“Strange days,” Master Yoda would say, “these have been.”
For me, the strange days have lasted just over four years, since January, 2011, when I found what you might call the Holy Grail of martial arts. After forty years of training and pain, I found the power of ki, the famous “life force” of the masters, mimicked by charlatans, rarely seen. It was right there with me all that time, in my fingers, skin, muscles, bones and hair, something I had always felt but had mistaken for being “my mind.” In fact, what I thought was “mind” was actually ki, the life force that the mind and body are made of. Searching for ki is like looking for your glasses while you’re wearing them, or riding an ox to go look for that ox. The mind is made of ki and while we come to identify our self with our mind, when we use the mind to look for ki, it’s like looking at ourselves in a mirror, thinking that the image in the mirror is the real self, completely unaware of the self looking into the mirror. Of course, that’s ridiculous, but the mind and body are closer than self and mirror. The mind can quite convincingly imagine itself the totality of Self and assign itself that value. But the real self is still the life force, the ki, the spirit or soul and the mind is like its calculator and tape recorder.
Four and a half years ago, I recognized my ki and began to see the world in an entirely new dimension, especially concerning the meaning of time, since each moment of life is pure life, pure time, however you use it. The ki is eternal. Our life is eternal. But our bodies are not. Every moment spent is pure life traded from the body’s limit, and from the possibilities of life in that body. Every minute spent in something that tortures the soul shortens the life of the body. Every moment spent delighting the soul extends life. It made me reevaluate my world. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it changed my life.
Let’s skip over all the seriously…shall we say…confusing (?) events that followed my discovery? The chaos? The uncertainty? Certainly, the falling and twisting through endless void outside the dimension of time and space and simply look! Here I am! Creative Director of a rather unusual new website, isn’t it? We can skip everything that happened between January, 2011 and the full moon of June, 2015, when this website opened and I emerged. Just count all that as a simple blur and look at me now and I will say, “I meant to do that.”
Well…I did. I didn’t know it would look like this and it’s still not finished, but I’ll take a bow and thank the amazing web designer LeeAnn Lutz for her incredible work.
I stepped out of a world that had come to light as not only false but fraudulent and entered a place where nothing could be contained, retained or maintained; yet, somehow, a completely functional level continued apace in a slipknot of patterned integrity that propelled itself through years. When human life begins, what the Japanese call kokoro (heart) forms and ki enters the world from non-existence through kokoro. Our human life force is rooted in non-existence. I traced my own ki back through kokoro and spent considerable time in the non-existent root. I will not deny that I found it difficult to return. But now I have re-entered the world through Esoteric Orange, my long-sought portal, my cyberkokoro and new home of much of my spirit.
I intend to go into some detail about my experiences of the past four years at some point. I’m working on a book about it because even the chaos adhered to a series of developments in my understanding of myself and, therefore, of humanity, all flowing and unfolding from that moment in January, 2011, when I recognized that I am the life force that lives, not the mind that thinks. The mind has its place but its purpose is to serve the spirit. The spirit must express its force of life. The chaos was one resultant, necessary to discard much of modern mentality to reach deeper than common depths. Even Reason, my old teacher told me, could be misused. Gori (合理—rationality) was one of the mainspars of Mochizuki sensei’s teaching, received from his own teacher, Jigoro Kano. But sensei also advised me that muri (無理 —unreasonableness, or irrationality) also has its place. When the fight is for a life, all bets are off and irrationality may save that life. And pure “reason” can lose all touch with human truth. Twain ranked statistics higher on the falsehood scale than lies and damned lies. A powerful person can destroy whole societies and ruin economies with dense, overgrown Rationality. In my transition to the new reality, I had to shatter some terribly serious common mental forms without crossing truly important lines and also learning which utterly imaginary lines could not be safely violated.
Anyway, it all flowed in a patterned integrity through time to a point, from the recognition of my ki, to sitting at the root of my ki in non-existence, looking into this world through kokoro to see the other end of my life, where my ki is rooted in eternity; after years of conditioning to unify the elements of my body with those of my spirit through conscious direction of the breath, I suddenly realized that the spirit actually is separate within the body, like a fluid in a bottle. For some time, I’d been experiencing something in meditation and prayer, like living flames all around me. Now I understood that it was what the found of aikido called the ethereal body, surrounding the spirit like a magnetic field surrounds electric current. Ueshiba, the aikido man, said this ethereal body was both to protect the human spirit from harm and to connect that spirit to the living spirit of the world, letting us feel its life and support.
That was about April, 2015. I read an article in Chris Li’s Aikido Sangenkai blog and understood what they were talking about: “the ethereal body…oh, yeah…that feeling of living flames when I pray…”
Still, I was not ready to re-enter the world. I had not yet re-formed, but I still lived in my house. I sat down one day and enjoyed the atmosphere of my back yard. Sky and trees seemed less separate from one another. Certainly, to the birds and bugs that swam through the sky, passing between trunks and flitting through branches, even seemingly hard borders are pourous and passable. And even the distinction of bird from tree or sky seemed rather pointless as I sat there, the distinction of one insect from the others unnecessary, all of them grooming and sheltering, eating and feeding one another and also the squirrels and mice and cats, all doing their natural work in the ocean of pollens and floating things from the treetops down to and between and under the blades of grass, even into the dirt, all alive, interacting, continuous.
And right here, I suddenly had another understanding: humanity, itself, has a living spirit, a vast life with many members, countless no matter who attempts the catalog. I felt connected to it all, to them all, to us all. To you.
I felt a spontaneous gratitude to this original human spirit, all the forms it has taken for thousands and thousands of years, all the beings it has yielded under the sun, all the men and women and all kinds of babies that have lived and all that have died and continue to live with us in human spirit. I didn’t decide to feel gratitude to that. It was natural when I recognized it, the spirit of human life. And the more I thought about it, I was surprised at how new it was for me. It’s not something our culture really promotes. I’ve always been grateful to God and the spirit of God, of course. I had simply never really recognized this spirit of humanity. And when I recognized it, I felt grateful to it.
So now, in my second installment of this blog, I’d like to thank the spirit of humanity, of my parents and grandparents and all the other people in the world for all they endured to allow me to be here in such a breathing, living miracle beneath the sweet, wide sky.
So welcome again to Esoteric Orange. Welcome now and evermore, as long as the website lasts. Ashes to ashes and pixels to pixels, but spirit never ends and gratitude never passes from spirit.