Unified Living is a project being created by myself and a few friends to share insights and advice on creating a unified state of being that balances material abundance with spiritual truth; essentially moving towards the complete freedom and therefore happiness that wholeness in life allows. Isnt that what we are all ultimately after?
I know a few people who recount stories of college professors who really had an impact on them but it seems these stories are becoming more rare. I was one of those fortunate few.
Flashback to me as a teenager in high school..years before I was running into burning buildings and driving drunk students to the ER, I had just begun training in the warrior martial art that I continue to practice today and was like a sponge soaking up anything to do with Asian spiritual traditions.
As a child I had wanted to be a Catholic Priest and then started looking eastward in my teens before finally settling in on enjoying the common threads at the core of all traditions before man began to shape them.
I was full of way too much energy, too many stupid questions, and not much life experience and drove everyone around me nuts.
I had decided that I must go to Miami University in Ohio in order to further my martial arts training with my teacher there and while visiting the school, of course had to meet the professor of Asian traditions.
In I walked to the office of religion and looking for any available professor to chat with. There behind the desk in an office full of thousands of books sat a white bearded laid back man who looked like the perfect quintessential scholar. He spoke with eloquence in a tone reminiscent of the ivy league scholars of old. He had time to speak with me and took an interest in my passion and all of my teenage energy. His name was Dr. Alan Miller and I remember him telling me his dream was to retire in a library.
Over my years in college, I took every class he taught but beyond that, whenever I found myself lonely or misunderstood, I would stop into his office and minutes of conversation would turn into hours to where he would realize his next class started 15 minutes ago. He was always available, always tolerant, and always willing to listen to whatever was on my mind and share his own wisdom from his scholarly path.
But perhaps the most notable thing about Dr. Miller and the one thing I continue to appreciate to this day above all else is that he got me. If I needed to take 10 days off from classes to spend time with one of my teachers, he made room for that. When I either refused or was simply unable to write papers in the correct academic manner with appropriate footnotes and references because I was quoting my teachers, my experience, and sometimes couldn’t even remember whom had given me an insight I was using in a paper, he allowed me to get away with it. He once even told me I would probably have issues with other professors but he liked my style because I “did it well.”
And have issues with other professors I did.
Where other professors tried to make me conform, he didn’t. And where I judged other professors for being too academic and disconnected, I respected Dr. Miller because he was a non judgmental scholar of the highest order who could discuss any topic in any subject from religion to history to engineering .
At one point a 6 page paper he assigned us turned into a 32 page paper for me because it was of a topic of my choice. And I sure chose…at the expense of all my other classes!
At some point during my junior year, Dr. Miller told me he was retiring and moving to washington state. I remember being very sad however he also told me that the Department of Religion had told him he could teach a class on any topic at all and he chose “Spiritual Autobiography.” The class began with 6 students and involved reading autobiographies from different religious traditions around the world.
About 1 month into the class, Dr. Miller announced he had been diagnosed with some health issues that required surgery and would be out for 6 weeks. He suggested we work on writing our own spiritual autobiographies and reconvene when he returned.
In his honor, the class continued to meet every Tues and thurs at 11am without him. When the religion department attempted to assign a grad student to monitor the class because “DJ Siclari is not a suitable proctor,” we just took our meetings off campus…meeting at ponds, lakes, restaurants, fields etc.
Dr. Miller returned from surgery with a positive outcome and joined the class. But the dynamic was different as he no longer felt like a professor but seemed more like one of us. We were all working on our spiritual autobiographies and he was too. Finally all 7 of us, including Dr. Miller, shared our stories with each other. At the end of the semester, we took him out for Indian Food and gave him a copy of all of our biographies compiled into a bound work complete with pictures from the class for him to remember the last class he was to teach.
I was able to visit him and his wife several years later in Washington State and visited him again last week. Though it was a short drive from the ferry station to his house, when he met my sister and I at the top of his driveway, he was engrossed in a book. I realized he is living his dream as I walked through the stacks and stacks of books in his small cabin and asked him if he knew how many he had.
His answer “About 7000.”
In an age of e-books, kindle, and audiobooks you can download on your phone, I’d say he has indeed retired in a library.
It was wonderful to reconnect with an old friend and professor who was there for me when I felt there was no one else I could talk to about my real interests. For Alan Miller religion was his rebellion…he was pursuing a degree in engineering and switched to religion because it was out of the norm. He walked the path and continues to walk the path of an academic scholar very well and continues to be full of gems of knowledge and insight when I see him.
We reminisced at his house and over Thai Food. He updated me on his health and let me know he is loving teaching a class for adults and we discussed how few of the undergrads who came through his classes at Miami really had any interest in the material and he was feeling more and more generationally removed coupled with the fact that many of the students were Christian Missionairies planning to go to Asia to proselytize their beliefs.
Our time together came and went far too fast and before we knew it, my sister and I were on the ferry back to Seattle.
He and his wife recently acquired a puppy named “Mujo’ in honor or impermanence which as fate would have it ended up being a perfectly fitting name as Mujo destroys everything he comes into contact with!
Moments with Sensei 3: The Power of Choice over Emotion and the Haunted Hospital
It was a warm night after dark in the mountains. My teacher and I sat outside on a balcony in our room in a 1920s hospital converted to a hotel and known for being extremely haunted. Our view was astonishing, we could see for miles over the valley from this balcony with doors that opened to allow in fresh evening air. This corner of the building used to be the insane asylum and old creepy lobotomy and gyn tools sat on display outside our room.
I probably had already had too many drinks (or he was waiting for me to have too many drinks) and the conversation turned to relationships then to the work I have done with stalker protection. We discussed everything from masculinity to the dynamics of a spiritual relationship to control issues and stalkers.
I remember bringing up how people seem to like to create drama and he commented how much of the control elements I’ve dealt with in stalker scenarios arises out of desperation. And desperation is the least attractive quality in a person. Generally it’s an instant deal-killer much like turning off a light switch.
(Here’s an article on cutting root of neediness)
He got up and walked over to the door as he often does with no explanation. Looking out at the stars, he stood there in peaceful silence for a few moments doing what he does, his long grey Native hair flowing down his back. He then came and sat back down noticing how I was waiting with baited breath to hear what he had to say next.
This man, who for some reason still unknown to me had agreed to mentor me in his ways years ago after years of persistence on my part, has lived an extraordinary life and has been my primary role model for what it means to be a man.
He then said “You know I had a good friend whose wife suddenly told him she was leaving with no explanation. He right then and there made a decision to just accept it and therefore create or accept no drama.”
The conversation twisted and turned as time and space seemed to shrink and blend together as it often does when I am with him. I wasn’t sure whether I was still sitting on a balcony or in some other reality. We discussed a recent case I had worked and finally settled into some personal introspective work. We went deep. As if guided by something beyond myself, I asked questions that surprised even me and I came out with some very cool realizations and insights about things that are really important to me in my life…and how they contrast with the control dynamics I often have to deal with in the case work that I do.
Though I typically like to illustrate lessons I learned with personal stories, I am not able to share any details on the security work that I do.
In my work, I have discovered several common denominators that indicate strong potential for control and stalking dynamics. I’ve written quite a bit on the subject and will post more here periodically. But the first one I want to address is intensity.
Oftentimes a person who has control issues will present way too much intensity in the beginning of a connection. To the receiver, this can be extremely charming as it feels as if you are being showered with affection. In reality, the other person is planting the seeds of their control mechanisms and it’s important to have the awareness to know the difference between genuine intensity and control dynamics.
New connections are often intense with excitement. When I met the girl who knocked me on my butt, it was extremely intense, like nothing we had ever experienced before….and quite scary in some ways as well as exciting as I knew I would have to really “step up” to be supportive of her and also in my own work on myself. I was in for a heck of a ride but I also knew that attempting to control the connection and its timeline would get me nowhere. Patience was the overarching theme and one of the lessons I was to explore.
In contrast, in the potential stalker scenario, the showering of affection continues for some time. As soon as there is a change in the response or the object of his affection pulls away or doesn’t comply with his demands, the dramatic side begins to show. First with small comments that seem innocent and caring. And then with more dramatic moves and eventually culminating in outright desperation that causes the other person to completely pull away and in worst cases can lead to emotional and/or physical abuse. When the person pulls away, the other partner will often begin to talk of what is “owed.” For example “You owe me a phone call.” Or “I want to see you just one more time.” These are manipulation tactics designed to pull on your heartstrings and only lead to more control dynamics.
Or, the other person is “ready to change” if you will “just give him/her one more chance.”
This is why the average woman will go back to the abusive man SEVEN times.
Some simple advice on dealing with these potential scenarios:
1. Develop the awareness to see through these dynamics. Ask yourself “Why am I drawn to this person?” Is it because of a genuine mind blowing connection or is it because you either 1) want to help or save him/her or 2) Need all the affection as validation of your self worth? Hard questions for sure, but worth asking.
2. If you decide it’s time to end things, end them completely. Tell the other person you are at a point where you need to go your separate ways and do it. Friendship is certainly possible in a health relationship but I am talking about relationships characterized by control dynamics which, by definition, are not truly loving or healthy.
3. Burn all memorabilia associated with the relationship and throw salt on the fire. This helps you both detach and move on and also opens the doors for new opportunities.
4. Do not accept emails, phone calls, packages, etc from the person.
5. If the person continues to push, consider tactics to protect yourself such as leaving town for a bit, being aware of your surroundings, changing your phone number, etc. True control freaks will not give up easily and will do everything they can to regain control
6. If you are the person who is longing after someone, give that person some space. Do NOT push or become desperate. If it’s over, it’s over. Let it go. One of the most attractive qualities in a person is having the self esteem to honor where another person is and being there to be supportive. This is love. Control is not love.
7. Restraining orders are a mixed bag. They can work in some scenarios but in others they only piss off the other person more and put them in a position where they are going to “prove their love.”
When I was in executive protection school, we watched videos of every public assassination attempt and physical assault on a public figure that has been recorded and studied them in detail. For example, John Hinckley shot President Reagan to attempt to catch the attention of Jody Foster who was a student at Yale University at the time and wasn’t responding to his advances. Obviously this is an extreme scenario example but I use it to illustrate the extremes that some people will utilize to accomplish their twisted goals.
It’s incredibly unlikely that you will ever face anything very threatening or dangerous. However, developing the awareness I spoke of above can assist you in many, many ways in life and in relationships of all kinds.
It was a warm spring day in the desert. I stood under the high noon sun staring at a fence in front of me. My task was to run towards the fence, take off from a small ledge about 3 feet from it, and fly over the fence. It sounded easy, it looked not quite as easy as it sounded, and I discovered something extraordinarily frustrating.
Even though I had the skill and height to clear the fence which we developed through hours of jumping over picnic tables, jumping off the ledge, and jumping with my weight vest, with each attempt at it I would drop my feet onto it in mid-flight and push off. I was already over the fence and my feet would stop me. This continued through several sessions.
My coach Manu, who is not only a Cirque du Soleil acrobat but also one of the original parkours guys from France stood there watching me. I didn’t want to let him down and that frustration compounded the self frustration of this seemingly unconscious thing my legs were doing without my permission.
And then something curious happened.
I flew over the fence…and I flew over it again…and again…and then took a step backwards and hit the top.
And then I got it 12 times in a row. That fence had come to represent obstacles in my life. It had become a physical model of my own fears and insecurities and things I wanted to soar over in my life.
My point in sharing this story is not to suggest you should go out and jump over the closest fence but rather to invite you to look at the “fences” in your own life. What are physical models that represent your fears, doubts, insecurities, walls, obstacles etc? Can you use these physical methods to overcome the obstacles?
Obstacles are a natural part of our path. They provide us key opportunities to learn very valuable lessons. And yes, sometimes they are thrown in front of us by others’ free will and life itself. There are many spiritual practices around the world that deal with obstacle clearing. Indeed, one of my own core spiritual practices is an obstacle remover.
Since the physical, mental, and spiritual cannot be separated, it can be very useful to create physical models for mental and spiritual growth. These physical models then become a tangible representation of the non physical realms and since the two really are one and the same, they allow us to grow more quickly.
This is the basis of my martial warrior tradition.
The video below is one of the imperfect attempts. I kept it so you can see what I meant about second guessing myself and dropping my foot on the fence.
Growing up I was something of a slob. It was so bad that I would spend all day cleaning my room or the garage only to have my mother come home and say “That’s clean?” Incidentally my mother used to comment on how neat I kept things on the ambulance when I was a medic and well, I think I owe it to my patients to know where everything is.
Anyway, during one of my early visits to study the native spirituality of Japan from Rev. Koichi Barrish, the first non Japanese person in history to be ordained a priest of Shinto, we were sitting with some other guests who were there and he noticed some of my clothes weren’t folded. Always seeming to be particularly tough on me he said (in front of everyone) “Siclari, get your stuff in order. When I traveled with my teacher, his clothes were always perfectly folded and everything was meticulous.”
That moment marked a turning point in my life. I could no longer be comfortable with things in a state of disarray around me.
Indeed one of the hallmarks of Shinto, and indeed anything truly spiritual, is purity – the purity of returning to the basic bright state of connection with self and between self and great nature/universal energies. As with all things in life, the external reflects the internal and a neat, organized, and clean space mirrors and creates a neat, organized, and clean internal state and vice versa.
As a suggestion, I recommend cleaning your personal space at least once a week and making an effort to keep your desk, clothing, and personal items arranged in a neat order. You may find doing so alleviates chaos in your life and draws more abundance, happiness, and connection with the divine. And it will save you time looking for misplaced items too. J
As always I am forever grateful to my teacher for such a simple yet powerfully life changing lesson.
Last week I was practicing my very inconsistent back handsprings and I noticed something curious:
When I commit 100% to the movement, I land on my hands however when I commit 90%, I land on my head. And landing on my feet hurts less!
This reminds me of something my teacher, Ajari Jomyo Tanaka, once said (paraphrased)
Put your Spirit into what you do…this is best.
In today’s fast paced society, how easy is it to get sucked into the consumption mentality? Examples abound of quick fixes, magic pills, and entitlement. However, I am constantly reminded that anything truly worthwhile in life is usually on the long path. All of my proudest accomplishments took years and my latest acrobatic quest is going to take a while as well.
BUT, isn’t it the journey itself that is ripe with lessons, fun, and countless personal discoveries? Perhaps the ancients and their wisdom got it right…perhaps the most important investment in life is how and what we commit our body, mind, and spirit to…
Here is my very first attempt at a rings routine… naturally filmed at the end of a 2 hour session:
I set a goal for 2012 to get in the best shape of my life, reconstitute and master my body, become physically, mentally, and spiritually stronger than is/was possible for me, and reverse aging. My plan for doing this was a combination of physical training, diet modifications, and spiritual work. I am training daily now with an Olympic gymnastics coach and several Cirque du Soleil Acrobats. In 7 weeks I have dropped 20 pounds, my blood chemistry is better than a teenager’s, and I feel amazing.
Even though I was always an athlete, I was something of a weak child and had GI and other issues that held me back from maximizing my physical potential. Part of this project is completely healing any residual weaknesses. Recent breakthrough research shows us we can actually change our genetic code with the power of focused intent.
When I first met Uldi, a Hungarian who is my primary coach, he said to me (in typical European style) “You are very strong and very fit compared to most but for what you want to do, you are fat and weak.”
That’s when I knew he was the mentor I wanted and needed. I always seem to have had this masochistic leaning when it comes to choosing teachers and while I seem to have this karmic ability to draw amazing teachers, they are always tough on me. I knew this would be no different, but everything truly worthwhile in life comes complete with its challenges. Uldi told me it was going to be hell, he was going to make me suffer for awhile, and then it would be heaven.
And he wasn’t kidding.
The first month was definitely hell as my body, mind, and spirit rebelled. Now, I’d say I’m in purgatory heading closer to the pearly gates.
On the first day, we were at a park and I did 15 chinups on my second set. Hey, I thought that was pretty good. Uldi just shrugged and said “you must be at 30 very soon.” Nothing like being pushed by a man who can hold an iron cross for 30 seconds.
He told me I needed to lose 20 pounds and to eat light…and when I thought I was eating light, to eat half of that. For that first month, I primarily ate soup. My body hated it…my energy level and moods were all over the place as I completely cut out wheat, dairy, anything processed, sugar, anything fried, dessert, etc and replaced it with healthy alternatives like juices, dark chocolate, organic meats, rice, and potatoes, goat’s milk and cheese, raw foods, and the Hungarian food that Uldi’s wife would make for me
People asked me “where is this 20 pounds going to come from? You’re already in shape.” I really didn’t know but I just followed his advice and stayed true to my commitment as I have found that commitment, tenacity, and the desire to stay true at all cost is what has gotten me the best results in life so far. As one of my teachers once told me: “I started teaching you because you’re a pain in the ass and don’t give up.”
Those early workouts consisted of running stairs…lots of stairs…followed by hills…followed by climbing a mountain. Then I did this with a 20 pound weight vest. 1000 reps with resistance bands and weights in one sessions would not be an underestimate. And core, core, and more core. There were days of running, doing 50 pushups, and continuing to run only to repeat. The run apparently was my rest time. And then the freerunning…jumping over picnic tables, fences, walls, from one wall to another, flips, etc…..constant conquest of my fear. The freedom that comes with transcendence of fear has been a big part of my quest since I was a teenager and will be a central theme of my writings.
With my medical background, I have the ability to run my own lab tests. Over the summer, there were some things that were not exactly where I’d like them to be. (like my prolactin was elevated. WTF, I know I’m in touch with my feminine side but I’ll stick to goat milk for now). Recently, I reran comprehensive blood chemistry and then reviewed it with a specialist in metabolic optimization. Everything was perfect.
Side note: Going to the lab is always so funny….you have to sit in the waiting room with a bunch of horribly unhealthy fat people. So when I get in there, the phlebotomists (who aren’t always the happiest people) look at me and are always like “why are you here?” And I’m usually running hormone panels so I try not imagine what they are thinking I’m actually there for and I think to myself “I’ve been waiting out there for an hour with miserable people, and I’m hungry, give me the damn needle, I’ll draw it myself.”
Anyway, my body went through a massive detox and now I finally feel like I am on the other side of it and I feel amazing. Our bodies store all kinds of things in excess weight including physical toxins, old emotional baggage, and negative energies and I had to let go of several old things I was hanging onto during the process.
I look forward to what the next months will bring with my training.
While I realize my project is a bit extreme, I invite everyone to get out there and make changes in your health. We are spiritual beings in physical bodies. And it is our bodies that provide us the vehicle to do everything we do in life.
And I hope to get some guest articles on this blog written by the acrobats I train with who are extreme examples of what’s possible for the human body and mind to achieve.
I have been on a quest in 2012 to completely reconstitute my body, move into perfect health, and become stronger than is possible for most people. And I am reversing the aging process as well. It’s my latest challenge.
During my daily training with circus acrobats and gymnasts, I get told I’m fat and weak quite often. Here’s a funny video of me recently after over an hour of one such butt kicking session with my Hungarian Olympic Coach. The form is very imperfect, but hey I was tired by then…and I’m very new at this!