When I was a kid, I loved the world of books. Engaged with them, the outer world disappeared, and I became part of a thousand alien and magical worlds in which anything could happen. I was the calm center of a spinning world of wonder.
Later, I began writing stories, and as I sat, scribbling on paper, after about fifteen minutes the page just…opened up. I entered another world. I was still, but was simultaneously part of a world of flowing wonder.
I never found this place in sports. That was a world of clumsiness, pain, and rejection. Like many other nerds, I decided I was a brain in a box.
Bullies forced me to realize that that box could be damaged, so I began to seek safety in the midst of harm, studying the martial arts. It was all effort and sweat, and later pain and fear, but I continued to train because I was more afraid of the outside world than the controlled violence and humiliation inside the walls of the various dojos.
When I worked at Pepperdine University back in the 70’s, I took the opportunity to run on the track there, and worked my way up to five miles, my standard distance. The first mile was getting the rust out, the next half mile or so was the beginning of hitting some kind of rhythm, but then a wave of fatigue would hit. Pain. Doubt. A voice in my head telling me that my heart couldn’t handle it, and I was going to die if I didn’t stop.
But…I told myself that if my heart had a fatal flaw in it, I’d probably die later that day anyway, and I might as well die on my own terms. The pain got worse…but then as if I shifted into a higher gear, suddenly the pain receded and my upper and lower body and breathing all came into a rhythm, and I felt like I was standing still, the rest of the world moving around me. Strange.
Years later I studied Aikido. Not enough to gain any level of expertise, but I was fascinated by the beauty of it, and also the apparent lack of combative efficacy. Then one day I attended the black belt exams in Redwood City California, and witnessed a man named Julio Toribio performing his randori freestyle multiple attacker test.
I’d never seen that level of flow. I SAW how he could throw a person without touching them (it had to do with faking the person out so that their mind and upper body was going in one direction while their lower body was twisting/going in another. Wow.) as well as displaying power and precision that was at genius level. After the test, I approached him. I introduced myself, and asked him who he was and what other arts he had studied–it was glaringly obvious that Aikido was not his only art (he had thrown one man and SIDEKICKED him in mid-air!). Turned out he had advanced belts in two other arts. Something inside me relaxed. I told him I’d always been concerned about the combat efficiency of Aikido, but that he had earned the right to have a respected opinion. What he said, I would believe.
Julio said something fascinating: “Aikido is absolutely lethal,” he said. “But most people practicing it have no idea what they are doing.”
Years later, in practice, I had a moment, just a moment, when if felt as if I was standing still, and the universe was flexing around me like energetic origami. I was STILL. But moving more beautifully and efficiently than I ever had. Just for a moment I glimpsed it, and then it was gone.
But that glimpse…of effortless effort, seemed oddly similar to the world of writing. Where, if I worked long enough, I could find movement in stillness. Which was similar to that same sensation in reading…but reading was easier, because someone else had done the work of arranging the symbols for me. All I had to do was put them together for about…fifteen minutes. And I would slide into that other world.
The similarity between the world of reading, and the world of writing, and the flow of running, and the flow of Aikido puzzled me. Could there be a real relationship between mind and body? The “brain in a box” part of me certainly didn’t want to believe it.
There used to be a bookstore in West Hollywood called The Bodhi Tree. My mom used to go there a lot. It was a cornucopia of metaphysical books, worlds of wonder from every imaginable tradition, and I spent countless hours in the cubby holes, drinking mint tea and reading stories as amazing as anything sold at A Change of Hobbit science fiction bookstore.
But amid the stories of immortal yogis and spinning energy wheels inside the human body, I noticed references to things I’d experienced…or glimpsed.
If poets seemed to hint that there were levels of creativity that BEGAN with the dissolved ego state and ended in the caverns measureless to man, beyond the shining sea…
If the world’s greatest athletes spoke of some union of mind, body and spirit that birthed Olympic-level performance…
If the most legendary martial artists spoke of love rather than fear leading to the place of most magical combative skills…
If the furthest edge of what things I had experienced was the NEAREST edge of these other disciplines…what would that mean?
What if the disciplines of mind, and body, and spirit were all using different words to describe the same phenomena? What if there was a path through it all, one humans had been denied because no single culture sees the whole picture, and few human lifetimes could encompass world-class performance in all three arenas…and even if they could, there would be no language that could communicate the reality, any more than you can describe a salad thoroughly enough to nourish a body…
That all you can do is point and say: there is the road.
Knowing that most will not walk it, will instead want to read travelogues written by those who have…
Then if I cross-referenced everything I knew, or thought I knew, and combed through every book and lecture and article I’d ever read, and tried to extract the 1% that seemed most grounded, or at least linked to things that were grounded…
What emerged was a transformative discipline of staggering power, a road to the next, voluntary level of human evolution. One which the masters warned was not only a Way to that elusive thing called “Enlightenment” but that, along the way, the aspirant would experience “Siddhis”, powers, apparent psychic and supernormal phenomena like extraordinary charisma, clairvoyance, precognition, and other things. And ALL cultures had legends such as this.
My thought was that these legends were metaphors, trying to communicate something that doesn’t quite fit into words, both the positive and negative potential of the forms of meditation, dance, physical and mental yoga, martial arts, chi gung and other energy systems, prayer, ceremony, spirit journeys and much much more.
What if? What if they were right about both the positive and negative aspects? And if that truth had been splintered around the world, such that no one could put it back together again? And what if a single brilliant nerd put the whole things back together again, taking advantage of computers and the ability to gather printed and video data from around the world. What might happen to this person?
The book THE KUNDALINI EQUATION was born. I always considered it a sort of modern “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” novel, and I wrote it at the absolute edge of my abilities, combining everything I knew or had experienced or could glean from the words of masters further along the path.
And something odd happened. People started appearing in my life after KUNDALINI EQUATION was practiced, asking me where I’d learned some of these things. Who had taught me. And were surprised that I’d created it without specific teachers and mentors, by connecting everything to that sense within me that THIS thread and THIS thread, from different areas of life, FELT the same.
And…a few of them said: let me show you what comes next.
Over the next decades, I earned three black belts, studied NLP, Pancultural Shamanism, apprenticed to a medicine man, became a devotee of a genuine spiritual master, studied sexual magic, and wrote over two million words of fiction. Lost both parents and had two children.
And at every step, kept connecting the things I learned with what I felt inside, the sense of standing still in the midst of chaos, of balancing effort and ease, going deeper and deeper, finding dead-ends but also open doors.
And at some point realized that I was no longer searching. Knew where “X marks the spot” in terms of life’s deepest questions, and realized that my teachers had given me the shovels I needed to dig. Digging, MUCH digging, remained to be done. But maps and teachers had become irrelevant. Now what remained was the work.
And at another point I picked up that book THE KUNDALINI EQUATION, and thought about that young man who had looked out at the world and wondered so much, and tried to put his thoughts into a story of science and magic…and wondered if I could do something anywhere near as good, at this stage of my life. What in the world could I do? What would such a book look like? Feel like? Read like? Could I do honor to my teachers and experience? Present something entertaining but also honest?
I didn’t know. But had to try. TWELVE DAYS is the result of that effort. I do not know if I succeeded. It really isn’t my place to say. But DAMN, am I going to be fascinating to see how people react to it…in just about a month.