About 27 years ago, I was teaching at UCLA and my students helped me gain a unique insight into the relationship between storytelling and life itself. That, our personal “stories” are the personalized cultural myths, and that those cultural myths are generalized and metaphorically shifted versions of our personal lives.
I asked the question: “what if stories are the village elders telling the children `this is what your lives will be’ in one way or another. This makes huge sense if it is true that there are only two philosophical inquiries: “Who am I?” And “What is true?”
Or in storytelling parlance, there are only two things to write about: human beings and the worlds they inhabit.
If this is true, then the stories that have passed down to us over the ages might be seen as the combined wisdom of all the “village elders” on the invisible patterns of life itself. I decided to test that theory by organizing every bit of “success philosophy” material my mother had pumped into my head in childhood into a ten-step pattern I adapted from Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces. That pattern was:
- The Hero Is Confronted With a Challenge
- Rejects the challenge
- Forced to, or allowed to, accept the challenge
- The Road of Trials
- Gathering Allies and gaining powers
- Confrontation with evil–defeat
- The Dark Night of the Soul
- The Leap of Faith
- Confront Evil–succeed
- The Student Becomes the Teacher.
Oh, sure, there are other ways to look at this pattern. But this one has worked to teach critical pattern skills to thousands of students for decades, and I’m standing by it until I have a damned good reason to shift. It works for planning stories, writing stories, guiding life, and even understanding the needs of a target audience.
Around this pattern I clustered techniques of goal setting, mastering fear, raising energy, building relationships, healing emotions…it was natural, elegant, and the beautiful thing is that once you’ve played with it for a while, you can actually see problems BEFORE they arrive. Peek around the corner, as it were. When I cross-bred it with the yogic Chakras and Musashi’s Nine Principles, it was amazing how powerful the tool became.
But…there was a problem. Despite the thousands of courses I sold, and thousands of people I worked with in “Lifewriting” workshops or via the web, the problem was that it was all conceptual. And without anchoring the principles in heart and body, people could parrot back the principles and keep their ego shells intact.
Two things shifted for me. One was a principle of my guru Sri Chinmoy, who advised his followers to train their bodies, and taught the Ananhata “Heartbeat” meditation I treasure. What he said was that you could “awaken” a human being from the body “up” or from the heart “out”, but never ever from the head “down.”
Or as my Sufi friend and teacher Mushtaq Ali Al Ansari said, he will no longer teach students who have no physical discipline.
Or as Mr Miyagi said, “never trust a spiritual teacher who does not dance.”
The head will trick you. As Shakira said, “hips don’t lie.”
I backed away from Lifewriting, despite the value thousands of people had told me they’d gained. (There was another reason too–my life was out of balance after my first marriage dissolved. But I’ve had that handled for seventeen years, and its time to shake it off and get back in the game!) There was, frankly, too much room for delusion, for the ego to trick you into thinking that you were making progress, “waking up”, when the only reality was that you were chasing your tail in a circle, “looking where the light is, rather than where you dropped your keys.”
What to do? The people who come to transformational workshops THINK they want to change, but if they don’t move their bodies differently, or change their emotional responses, they’re kidding themselves. What to do? I tried encouraging thinkers to move, and frankly, was not happy with the results.
So…after twenty years, I’ve figured out how to “get back on the horse.” I’m going in through the other side of the equation. Rather than training thinkers and feelers to move, I’m going to train movers to feel and think. I’m starting with the root. And anchored with the heart-space, I think that is actually my very best route to helping people at the core level.
That goal of mine–to guide one million human beings to Awakened Adulthood, is back on the table.
To that end, I’m completely rewriting the original Lifewriting material, creating a totally new workshop that will be available online and in live workshops, and the first doorway in is the FIREDANCE TAI CHI workshop. There, we will explore the relationship between breath, movement, structure and the stress/strain equation. Because if stress does not become strain, and you address your goals in balance, there is NOTHING your nervous system can do but grow more sophisticated. Nothing your spirit can do but evolve. How rapidly is up to you, and will depend on the quality of coping mechanisms and the efficiency and effectiveness of your modeling.
Tai Chi originates from ancient Chinese martial techniques rooted in Indian spiritual disciplines. Someone realized that even if you remove the martial applications, the health and meditative aspects are simply wonderful. So even if you don’t believe any of the mental aspects, the system evolves. You don’t have to believe. Simply changing the way you physically address stress and conflict while in balance will change your life.
Yes, I’ll use other tools such as Be Breathed, Joint Mobility and the Five Tibetans. But Tai Chi, which I’ve practiced and taught for almost 35 years, is the doorway. Almost fifty years of martial arts practice and almost six decades of yoga, combined with almost forty years of professional writing have given me a unique perspective on a way “up the mountain” and I want to do everything I can with it, for as long as I have to live, and help as many people as possible.
On April 17th we’re doing our first full-day FIREDANCE TAI CHI workshop in Bothell Washington. Please come. If after two hours you feel this is not for you, I’ll happily refund every penny.
But I promise you won’t ask for that refund. Promise to give you absolutely 100% of everything I have, every minute you’re there, and that you’ll leave with a new plan for your life, and the tools to make it happen. To move away from pain: physical, emotional, financial…and toward pleasure. The joy you deserve.
Make me prove it. Take the challenge.
April 17th, Bothell Washington. Hope to see you there.