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?
As I sit by the fire sipping red wine and watching the sun set behind clouds that are obscuring the full moon, I am reminded of what has become a very important lesson I received as a teenager.
I have many friends who are life coaches, motivational speakers, Tony Robbins fans etc who are into what I think of as the “Push Mindset.” Simply put, they are constantly pushing themselves, pushing their bodies, pushing their lives…and aren’t happy unless they are pushing. Some of them even enjoy screaming motivational lines to themselves as inspiration.
Nothing wrong with this approach as it does have its merits, feels good…and will certainly wake you up in the morning.
But I am reminded of a time when I was a teenager and was as type A as could be…always full of questions, always wanting more, etc.
I had the opportunity to spend several periods of time with a Japanese meditation master. Our 10 day trainings were very structured – they would start before dawn and include hours of meditation and work practice known as “samu-gyo.” Samugyo is well known to anyone who has done it as it is essentially mindless work. In our case it often involved hours of pulling nails out of boards.
Curiously though, between all of the intense structured activities, Sensei would schedule breaks…2 or so hours of rest time where he would retire to either work on one of his books or just take a nap. This puzzled me as it seemed like a waste of time to someone who wanted to ask more questions, wanted to push harder, go on a hike, learn the secrets of wizardry, etc. Lunch and dinner were also long ordeals that sometimes lasted so long that my legs would become numb sitting on the floor.
As I got to know him more and more I realized he was one of the few people I had ever met who truly had his life together…and while always busy with what he called the “next challenge,” he always took lots of time for rest, tea, and light hearted conversation. And he was the happiest person I had ever seen.
This led me to realize over the years that one of the secrets that has helped me create success is perhaps the opposite of this push mindset. It’s the notion of creating space and allowing. Within this sacred space that can be the matrix for anything we wish to manifest, there is no need for screaming, no need for pushing, and no need for constant output or ego strengthening.
Simply put, it is the way of getting out of our own way so that we can *realize* our true potential as opposed to attempting to force it.
All things in the universe seek to be in balance. Yin seeks yang and yang seeks yin hence the bonds that happen between male and female. This push mindset is very akin to the behavior of American football coaches in that it is way out of balance yang. This tends to be a very American mindset as we do much to engage our egos. It’s ingrained into the fabric of our culture.
The major problem with the Push Approach is that it creates an addictive behavior pattern – not unlike meth, you have to get your daily fix whether that comes from your own rituals or needing to attend the next seminar. Additionally, you an never have enough – what is the end point? What’s the goal even?
It also strengthens and builds the ego in that it creates an identity that becomes part of who you are and you are left maintaining a persona.
Many of the coaches and speakers I know in this category must exert a lot of energy maintaining their personas when the reality of who they really are they keep buried but it is very very different from what they show the world.
The thing about my early trainings with the Japanese master is that they were perfectly balanced. Periods of yin meditation were balanced with yang work. Periods of yang hiking and exertion were balance with rest. And the meals were an elaborate interplay of yin and yang. The end result – balance. There was no need to strengthen our egos because every moment of the training was so real.
As I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve noticed that other cultures move slower and lighter, they take more time for meals and for rests during the day. How often do we find ourselves rushing to the next meal with so much on our minds that we forget something we left behind? This kind of living stresses the adrenals and leads to premature aging.
So my challenge to anyone who reads this is to ask yourself if you need to SLOW DOWN. Would it be helpful for you to create some space in your day and reflect upon how you get in your own way? If you want to manifest something in your life, do you have space for it or are you spending energy chasing? The act of chasing actually pushes the goal away.
And, how much of a hurry are you in? Do you Need to have it now or are you willing and able to create the space and trust the proper timing to the Universe?
Ultimately is the goal to prove that you can accomplish or to accomplish while evolving into a peaceful and balanced life.
As the Japanese monk used to say: “So you good practice everyday, soon you get creative life, happy life.”
I attribute all of my success so far in life to the influence of the incredible mentors I’ve had and have. My mentors have made me who I am and patiently guided me along the path to their skills even when I was an impossible student or learning frustratingly slow. I wish for everyone to have amazing guides…
I am sometimes asked how to find a good mentor so I am composing some thoughts.
I should first differentiate between the role of a mentor and someone from whom you learn. Truth is, we can learn something from everyone. But, a mentor is someone whom you specifically follow to learn a skill.
In America, it has become easy to become an expert/guru at anything simply by stating so on the internet…and using sleek marketing to draw people in. It can be easy to be sucked in by the flash, glamour, and “everyone else is doing it” pressures.
Just because someone claims to be good at something and is on TV, has countless Facebook likes, is a NYT Best Selling Author, or has many, many followers does not mean that person is an expert. Sad, but true. (That is, unless of course, what you are wanting to learn is how to increase your Facebook exposure or how to become a published author.)
Be cautious of those who say they are experts. If someone is marketing him or herself as an expert, chances are they haven’t accomplished much more than convincing you to pay them for their “expertise.” Most of the best mentors out there do not do much self promotion as they would rather convey rather than say. Now, there are exceptions; my friend Bill Walsh is a well known business coach with quite a lot to offer but Bill has proven himself as an extraordinary entrepreneur several times over.
A business coach who has made his or her career being a business coach is generally worth about as much as a business professor who has made his or her career academically professing. Promoting yourself as a guru is a relatively new concept in human history, having really been fueled by the advent of the internet.
Insist on someone with real, in the field, tried and true results. If he or she hasn’t been through all the challenges in their own life, how in the world is he or she going to guide you through your challenges to your success?
So, let’s look at how to distinguish the difference.
Whether you are looking for a spiritual mentor, a business mentor, a music mentor, or a personal trainer, certain common threads apply:
1. Put out to the universe that you want a mentor and make room in your life for what it will take to accommodate having one. Hint: You’re going to have to challenge certain aspects of yourself but that’s part of the trip to growth and change. It’s not all going to be fun; parts of it will seem impossible, but there is no other way to expand your comfort zone, paradigm, and skillset without, well, expanding past your barriers and limitations.
2. Look for someone who is incredibly and truly skilled at what you seek to learn from him or her. Ask around through your network and be discriminating. Don’t run to the closest neighborhood place because it’s convenient. The best teacher for you may not be in your neighborhood, or even in your country.
I have surrounded myself with people who are so far ahead of me in their skill that it’s unlikely I can ever reach their level. I insist on only learning from the best of the best and I have to travel great distances to do so. As an example, when I was a paramedic student, my classmates were learning from other paramedics while I was arranging to spend 100s of hours with doctors in the ER and OR.
*Note: Many are envious of those who are more successful than they are and sometimes even attack or try to shoot that person down out of insecurity around their own shortcomings. Avoid this tendency. Jump at the opportunity to be around someone at a much higher level than you.
Manu, my parkours mentor, demonstrates his skill. You can see just how skilled he is by how he carries himself and how flawless, smooth, and unified his movement is in this simple demo. He is having fun while casually executing these movements which have become as natural to him as walking.
Note that I chose a simple demo so I could point out the qualities of naturalness that a true wizard embodies. Their mastery is evident in the way they make things appear so simple and graceful and that mastery becomes integrated into their being.
3. Look at this person’s background. What has he or she really accomplished beyond convincing you that he or she is an expert? If a “financial psychic’s” only accomplishment is convincing people to pay him or her loads of money for financial advice; guess what: He or she probably is not legitimate.
Note that sadly degrees and certifications may not be an indicator of skill. Again, look more deeply at this person’s results.
4. Look at this person’s personality. Are they humble? Humility is hallmark of true wizards. Humility in this context does not mean false modesty, lack of confidence, or weakness. A humble mentor is one who carries him or herself in a way that conveys said person is continuing to learn and grown. In other words, they aren’t coming off as the one who knows it all.
5. Is this person willing to invest in you? And what can you offer in return? A mentor-student relationship is one where an agreement is made, on some level, for the teacher to teach and the student to learn. The best mentors will likely look to you to convince him or her to teach you so don’t expect that person to chase you.Karate Kid did get it right with wax on/wax off. Are you willing to follow this person’s advice even when it seems absurd? If not, he or she is probably not the mentor you need.
6. Commit to reaching certain goals and don’t let anything get in your way. In the old days, people learned skills through apprenticeship. That model has been thrown away in favor of slickly packaged courses, programs, memberships, etc. But, the truth is, a mentor is one who knows how to individualize the lessons to what YOU need. It’s not popular to learn in that manner anymore but it is a superior method.
7. Don’t expect compliments in the beginning as the best teachers are not there to stroke your ego. But do be prepared to be pushed as your mentor will know when and how far to push you.
One of my teachers explained to me why he refused to answer questions from students in their first few years of training. He said in the beginning their questions are like kindergarten however after a few years of practice, questions become more like graduate school.
Additional advice for spiritual mentors and life coaches
In Japan with one of my mentors
When looking for a life coach or spiritual mentor, it’s very important to ask yourself
“Is this someone whose life I want to emulate, absorb, and model?”
This is very very important because you’re going to absorb some of your teacher’s energy and personality. If you are looking for someone to help you improve your life, their life better be in order.
I remember a time when a friend called me and said “DJ I’m going to be a life coach. I got certified this weekend.”
My response: “A life coach, huh? Don’t you need a life first?”
It’s mind boggling how many life coaches and spiritual “wizards” are popping up these days. It’s easy to be confused by them and results in the blind leading the blind dynamic.
One thing to look for is:
Who was your teacher’s teacher?
When it comes to my spiritual interests, my teachers had masters whose great-great grandfathers had masters whose great great great grandfathers had masters…
This is very very important and you should insist on nothing less than absolute authenticity. YOU deserve that and you must believe that you are worthy of the very best. And, you must also put your ego entirely aside and allow this person, who is far ahead of you on the path, to guide you. There is no other way.
So there you have it – A few simple pieces of advice on mentors. Happy to answer questions directly here or by private message.
It was a cool fall night in the mountains of Utah and the rest I was trying to get before an all night adventure was proving impossible. I was so excited for what was to come but never could have guessed how monumental a turning point this night would end up being.
I was on the heels of a disaster I had just gone through and was spending a lot of time healing in the area. On my previous visit the man who would become my teacher, to my surprise, said to me “next time you come out, we’ll go ghost hunting.” You see, I had met this shaman years earlier and it seemed to take an endless amount of time to get him to give me the time of day and more years after that to convince him to begin teaching me his ways.
We left to head up into the mountains around midnight. Our destination was a very old cemetery that held the bodies and some of the souls of both Natives and Westerners who had been killed by war, illness, and natural causes. We spent the entire night in that cemetery and over the course of that time, I came to understand there is a veil between the physical and spirit worlds. It seemed my teacher had lifted that veil for me, giving me a glimpse into this other parallel yet mysterious reality.
I was already a senior practitioner of the traditions i had been studying since I was a teenager and was doing my best to bring the Japanese/Vedic fire ceremony to the western world as my teacher had instructed but what I experienced that night ended up being the first initiation that would change the course of my life and path.
Halloween seems the most appropriate time to write about this experience as in America, Halloween has become a very fun holiday with costumes, partying, and imbibing. However looking back over the haunted roots of the holiday can provide us some insights into what happens during this seasonal transition from fall to winter.
It is thought that Halloween developed out of the original Celtic harvest festival of Samhain “sah-win” which ushered in the darker half of the year. Most cultures have some form of harvest festival; in Japanese Shinto, Shyuki Taisai is celebrated to offer food from the harvest and thanksgiving to the deities. It is natural for humans to thank the divine for a prosperous harvest season.
In modern society, of course we have become disconnected from the cycles of nature but a quick look through our past can allow us to more clearly see our roots as human beings who are inseparably bound to great nature. Without the harmony of 4 the elements of
and the abundance of food and blessings of Great Nature (Daishizen), We cannot sustain our existence.
Spiritually, Halloween was a pagan holiday known as All Hallows Eve which was Christianized like many pagan holidays. It is thought to be the day when the veils I speak of above is at its thinnest and spirits are said to more easily be able to come into our world.
The celts believed that during Samhain, the spirits of the dead would return to mingle with the living and the spirits of those who had recently died could more easily transition into the other world. Transition points in the physical world tend to open the gates to the spiritual world and one of the most profound transition times we have is from the abundance of summer to the stillness of winter.
It is believed by many that costumes, jack-o-lanterns, bonfires, and other Halloween traditions were originally used to both ward off evil spirits and aid departed spirits in their journeys. Food offerings were left on doorsteps to aid the spirits of the departed.
That tradition has filtered in our modern culture as a fun dress up holiday.
Samhain became Halloween with the early Christian Missionaries who attempted to convert the celts from their native spirituality. All Hallows Eve was renamed “All Saints Day;” a more Christian appropriate label.
This Halloween we will celebrate with a traditional Japanese Fire Ceremony with Vedic Roots known as Goma. However you spend Halloween, please enjoy yourself and try to remember that with the veil being thinnest, it may be more easily to tap into your intuition and messages from the universe.
In this series I share crystallized moments and profound lessons gleaned from my journey studying various traditions and with teachers around the world with the goal of finding the wisdom to craft my life exactly the way I want it
It was an unusually warm spring afternoon in May of 2013 and I was in San Francisco’s Japan Town. My mentor had come up to spend some time with me to prepare for a trip we were to take to South America which would prove to be life altering.
It was a particularly fun trip because I got to show him all of my favorite spots in my favorite neighborhood in SF where I maintain an apartment and visit Alcatraz for the first time.
We were sitting on a cement bench and talking over some things. I asked him how he juggled trips to the Far East to work with his teacher while being a father and if that had been challenging. I also began to complain about some things in my life that were not exactly as I would have wanted them to be.
You know the feeling right – “If only I could deal with X” or “If Bob would just go away, I’d have so much less stress” or “This situation at work is just holding me back.” We all have plenty of examples of the above and being the Type A person that I am, I am not comfortable feeling restricted.
This teacher always knows exactly what to say and precisely when and how to say it so much so that trying to recount the life changing lesson I was about to get almost seems silly because it was so present, in that moment, in that conversation, and in that energy.
Anyway, he looked up and said:
“You know DJ, I just don’t let things restrict me”
Wow. That sounds so simple and like kindergarten advice doesn’t it? I have found in my path through the esoteric that it’s usually the most obvious advice that really isn’t obvious at all. It’s what is right in front of your face that you can’t see and when you do see it, it can be embarrassing.
Kind of like having a friend point out that you have food stuck in your teeth or that your zipper is down.
I took this picture on our subsequent trip to South America
This led me to look into my life and examine what situations and people I was allowing to hold me back. Restrictions act like a ball and chain….they hold us back oftentimes to the point where we don’t even realize they are holding us back.
Yes, when we cut free of them, it’s like realizing you’re driving with the parking brake on.
Imagine you are running with a parachute behind you, you pull out a sword, and cut it free…see what I mean?
As I took the next couple of months to examine what was restricting me…and I mean what was really restricting me…all the insidious little subtle things that pop up in thoughts, words, and actions that were holding me back, I discovered that the well of untapped power was deeper than the last time I looked at it.
How about you? Are there any patterns in your thoughts, words, or actions that others might easily notice about you that you don’t notice yourself?
Do you constantly affirm the same things and then find that you keep complaining about them because magically they are still there?
Well here’s the secret – YOU are creating them and strengthening them.
This is the basis of affirmations in NLP and hypnosis – affirm what you want and allow your mind to create your experience.
I’m taking it a step further –
What are the actual physical tangible things in your life that you want to change because they are restricting you?
What are the unconscious thoughts, words, and actions that you are putting out to the universe that are creating or co-creating exactly what you experience?
What are the attachments you have that keep you from being able to let go.
As an example of the latter point, consider if you are thinking of moving to a new place, yet you hold yourself back with self chatter like “but I can’t go because I grew up here or (insert any logical excuse.)” That place becomes a restriction.
What if you’re dealing with a difficult client: Do you wish them well and tell them they are a better fit elsewhere knowing the revenue will be replaced or do you let them become a restriction on you because you are attached to the income?
These are just two examples of the many, many different ways we restrict ourselves everyday.
It’s amazing how encumbered we have allowed ourselves to become and how much many of us hold onto things out of fear of letting them go such that they actually become part of our identities. (More on identities later)
There are a lot of programs and people out there that will claim to get you out of your own way but the truth is that only YOU can do it. Others can help but we are the only ones who can pull out the sword and cut away that which we do not need.
In my case, I had a mentor who was there with the exact right words exactly when I needed to hear them.
How about in your case? If you make it a point to pay attention to your own restrictions for a week, what might you find?
In my experiences with my teachers, I’ve come to know that reaching a state of purity is the biggest key to success in life. By purity in this case, I mean paring down the layers of restrictions to get to the core.
Many people look at me and think I have the perfect life and they are right, I do. If I had a dime for every time I heard “ah man you are so lucky…” There is no luck involved.
However, it wasn’t always the case, I created it and continue to create it that way. Life is a never ending process of learning, understanding, experiencing, and letting go.
And ultimately this is about building your personal power and your ability to generate results and happiness in your life. How many unhappy unrestricted people do you know? I’d venture a guess the answer is “hmm not many.”
You or anyone you know ever set new year’s resolutions? If so, ever wonder why set goals for a new year rather than in, say, July or May? Let’s look at why and how to be sure you get what you want in the new year.
December has brought a flurry of activity and projects so I’ve slacked a bit on my writings but will continue the series on how to age in reverse shortly.
First of all, why resolutions for a new year?
Important on several levels.
The shift from December 31st to January 1st of any year is filled with the mass mind or collective energy of people all over the world putting thought energy into a new start. All that energy that gets put out creates a reality that we can utilize now to lay the groundwork for achieving everything we want.
Further, there are two energies here. The accumulating thought energy that builds as we get closer to the new year and the energy that has build over many millenia since we began using the western calendar.
There are two main keys to riding this wave…
1. Take your foot off the break by letting go of the baggage from 2012 and obstacles that prevent you from accomplishing what you want
2. Step on the gas and set and manifest your goals
Sounds wonderfully vague and idealistic, right? Let’s look at why it’s not.
Think about it this way – if you were preparing your place for entertaining guests would you set a really nice table with great food without cleaning first? Maybe you would but I probably wouldn’t come
You gotta get rid of the shit to make room for the good stuff!
Most indigenous spiritual traditions around the world have ceremonies that mark the passage into the new year. In Japan for example, Shinto has a midyear purification ceremony in July and one in mid December to clear the negative energies and make room for fresh ones.
Each year can be compared to when we are born. We are born with infinite potential and as we grow and conform to what society tells us we should do, we often end up collecting baggage and viewpoints that prevent us from fully maximizing our potential. So, the cycle of each year can be a rebirth and an opportunity to clear the slate and open to maximum potential.
2012 was a rough year for many people. I’m sure you have at least one thing you wish you could have done differently or that hadn’t happened, I know I do. Well the good news is that you can let it go now!
Here are some practical steps you can take to accomplish this clearing in your own life.
1. Spend some time thinking about the things, thoughts, obstacles, and experiences that didn’t quite go the way you wanted in 2012.
2. Write them down on slips of paper
3. Make a commitment to let them go.
4. Burn the slips of paper in a fire and throw salt on the fire. In many traditions, salt is considered the great purifier of negativity.
5. Get rid of (by burning or throwing out) anything associated with the negativity.
As an example, in 2012 I made some business decisions that I regret. I have now let everything associated with those decisions go so the way can be paved for 2013 to be a soaring year for my company.
The above “ritual” may seem simplistic or weird but it really is that simple. The power of commitment is often underestimated however it’s the single most powerful tool we have. Once you commit to clearing the way, the steps above solidify that decision into the material world.
Give it a try.
Next setting and manifesting goals:
1. After you complete the above, spend some time thinking about what you really want to have in 2013. These things can be actual objective goals or more abstract goals such as clarity on a situation.
2. Next, ask yourself “How will I know when I have achieved this goal?” This step is super important because you need to define what you want and give yourself a reference point. “Getting in shape” is not enough. How will you know when you have gotten in shape? Too many people set vague goals that line them up for failure.
3. Don’t set too many goals. Keep them realistic and attainable.
4. Commit to achieving them. Again the power of commitment cannot be understated
5. Spend New Year’s Eve doing something inspiring. Whether you go out to an awesome party and get wasted or stay in and reflect meditatively, make sure you cross into the new year in a positive state of mind as that will set the tone for the entire year. The energy you take into January 1st lays the groundwork for the entire year.
6. Stay flexible with your goals. Yes, you have set objective benchmarks to know when you have gotten what you want but it’s also important to stay flexible to allow the universe to provide you with what you’ve asked for. It’s more effective to allow yourself to be open to the universe rather than trying to make the universe conform to you. Sounds obvious but look around.
The above process will firmly set your goals in your consciousness and set them out to the universal consciousness as well.
I achieved everything I set out to accomplish in 2013 using the above process. One of my goals was to get in the best shape of my life. When I met Uldi, the olypmpic gymnastics coach who took me under his wing this year, he told me he saw 20 pounds too much on me. Ok actually he said “As comparing to most Americans you are very fit and strong but as comparing to your goals, you are fat and veak.” (insert Hungarian Accent)
So losing 20 pounds was one of my benchmarks. I also got hit with a shoulder injury in July that limited my training for months so I had to be flexible and work around it. I kept training but had to modify my routines.
2013 is the year of the snake in Chinese Astrology. Stay tuned for an article on what that means and how we can utilize it to accomplish what we want.
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!
Today I had the great honor to assist one of my teachers with the Japanese rite known as Nagoshi no Oharae Taisai.
It’s kind of human nature to like to hold onto things and get in our own way. I mean think about it, how many times have you had a bad day or an emotional reaction to something and it was still annoying you after it was over? These kinds of things get stuck in our unconscious minds and energy fields just like dust accumulates around the house. Just as we have to dust and clean our space, if we “dust off” ourselves as well, we can really be receptive to great things.But just as we wouldn’t put a brand new TV on a dusty shelf, we also need to do this self dusting to be ready for new opportunities.
The Japanese Nagoshi ceremony is conducted at the end of June to release any and all negativity and unfortunate luck from the first part of the year and to open the doors for all good things for the remainder of the year.
Before arriving, each participant uses a rice paper proxy in the shape of a human figure to absorb any negativity in and around their personal energy fields and in their lives.
There are three major aspects to Nagoshi Taisai
First, sacred words of purification are read and participants are covered with small squares of rice paper thrown into the air like confetti. This special paper has the ability to absorb and retain any negative energies and serves as the initial immediate purification
Secondly, each person walks three times through a reed hoop that is designed to purify him/her and is both symbolic and really a way to leave the old behind and step into the new. This serves to open the doors for fresh opportunities.
Rev. Koichi Barrish releases the proxies into the river as part of Nagoshi Taisai
Finally the rice paper proxies encapsulating the negative energies of each person are released into the river where said negativity is completely and thoroughly purified by the water. (what’s more cleansing than mountain water?)
This aspect serves to totally transform anything unfortunate from the first 6 months of the year.
This ancient technology has existed for many centuries in Japan and is akin to a mid year new year.
Many of us are used to preparing for the arrival of the new year but how great would it be to get a fresh start right in the middle of the year?
If this sounds appealing, why not do something right now to create that? A really simple and highly effective practice would be to write on a piece of paper anything you want to release from 2012 so far.
Then, you can either burn this paper and throw some salt on it or throw it into a river while setting a conscious intention to let it go. (FYI please either burn or throw into water. Do not bury it)
Such a practice might sound really simple but this stuff works. Give it a try and do feel free to leave comments. Have a super badass awesome rest of 2012!
Amazing how true this is….and how hard it can be to see in the moment. We spend so much time trying to control timelines yet then we look back and can realize how much better things flow when we allow rather than struggle with the timeline
“”In a wonderful essay called ‘On an Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual,’ Schopenhauer points out that, one you have reached an advanced age, as I have, as you look back over your life, it can seem to have had a plot, as though composed by a novelist. Events that seemed entirely accidental and incidental turn out to have been central to the composition…
“Another astonishing way to look back is to pick up some diary entries or notes that you kept a long time ago. You’ll be astonished. Things you were convinced you had realized more recently will all be pinned down there. These are the driving themes of your life.”
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.