it. The quality is a little grainy - however you can hear the sound of the swords clashing, the hard falls etc - as we PLAYED HARD! Back in the early 1990s when I was still a "young punk"in my teens, and had been training under Sastri Sensei for about 2 years. Its so interesting to watch this as it was many demos like this that got the art established in South Asia even attracting many 4th dans and above to join the dojo. To this day many of these high ranking masters refer to their time with Sastri Sensei with humility and awe!  The "Original Group of 6" Oku Iris under Sastri Sensei followed his example as much as possible. Of the original group of six - two made Menkyo and actively teach. 3 made Moku Roku and one remained at Oku Iri.

Sasti Sensei rules for Demos as I remember them -

1. Never rehearse for your demos, just do your thing - show what comes naturally from what you have learnt. 2. Always use live weapons be it Tanto (dagger), Ken (Sword) or sticks. 3. Seek what works, and make it yours 4. "Play with what you know" and never be afraid of who comes to play. You will always learn something. We always invited people from the audience to come and play with us - and as its a tradition in Asia, they usually did  5. Showcase your art in the best way you can, and dont stop even if you have made mistakes. Keep moving, until completion 

On this video you can see Mahipal Lunia Sensei and Melvin Francis Sensei "playing and demonstrating" in one of our many demos across South Asia. Jeevan Gowda Sensei provides the narration the expert announcer. And througout you can catch a glimpse of Ramesh Jodige Sensei across the screen.

 — with Jeevan C. Gowda and 4 others.

The Poetics of A Martial Education - Training Under Sastri Sensei

The Poetics of A Martial Education - Training Under Sastri Sensei

The Poetics[i] of A Martial Education

His knife sneakily came in from behind the shield hand, and made its way to my neck.  Instinctively, I rolled into the #6 taisabaki[ii], “adhering to the weapon hand” while moving the body to be “where the knife is not” and applied a lock on his arm. We both laughed as he then executed a rather elegant internal “turning palm change” and was out of the kansentsu waza, and thrust the knife with the other hand towards my belly. I slammed this knife hand while dropping my body weight to the ground: the “marriage to gravity[iii]” saved the day again.

We continued this for the next 45 minutes. Think of this as counter for counter[iv] and sticky weapons[v] put together.  He brings 25 odd years of training in Kuntao[vi] and Silat[vii] where I usually rely on my training in KAR Aikijujutsu. We ended our session as always with some green tea or chai/Indian Tea and discussions.

Whenever our schedules permit, my friend, a very high ranking member in another school, and I  enjoy comparing our concepts and techniques as well as figuring out solutions to the challenges posed by each other’s systems. We do this with the hope of discovering what works and what are the problem areas to work on. Over our chais he asked, “where did you learn those counters, I have never seen anyone do those things in my 25 years in martial arts!”

“From many places, however I predominantly credit my learning in KAR under Sastri Sensei and Vilaire Sensei for most of what you see me do plus some very personal expressions. And it was the time with Sastri Sensei in particular that opened my mind to what is possible and what one can accomplish. He put the art in the martial for me and he has always been more than a martial arts trainer to me- he is  a Sensei in the truest sense of the word.”

“It’s rare to find a true teacher of art. Tell me more, what was it like learning from Sastri Sensei?”

It’s a question I get often, and can’t answer often enough. Today I decided to try and unravel that question. “I don’t know where to start, it has always been intense. We trained 5-6 days a week in the heyday, and the learning went on for 90 minutes on the mat and equally long off the mat.”

We laughed as my friend added, “Same with my Master, these guys love to teach and talk, don’t they?”

I sipped the delicious ginger chai. “I think you and I are guilty of that now, yes, we do love to discuss and philosophize about the arts. Anyways training on the basics was constant, and we did many variations/henka to the same technique. Sensei would never do the same technique twice in a row. Initially it was overwhelming, until the pattern began to reveal itself, to emerge…and that pattern was natural principles.  The variations and escapes always blew me away and it was much later in the training that I realized that Sastri Sensei would slip in Menkyo, or as you would call Master, level techniques/concepts into our learning regularly. This only became obvious to me when the formal training in Menkyo began many years later, and many of the moves/counters were already self-evident.”

He was listening intently, fascinated with both KAR and my time with Sastri Sensei in particular. He too has trained in “the old ways” under a very well-known tough master. Since his graduation he has been exploring his own expression in the art. He continued, “but that can’t be it, it’s not just showing you advanced techniques early… what are you holding back?”

“Not holding back, I just don’t know how to frame it yet. The physical aspect is the easy part. If one sticks to it, most can at least imitate the moves and do it reasonably well. Sensei called that mode of learning Monkey See, Monkey Do.” We both laughed and continued sipping the tea. “However his greatest gift was opening the minds of those students who paid attention. To me, being with him was always about being cracked open to Wonder, Magick and Possibility. “

“Now we are getting somewhere Mahi, tell me about the opening of the mind. And how are you using the term mind – the somewhat limited western way or the more encompassing eastern way?”  He put his cup down, clasped his hands together and leaned in to listen with a sense of fierce curiosity.

I pondered a little, as sometimes English is a hard language for me to explain the more “subtle felt aspects” of the arts. “I think of those two minds as a continuum. Let me explain. Sastri Sensei introduced all of his students to NLP in the early 1990s. Not all followed, a few did while I completely embraced it, as evident even today. The brain based pursuit of elite performance was an eye opener. For the first time, I started making the transition from pure brawn, to thinking about things…even though it was at that time in pursuit of even more brawn.” We both laughed knowingly.

He jumped in, “You think about things? Surely you are mistaken.”

We continued laughing hard, and everyone in the café turned to look at two sweaty guys with sticks and knives on their sides, talking about weird things. I continued, “So I devoured the whole NLP thing, especially the modeling aspects of it, as I wanted to move like my Sensei did. And I would take diligent notes from his lessons and build mental models to test. This was the opening of the small mind – the brain, or the western mind as you say. However the real lessons were always about how we become better human beings. He demonstrated the path, with integrity and character. He is one of the most moral/ethical men I have the privilege of knowing.  When he said something, I knew he meant every word of it. And his love for the art, for his students and for his friends was unbounded. Neither money nor fame got in the way his martial arts.”

We almost had finished our chai, and ordered round two. I confessed, “you know, I f****d up quite a bit. In hindsight, my immature behavior back in the early days made enemies both in the dojo and outside. At one point I almost quit, primarily because of my ego. However, I owned up to my faults and apologized to him in person. He was compassionate and he warmly forgave and forgot everything. I must add, that I know there were times when he was angry at my behavior but he never once stopped teaching or leading by example.  This was the beginning of the opening to the bigger mind, the way we Easterners think about it.”

The next cup of chai was here, and the sweet smell of Darjeeling tea and ginger just warmed up the environment even more. My friend continued, “Yes, the bigger mind is all encompassing, and  the heart is the way. Western Science is just waking up to the wisdom of the heart – especially how it has its own grey matter if you will, and a decision center. You are familiar with the work of HeartMath[viii] of course. But, continue, I am curious about the training.”

As the sweet gingerly taste and rich conversation woke me up even more I continued, “yes that’s the bigger mind, opening of the heart. And what has to be learned is the courage to follow its impulses. I think that’s what most of the true meat is, it’s the place where training gives way to an education. Come one, if you are training for 20 odd years, it’s NOT to deal with a punch, lock, knife stab or a simple squabble. To walk on one’s path, to listen to one’s heart, and follow those impulses, (many of which may seem irrational) require courage. That ultimately is the training I believe he imparted on the handful who stuck through it.”

“ He laid the path from defending the physical self, to defending one’s mind to defending ones expression.  I know you, like me,  see the oneness  of the universe. And that journey is one we go on ALONE. However the right teachers prepare you for it.  Discipline the body, teach the mind to discern and invoke courage to follow one’s heart and passions. That in my opinion encapsulates my education under Sastri Sensei.  From there you do have to walk alone.  Martial Arts is the metaphor, if you will, that we used and still do. It’s our love. It’s our language. It’s our expression. But the target is elsewhere… it’s not just in the fighting.”

With that I felt done, complete. I had never quite articulated the training quite like this.

We finished our tea, and he paid. We started walking out to our cars, and figuring out our next play date. He continued, “Your language was interesting. While most talk about learning techniques and esoteric secrets that only they have, you seem to focus on a different plane.”

“Yes. I think good teachers educate you, teach you how to draw from within. They teach you to learn for & from yourself.  And that is what he taught me how to do. He used to always tell us – do not be my vomit.  Find out for yourself, show me your creativity. In the two decades I have been with him, he never tested two students the same way…..  I believe any art in existence today, especially the classical systems we study were once a hypothesis that was tested and adopted. However people made deities out of the founders, and forgot the message. Don’t get me started on that thread.”

We both laughed. “So the training with Sensei was learning how to learn, and becoming who you are.  And martial arts, was how we explored this. I see effective fighting as one of the benefits, not THE benefit of the learning from him. I continue to learn from him to this day, when we speak every week. We may not discuss MA techniques directly every time, but that’s the thread that informs, instructs and binds us together.”

He nodded, and I knew he understood. He continued, “I want to meet him some day and lets swap notes on specific methods of training next time.” I agreed and promised him that next time Sastri Sensei is in the Bay Area, he would.  I had hoped to do justice to the training and methods, though capturing 2 decades of learning over 2 cups of chai is impossible.  

“You know dude, we are both f****d.  Our schools will never be enrolled to the hilt, and most likely we will die unknown in the arts we love.” I wanted to end on a funny, humbling note.  We laughed hard at the irony of the whole situation.

Being a fellow philosopher and poet he said “Have you heard of Liu Yuxi[ix] famous epitaph -  Inscription for a Humble home?”  I know him well enough to know there had to be a point, and this was not a random tangent.


He stood tall, mockingly imitated an opera performer and began his preparation. I knew the poem meant a lot if he was ready to recite this “by heart.”  I stopped everything to pay complete attention to him for I knew there was going to be a deep point here.

Ever so softly, as though he was sharing a big secret he recited:


“A mountain is famous not for its height, but for its immortals.

A lake is magical not because of its depth, but because of its dragons.

This house may be humble, but it is fragrant with my virtue.

The steps are covered with green moss; the window screens reflect the verdant grass.

I laugh and chat with learned gentlemen; there are no illiterates among my visitors.

I can play the harp and read the Vajra Sutra[x].

There is no noise of string and wind instruments to disturb my ears,  nor any documents to tire me out.

Zhu Geliang[xi] lived in a thatched hut in Nanyang;

Yang Ziyun dwelt in a tiny shack in western Shu.

Confucius said, "How can that be considered humble?"


There was a deep silence for a minute.  We nodded, hugged warmly and said our good byes.  On my drive home the lines played in my mind, and I was going to soak myself in them. Poetry is the language of the mystical, and the more time you spend with it, the more it unravels. Much like the training with my Sensei, the more I go back to the lessons, the more they unravel.

That was the essence of the training with Sensei, sheer poetry.  Poetry that took hold opened the mind and heart.  Good poetry has layers, and layers. As the reader matures, the meaning of the poem transforms.  The lines sound the same, but are felt and experienced very differently. In the Martial Arts, the moves look the same, but feel and change one completely.  Hence I call it the Poetics of  A Martial Education – it is about how physical, mental and emotional education came together and was aimed to produce a higher ideal than just being an effective fighter. The language he used was martial arts, music, physics and ethics coming together to weave the fabric.

I hope to be able to impact those few students who come to my little dojo, in a similar way that my Sensei did in his.  Damo Arigato Sensei!


[i] Poetics is distinguished from hermeneutics by its focus not on the meaning of a text, but rather its understanding of how a text's different elements come together and produce certain effects on the subject


[ii] Tai sabaki (体捌き?) is a term from Japanese martial arts and which relates to 'whole body movement', or repositioning. It can be translated as body-management. It is a term used widely in kendo, jujutsu, aikido, judo, karate and ninjutsu. Tai sabaki is usually used to avoid an attack, such that the receiver of the attack ends up in an advantageous position and it is often wrongly referred to as evasion. The key distintion here, esp from a KAR perspective is moving from one circle to the next without interrupting the flow of energy


[iii] Marriage to Gravity – The principle of  Structural integration of moving body as one, while employing the advantage of gravity in all techniques. This is something that is deeply explored in Rolfing and related somatic disciplines, and certain schools of Kenpo. From a KAR perspective I have found a direct correlation of this is essential for executing good aiki, esp for the minimal use of force and multiple strikes. In essense this is Tai Ichi – Body as one and managing ones’ relationship to gravity


[iv] Counter for counter – it’s a drill where one person feeds a technique, and the other does this defense, with the aim of brining the person down. As he ends his technique, the other begins his defense against it. And this goes on and on. We use it specifically against different systems to help our own understanding of the system we train in.


[v] Sticky weapons is my variation drill of doing sticky hands with weapons. In essence one body part and/or weapon is always touching the other, to feel and to begin a series of moves once an opening is created or discovered.  To learn about sticky hands go to


[vi] Kuntao or kuntau (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: kûn-thâu, Tagalogkuntaw) is a Hokkien term for the martial arts of the Chinese community of Southeast Asia, especially the Malay Archipelago. It is most commonly practiced in and associated with IndonesiaMalaysia (particularly Borneo), the Philippines and Singapore. Over time, kuntao and silat have influenced each other to the point where the distinction between the two can sometimes be blurred.


[vii] Silat (Minangkabausilek) is a collective word for indigenous martial arts from a geo-cultural area of Southeast Asia encompassing most of the Nusantara, the Malay Archipelago and the entirety of the Malay Peninsula. Originally developed in what are now Indonesiapeninsular Malaysia, south Thailand, and Singapore, it is also traditionally practiced in BruneiVietnam and the southern Philippines. There are hundreds of different styles but they tend to focus either on strikes, joint manipulation, throws, bladed weaponry, or some combination thereof


[ix] Liu Yuxi (Wade-Giles: Liu Yu-hsi; simplified Chinese: 刘禹; traditional Chinese: 劉禹錫; pinyin: Liú Yǔxī) (772–842) was a Chinese poet, philosopher, and essayist, active during the Tang Dynasty. He was an associate of Bai Juyi and was known for his folk-style poems. Most famously, he is known for his poem Lou Shi Ming 陋室銘, "Inscription of a crude house". It describes living in a simple dwelling, following a life that is rich in character, refined in culture and learning.


[x] The Vajra Cutter Sutra (also known as the Diamond Cutter Sutra or Diamond Sutra) is one of most well-known sutras of Mahayana Buddhism. The Vajra Cutter Sutra is a discourse on the Buddhist concept of emptiness or “Wisdom Gone Beyond.”


[xi] Zhuge Liang (181–234),[2] courtesy name Kongming, was a chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. He is recognised as the greatest and most accomplished strategist of his era, and has been compared to another great ancient Chinese strategist, Sun Tzu.

Beauty, Elegance & Grace As Guideposts (GPS for Your Soul)

Beauty, Elegance & Grace As Guideposts (GPS for Your Soul)

This is a piece of stream of consciousness writing on one of the key values/guiding principles of Mt. View Aiki Kai: holding an aesthetic perspective. This personal essay will explore the following ideas:

  1. Beauty is what marks the pollen path/golden path: the path where one finds oneself in the lap of infinity
  2. Fear is the result of chaos/chapel perilous, and the way out is a return to and through beauty (elegance/symmetry)
  3. Beauty heals, transforms, and enchants the world
  4. Beauty emerges from you and your unique creations when your Personal Impulses are followed completely
  5. The God of Beauty, the masks of eternity
  6. Stalking Beauty to find oneself, making Beauty the GPS for your soul


What follows in the next 3,000-odd words is my understanding of this elusive perspective, at this point in time.

I have anonymized the names of my students out of respect for their privacy.


The world seemed to have become disenchanted and had transformed into a very scary place. My neighbor’s footsteps on the second floor would make my heart race and I would break out in a cold sweat. I had curled up in the bathroom tub, the bathroom door shut: the fear had found home in my body-soul. My world was shrinking, and even though I was locked away in the bathroom for well over 12 hours on this one Saturday in 2008, I did not feel safe. For over the past few months, I had started to cut myself away from the world, friends, and family. It was at this point—with the help of numerous therapy sessions (to deal with my deep trauma, my personal demons)—that I realized I did not want to live like this—in a world filled with fear, immobile to deal with life. Yet, I still had not found a way out of the paranoia and chaos my life had become.

beauty 4

Time was at a standstill, my heart went into palpitations. The tears rolled down, and even though—after a while—the tears dried, my head still pounded with pain and the body remained frozen there in the tub. I wanted a way out. I did not want the fear to grip me to the point of immobility. My mind and heart screamed for relief, and it was in those periods of intense pain that I started writing once again, especially my Urdu poetry. It was here that I truly understood this shaayari which I had recited countless times, but had never really understood until then:

Dil Ki Kharracho ko log shayaari Kahate hai to dark nahi hota/ It does not bother me When people call the wailings of my heart poetry,

Dard to taab hota hai, jab log wah wah kahate hai/ However it hurts deeply  me when people praise those lines with wows’ and claps


During one of these sessions, pouring my heart out in writing, I remembered this was not the first time I had frozen with fear—and in the past I had found my way through it. I wanted to replicate that, and find my way back. I wanted to model my own way like how NLP had exquisitely taught me to do:

Modeling is the art and science of replicating excellence. It’s built on the premise that success leaves clues, and to replicate any success in a human endeavor, you have to replicate what the model does exquisitely well. From my perspective it is very mathematically precise and creates astounding results. However, in layman’s terms, you want to be able to track and replicate the physiology (the way the body is held, thus directly impacting what part of brain is used), the belief systems (which dictate what is true and what is possible), the language the model uses (in communicating with the Self and with the other) and, I would add, one’s personal teleology (directionality of his being). When these are tracked and modeled, they can then be “installed” in others—much like loading a computer program. The Radical Change Group will shortly be producing a series on this, if the field of modeling is of interest to you. I would also heartily recommend the works of Robert Dilts, especially the Strategies of Genius. Now, back to the story.

My mind raced back to my time as a young teenager studying Shotokan Karate. One evening, my sport karate coach pitted me against the current National Champion for Kumite (sparring) practice. The champ’s reputation for a fantastic mawashi geri (roundhouse kick) preceded him and stuck fear in the hearts of most of his opponents. As I sparred with him, he continued to easily plaster me over and over again, while I stood there, frozen with fear, like his own personal makiwara (wooden dummy used for striking practice in martial arts). To add insult to injury, he would tell me how he was going to score the next point, and then proceeded to do so. The fear of facing him made those Thursday evening sparring sessions dreadful encounters, and I especially hated the smile on his face every time his roundhouse kick connected to rearrange my face.

This went on for at least a few months. But then, one fateful Thursday evening, things shifted. I sat, watching him spar, and saw the beauty and efficiency of his technique. I was overjoyed by the possibilities of the human body. I was now sitting there, enjoying the elegance of his mastery. The fear and dread vanished, and was replaced with a fascination calling me forth to participate. Now, I could not wait to get into the ring with him and, as I did, something miraculous happened: I started to flow with him as though in a dance. I evaded his famed roundhouse kicks and, for the first time, connected my roundhouse kick to his face. Not once, but thrice in that one evening. I could not believe it, and I was ecstatic. My coach was shocked, and so was the champion. From then on, my sparring would change completely—I continued to win against other national champions over the years, and the roundhouse kick that had caused me so much anguish became my weapon of choice. This was the beginning of my being known for my mawashigeri (roundhouse kick, as seen in the picture above)

No one around me had realized what had happened, yet something in the very core of me had shifted that evening, and a complete metamorphosis transpired. And this pattern repeated itself many times across different contexts. For example, high altitudes used to scare me due to my asthma. But my dad encouraged me to go high into the Himalayas, and to just face it and open myself up to whole new worlds. So, in the summer of my 15th or 16th birthday, I headed into the Himalayas to climb Sar Pass, often referred to as “the gateway to heaven.” It was a 15-day adventure, and I had never done anything like it before. I was quite scared. Walking through the forests sent shivers down my spine, and in some places I froze with fear—especially when the night would settle in. I could not even see my own hand in this darkness, and the sounds of the forest animals magnified my fear by many folds. But one night, I noticed something—a startling discovery. Because I had lost touch with my body, my mind would race and create the worst-case scenarios. The release would only come in the morning when, overjoyed with beauty, I merged with the environment. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do but just bask in the radiance of everything. What released the fear—and also the psychosomatic triggers of my asthma—was beauty, and losing myself in it.

Frank Herbert’s epic novel Dune holds a great scene where Lady Jessica teaches her son Paul Atreidies the litany against fear. The book captures in great detail the dread and its ability to freeze people, especially during the kind of tests Paul has to take from Mohaim. (This freezing is what causes deep trauma. If you wish to study the structure of Trauma and ways around it, I highly recommend Waking The Tiger By Peter Levine and also listening to these recordings gifted to the world with the Radical Change Group project). Lady Jessica instructs Paul to memorize and feel the litany with his totality. He experiences its magic during the test of pain and many times later. Reciting it aloud, you cannot help but be pulled into it and feel its wisdom. Try it.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

What my experience in the Himalayas taught me was that arriving at the purity of the “I” is critical to dealing with fear.  The lack of control over chaos (which accelerates paranoia) is what causes fear and in its worst case, leads you into deep trauma.  I know this very well from first hand experiences that lasted over a span of few years. I remember the many times this fear caused me to lock myself in rooms and cut myself away from friends, family and the world. For this was my own “Chapel Perilous.”

I was introduced to the idea of Chapel Perilous while reading Timothy Leary’s Game of Life, but it started to make more sense in my interactions with Robert Anton Wilson (read his Cosmic Trigger 2) and Antero Alli (read AngelTech or engage in his 8 Circuit Mind Course.)  Uncle Bob once explained it as “Chapel Perilous”—that vortex where cosmological speculations, coincidences, and paranoia seem to multiply and then collapse, compelling belief or lunacy, wisdom or agnosticism.”

Back in the tub, I knew what I had to do. It was not easy by any stretch of imagination to make that journey from the mind—where the paranoia exists—to the body/heart—where the joy resides. The fear grips you, and you have to let it pass through you. It took me a while, but I stood up, walked to the door, slowly unlocked it, and opened it a crack. I slipped out to the dojo after a few weeks absence. Those were the longest 400 meters I have walked in my life: from my apartment to the park. My students were happy to see me, and I remember Fernando asking me “How are you, Sensei? It’s good to have you back.” He then stepped away to let me lead the class again. And in working out and being with my students, I remembered the magic of the art of Kaze, and the joy it has always given me. The beauty, elegance, and sheer effectiveness of the art had always brought me home to myself. For this art serves as my guidepost to what the Navajo Indians have called the Pollen Path.

beauty 2

 “Oh, beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty to the right of me, beauty to the left of me, beauty above me, beauty below me, I’m on the pollen path.” Pollen is the life source. The Pollen Path is the path towards one’s center, towards one’s heart. It finally clicked for me that beauty was the marker of the path, and fear was really the absence of beauty, or the absence of the life source itself.

I was once again in somewhat of a state of ecstasy. Over the next few months, I had more episodes of the fear paralyzing me, but now I used beauty as the guidepost to return to my center and towards my deepest sense of embodiment. This embodiment started leading me out of the Chapel Perilous without losing my sanity completely. Beauty and radiance as a state of being now marked the way. I started to understand what Osho had said repeatedly: “Look deep into your heart. Listen to the still small voice within. And remember one thing: life is fulfilled only through longings, never through ambitions. Life becomes blissful only through the heart, never through the mind. Mind creates science, the heart creates religion. The mind can give you better technology, better gadgets. The heart gives you the real, ultimate values: love, bliss, truth, freedom, awareness, God. And a life without these values is valueless.”

In short, my understanding of Chapel Perilous is a place where your soul goes when lost, and it is usually an “out of body experience.” The way out is the return from the mind back to a sense of deep embodiment. This deep embodiment is also “the rapture of being alive” and perhaps the true secret as explained in Hakuin’s Song of Meditation where he ends the poem with “this very body, the Buddha.”

I had made a big decision: to stay true to my martial arts path. Now and again, I would make beauty the true marker and true perspective in my life, and explore the most beautiful places in Nature I could find. I had not done any unmapped backcountry explorations in over ten years, and I yearned for the sense of freedom and expansion I had experienced while crossing through Sar Pass and exploring Ladhak among dozen other ten-plus day explorations during my teen years.

The following  weekend I jumped into my Audi and took off, alone. After a 4 1/2 hour drive I found myself in the  Yosemite National Park’s Visitor Center, collected maps, bought a John Muir book and headed off to explore some trails along the Tioga Pass with my 40-pound backpack. I headed onto the quietest of trails that the tall, blonde Park Ranger had suggested and boy, was he right. Hours of walking absolutely alone and bathing in the beauty was therapeutic. Late afternoon I found a fantastic camping spot with 360 degree views and quickly unpacked the tent. I brewed some green tea and sat down reading the Muir notebooks. This amazing explorer’s perspective spoke deeply to my heart and just by looking all around me I could see why he was so deeply in love with the Sierras. One particular reflection moved me to tears: “When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty. Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

After the soul-nourishing weekend, I was back in the dojo the following Tuesday evening. We worked on the basics and I showed them the exquisite elegance of cross blocks in dealing with oncoming attacks. “You know, the thing that sold me on Kaze Arashi Ryu (KAR) was watching Sastri Sensei doing the cross blocks, and in it I saw an answer to a question on body positioning (Tai Sabaki) that I had not resolved even after years of practicing Shotokan Karate, Okinawan Kenpo, and Wushu.  The simplicity and effectiveness of Sastri Sensei executing cross blocks had been enough for me to know this I had to learn this art, embody it, and make it my own. You see, back then I did not know it was the sense of symmetry, elegance, and beauty that had captivated me. It was the gracefulness of Sensei’s movements that had had me entrained completely as though in a trance, in Aesthetic Arrest.”

One of my students asked, “Arrest what?” I smiled, and reminded myself to speak in the language that the others can translate, for the inability of student in understanding something is the failure of the teacher, not the student. I stepped back a bit, took a deep breath, and quieted my mind. I looked at the five students who had gathered around in a circle, waiting to understand, as the night began to creep in. This scene reminded me of the many nights we had stayed back after class while apprenticing under Sastri Sensei: we would hang on to his every word, as though the unraveling of new worlds was happening right before our eyes. Now, it was my turn to pass this forward.

“I have long told you boys to study Joseph Campbell. Campbell similarly studied a literary giant named James Joyce. It was Joyce who first coined the term ‘Aesthetic Arrest’ in his book Portrait of The Artist. The way I understand it, it is the experience of radiance as you behold an object. This radiance is the hidden power behind the world shining through in a physical form. You are arrested or mesmerized in silence by the wholeness, the harmony, and the rapture. You experience an enchantment of the heart. This enchantment is what will bring you from your mind to your heart. This will get you out of the Chapel Perilous that is created by the mind, and bring you to joy that resides in the heart. I am just rediscovering this. And as you rediscover this, you will find that you offer yourself in service to the world and you cherish it all…and perhaps even understand the quote ‘We have met the enemy, and it is us.’”


The class was supposed to be done by seven, and it was way past eight. One of my senior students jumped in, “Sensei, I have a few questions. May we speak about it as we get a bite to eat?” We piled into our cars and rushed to our regular place—a nearby, quaint Chinese Vegetarian restaurant off El Camino Real—and ordered our favorite Singapore noodles, sautéed mushrooms, and fried tofu dishes. Our conversation continued: “Sensei, I have been thinking that I have experienced that arrest you speak about when I listen to Latin Music. Where else can I experience this?”

“It’s good there is something that gives you that wholeness and you experience that beauty that brings the world to a stop. Another way is to experience nature. Perhaps a trip into the backcountry, cut away from everything in civilization.” We cleaned up the plates, sipped some Jasmine tea and, I noticed the emergence of a hunch—an impulse from deep within. I was not sure where this would lead me, yet I knew I had to stay true to it. As we walked back to our cars, I laid out a proposal to the students. “Let’s organize a Shugyo deep into the backcountry of California. We will go away for the weekend and train in the wilderness. Let’s head to Sequoia Redwood Forests—I know this old abandoned trail where the redwoods rise to kiss the heavens. There will be very few people, if any. Let us find that beauty and train in it.”

The students were as excited as I was, and the three of them cancelled their other plans to make the trip three days later. Thus began the marriage of martial arts with backcountry exploration and the training in nature’s own lap. We track our progress by stalking beauty—much like a hunter tracks prey—and allow that beauty to transform us. My love of photography had returned, for I now also worked on creatively capturing that sense of harmony that few of us learn to see. But I know that this beauty was the same marker of Novajo’s Pollen Path and Frank Herbert’s Golden Path (the path leading humanity to infinity).

The results of this marriage were nothing short of stunning. I transformed, and so did my core group of students. Personally, my photography has improved dramatically—for it is the exotic marriage of martial arts, adventure trips, and an aesthetic perspective created by the rather unique expression of the martial arts I have studied for over twenty years. My periods of being frozen by fear have diminished greatly to the point where they are almost non-existent. My relationships with friends, family, and nature have improved.  And my students have opened up to beauty in their lives as well: a few of them have taken up serious hiking, while others returned to dancing. One particular student who was a serious climber in the past, but had not climbed in over seven years, returned to his love of nature and, in his words, “a return to peace.” He transformed so much that he took leave from his high profile job for a month to explore Denali National Park and scale Mt McKinley, fulfilling one of his long cherished dreams. He returned looking ten years younger.

These trips and training have continued over the years, and none of the students have wanted to miss them. On one recent trip to Shasta Trinity National Forest in November of 2012, as I was clicking the picture of old trees, a student asked, “How is that I take the same photograph as you, Sensei, but it does not come out even remotely as beautiful?” I laughed hard, along with the two other students, and I replied, “A teacher’s job is to teach you how to look; however, it’s entirely up to you as to what you see and where you find harmony. Keep at it, and more importantly, do it your way. As you find more and more of yourself, I believe it will show in the pictures or other art you truly create, because you will capture those same trees in your own way. You will capture the trees while being in empathy with them, almost as though they will direct you to that place of perfect harmony. Trust me, this will happen—but you have to keep at it, and ask the tree permission to know it, and, as in the poem Lost, it will respond. You have to learn to listen. This is the same with our martial arts practice of Kaze Arashi Ryu. You have to pay close attention, let its beauty teach you, and then make it uniquely yours. Ultimately, you must transcend it, too.”

By now we had reached the top of Mt. Eddy after a hard, hard climb. We had three injured climbers, but the will and the promise of beauty had bought us to the very top. And then, the views of Shasta to the east, Shasta Lake to the south, the Pinnacles to the west, and Klamath Lakes to the north rejuvenated us completely. All of our tiredness was gone, the pain from our sore muscles and injuries was forgotten: ecstasy rolled in, and we cherished that sight through the night into the morning while on the top of that mountain, all by ourselves. Once again, Beauty had come to the rescue, and the reward was great.


In the early morning, after packing up in the below-freezing temperature, we got ready to head back down to train on the tanto and Kokyo Ho by the emerald-colored Dead Man’s Lakes. As we carefully started to slide down the loose gravel and big rocks at an almost 70 degree angle, I remembered JC’s brilliant insight: “In choosing your god, you choose your way of looking at the universe. There are plenty of gods, choose yours. The god you worship is the god you deserve.” And I said out loud, “I choose this, I choose beauty.” Gods are meant to be role models, masks of eternity and guide-posts to a good life. I choose beauty. My longing was now to find the beauty, elegance, symmetry, and wholeness that the John Muirs, the Joseph Campbells, my Senseis, the Buckminister Fullers, the Ansel Adams, and the Oshos had found before me.

When I relayed this wish to my students later on, one of the more religiously staunch students said to me “Sensei that would be considered sacrilege in many circles.” I did not miss a beat as I said, “Absolutely. This is the beginning of one’s duty of sacred rebellion.” She was taken aback, and I let her sit with it a bit and then recited a Shayari/poem I had written in Urdu not too long ago:

Haar Mazhab Nein Humhe Aab Khafir Karaar Kaar Diya

Iss Liye Uss Ke Darbaar mein Humhe apna karaar kaar diya

Now every religion has  branded me an Infidel Hence in HIS court I have found a seat among his other lovers/heretics

“You are becoming a philosopher in a materialistic world. Careful,” she said, somewhat teasingly. I looked at her and responded, “No, not a philosopher—as what a philosopher does is makes innumerable distinctions, splits things apart. The realm I am speaking about is bringing things together as one. This is the realm of the mystic. Now, I am discovering the mystery, becoming it, and allowing it to just be exactly as it is. You can too!”

With that I close this, and hope you too find yourself on your own pollen path, your golden path by paying attention to its marker—Beauty. For Beauty, I have found, heals, transforms, and enchants your world. This beauty is your guidepost into the lap of infinity. May you be nourished along the pollen/golden path. And may Beauty serve as the GPS to your Soul!

- Mahipal Lunia on the 16th of December, 2012

- 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/s, system/s, or teacher/s he has studied with.

Embracing Aliveness - Following Your Fascinations Fully

Embracing Aliveness - Following Your Fascinations Fully

“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

 fascination 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

  1. Find the state where everything for you has been possible, where you have been totally alive
  2. Model the syntax of how you arrive there – in simple words what has to happen in the body for you to arrive there
  3. Follow the syntax/sequence with precision
  4. Now run through the sequence over and over again, till you can form a circuit with it
  5. 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 RumiLet 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

Arrested By Beauty, Bailed Out of Time

Arrested By Beauty, Bailed Out of Time

By Mahipal Lunia • January 6th, 2009 •

The intellectual is always showing off, the lover is always getting lost.
The intellectual runs away.afraid of drowning;
the whole business of love is to drown in the sea.
Intellectuals plan their repose; lovers are ashamed to rest.
The lover is always alone. even surrounded by people;
like water and oil, he remains apart.
The man who goes to the trouble of giving advice to a lover
get nothing. He’s mocked by passion.
Love is like musk. It attracts attention.
Love is a tree, and the lovers are its shade.
- Rumi

I sat down at The Palace of Fine Arts, wondering what the evening would be like. And appears this demure and understated man, in a pair of jeans and an old white shirt. Shy, somewhat clumsy when you first see him, and he bows to the crowd three times and sits down on his piano. And out of nowhere this once seemingly shy man is transformed, into sheer poetry. The music flows, and enthralls one and all. His piece ends and there is silence, before the crowd erupts in a crescendo of applause.
I sat there, mesmerized and lost in his music, lost in the sound and melody, especially of his classical pieces. His presence, and more importantly his passion with his piano had transported me from the chains of time, into the boundlessness of that space which is free of time. The music served as a gateway into the timeless. Two hours at the Palace of Fine Arts passed as though in a jiffy.

As I was driving back home, my mind kept going back into that feeling of timelessness, the passion George Winston shared through his piano at the Palace of Fine Arts, the music and how it evoked the feeling of total merger with it. And it dawned on me that this is pure being, pure presence, pure ….. and this is not the only time I have experienced it.

I remembered watching my sensei (who you can listen to on the way of the warrior podcasts) perform cross blocks followed by kokyu nage (a way of deflecting an oncoming attack followed up by a throw by disbalancing the opponent). It was sheer poetry in motion, all of us were in awe, and entrained into seeing beauty unfold right before our eyes.

The other incident which came to mind is watching Kathy Altman dance with us for three days, from 11 AM through 6 PM. Watching her merge and move with the music and the 5 rhythms progressed. Flowing smoothly, to expressing her will in staccato, to the rumble of chaos, into the smooth merger with the lyrical and arriving at peace into stillness. As she moved in her own way, there was that sense of beauty and sense of pure being flowing through, that captivated all of us who watched.

I have always been fascinated by watching mastery in any form, and always wanted to learn how people do things they do with exquisite finesse (this is the heart of modeling IMO). Upon approaching both my Sensei and Kathy (many years apart) they had interestingly told me the excat same thing when I told them ‘wow I want to move like that” – they said NO!! “you want to move how you move.” My sensei was a little more colorful when he said “don’t be my vomit” meaning don’t do things or say things exactly as he does, I needed to find my own way, my own art of expressing myself and my body in this world.

No matter what discipline one chooses to practice, with enough dedication (usually about 10 years of constant practice) you start to bring out that expression which is truly you, this is beyond all rationality, rationalization, all intellectuality and goes deep into the realm of CREATIVITY. Somehow from here, from this place YOU HAPPEN NATURALLY and FULLY.

The person you are, no matter how perhaps clumsy in the ordinary walk of life, are transformed into the an object of sheer beauty. Not only do you arrive into the timeless realm of pure being, but in the process of you arriving there, you take those who are with you or watching you along for the ride as well. This is the highest purpose of any art, any discipline IMO, one of transcending time and definitions into the realm of timelessness and awe. This is where Aesthetic Arrest happens naturally not only to you but also through you.

The trick is finding those devices and activities that take you more and more into the realm of your own being. It may be dancing, it may be martial arts, it may be sewing. Hell it may even be in the service of something or someone other than you. Reminds me of this story about Ramana Maharishi, who was a very revered sage in India.
One day a woman, who did not believe in god came to him. Upon further discussion on god and nature of love, maharishi asked her “is there someone or something you love more than anything else?” to which she replied “yes of course, my nephew. “ Maharishi then tells her “ well then go and attend to him, serve him, love him – and there is god.”

This process of finding something to serve and dedicate oneself to also brings out the very best in us. It also IMO brings us close to our element, closest to that which we are. And staying with this element, and true to it transforms the wobbly creature into a majestic swan

This clumsy living that moves lumbering
as if in ropes through what is not done
reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks
and to die, and to die, which is the letting go
of the ground we stand on and cling to everyday
is like the swan when he nervously lets himself
down into the water which receives him gaily
and which flows under and after him wave after wave
while the swan, unmoving and marvelously calm,
is pleased to be carried, each moment,
more fully grown, more like a king, farther and farther on..
- Rainer Maria Rilke “The Swan”

Irony of ironies, you find yourself only when you are willing to lose yourself to something/someone greater than yourself. In serving this expression you come more and more into yourself, and in the process of this “alchemy,” this transformation, you entrain those around you as well to be “captured and transformed by beauty” be it the piano, the samurai sword, the sway of a dancer or the play of a child.

The trick in this, is to “model yourself at your very best, when you are serving something other than you.” Get the syntax, magnify it.
May you lose yourself fully into something you truly love and in the process find yourself and entrain the world.

Mahipal Lunia