When I go out to meet the light, the shadow of my body follows me, but the shadow of my spirit precedes me and leads the way to an unknown place
- Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blavatsky Lodge and creative spirit

I am supposed to be in Canberra right now to do some work for the Australian Federal Police at their headquarters, but my flight on Qantas was cancelled this morning. I'll fly out tomorrow instead. It works out much better actually, this is yet another travel arrangement in recent times to undergo revision due to unforeseen circumstances, the result of which works out happier for me than the original plan.

The other revised travel plan was my trip to India for the yoga retreat and trekking in Rishikesh. The rescheduled time plan permits me instead to be on-site in Singapore to undergo some valuable mentoring with a colleague from Europe in October AND it allows my good friend Tom in California to join me and my parents on the trip to India. That plan is now taking form between Rajasthan and Kerala instead of Rishikesh. I'll still bring my yoga mat along.

Being in the vicinity of the city today, I decided to meet Ernie and Horacio for lunch at the Theosophical society in the city. As part of their plan to meet there, they were to attend a lecture given by the visiting Director of the Emily Sellon Memorial Library in New York - Michael Gomes. The speaker is also scheduled to give the same talk at the University of Sydney this Friday. This talk concerns Madame Blavatsky, the namesake of the Blavatsky Lodge, where the Sydney Theosophical society is situated. The Theosophical society in Sydney seems to also go by the name of the Blavatsky Lodge, I haven't quite determined the reason for the duality.

This Russian lady seems to be a fascinating character whose ideas apparently helped usher in the New Age and catalyse the spiritual revolution taking place nowadays. She is the instigator of the modern Theosophical movement. And yet she is not without controversy concerning some of her actions which tend to be judged as trickery in spite of which she has profound insight into the metaphysical nature of our existence and our purpose. From the little I know of this person she reminds me of the Indian astrologer that I ran into months ago in Malaysia. He was both a messenger and a charlatan, and why can't one play both roles.

What stood out for me in his lecture was our individual role as the creative force through which the divine continually expresses itself. We are here to create and experience; it is our choice to do so in alignment with the creative force or against it. Certainly seems to be a theme resounding within me lately, in fact I am even asking myself of my creative role in revising the travel plans such that my stronger/un-conflicted desire is fulfilled. If you entertain the notion of multi-worlds then certainly this is feasible, if you have been exposed to Dr. Thomas Campbell's 'My Big T.O.E.' then this is not just possible but actually likely. To what extent are we given the room to create our reality? If anything is possible, then what prevents there truly being multiple worlds, is there just one playing board or are we each given our own?

If we look at various proposed interpretations of of quantum physics, which is the most sound theory in physics such that it forms the basis of all physics and hard science, there exists one interpretation that is given more and more credibility; and of which speaks of multiple worlds whereby all possibilities of the quantum states are expressed. It is a proposal that seeks to reconcile the randomness of our conscious creation. In other words, if a photon in a state of superposition i.e. existing as both a wave of probability of states AND a particle at the same time, can collapse to a particle upon our observation and be regarded strictly as a particle henceforth i.e. given a physical reality, then what is it that ultimately determines its location given precisely equal probability of us observing it in for example two places. Physicists are inherently uncomfortable with unexplained randomness, this discomfort is expressed by Einstein's famous quote - "God does not play dice". Therefore the multi worlds theory says that ALL possibilities are expressed and this is tantamount to saying multiple realities exists in parallel.

Before I moved to Sydney I had never heard of the Theosophical society but it seems fated for me to discover it since I've been assigned this apartment downtown just down the street from it.

On the back of the brochure I find this:


1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science.
3. To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in the human being.

I especially appreciate the third object on the list.

The motto of the Society is There is no Religion higher than Truth.

As I listen to the speaker I notice on the table near me a brochure about an upcoming series of lectures called "Realizing The New Age - From Madame Blavatsky to Julia Roberts", I pick it up wondering what Blavatsky has in common with Julia Roberts. And so on the back of this brochure I read:

Thirty years after the publication of the 'New Age' bible, "The Aquarian Conspiracy' by Marilyn Ferguson in 1980, people are flocking to join the Hollywood icon Julia Roberts on her movie spiritual journey in 'Eat Pray Love'.
Ah... it's that book again which admittedly I have neglected for over a week now. But this seems further affirmation that this book has an important role to play in the current spiritual renaissance. I should pick it up again.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Touching the Dantien

Ernie and I are fast becoming friends, he too seems to be on an inner path of discovery and unlocking his potential. Ernie is a civil engineer and he has quit his job recently to devote more time to his path of self-cultivation and Horacio is a key mentor in his life. Unlike me, he has experience with other inner martial arts such as Pa Gua, in addition to the harder form of TaeKwonDo. I only have 5 years of T.K.D. and, from recently in California, a year of American style boxing.

Each time after our Taichi practice he offers me a ride back and we discuss martial arts, books, music and women. Always women are included at points in the conversation. In fact, more so it seems when Horacio is included in the chat. I am impressed at Horacio's libido and vigor for his age. He has once or twice alluded to Taoist principles of cultivating and recycling male sexual energy and I know he is familiar with Mantak Chia's teachings from his video collection. Recently I too have read these techniques for channeling chi from the male sexual center.

Today the 3 of us meet in the small common garden of the apartment property where Horacio lives, next to a massive Eucalyptus tree. The climate on this gorgeous spring day is exceptional, there is a certain character to the atmosphere that compels me to ponder the grand artistry behind it. Any doubt is dispelled an hour later when Horacio looks up at the sky and comments likewise about the universe being in alignment on this day.

As part of the warmup for the Taichi practice, Horacio has me pat Ernie's tummy in certain clockwise and then counterclockwise patterns, a sort of dantien massage. I feel a bit silly doing this as Ernie closes his eyes and focuses his breathe, I wonder if this is honestly bringing any value to us. And feel downright sheepish when I notice the reaction of the woman on her balcony next door as she is hanging her clothes. Horacio gives further directions, "now, place your hands overlapping like this and leave it on his Dantien", I do so and am startled to feel an acute hot spot beneath my palm emanating from Ernie. This is the first time I have affirmation from another person that the dantien is not a myth. Until then I had wondered if the new sensations I was discovering in my lower belly during yoga and Taichi was my imagination.

On this day, Horacio has me engage him in Push Hands, normally I practice with Ernie only. As we begin I immediately observe that with Horacio, Pushing Hands seems akin to "pushing air" - there simply is no resistance from his movements; and yet he continually redirects my attempts to offset his center, without moving his feet a step. "Here, I'll use only one arm and you try to contain me with both your hands." "Meet me with resistance, the moment I disappear you lose your balance. When you resist it makes me easier to find your center.", as an example I resist and sure enough I stumble the moment he steps aside. "We are programmed to tighten and become rigid, but it is not a natural response. This programming comes from society and any authority in your history", he says. "Find the inner space and grows this space, this is where true freedom lies." A little later, he tells me to "be like water and stick to me." I try but each time his arm finds its way through "my thousand doors", I tighten up in fear and reinforce his attack, it is not easy to stay fluid and react correctly.

After 3 hours of solo form and PushHands practice that fly by, Horacio serves us lunch at a table on the deck beside our practice area. He has prepared a vegetarian meal with herbs from his garden. "When you practice Taichi your body will seek to avoid unhealthy food", he says. As I eat the delicious dish, I take in the scene before me, Ernie and Horacio munching with focus on their plates and the perfection of this gentle spring climate. I am awed by my fortune for meeting these two men who have taught me much and for nothing in return. Ernie too has spoken before of his fortune in spending the time with Horacio.

I look back at the Taichi teachers that I have learned from the past year and it fascinates me to realize that the teachers that brought the most value to my practice were the ones that asked for the least in return. When I had initially arrived in Sydney I could only locate one Taichi instructor that taught the 108 Yang style that I had been learning in Malaysia, she wanted to charge me $120 an hour for a private lesson. I agreed but she decided it was not worth happening if I was unable to commit to a schedule. And here is Horacio, teaching me what I consider to be a true martial art form with immediate application in self-defense wherein the principles promulgated are generally applicable to a mode of living in natural excellence - all for less than $10 a week.

Over our food I ask Ernie if he does any Qigong. "Yeah, sort of...", he replies and describes some breathing techniques and exercises he does. "How long do you do this for?", is my next question. I had heretofore assumed that I was the only guy my age in Sydney that practiced any form of Qigong on his own on a daily basis, now I was wondering if Ernie could top my 20 minute daily routine. "About 2 hours each time", is his casual response. My eyebrows rise at least an inch. That would explain the distinct heat sensation I felt in his Dantien.

Later in the car as we drive across the Sydney Harbor bridge on the way to dropping me at my apartment, I comment on his dantien. "I was wondering if it was heartburn, acid reflux...", we joke.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rishikesh washed out

My trip to the Rishikesh region of India for a yoga retreat in an ashram and trekking in the Himalayas is cancelled because of disastrous flooding. This region is the source of the Ganges river and there is a dam that is threatening to be released as it approaches its maximum capacity. Already, there have been bridges washed out and thousands of tourists stranded. A friend of mine in Delhi has advised me against approaching the region so I've opted not to go down that path as the lingering threat of disease is now a real concern. I guess my path has taken a big divergence from Eat, Pray, Love. And thanks to a natural disaster, it's one of those cards up the sleeves of a higher power that can be cast at anytime to change one's course. I am reminded of my trek to Milford Sound in New Zealand last year, that too was literally a washout...

I already have a ticket to India, but now I'll look to a different region. My parents will also join this trip, I have enjoyed travelling with them in the past, most memorably to Machu Picchu and the fringes of the Amazon. I find the idea of cruising the backwaters of Kerala on a private houseboat very, very appealing. Actually more appealing than the yoga retreat in Rishikesh.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Still in the Eating Stage

I am on the 8th bead of the book. The author uses beads because she has divided the book into 108 chapters as an imitation of the prayer beads of the monks in India she observes. At this point, I have already grown quite an affection for the protagonist. Early in the book a belief I had that women desire nothing more than to have babies was overturned. I am prompted to recall a similar episode in my life almost 8 years ago; the time I broke up with my girlfriend of 5 years in Vancouver, I still see vividly her tearful pleading with me not to end the relationship. I remember this day because I felt like a criminal, and the futile reason I offered her was one I could not truly comprehend. "I need to go and see the world... meet other people...", I didn't expect her to understand it because I didn't either. And sure enough, shortly after the breakup with her I was laid off from my job in Vancouver and the southerly winds took hold of me.

On the 9th bead the author comments about the Sufi poet and philosopher Rumi advising his students to write down the 3 things they want most out of life. To paraphrase her, "if any item on the list clashes with any other item,... you are destined for unhappiness". Similarly, in ancient Greece, the Oracle at Delphi had two maxims posted above the entrance to her chamber, for the edification of those who sought her prophecy: "Know thyself" was one of them. If the wise ones tell us to know ourselves clearly then certainly it pays to do so.

It is 5 months ago, and my friend hands me a deck of cards with instructions to peruse the thick deck and choose 21 that are dearest to me. On each card is written a single word representing an aspect of life to be valued to some degree such as "travel", "humor" or "family". Some of the cards are left out with a twinge of regret while others are obvious. I hand the 21 to her only to have her return it, "now choose 7", she says. This time I take a bit more time with each card but eventually I am left with 7 that resemble a complete happy life. "Now take 4 out...", this time I am loathe to leave a couple out. After some changes of heart and careful deliberation, I settle with these 3 -

"Freedom", "Health" and "Passion".

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I have been hearing many times now about this book. I see it in bookstores but have never given it a second glance, I understand it to be something of a spiritual journey of a woman but most likely watered down or packaged for a mainstream audience which means it will likely not have much wisdom in it. Sort of like... The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari which to me reads like someone's efforts to write a book in order to place himself into a Ferrari. The last time I heard of it was from the manager of the travel agency downstairs from my workplace, I had stepped in to buy my ticket to India. She cautioned me ,as others did, that it's a girly book and most guys wouldn't read it. I confess I've read the Confessions of a Shopaholic so surely I can stomach this, if nothing more it would be an interesting peek into a girl's mind to suit my desire to see into the mind of a woman.

I sit down in the Italian restaurant down a couple of doors from my apartment downtown. It is just a small cafe run by two Italian guys but the food is divine. I download a sample of the book into my Kindle e-reader and read the introduction. One of the Italian guys puts down a fried fritter of some sort, "it's a fritella" he announces in his sing song Italian. "It's complimentary, Bon Apetit!" I consume it with relish, it's marvellous. I swallow the last piece just as the author of the book reveals that the first stage of her journey begins in Italy concerning the pleasure of eating. It's sign, this is practically "God" grabbing me by the collar and shaking me "Read the book!", you're in an Italian restaurant eating and next month you're going to be learning yoga in an ashram - just like the character in the book does! READ THE BOOK! And so I order the full download of the book before one flies out of the air and hits me in the head.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Push Hands

On Saturday I take the bus to Horacio's home in the suburbs. We sit on a couple of chairs in his backyard which actually a common backyard for the row of modest single bedroom apartments in the block. I am struck by the freshness and splendour of the bougainvilas in full bloom, interspersed by his collection of potted bonsai plants. It is early spring but it seems to be in full swing here. I am thrilled to be here because I get to practice the art of Pushing Hands which is an application of TaiChi with a partner. Most people only learn the solo form but the hidden martial applications can only truly be expressed with a partner, Pushing Hands also cultivates an acute level of awareness and understanding of Yin and Yang. Two people stand facing each other and perform offensive and yielding moves in what appears to be an ebb and flow, each seeks to upset the other’s center and then deliver a maneuver that neutralizes the opponent. The key is to remain fluid and to attach oneself to the other’s energy so as to frustrate his attacks. It takes many years to master.

Horacio by his plants

Friday, September 10, 2010

A new TaiChi instructor

I have just returned from a session with a new TaiChi instructor named Horacio. Horacio is the 5th person I have engaged to learn TaiChi from. He is about 65 and from Argentina, a very gentle and kind soul but I perceive in him an iron core that keeps him grounded. I loved him immediately after I met him a couple of weeks ago at the Theosophical society in Sydney. After my first lesson we sat around some coffee in the cafe downstairs along with Ernie, a steady student of his whose mannerisms remind me of Nicolas Cage. I asked him about how TaiChi has enriched his life and part of his response drew me back to my previous posting. He mentioned the root of all things as a word of which I cannot recall... but it made me think of the phrase from the bible that I had used as my subject header previously. Then he mentioned how there are many paths that point to this ‘root’, in Taoism it would be called the Tao... in Christianity the Greek word is Logos. “You can walk many paths and experiment, ultimately they all lead to the root”, he said.

What does TaiChi bring into his life? Space is his answer. Or more precisely the awareness of space within which he can create and choose his responses. This ability has much to do with our level of freedom.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

In the Beginning was the Word...

In my mind, thoughts swirl then percolate into words, relieved of their meaning they leave my lips and appear before me like the barren limbs of a tree.

I am listening to a narration of a series of letters written by a great warrior from the 19th century whom went by the name of his paternal grandfather – Abraham Lincoln. I have often admired the precision and flair with which people have expressed themselves in the past. No doubt back then an educated person commanded a wider vocabulary. When we consistently express ourselves in such a way we create the conditions that propel us toward our dreams. A. Lincoln is an easy example of this. Here is a master magician of the word, I present an example of a famous letter that he wrote during the American Civil War in response to a mother that he supposed had lost all 5 of her sons in the war.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln”

The eloquence of this man seems unmatched these days.

In this age of information technology our words are often taken for granted by the ease of communication – Facebook, sms, Tweeter. We post thoughts on a whim and it is broadcast across the global public domain in an instant. With such flurry of communication, the effort we put into the accuracy of our expression is diminished by the dispensable and/or editable nature of our words. We have forgotten that our words have the power to create who we are. When we are not impeccable with our words such as when we exaggerate or habitually borrow other people’s expressions, our careless and whimsical weaving leads to frayed and useless cloth. When our statements are expressed in a steady conscientious manner, impeccable words can weave magnificent robes. The right expressions can ignite dormant parts of our selves. Most harmful is when we express ourselves in a lazy manner and then begin to adopt our expression as the truth about ourselves, or when we cast venomous words that infect another, if we are not careful the effect remains a lifetime; consider that so much of our mental suffering stems from words that were directed at us long ago. And consider that the word has the power to reshape your belief, repeat anything out loud daily and you inevitably begin to subscribe to it.

Indeed without the power of my words, The Bright Path would largely be a figment of my imagination. Having said that, words can only ever be signposts and never the destination. Where this path goes, words will ultimately fail. Perhaps that is why I have been posting less. Most days are spent doing yoga and taichi, exploring the commonality between the Tao, Christ’s teachings, Tantra and the warrior path, much of my experiential learning cannot be conveyed adequately. But there is still an inclination that compels me to journal again, somehow I feel that this journaling fulfils me. It is a creative expression and I feel joy when I write. I believe we are all meant to create a story of our life, it is our artistry – we are artisans the moment we pick our tools.